Twitter brings new audience

October 1, 2010

Just found this article and thought it was blog-worthy.

Long story short, a news company (NPR) wanted a younger audience but where their competitors changed their content to attract that audience, NPR changed the way they supplied/advertised that content (through social media – particularly Twitter) and successfully attracted a younger audience.

I find this quite interesting and feel it could easily be applied to other organisations who feel they still have relevant material/products to share but can’t seem to connect to a wider customer/audience base.

Of course, if an organisation was seeking to branch out into social media to attract a different demographic, it would be advisable for them to contact an experienced consultant for advice, lest their web 2.0 debut become memorable for all the wrong reasons. Not all attention is good attention and if an organisation trying to look ‘cool’ and up-to-date bungled things, I suspect they could permanently tarnish their reputation.

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PrimeLife and privacy

October 1, 2010

I take my online privacy relatively seriously. I don’t upload photos of myself to Flickr/Facebook/forums. I use an alias that’s age and gender non-specific. I don’t ‘friend’ randoms on Facebook and I keep my location (even which city I live in) mostly confidential. Considering that, it’s not surprising that my ‘free choice’ of Enterprise 2.0 topic is related to privacy.

Just from searching ‘web 2.0 privacy’ I found what appears to be a very intersting project under development by IBM. It’s called ‘PrimeLife‘ and appears to be supposed to help people manage their information and privacy throughout their lives. Actually, its goals are stated as being  to:

provide scalable and configurable privacy and identity management in new and emerging Internet services and applications, such as virtual communities and Web 2.0 collaborative applications

and

protect the privacy of individuals throughout their entire life span“.

I find this a mixed bag. On the one hand, the ability to micromanage my privacy and security is very welcome. On the other hand, PrimeLife appears to be a centralised store of everyone’s private information and, if it were ever compromised, could land vast amounts of sensitive data in the hands of people who would abuse it.

That said, PrimeLife is supposed to be a three year project and was only started in 2008, so it’s not expected to be launched immediately. Perhaps by the time it’s finished, the digital landscape will be so different as to render some or all of these issues irrelevant. I don’t think that’s likely, but it could happen.

It also raises questions about who actually owns data. With personal use of a technology like PrimeLife, I would imagine that such a question would be straightforward (unless, I suppose, PrimeLife itself makes some sort of claim to people’s data in return for protecting it) but in the corporate setting, things could be different. Would employees or the company own the data PrimeLife was keeping confidential? Would that prompt PrimeLife to arrange ‘corporate’ accounts for businesses? Although at the moment, PrimeLife seems geared towards only dealing with individuals, I suspect it would eventually attempt to service the corporate world as well.

Still on the theme of PrimeLife with respect to enterprise, I can see it potentially solving problems such as employees disclosing sensitive information. I don’t know enough about how PrimeLife would work to know if it is capable of that, but if it doesn’t fill that niche, maybe some other technology will. From what I’ve read, it seems that it is mostly focused on ‘removing virtual footprints’ so perhaps it won’t monitor the information being published as much as the metadata that goes with it.

Whatever PrimeLife turns out to be, I feel confident of some things about it – firstly that it offers highly desirable assistance in maintaining privacy and confidentiality and, secondly, that it offers a highly desirable target to hackers and people out to steal information/identity/other stuff.

My experiences

October 1, 2010

Wikis

I haven’t used wikis to a huge extent and have only recently been introduced to them but what experiences I have had with them have been mostly positive.

Beginning – The sign up process was relatively straightforward, which is good because I think I would have been somewhat turned away from using wikis if I had found the set up process confusing or tedious. After that, figuring out how to use the wiki went easily. This was partly due to my learning in the presence of people who showed me the basics.

Use – I successfully contributed content. I didn’t bother with formatting at that point because it wasn’t necessary but from looking at the interface, I don’t think I’d have trouble making things look prettier if I needed to. As of yet, no one has edited the material I posted, so I haven’t faced the issues that arise from that (such as feeling upset that people felt the need to correct me or frustrated that they changed something I wanted left alone). I don’t reckon I’d be bothered much by those sort of problems, but I do know they can occur.

Future – When it comes to wikis, I currently consider myself to be a newbie but a competent user of them. Having dabbled with the basics, I feel I would benefit from using them more and have become curious as to whether the different wiki systems (I used wikispaces) offer different features. I can already see some of the benefits of collaborating through wikis as opposed to email and intend to keep using them.

