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New Media Talk, Part 2 – Social Consumption

In New Media on November 25, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It is clear that the online social networks have a profound influence on the social and information retrieval activities. Content distributed on social network platforms is a unique model that challenges mainstream and traditional networks of communication.  Computer-mediated-communication (CMC) creates new methods of connectivity between individuals and groups. These networks have varied range between users, are centrally focused on individuals, and assign implicit online community roles. The social network facilitates the flow of information through direct and indirect ties and as a result defines how people acquire resources and information (Garton, 1997).  CMC plays a central role as an inter-mediator of information. Contemporary social networking platforms have rapidly grown because of their ability to effectively link individuals and groups of networks with one another –i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube. The efficiency of CMC enables users to be connected to a number of different networks defined by different relationships and different communication medium. These relationships or ties, identify new networks, thus CMC creates networks that aggregate shared resources and information (Craven & Wellman, 1973, p.g59). The increase of acquired users on social networking platforms fabricates more networks and groups of networks that therefore have increasingly prominent impacts on the acquisition of information and media content.

The ability to produce and reproduce content is also a factor that dramatically alters perceptions of new media. The format, the audience, and the volume through CMC channels are redefining media’s intention and application. The vast amount of content online is pressuring the efficiency of media distribution channels, substantiated by user expectations for the web to affiliate content with context. Social networks play a significant role in facilitating context. They do this by evaluating ties between people, groups, and pages. Social networks are described as entities in a network called ‘nodes’ and the connection between them called ‘ties’, representing a matrices that allows filtering content specific to an individual (Downes, 2005, p.416).  Haythornthwaite (2001) argues that there is a tendency for social networks to enhance the distribution of media but stronger ties within these networks remains centred on pre-existing local networks or affiliations; niche networks are often weaker ties in the network.  Conversely, Downes (2005) presents the studies of “six-degrees” network measurement (Milgram, 1967) revealing that there are only six steps in a network between every person in the United States (p.417). More so then ever, this network phenomenon is accurate but also applicable on a global scale using CMC networks ties which are both easy to create and effectively measurable.  Although this conclusion is justified, the effects of the “long tail”– many small elements of information that make up an equal or larger proportion of the Internet –require networks and ties to define relationships to niche content specific to the user. The accuracy of distributing niche content to specific individuals is highly valued during information retrieval process because of the volume of content that is available. Nevertheless, this retrieval process requires complex relational ties that leverage social network data.

Strong ties are of great relevance to social networks and the distribution of media on social networking platforms. Marsden and Campbell (1984) distinguish the combination of factors that distinguish ties in a network: frequency of contact, duration of association, intimacy of the tie, provision of reciprocal services, and kinship (p484).  Currently, this measurement of ties attempts to link the “social web” with content. Google, the biggest search engine on the web, bases its model on content-centric consumption. The shortfall of this model is that it neglects to meet the complex information retrieval process necessary to retrieve content in the long tail of the web. The social web on the other hand, adds user’s personal information as a variable in the search. The social web has supporters includes Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Facebook. Their partnership in October 2010 will enable Bing searchers to leverage Facebook profile ties to influence content retrieval; known as the user-centric model of content consumption (Oreskovic, 2010).

Browsing the web is not longer passive, user have participative roles on a websites; “individuals are now more apt to have their behaviours, likes, and dislikes automatically integrated in proprietarily databases” (Elmer, 2002, p.86).  The exploitation of this user data will significantly influence content that is distributed to the user and although the relational model is only in its early stages of implementation, the shear volume of activity that is recorded by social networking sites, generate opportunities to customise searchable content and media. The current social networking platforms are maturing rapidly as user acquisition is very high. Nevertheless, methods of transferring content are still primal as they are submissive in the online environment. Presently, social networks only marginally influence content distribution – i.e. Friend-of-a-Friend (FoaF), advertising, and recommendations.

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New media talk – Part 1

In New Media on November 19, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , , , , ,

Technology innovation is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. They are complex systems that are incremental and in recent times, rapidity emerging. At this point in time, many IT developments are fragmented and there is very little unity or consolidation across domains. Playing a central role in defining technology in the future, more specifically web platform technology, is how content is managed and consumed. Social networking platforms are attempting to redefine the flow of media on the Internet by leveraging user’s profiles to competitively deliver content to the consumer (Levitz, 2006).

