Posts Tagged social networking

Liar, liar, pants on fire

Remember chanting this on the playground years ago when one of the other kids was caught fibbing?  Or having it chanted at you?  This expression, like another childhood taunt I recently wrote about, is experiencing a nostalgic revival thanks to the social web.

There’s a lot of talk about transparency lately, but I really don’t think it’s sinking in with some companies.  Today, more than ever, it’s important to walk the talk.  Your officers, employees and customers are becoming increasingly well connected every day and the new pervasive connectivity is raising the urgency of keeping your messages honest.

I got another email from one of the unofficial alumni sites the other day.  This one said that I should hurry up and check my profile because someone had just signed my guestbook! Later that day during a quiet period I took a look, and the most recent addition to my guest book was over 4 months old.  For the alumni site, it’s the old good news/bad news routine.  The good news for them is that I did visit the site and increase their traffic.  The bad news is I’m not falling for their crap again.

If you’re a large company, it’s probably not a good idea to claim the green high ground by saying you’ve eliminated business travel when you have hundreds of employees tweeting their actual travel plans.  A smaller company would do well to proactively disclose limitations before their consumers do so.  You see, transparency can be expensive when it’s sudden and unanticipated; however, if you invest in your processes and employees, transparency is not only free, it will actually pay dividends.

It should come as no surprise that your business is subject to unprecedented scrutiny.  Do not fear that, embrace it.  Understand your purpose, your differentiation and your goals and take every opportunity to teach and reinforce them.  Create an atmosphere of integrity and trust at all levels of the organisation.  If you are pure of heart and realistic in your claims, empowering your employees and customers to openly communicate will create not destroy loyalty, and loyalty is an extremely precious commodity.

Do you agree?

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Facebook isn’t all bad

In my last post I lamented the commercial turn that social sites like Facebook have taken.  I wanted to clarify a couple of points and then make an observation.

First, I sort of indicted all social media with my generalised comments.  What I was specifically referring to is people who use their personal accounts exclusively to bombard their friends and connections with work-related spam.

Want to fill the airwaves at Facebook with your latest white paper or YouTube ad?  Fine.  Create a commercial ID or group that relates to your work and have at it.  But by using your personal account you make it hard for folks like me who care about you to follow along.  I’m not going to work to filter your noise, I’m just going to bounce you.

Second, I was not referring to Twitter when I made my observation.  Twitter is unique.  You have to work really hard to screw up a friendship in 140 character chunks.

And lastly, the Facebook world might be developing a signal to noise ratio that approaches a late 70s CB radio, but I’ll put up with a lot of static to get the occasional connection.  In the past week I’ve heard from a couple of folks who were all but lost to me, and just seeing their words again made me smile wider than the grand canyon.

Has Facebook made you smile lately?  When?

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Another crappy day in paradise

Another massive round of TGIF messages hit the ‘Net today on Facebook and Twitter and, once again, they raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I know it’s natural to celebrate the end of the traditional work week and that we’ve been singing the same hymn for generations, but if the new transparency of social media magnifies the impact of the simplest offhand remarks, think about what it does to the more complex ones.

Here are a couple of example status updates and tweets from the past several days:

Ugh. Have to head back to the office. When will I ever get a vacation?”

In conference calls since 6am with no end in sight.  Argh!  How much more of this torture can I take?”

Look familiar?  I’m sure they do.  People are quick to share their current frustrations, and the accessibility of social media is apparently too great a temptation for some cube farmers.  But can you imagine the same basic updates with a slight change of context?

Ugh. Woke up next to my wife again. Will this torture never end?”

Kids’ soccer tournament started at 6am.  Argh!  How much of these brats am I supposed to endure?”

You’d likely never spout this type of family frustration in public even if you had a written guarantee that your wife and kids aren’t on line.  At least one hopes not.

It’s human nature to get frustrated; it happens to all of us.  But when a situation gets the best of you, instead of jumping online to vent take a break and get a soft drink, count to ten or, better yet,  spend a few minutes counting your blessings of which I’m sure there are many.

As we saw from the recent Cisco Fatty argy bargy, companies — at least the clueful ones — are listening to the social media chatter.  So, even if you don’t have the most idyllic of jobs, it might pay to exercise a bit of discretion when hitting the old keyboard.  Just food for thought.