Social Networks

I have been a long time forum user and feel both familiar with and comfortable about posting content and interacting with other people through forums. More recently, I have started using Facebook (though even after months on this platform I haven’t fully explored its fully range of functions).

Beginning – I forget why I actually signed up by I suspect it was because one of my uni subjects required it. There was an initial flurry of activity when my Facebook-using friends discovered I had joined but that settled down after a while.

Use – I don’t post much. This is partly because I don’t enjoy using Facebook that much (playing games aside) and partly for privacy reasons. I don’t upload photos of myself and remove tags that other people placed on me in photos they uploaded. I have found it useful when friends had invited me to events and I wanted to see the event details and who was going but haven’t used to to organise my own events.

Future – I suspect I’ll start using Facebook a bit more. It hasn’t grabbed me much yet but that could change. I think it’s one of those things where the more you use it, the more you want to use and so on. I can see its usefulness and some of the appeal but I remain far from addicted to it… for now.

Corporate use of social networks

September 20, 2010

As Web 2.0 technologies increase in popularity, their use on the corporate scene is rising too. Below are some examples of this trend in action.

Starbucks – This company  has been harnessing the collective intelligence of their customers through a social network which accepts, amongst other things, suggestions for new or improved products and practices. Users can submit comments in three categories – ‘Product’ ideas (about the food/drinks/music/merchandise Starbucks sells), ‘Experience’ ideas (about sales process/locations and atmospheres at the Starbucks stores) and ‘Involvement’ ideas (about how to engage and interact with the community of Starbucks patrons). Not only do these customer submissions help Starbucks improve their business and align it more closely to what its customers really want, it creates consumer buy-in and sense of loyalty/belonging through particular attention to strengthening its surrounding social network of shoppers. One risk of this approach is that the customers interacting on the social network don’t get along. I took a look at one of the ideas being discussed and it became apparent that people were getting angry at each other’s posts and attitudes. Arguments were held through the commenting system and posted material became sarcastic and offensive. The outcomes of this and similar incidents were but it is conceivable that the people involved would boycott the site or even Starbucks itself as a result. This threat could perhaps be managed through staff moderating the site but removing control from the customers in this way might also damage the site and company by denying people free speech.

Starbucks also offers options for people to share their content through Facebook, Twitter and many other existing social networks but still requires its users to create an account with Starbucks itself in order to submit content.

Visa – Visa has launched the ‘Visa Business Network‘, a free social network where small businesses can maintain a profile and connect/interact with each other. Supported functionality includes giving and receiving advice on meeting specified goals, mentoring other business people and holding conversations. It also supports blogging and integration with Twitter, which helps to broadcast updates to a larger audience. This network is made available through Facebook, thus tapping into the vast Facebook community to attract users. By allowing users to sign up through Facebook, Visa has simplified the joining process which might prevent abandonment at that point by people who don’t want to go through a lengthy process or volunteer their data to yet another site.

Jeep – has a social network where Jeep owners can post Jeep-related photos. Once photos are uploaded, viewers can see when the photo was taken and who took it. Clicking on the photo links back to the Flickr page for that photo. Commenting is also allowed but is done through Facebook, meaning that would-be commenters have to sign in to Facebook to leave messages. Viewers can also share the photo through Facebook, Twitter and Delicious and ‘like’ it for Facebook. By using these existing social networks, Jeep has tapped into huge base of users but runs the risk of excluding key functionality from people who aren’t already members these networks.

As indicated above, there are advantages and disadvantages for making use of existing social networks instead of creating a new one. Companies like Visa and Jeep have access to an existing group of users but are to some degree ‘off limits’ from people who don’t already belong to Facebook. Approaches like Starbucks’ open up the network to people who don’t want to have to join Facebook/other social networks.

Ideally, networks should offer both sign up methods to reach more people. It is also desirable for businesses to offer options to include their content on social networks (such as a ‘like’ option for Facebook users).

If you’re interested in more examples of companies making use of social technologies, I found this link.

Corporate wiki use

September 13, 2010

As corporate wikis become more popular, excellent examples of companies successfully structuring their business practices around wikis are continuing to emerge. One of these examples is RedAnt – a web design company who have fully embraced the wiki technology with powerful outcomes.

