web 2.0

Social Media is not a strategy

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Web 2.0 Conference. The conference, like the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston this past summer,  is atypical in that most of the good stuff was happening in the talks and workshops. People were there to learn and see what the thought leaders were thinking. And there were some fabulous thinkers there. Jeff Dachis and David Armano gave a fantastic discussion of social business, Gentry Underwood artfully presented is very useful insights into adoption of Enterprise 2.0. Really, the list of luminaries and their beautiful and insightful presentations are well worth a look here.

In this context, my talk was very nervously executed (I was speaking on topics I don’t normally cover, I’m more of a culture and collab gal), but the quality of the audience was fantastic. The basic idea was this. You don’t start with a social media strategy. You start with a marketing strategy, a customer relationship strategy and a collaborative objectives strategy.

Insightful and important questions ranging from budgeting to competitive differentiators, and importantly, how to convince people of the worth of what you’re doing came up, and I believe the Q&A lasted longer than the talk itself.

More than 100 people came to my session, and I was grateful for the engaged audience, and have a lot of new twitter buds as a result. Hopefully I also created some interest in the excellent range of technologies, products and expertise that Open Text has to enable Enterprise social media.

My slides from the talk are here. If you attended the session, or if you didn’t, I’d appreciate your thoughts and a continuation of the Q&A.

We are “The Sims”

I like to think that sometimes my posts are pithy and clever, but I know that sometimes they are a bit abstract. This is usuallly cause I’m using this blog as a way to work through what i’m thinking about. This is one of those posts.

Back in the late 90’s, i spent a few years studying, designing and implementing “agent based simulations of complex systems “. I was studying emergent behavior. These were somewhere between “boids” and The Sims in their depth.

I was doing an incredible amount of online research, and realized that if I ever wanted to do related research it would be very difficult to re-trace my steps, bookmarks not withstanding. If I wanted OTHER people to be able to retrace my steps, it would be very difficult to share HOW I’d found what I’d found, in addition to the what.

These two issues put me on a tear to understand tacit knowledge.

So – I wrote a whitepaper that I titled the Self-Organizing Knowledge Manager. The idea was this. People are not very good at tracking things, but computers are. we could get a computer to track where we go and how we get there and what we do when we’re there, and amek it so we can retrace our own steps and share our pathways with others. You wouldn’t have to be explicit about what the relationships between the linked items were, just the fact that there were links at all. People are really good at divining meaning – unlike computers. So leverage what each does best to capture and share tacit knowledge. Simple, right?

Then I asked smart people how to build software that would track click paths, what files were open at the same time, cuts and pastes, etc. They told me I’d need a database as an operating system and it didn’t work that way. hmph.

So the punchline here of course is that Social Media tools are the perfect substrate for capturing this information. Micropublishing, in the form of wikis, blogs, tweets, etc, are capturing the little bits of insight and information, connecting them together – along with the people who contributed – to achieve a self-organizing knowledge system.

So – now people can

a) track the links between people, objects (content) and each other, capturing a ton of tacit knowledge in the process

b) enable people to participate, much like the “agents” in my old simulations, to create emergent behavior.

Unbelievable. I was reminded about all this stuff, and how (perhaps surprisingly) relevant it is in understanding social media. David Armano’s engaging and relevant talk about how his effort to help a homeless family connects the dots.

So – what do we know about tacit knowledge, and what do we know about emergent behavior.

1. We know that most people think those terms are inscrutable.

2. We know that neither are easily tangible or predictable

But – if we apply the study of complexity theory, emergent systems, and what Stephen Wolfram calls “A New Kind of Science” (the first couple hundred pages of which are fascinating, but while I love Stephen (i know him from way back) he could use an aggressive editor, the book weighs about 10 lbs (and thanks to Salinger for teaching me the art of the multiply embedded flourish of parens – there’s a quote somewhere)) and the study of communities and collaboration, then, I think we can help enterprise, government and society develop a language for expressing ideas in this area, and start to really pursue the possible.

I promise my next post will make more sense.

Oh – the title – “The Sims” is a very popular computer game which is, in essence a sophisticated agent based simulation. It is unpredictable in its behaviors and outcomes, and yet elucidates cause and effect very well. Try it and you’ll see. My obscure point here, is that the read-write web has turned its participants into real-live actor agents in a giant simulation game. We can’t predict its outcomes, but we can learn a great deal about cause, effect and the important drivers of various outcomes.