The online social networking revolution impacts society’s day-to-day activities. Redirecting social interactions to online has consequently altered our perceptions of media, as online social networks largely influence access to content, filtration of content, consumption of content, how it is formatted, and fundamentally where is it obtained. The information age is one that “embodies and symbolises the huge advance on our horizons of experience, attainment, and understanding” which collectively can deliver media from a networked source of information repository –i.e. the Internet (Adams, 1997, pg.947). The ability to enhance the process of retrieving and consuming information is complex but necessary. It requires networks of information to be leveraged. New media entails more than simply browsing content; users play participative roles in the content distribution. Passive browsing no longer exists, as profiling, metadata, crowd sourcing, and links are collectively mapped. Therefore, it is these participative activities that will drive distribution and production of relative content, reshaping the media industry forever.

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Organisational pyramid – People, Process, and Social Office

In Enterprise2.0 on September 29, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: ,

Delivery of enterprise social software is a journey that involves a process of analysis, implementation and support. This framework is often forgotten as is the pyramid of organisation components which have equal weight on each leg to ensure that it doesn’t tipple over.

Each component, equally dependent, requires attention during the integration framework. Successful integration therefore requires understanding of the process and people to introduce new tools.

Process can refer to the current knowledge and communication management systems that are incorporated into business-as-usual activities. This is influenced further by company policies/standards and organisational culture. These can be measured through empirical research. This is a suggested method to help see where integrations issue could arise and could require attention. Mitigation strategies are common in for managing change but importantly, a perceptive that adoption requires support to alter old perceptions and reduce resistance to new structures and business processes.

People are part of the process and without tying to be too bias, they are the crucial element to successful adoption. Although they are evenly distributed in the pyramid, people are crucial because they are commonly forgotten in the implementation process. Sometimes management have a mindset that if the right process and tools are in place, the people will just adapt. This misconception will cause failure and resistance to changing processes. Therefore, continual support is necessary and should be delivered incrementally throughout the life of the project.

Finally technology suitability is important. This should be acknowledged in the analysis stage of the implementation framework. Common problem with introducing new technologies is that they’re introduced without removing old or redundant tools.  Adding another tool or introducing a system because you can doesn’t mean you should. People are an important element of the business, if not the most important. If they are supported by excellent processes and tools, the work production will flourish.

Technology – Social Office

Consider this, a technology with features that can be easily integrated into the work flow of an organisation and its employees. Sound good? Well then, meet Social Office. What is unique about Social Office is that it has supports the implementation pyramid in many ways that other tools choose to ignore. This is demonstrated by a few key aspects I see as fundamental to the introduction to enterprise 2.0.

  • No new email system
    • Email is one of those tools that some employees are very touchy about. People want to keep using email but what people don’t often realised is that email is a excellent communication tool but is overused by people for misguided purposes. For example: sending out a company wide message, or even a group message, or newsletters, could be more effective on another platform and reduce the overload of static email/ pushed information. Social Office relies on the Pull system of information, whereby people in their own time read about the company or their team’s process. This means it’s more transparent to the company and important information is not lost in the inbox.
  • Integration
    • Integration with the current company systems factors into the effectiveness of the implementation. Social Office has an excellent integration capability including Microsoft Office software which is fundamental to the systems document versions control, formatting, and efficiency to upload documents to the portal (Uses WebDev). Further integration can be seen SOAP, REST, RSS and other proprietary AIPs. These can be fundamental to the transfer of data from different platforms and allows for current data layer to remain rather than redesigning the entire system protocols.
  • Access controls
    • Fundamental in hierarchical organisational structures. Different information and content producing privileges can be allocated and this can be useful in avoiding employee spam or information sensitivity issues with clients.
  • Simplicity
    • The GUI has very simple design making it easy to navigate and effectively complete an activity.
  • Profiling
    • The social networking paradigm has raised some eyebrows across enterprise. Employees could leverage off these online networks and collaborate more effectively.
  • Auditing Performance
    • As it is important to monitor activities on these platform the auditing abilities of Social Office is a helpful feature.  There is great importance for implicit leaders to advocate social networks. Being able to recognise who is a leader and who is lagging in adoption is fundamental. Auditing not only can help the organisations see strengths and weaknesses, it provides management with the opportunities to connect weak adopters with strong leaders to enhance their experience and motivate them to improve. Monitoring these opportunities to link leader with slow adopters is fundamental to the support process.
  • Search/ tagging
    • To have an effective system it needs to be searchable. The tagging method is used in many areas but this could be a weakness as it is not scalable to large organisations. Tagging is more about trending topics. If the system could allow for custom tags for co-worker that is part of your network, this might provide more value. However, for a larger international company, this feature is unlikely to be consistently helpful unless users were clustered into divisions.