Rather than just a receptacle for information, we use it to store meeting notes, brainstorms, wireframes, snippets of code, and even present visual designs. The aim is to try to get as much information on each project written down. By doing this, we’ve found that our Wiki has become our main interface with customers – a kind of a mixture of intranet and extranet. (RedAnt, 2009)

Web design company RedAnt doesn’t just use wikis – they’ve built their work structure around them. More specifically, RedAnt uses a wiki platform software tool called Confluence.

RedAnt is vocal about the benefits it has drawn from this approach and I identified three different areas these benefits relate to:

Data

–       Handling a variety of content (the wiki supports a variety of content types – such as images and Flash as well as text – and can bring them together in a single document)

–       Documentation (in addition to storing and displaying actual project data, the wiki can be used for storing data about the project, including ‘detailed software documentation’)

People

–       Everyone was able to contribute and participate and more people were involved

–       Easy to manage who has what permissions (One of the problems RedAnt faced was how to make sure the right files were accessible to to everyone who needed them whilst keeping more sensitive files were off limits. Using the wiki enabled this provision and protection to be set up quickly and easily.)

–       Helps maintain communication with clients

–       Helps demonstrate activity levels to clients (This makes sure the clients are aware of progress being made and are reassured that the company is still working on their project)

–       Working with both geographically and temporally dispersed groups (RedAnt found that the wiki technology was extremely useful in dealing with clients that weren’t ‘local’ or were in a different time zone)

–       Improving communication through visuals (RedAnt also found that explaining concepts could be helped by using images and graphs and the like)

Time

–       Less waiting around for other people to upload content for the group (In previous systems, publishing content was left to a select group of individuals and this mean that there was often time spent waiting for these people to upload large amounts of content from others. Using the wiki, everyone was able to contribute, thus relieving the pressure on the few people who used to be responsible for that task)

–       Speed of publishing  (In addition to allowing other people to publish content, the wiki system simplified the publishing process, thus shortening the time taken to upload content.)

One of the pitfalls of this system is related to some of the behaviour RedAnt noticed emerging – ‘crammers’. These people didn’t read updates frequently but attempted massive catchups right before meetings. I suspect that if the same people were presented with a different system, they would exhibit the same behaviour to some degree but the “What’s new” feature of the wiki likely encourages it. This behaviour could be detrimental to the project and organisation because it means that some people are unaware of potentially serious developments and may not react in time.

The RedAnt example is definitely a positive one – there seem to be almost no downsides to their transition to a wiki workplace and an abundance of benefits.

Corporate blogging strategies

September 13, 2010

Corporate blogs come in a variety of forms and are done for variety of purposes. Sang Lee, Taewon Hwang and Hong-Hee Lee (2006) examine these blogs in terms of their authors and their purposes and these approaches are discussed as follows:

Who:

All employees – Even with social media policies factored in, opening authorship to all employees creates channels for revealing the human side of a company because publishing these different views and experiences of being part of that company builds a collective image that can end up being more ‘complete’ and rounded than if only the executives and official spokes people had a voice or if the company only released highly planned statements. It can also turn employees into what Lee Hwang and Lee (2006) call “brand ambassadors” and so provide another credible stream of advertising that reaches its audience without the unappealing layer of ‘advertising speak’ drizzled over it. This strategy comes with risks, however, and these include loss of control and leaking of confidential information.  Adobe is a prime example of this strategy working successfully – it has a massive range of blogs in which its staff release promotional material such as tutorials and reviews that encourage their readers to buy into Adobe products. One downside to Adobe’s abundance of blogs is the lack of categorisation – people faced with the very long list of blogs could find themselves overwhelmed by the choice and have trouble finding blogs relevant to their interests.

High ranking executives – Warren Buffet has stated (in Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006) that “people are voting for the artist, not the painting”, demonstrating the influence a known and approachable figurehead can have on the product they are pushing. Matt Blumberg (CEO of Return Path, an “email deliverability services company”) has his own blog in which he releases frequent and relevant posts, such as “What Does a CEO Do, Anyway?”, “Investment in the Email Ecosystem”, “The Value and Limitations of Benchmarking”. These are written in an informal, easy-to-read style and don’t just provide insight into Blumberg’s business, they help project an image of Blumberg himself as an approachable and credible person. If the artist selling himself has a positive effect on selling his works, then it could be assumed that Blumberg is setting his company up to be successful.