2 hints that the future has indeed arrived

Web 2.0 or, as I prefer, the “Participatory Web” is basically about increasing participation, and not all of it is revolutionary. Some is, at best, a new way to socialize or self-aggrandize. At worst-  a big waste of time.

But there are some wildly interesting things out there too. Here are two things that struck me as glimpses into the (not yet evenly distributed) future.

What would you add to this list to expand this little spy-hole onto what’s next.

1. The library of congress has posted its photos on Flickr (the most popular photo sharing site) – in order to get the public to help tag/narrate them.

2. Lessig’s read/write vision. If you haven’t yet, just watch it. I promise you won’t find it a waste of time. (if you do, you can slam me in the comments)

What else?

New media makes talk a lot closer to action

At first it was just email – as soon as you thought about someone, you could jot off a note, without searching for paper, stamps, your address book, getting it written, putting it in the mail etc.

Then it was IM – even more immediate.

Then it was these blogs – think a thought, type a thought, and boom, its published to the world (or the very small subsection of it that reads my blog). (Pro – more thoughts out there, lower barriers. Cons – not everything is as high quality as you might like.)

Now – I have an ear out to truly remarkable people that I might have never known about or met. Through Twitter, and Facebook, I have a very up close view of what they are thinking about and doing. Through Wikis, email, twitter, this blog, facebook and dozens of other websites, I can act almost as quickly as I find out about things. New conferences that are likely to collect wildly interesting groups of people – not only can I register, I can get involved. Contacting people about projects and expertise that I never would have tracked down, without this new social networking thing. Donating money to help women in Africa start businesses to support their families and communities. Keeping my imagination charged with the ideas and activities of others…. its pretty darn cool.

And another thing is going on. When I’m away from the internet – it seems so quiet. And I haven’t even begun to really get into things like digg yet.

So – what’s the next step in eliminating boundaries? If we look at Web 2.0 as the participatory web – a slightly different slant than the “social web” – then what are the possibilities? How can we make it easier to expand and achieve our goals, our dreams through technology?

Web 2.0 and Digital Asset Management

Yesterday, I gave a talk to people developing high end DAM solutions about how Web 2.0 is affecting DAM. In short, Web 2.0 is creating a proliferation of media, changing the process of creation, collaboration and use, and driving the need for DAM solutions to integrate with more tools and think about metadata a bit differently. Moreover, Web 2.0 is changing how major media producers think about new ways to use their assets.

Here are the slides. Web 2.0 and DAM

5 Product Requirements for Social Media Widgets (at least)

Lately I’ve been asked to help design or add input to several widgets designed to create a sticky and viral presence in places like Facebook, Blogs and other “New Media” outlets.

Here are some rules of thumb that I’ve come up with. As I see it now, there are 5 basic requirements to make these successful. The importance of each will vary according to the goals (don’t neglect to examine yours) and context of the widget.

1. Compelling seed content.
Text, Video, Flash, Game-like interaction, or – heavens – Utility! Whatever, but you need a reason for people to look at it. Some kind of clever, meaningful, interesting or compelling hook. Humor is a good one. The chance to “do good” is another. Entertainment (puzzles, etc), a third. The Bob Dylan Facebook app does this in spades for me, even though its not very useful.

2. Sharing
Every good widget must have some easy way of sharing it or otherwise spreading the word. Otherwise you’re shortsheeting yourself. Super Groups on Yahoo have some great features for this. Check “John Stewart for Moderator“.

3. User contributions

Most new media widgets should have some way of allowing users to contribute – either through comments, or ratings, uploading pics, or something. The easier and more creative the better. But be careful about having people harshly rate people who are trying to do good.

4. Look and feel.

This is New Media. Design is IMPORTANT. It needs to be hot, fresh, and interesting. And it needs to be ergonomic. Think about what links and actions need to be visible and make them boldly so. No boring hotel room art, you know what I mean?

Also – you need to be sensitive to who’s using it and how. Do you really want consumer ratings of people’s earnest thoughts? Frame your language and your functionality so that people feel good about using it, not insulted (well I guess there are some rare funny things where insults work, but who looks at those every day?)

5. Tracking

No good product should go unmeasured. Continual Improvement (aka learning) relies on objective measures.

Number of interactions, number of referrals, and number of productive referrals should all be tracked. Return visits – people who come back to check on it should be counted.

Got more? Please share what you’ve learned in the comments.