From this quick overview, it’s hard to put anything wrong by Social Office.  This tool has acknowledged the knowledge pyramid and many of its features support the organisation people and the processes.  The feature complemented with the support and end-of-life agreement (migrating future risk of cancellations) makes Social Office my pick for the semester for enterprise software most likely to succeed.

For an introduction into Liferay’s social text, watch the video below.

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Social Social Social… work?

In Social Networks on September 19, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , ,

Often individuals in society use their networks to advance their knowledge of happenings and events. This social networking paradigm is embedded into our society but the playing field has evolved and online social networking platforms are here to stay. What can be curtain is that we are greatly influenced by these social circles -increasingly the scopes of our networks are expanding. There are abundance of social networking platforms available that offer different purposes, and have emergent cultures, and social norms. The influence that social networking have on business activities is full of uncertainties.  Resistance to the adoption of networks is anti-productive in a business setting because networks are powerful resource that fuel business growth and opportunity. There’s a conception that many popular platforms are for individual networking development. This is somewhat true. Many of the popular social networking platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, twitter and even LinkedIn are individually focused. However, increasingly attention has been on how businesses can tap into these resources. We discuss this by separating each type of network.

The first point that has to be acknowledged is that social networking platforms can be anti-productive unless they deliver of the business objectives. Networking is apart of business operations though it is only now, as the web 2.0 matures, we can see the online social networks being transferred into the business activities. There are three methods of leveraging social networking around business activities, external networks, internal networks and mash-ups.

External networks

The nature of the work often highlights what type of online social networking should be conducted. Sales and consulting do leverage external social networking.  For those who require research and client sourcing, Linkedin can be helpful when developing a contact list. The ease of finding specific company employees and their position can encourage obtrusive behaviour because  information is easily sourced by people external to the organisation. This concerns many professional who have a Linkedin account or have considered activating one. This is a negative impact of this open network for business professionals but individuals who provide employee status also have the promise of network opportunities. So this really depends on what type of returns an individual would like form an external social networking platform and if it will bring benefits at an individual level and/or a corporate level.

The risk of social networking being obtrusive and jeopardising the privacy of professionals could be on the increase. But it won’t go away so it’s no good ignoring it. Gist is a new social networking platform with all your social networks information centralised and allows people to network over status feeds, news and updates. However, forget about privacy, Gist sources information about people in your contact list and connects you with their social networking profiles and recent blogs without requiring any permissions. Gist also allows people to contribute to external profiles, so if you’re not so popular this could be a problem as some data relies on “crowd sourcing” to keep profiles up-to-date.  Gist is available on as a plugin for Gmail, Outlook and mobile devices.

Internal networks

A more walled garden approach, internal networks have been very popular for larger enterprises and have utilised the internal social networking to improve communication information flow within the organisation. Beehive has been introduced with success at IBM. They have experienced greater collaboration and improved team dynamics because of the extra socialising that is taking place between employees.

“You cannot create a culture of innovation without creating a culture of collaboration – and at its core is creating a culture of trust with people you may never have met,” says Liam Cleaver, Program Director, IBM Jam Program Office (Office of the CIO).

The research that IBM has surrounding social networking using Beehive as a research method has received interest from the business community. The buzz (created by IBM) is very much a clever marketing and PR exercise with a truth that social networking is the way of the future. Why? Well, the study of this adoption is highlighted in the IBM research model. The outcomes of an effective social media platform are predictable because there are similarities to popular external social networking. Fostering employee networks to provide synergy throughout the organisation is recognized as a valuable resource and if structured skillfully can be utilized extremely successfully for organisational social cohesiveness.