Select individuals – By having a hand-picked group  of people contributing to the same blog, a company can give its readers a better sense of some of the individuals involved in it, thus further helping to humanise the company. It can also help by giving a broader perspective and range of experience that would have been so if only one person had been author. A real world example of this is Forrester Blogs – a marketing and strategy group that has several of its members contributing to a single blog. The diversity of authors leads to a diversity of blog content which perhaps makes the blog more intersting to read.

blogs that are ‘lacking of human voice’ – This style has benefits and drawbacks. I think the key benefit is that the impersonal touch might make the information presented in the blog (and a common aim of this sort of blog is to present the reader with information about the company or its products) more trustworthy due to the lack of human influence and bias. Unfortunately, the impersonality can also be counter-productive by not providing any sort of human interest for the readers to engage with.

In addition to their three ‘author’ categories (’employee’, ‘group’ and ‘executive’), Lee, Hwang and Lee identify another two categories defined by their purpose – ‘promotional’ and ‘newsletter’:

Newsletter – This type of blog tends to “be filled with well-polished messages” and “cover a variety of topics such as company news and product information” (Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006). Lorelle VanFossen (a seasoned blogger and author of “Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging”) was approached by an organisation to convert their newsletter into a blog, learnt much through the process of doing so and has published her findings. Something I found interesting about her article series was how it highlighted the difference between newsletters and blogs. I had assumed that newsletters were basically just short updates and news snippets relevant to the newsletters author and that it would be relatively simple to convert such a document to ‘blog-form’. Apparently, that’s not so and creating a successful ‘newsletter blog’ requires careful planning.

Promotional – According to Lee, Hwang and Lee, “the purpose of the promotional blog is to create buzz around products and events” (Lee, Hwang and Lee, 2006). K. H. Padmanabhan has done his own study on promotional blogs and has categorised them “based on their objectives and uses”: The types he identified are

  • ‘information blogs’ (which “provide information of interest to the participant” and “feature information updates and relevant stories
  • image blogs’ (which “are oriented to positioning a brand or a company.They seek to accent a construct of import to the audience, e.g., product knowledge, technology expertise, market insight, etc. The elements are essentially intangible. They may be employed as part of or extension to mainstream media positioning programs.”),
  • ‘experience blogs’ (which “are about reminiscing and sharing one’s experiences. Chronicled in relevant contexts and natural surroundings, experience blogs enrich interactions among the participants. Satisfied customers make a company’s sales force that is credible and unpaid. Experience blogs engender public credibility”),
  • ‘relationship blogs’ (which “are about building social connections. Connections are built with customers, among customers, and between different interest groups. Customers connect and help each other. Customers act as company’s resource. Relationship blogs develop trust and cement bond with customers.”)
  • ‘dialog blogs’ (which “provide an open forum to congregate and debate. Participants give free and full expression to what they know and what they feel. Customers and other interest groups collaborate with the company decision makers… Dialog blogs are online forums for different views and insights regarding any general or focused subject of interest to its participants.”

August 27, 2010

Stuff On My Cat is an interesting organisation to analyse with respect to Enterprise 2.0 because by its very nature, it is based on Enterprise 2.0 technologies. Essentially, registered members send in supposedly funny cat pictures which SOMC then displays on its website and uses in products on their web store (such as T-shirts and mugs). Considering this business model, it’s not surprising to find that SOMC has to address some of the risks that come with using E2 technologies.

For starters, SOMC stores information about its registered members. Although this data may not be considered as sensitive as, for example, financial information, it still has a responsibility to those member to keep this information private. Should this information be compromised (by SOMC itself or hackers, etc), members could bring action against SOMC or just terminate their account. Since SOMC relies on member submissions, loss of members is a serious concern.

Another key legal issue is that of copyright – the ‘product’ SOMC sells is content created by its members, which brings into question the ownership of and right to use that content. SOMC has addressed this by including in the content submission process an agreement that it can use the submitted content essentially in any way it pleases. It’s likely that a large number of users would simply agree to the waiver without reading it fully but I don’t see how that would cause a big problem for SOMC.