In this vein, what was the most clueless status update you remember seeing?

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Childhood taunts and knowledge networks

I know something you don’t know!  I know something you don’t know!

I have a little sister, and I don’t think anything I experienced growing up was as infuriating as her chanting these six words at me.  The mere thought that she had information that I didn’t, whether it was useful or not,was a powerful irritant.

As data resources have expanded, solutions to manage information and access to that  information have generated huge economic growth.  In many cases, this market opportunity consisted of nothing more than brokering exchanges between information islands.  The existence of information gaps created opportunity.

Information has become the raw material of the network economy.  There will clearly always be a need to mine it, store it, and transport it.  But, like oil, ore and grain it has become a commodity and the economic optimisation models we’re employing will eventually suffer from the laws of diminishing returns.

Google is well on its way to implementing its vision to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What if they are ultimately successful?  As access to information is increasingly democratised, where will these information markets move?

I think it’s important, as we contemplate this, to recognise the fundamental difference between information and knowledge.  Information is simple data, knowledge is the situational application of reasoning and intelligence.  Information is static, once created.  Knowledge is fluid, having to be created anew in each contextual interaction.

Knowledge, unlike information, is harder to commoditise.  Knowledge is more than just the manufacturing of information; every application is unique and therefore intrinsically valuable.

We use our individual creativity to synthesise knowledge and collectively each of us is a tributary to the powerful flow of the river of innovation.

So, as the raw value of information is commoditised we will eventually derive value from innovative ways to find, access and manage knowledge.  Once those knowledge markets develop, “I know something you don’t know” will hold a much deeper,  more promising, more valuable, and less infuriating meaning.

What do you know about that?

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The importance of diversity to collaboration

When forming a group to tackle a project, most teams follow a simple script.  The core constituents draw up a list of the skills and knowledge they think they’ll need to be successful, and then they start calling acquaintances that have the appropriate attributes.  In many cases, though, the way that people build networks can be self-limiting.

Marshall Van Alstyne, a Professor at Boston University and an expert on information economics, made an observation on this phenomenon while describing to Computer World some of his important research:

…there’s evidence that the diversity of social networks really matters, not just the number of people. People have a tendency to build social networks by talking to people like themselves. That’s fine, but it doesn’t increase information diversity. You need to talk to people who aren’t like you. That’s not always easy, but it will increase the diversity of the information you have access to.

So, while building your social networks you should make a special effort to look for people who are different from you and actively seek to diversify the pool of people with whom you regularly communicate.  By doing this you will increase two important components of a successful networker: betweenness and reach.  Marshall used this diagram to illustrate:

Betweenness And Reach
Constrained vs. Unconstrained Constrained vs. Unconstrained

Illustration courtesy of Marshall Van Alstyne.

But having different information is only part of the equation.  A diverse group of individuals will not only possess more diverse data, they will also have different perspectives on the challenge itself, as well as differing cognitive styles that guide the the way they understand and solve abstract problems.  This diversity, leveraged correctly, can increase the collaborative quotient of the group.

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Finding the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer

We are seeing an explosion of social networking tools that are designed to bring people together — tools that make it possible for people to connect more easily. James Surowiecki describes the opportunity that comes from capturing the wisdom of crowds; but what if you have a need to capture the wisdom of an individual?

How do you unlock the specialised knowledge that exists in your organisation? There is an amazing wealth of experience and opinion out there, but in many cases it’s trapped in the minds of the individuals. Individuals who, for whatever reason, might be reluctant to advertise their unique value.

Gia Lyons talked about this a while back:

Why is it so hard to get your smart people to share? Because human beings typically share their precious knowledge only with people they trust. Not a software application.

Ah yes. Trust.

Gia goes on to talk about how the spoken word is more effective than the written word in both transmitting knowledge and increasing trust in a relationship. I think that’s very true.

Taking it one step further, I think that direct communication that contains elements of visual connectedness includes an additional emotional component that can expedite the formation of trust.

Combining social networking tools that help manage the complexities and details of large numbers of relationships with advanced communication tools that can increase the effectiveness and depth of a conversation is the best of both worlds.

Roger Farnsworth

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