Mixed networks

Other ways that social networks are incorporated into the workspace is using plugins for Outlook. As outlook is a widely used email client for business application and there have been developments to improve the outlook inbox environment. Outlook compared to the web2.0 email clients available is very outdated but using these new pluggins can be an effective and inexpenses means of introducing social networking. Xobniand new to the outlook client mesh-in are two plugins that incorporate the social with the business whist helping organize the fragment of emails. This method is a simply low risk alternative to introducing a fully integrated system. As is it a mesh-up it allows external networks to be visible but because it is located in outlook it mixes a very common business tool with some very common social networks. My two cents, is that this type of integration of social networking would be anti-productive. Email clients don’t necessarily have to house the social network. It’s also not good for employee productivity to be spending more time in an email client. Exchanging email and social networking have loose ties and we will probable see more mash-ups of email clients and social networking. However, I have used Xobni and although on occasions it can be useful for periodically organising emails but the social aspect of it is quite limited. Plus when I am in my email client, I am emailing and not socially engaged. Yet it is highly likely that two will not remain separate.

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Servicing the Wiki

In Enterprise2.0 on September 9, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , , ,

Improve company to client communication

In the eyes of a client accountability and transparency are always high priority. The pressure on companies to provide this to clients is due the competitive nature of business. The efforts to ensure a competitive advantage have been aided by leveraging Enterprise 2.0 tools. Wikis are a excellent resource for service orientated companies as they create a method of interaction for clients and help services companies to meet theirs expectations and requirements. Using an external a wiki allows for greater transparency because it provides a collective source of information on a given project. Introducing a repository mean that clients can access what they require and contribute or comment where necessary.  Accountability is also an attribute of using a external wiki. The information can be tracked to groups and individuals depending on the size of the project. This allows work to be measure more accurately and reduces time discrepancies, as task are defined more accurately.

Wiki ahoy

A developing company RedAnt manages some very large projects and differentiates themselves among other developers by using a wiki to communicate with their clients. Stated in there website, RedAnt wanted to avoid drowning in the tidal wave of information. They introduced a wiki for there internal knowledge sharing much like many their competitors but they also had elements of the wiki specifically designed for client access.

It is fair to say that, a company’s knowledge shouldn’t be accessed by anyone and some information is competitively sensitive. To provide transparency for clients means allowing them enough access to information without jeopardising the organisations position. RedAnt and many other companies including Brown University, Johns Hopkins University, VMware have achieved this using a Wiki software call Confluence. Confluence is a sophisticated wiki tool that has features designed to enhance knowledge sharing. One appealing aspect of Confluence is the range of access controls.  This supports the security of the sensitive information. Although there will always be the problematic human factor, whereby sensitive information to be released by an employee, this is a risk for all aspect of social media (read more on risk). Correct policy and common sense in the organisation is one means of mitigating this risk even if it can never be completely eradicated. The advantages of implementing a knowledge sharing not only internal but external out weights any proposed risk. There is necessary precautions that should be make in regards to sensitive information but quality of service is crucial for an company to maintain. Whilst a wiki will not guarantee this, it will provide the process that will aid the assurance of a project to the quality expectations of the client.

To find out more features confluence has to offer, watch the video below.

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Gov2.0 – citizens, we ask you!

In Gov2.0 on September 6, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , , ,

Using crowd sourcing web2.0 tools has been a revolution to the public but isn’t limited to commercial goods. Government services are also embarking on Web2.0 to improve the citezen engagement. This is a revolution of government services and can provide immediate and relevant feedback for government initiatives and improve transparency of public services that would normally be hidden behind bureaucratic walled gardens.

The three tier government action pyramid

The way forward is illustrated by the government taskforce that has specific goals to engage with the online community. In the table above there are three key focuses for action using gov2.0 techniques. This three tier actions pyramid seeks to effectively engage with the public not by only inviting them but involving them in the discussion, ultimately including us in the decisions our tax dollars pay for. Furthermore, collaboration with the government is the way forward. Ironically there is no government right now, so who better to run the country then the people. Power to the people is no old concept and now using the resources of the web, we can finally see some true commitment for establishing democracy on micro decisions.