Registered members can also caption each other’s photos and vote for their favourite caption for a photo and this could lead to claims of discrimination. It’s possible that members may feel their caption was ignored or passed over on the grounds of favouritism. It’s also possible that such a member may become disgruntled and start spreading defamatory material about SOMC on SOMC’s site and others. Again, since members and their contributions are so critical to SOMC’s business model and success, this could have a very damaging effect. As far as I can see SOMC hasn’t taken any action to prevent this apart from allowing people to report inappropriate behaviour and content.

One of the dangers of relying on user submissions is that some people opt to submit inappropriate and offensive material, both of which could give SOMC a bad reputation and turn members away. It is hard to tell whether SOMC staff moderate submissions before they are posted, although the ‘FAQ’ section dealing with why submitted photos take a while to appear on the site indicates that the submission process isn’t automated and there is some processing involved with the procedure. Also, the consistent lack of extremely offensive photos appearing on the site suggests that SOMC staff exercise some degree of network monitoring by either preventing those images appearing and/or removing them after the fact.

Actually, it seems that SOMC have taken very little mitigating action to deal with legal risks. Where other organisations require members to agree to terms and conditions on sign up, SOMC has nothing and the only contract users of the site have to enter into is the aforementioned submission waiver. Although the members of the SOMC network could perhaps be called ‘staff’ as well as ‘consumers’ because they contribute the majority of the content, there appears to be no agreed upon policy of use for them to abide by. The submission agreement clearly states that the author of the content is responsible for it but does not lay out any consequences for breaching that responsibility.

Overall, SOMC is a curious case because it is so clearly an Enterprise 2.0 company but apparently lacks any specifically stated policy of use and guidelines to govern its members and direct them through the minefield of existing in a social media space.

Intrawest Placemaking – an Enterprise 2.0 case study

August 23, 2010

Intrawest Placemaking – the “real estate development” division of a huge company called Intrawest – is an excellent example of Enterprise 2.0 techniques and principles applied in such a way that the organisation achieves almost all benefits and avoids almost all risks. In a clever and daring move in 2006, Placemaking introduced ThoughtFamer an “wiki intranet platform” and so began a dramatic transformation that shifted to the company from an Enterprise 1.0 model to an Enterprise 2.0 one. There are many benefits to be gained by embracing an Enterprise 2.0 approach and Placemaking’s success story demonstrates nearly all of them.

Benefits as exemplified by Placemaking case study

  • Productivity and efficiency ~ Placemaking found a number of improvements in this area – firstly, the dissemination and updating of information was streamlined by employees posting their content in the wiki intranet instead of using email. This  reduced the multiple copies and versions of information sent out to different sets of people and replaced it with a single, central, easily updated source of information. Efficiency was also increased by the implementation of the key principle ‘turn all users into authors’. This removed the need for a dedicated content maintenance team, meaning those resources could be reallocated elsewhere.
  • Knowledge ~ The ‘knowledge’ benefits to Placemaking can be loosely sorted into three categories – the ‘increase’ in knowledge published within the organisation, the ‘ease’ with which it is accessible and the quality/accuracy of that shared knowledge. ThoughtFarmer made the content submission process quick and simple and this made employees more likely to share their knowledge. It also provided a single, accurate repository for that knowledge that was open to all employees.
  • Reputation ~ Embracing this Web 2.0 technology helped Placemaking’s reputation and appearance, particularly in the eyes of Gen Y potential employees and so gives then “a strategic hiring advantage over their competition”. When recruiting or retaining employees, the presence and benefits of current, highly effective technologies act as a powerful attraction.
  • Staff engagement ~ Before the introduction of ThoughtFarmer, Placemaking predicted “users that could add and edit content would feel a sense of ownership over their intranet. Because the leadership of Placemaking would be putting considerable trust in employees, employees would, in turn, be more likely to trust the company and its leaders.” (Placemaking, 2010).  In addition to this, Placemaking found that allowing employees to maintain personalised profiles and communicate with each other on topics other than work led to employee satisfaction and the forming of strong social relationships. These relationships in particular encouraged employees to share more of their knowledge to help each other out.

In addition to the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and principles, companies need to be aware of the risks they bring. These are addressed below with regard to the Placemaking case study.

  • Security ~ When adopting the principles and practices of ‘openness’, companies open themselves to the risk of employees seeing and sharing sensitive information that should have remained private. If broadcast on an internal or external network, information can be amazingly rapidly spread and may even end up published in public spaces such as blogs or newspapers. So far, Placemaking seems to have avoided that kind of crisis, perhaps due to the accountability brought about by prohibiting anonymous posting – content can be traced back to the person who published and that person can expect to face the consequences of their actions. It should be noted that whilst a disgruntled employee intending to resign anyway may not be so easily deterred by disciplinary measures, this method of control has apparently worked so far.
  • Loss of control ~ When the principles of openness are fully embraced, it opens organisations up to the loss of control of information set loose and unbound by the established heirarchy. This is another event Placemaking has so far avoided and this could again be due to not allowing anonymous posting and generating good will amongst employees.
  • Reputation ~ Although the strategic use of Web 2.0 tool can improve an organisations’ reputation, they can also harm it. Employees leaking sensitive or damaging information or broadcasting inappropriate comments on external and internal networks can quickly spread bad news and make the organisation appear to be unprofessional and unappealing. Perhaps due to happy employees and being ‘clean’, Placemaking seems to be avoiding this risk so far. It is also important to note that Placemaking’s network is an internal one – if ‘bad’ information was to be released on it, it would be contained within the organisation and presumably not reach the public – and so this is an option for damage control.
  • Reliability ~ When entrusting everyone in the organisation with the ability to submit and edit content, the question arises of whether that content will be reliable and error-free. This can be a bit of a paradox, because allowing everyone to edit content can in itself reduce errors by letting those people who do spot errors fix them immediately. The risk remains (what happens if nobody spots a mistake or maliciously makes false/misleading comments) but it should be recognised as belonging to projects with only one author as well. It seems that in Placemaking’s experience, employees have worked together to generate reliable content.
  • Productivity ~ Another scary issue for managers and employers involves the hijacking of the network for non-work purposes. Whilst some play and light-heartedness is recognised to be health, the risk remains of employees turning the tool from a work-helper to a work-hinderer through the publishing and absorbing of purely fun content to the extent that their productivity suffers. Placemaking has certainly found that employees used the intranet for non-work purposes but that this created stronger relationships and a sense of community that combined to urge those same employees to share information because they cared about their peers.
  • Resources ~ An additional concern is that excessive company resources (bandwidth, time) will be spent on play and socialising. Again, in Placemaking’s experience, workers seem to self-moderate to the effect that the resources expended on entertainment and interacting with others were beneficial to the employees and prompted willingness to work and share.

After examining these benefits and risks with respect to Placemaking, what occurs to me is that an organisation’s success when making the shift from Enterprise 1.0 to Enterprise 2.0 depends largely on managing the people involved. Placemaking’s brilliant results could have been very different if they had introduced the technologies but done it in a way that forced employees to contribute ‘or else’ or allowed them to publish anonymously. Keeping goodwill amongst workers (allowing them a reasonable degree of freedom and fun), generating relationships between them and making them responsible for their own reactions are, in my mind, key elements that need to be carefully addressed for a company to succeed as an  Enterprise 2.0 company.

2 Examples of Enterprise 2.0 Organisations

August 22, 2010

Advancial Federal Credit Union is an example of a company that has successfully incorporated Web 2.0 technologies to become a thriving Enterprise 2.0 organisation. Its transition began in response to problems its employees were experiencing – problems characteristic of companies in the chasm between Enterprise 1.0 and Enterprise 2.0 that have introduced new computing technologies but haven’t brought in the guidelines to help members/employees to make the most of them. These problems are listed below:

  • Employees didn’t know each other or what everyone’s role was.
  • Not everyone could contribute content to the company information base
  • Information was hard to disseminate and keep consistent and relevant
  • The information base was hard to search, making finding information difficult and time consuming
  • Security was disorganised

In an effort to address these problems, they brought in an ‘intranet in a box’ solution called ‘IntelliEnterprise‘. This platform provided Advancial with a base for Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and profile pages and so helped solve many of Advancial’s problems by:

  • Creating a single source of information with controlled access and editing privileges (this keeps out duplicate or outdated versions of data and solves some security issues)
  • Making visible other people and their role in the organisation
  • Opening up content creation to other people
  • Introducing an effective search tool that could swiftly locate relevant information from the central information base.