So where could crowd sources be used and where should we start? Crowd sourcing could be used in a number of different ways. Policy, infrastructure, and maintenance are some areas of interest. Local and community maintenance is a perfect place to start. Harnessing the collective intelligence of the crowd in regards to urban planning could shed light on previously gray areas.  The proposed taskforce will provide deep engagement previously reliant on forums for community response. Some of the forums that were in place were Google groups, govloop and Ozloop but now the government has proposed a more sophisticated discussion and sharing method that will likely have desired results and give the power to the people.

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New standards & Old Culture

In Enterprise2.0 on September 6, 2010 by nickejones Tagged: , , ,

About Micro-blogging

More and more tools are tossed into organisations with little consideration of the deliverables. The ideology of these tools in work context is that they can create better communication, network and provide an information infrastructure that is not possible in traditional work place email or organisational archiving. One of the goals of micro-blogging is to create a conversation that in is not fragmented and easily accessible. It promotes a message with greater context and value as an informational artifact. Informational artifacts (meetings, a memo or emails) will continue to remain important in enterprise communication but they fail be truly establish an effective information system as information is in disarray from each other.

Considering a micro-blog as an information system whereby the message is a part of an array of relevant information, users are able to submit opinions that could influence the discussion beyond the platform and into the artifact information system. It also supports accessibility of information to stakeholders, and reduces the constant strain employees have with email fragmentation.

Studies on Micro-blogging and emails

To further emphasis the email bog-down that experienced by people Fuser released a study of over 1000 people finding that internet users spend at least seven hours a week managing their emails. This raises the question of what tasks are consuming the time spent in the email and how many of these tasks are repeated or unnecessary? The best measurable outcome for an organisational micro-blogging system is the time that is saves in emails. If the time spent managing emails can be reduced through micro-blogging it can be justified. But is this the only way to measure success? According to a study by Cody et all (2010) employees sending a message or asking a questions on via a micro-blog created a less formal and more convenient channel of communication. This is a less tangible benefit but can have direct improvements on productivity.  A further result from the study compared Yammer and twitter from the perspective of work related and personal use. Higher personal engagement was experience on Twitter rather then Yammer, and Yammer had a high percentage of user discussions where on the platform related topics indicating a process of discussing and negotiating workplace concerns in this context.

Problems that occur

There are some common issues that micro-bloggers have with the integration of platforms in the workspace. It is clear that everyone has his or her own criteria on how to use it. Hierarchical boundaries may play a key role in the exchange of information. This is a potential problem for micro-blogging as there are no standards for participants. Furthermore, to create specific standards and policies is to restrict the creativity, flexibility, and enjoyment of the exercise and thus reducing its value as an informational artifact. Observing the activities of micro-blogging could also help understand the organisational culture from divisional or from entire organisational viewpoint.  It is very likely that some organisational cultures are hesitant to use this form of information exchange due to its informal and vertical communication characteristics.

Time productivity is the one of the goals of micro-blogging but what could be a consequence of various standards for user interaction could equate into a loss of purpose, and therefore lower productivity levels. The problem of this is that restriction could make the platform unattractive to employees but no standards could make the system information disjointed and time consuming.

Successful adoption

To make it a information system successful the standards should represent the organisational culture. This is the best way to ensure participation. This requires employee to represent their requirements on how they believe the system could be useful. In the study on successful integration of enterprise web 2.0 tools by MckInsey (2008), the most successful tools that where implemented were not by the IT department but by the business divisions themselves. This clearly represents the failure of understanding requires of the key stakeholders in the implementation process but also represents culture of business divisions. Their culture is better understood by the business divisions and strongly influences the successfulness of adoption. So next time the IT department recommends a new tool or micro-blogging platform, make sure that their analysis and directive meets the expectations. If the right model of adoption and platform suitability has been analysis, it is likely the platform will be a success and reduce the email bog-down experienced by employees. Finally, creating new and supportive information artifacts could have great benefits for the company. Upholding excellent knowledge sharing among the organisation and its divisions, provides a competitive advantage for an organisation and brings to light new and exciting possibility for organiational dynamics.

Yammer is a popular micro-blogging tool that has been successful in orgnaisations. Watch the CEO of Yammer discuss why he thinks micro-blogging works in business operations by clicking below.

–Mckinsey (2008). Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise. Goble survey Results

–Cody, J. Qu, Y. Wu, Y. Zhang, J. (2010). A Case Study of Micro-blogging in the Enterprise: Use Value, and Related Issues.