This approach adheres in multiple ways to the principles of Enterprise 2.0 – it flattens teams hierarchy by opening up content creation to team members, it facilitates the forming and strengthening of social connections through making people’s profiles public and so bringing people together, it supports the collection and sharing of knowledge within the company and (while not exactly going global) still links the geographically diverse branches. That said, Advancial seems to avoid totally embracing the principle of openness since it doesn’t publish the vast stores to information about its members. Considering the confidential nature of that information, this policy is highly appropriate and Advancial does publish details of the products and services it offers.

Another example of an group doing well as an Enterprise 2.0 organisation is BUPA, a healthcare organisation. Part of BUPA’s work is to provide people with information and so knowledge sharing and dissemination amongst its workers is extremely important. To this effect, BUPA has made use of the Cogenz enterprise bookmarking tool.

According to Wikipedia, enterprise bookmarking is “a method of tagging and linking any information using an expanded set of tags to capture knowledge about data” (as different from, social bookmarking, which it defines as “individuals creat[ing] personal collections of bookmarks and shar[ing] their bookmarks with others”). It is expected that the end product of enterprise bookmarking is a rich, relevant folksonomy.

BUPA state their enterprise bookmarking goals to be:

  • Facilitate networking across the organisation
  • Create a knowledge base on the intranet, improving intranet search
  • Analyse tag patterns as a source of information about intellectual capital within the organisation
  • Feed users’ content tags into Autonomy search engine to improve automatic indexing of content

These goals align to some degree with Enterprise 2.0 principles. For starters, networking at all levels of the organisation enables and encourages close collaboration and connection between peers and throughout the ranks. In addition to that, a single user-built information source has been coupled with a powerful search function meaning the vast knowledge base is not just in place but accessible. Linking is not just supported but made the core function of the bookmarking tool.

Although little mention is made of employees actually authoring any of the bookmarked content, tagging has been made an essential part of the bookmarking process.

A key result of the enterprise bookmarking practice is a type of recommendations scheme whereby employees can see what information their peers have listed under the same tag. In this set up, it isn’t the system that identifies similar material – the people using it do that for themselves. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any signalling function directing people to the appearance or tagging of potentially relevant information.

Though their use of Web 2.0 technologies is considerably different, both Advancial and BUPA are solid examples of Enterprise 2.0 organisations thriving in their respective ways.

Blog post on blogging

August 9, 2010

The benefits of blogging are many and diverse but now as I pause to think about it, the main one that comes to mind is the creation of a person’s online identity through persistent revelations. A series of blog posts help to make public a person’s character and situation in a way that one-off articles cannot – when presented with a collection of material contributed over time, a reader might be able to follow the progression of growth and change the author has undergone than they could if they were faced with a single article. Differences acknowledged by the author (for example, mention that they had completed a degree or moved into a new job) as well as differences evident but not mentioned (for example, alterations in the style or quality it of writing) combine to create an image of the author that matures along with the reader. This development over time creates a narrative for the reader to follow and allows them to feel closer to the author for having seen their history and where they came from instead of just their current status.

It could be argued that one long article may demonstrate more of the author’s personal development than several small articles and this may be true, but long articles raise the problem of actually getting readers to read to the end. In a world where time is increasingly precious, I suggest that readers are more likely to read short articles over several brief sessions than they are to read a very long article on once only basis.

Actually, the breaking down of information is one of the things I noticed that made other people’s blogs easier to read. Sacha Chua and Dion Hinchcliffe (each a prominent identity in the world of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 bloggers) both seem to favour short paragraphs and dot-point-style formats over ‘wall of text’ styles. I find this approach much nicer to read as it simplifies and minimises the content for me so I don’t have to synthesise verbose writing for myself.

Another thing I noticed about Sacha Cuha’s blog is that it had lots of links – links to similar bloggers, links that made it easy to follow her on other platforms and links to her other blog posts (both to single posts and to categories of posts). This made going deeper into the material she has published much easier because the reader can hop to related posts instead of having to trawl through all of them sequentially.

It also occurs to me that blogging, when done frequently, can help keep the author fresh in their reader’s mind. Infrequent long articles mean that the author is only occasionally directing attention back to themselves, whereas more active blogs maintain the author’s presence in their reader’s daily life.