Ownership of Social Networks? or the data we give them?

Following a couple of interesting tweets on Twitter, I started following Brian Kelly and, as usual had a look to see if his blog was interesting. It is, and I’ve joined in with his Pownce experimenting – you can find me here.

One of his latest posts touched on ownership of social networks asking:

  • Who should own the social networks?
  • Should ownership of social networks be any different from other software services we use in our institutions (including VLEs such as Blackboard, Web 2.0 services such as Flickr or blogging services such as Edublogs Campus)
  • How should a transition to a change of ownership take place?
  • How realistic is the transition strategy?
  • How do you know what this is what the users actually want?
  • How will social networking services be funded under alternative ownership resources? And if the answer is increased taxes, how will you get that past the Daily Mail readership which seem to be influential in informing policy discussions for both the Labour and Conservative parties?

This followed concerns being raised by Frances Bell and Josie Fraser about the ownership of the social networks – particularly Facebook.

As an employee of a *huge* telecom/ICT firm, the idea of any state ownership of social networks seems faintly odd. If we trust private firms to provide the infrastructure that these social networks run over – because, of course, we can always switch to another supplier – why *wouldn’t* you trust private firms to run the social networks?

The social networks – be they Facebook, Orkut, bebo, MySpace or something from ning – are the pipes that we deploy our social graphs across. Pete Johnson gives a good explanation of graph vs. network.

Now, if I can take my graph off that network… [hey, isn’t that beginnning to look like Data Portability – and aren’t Facebook saying they’lll play?] … can I use it somewhere else? Which bits of the data are mine is a different issue.

Well, not yet. But maybe soon. And when that happens, won’t these concerns about who runs the “pipes” be less significant?
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Wikis, social networking and Facebook

Wikis 
I’ve written before about wikis and the intranet, and how I saw advantages in their use.

My colleague Sandy – who has the patience of a saint – sighs, and explains that scalability and control are a bit more of an issue when you have 100k users rather than 30.

I counter with Knowledge Management working better when you have involved Communities of Practice, pointing out that wikis are ideal for those and we go round again.

I was interested to see Abigail Lewis-Bowen’s view at the Intranet Benchmarking Forum which suggests that

“it’s important to provide Wikis and Blogs only after processes for publishing “formal” information channels to the Intranet are well established.  If the right people are publishing to the right place on the Intranet, and there is good editorial workflow and governance, then the Intranet is sturdy enough to add an open, less-structured layer of content.”

Basically, if your intranet functions OK, go for it; require authenticated log-in, provide good how-tos and link the formal stuff to the “under-Web” [lovely coining by Paul Miller in his Trends for 2008]

Social Networking

Still lots of interest at work in:

  •  what this is (yes, I know you know, dear reader, but I’m still working it out; so have patience).
  • what can we get from this – and an interesting term I hadn’t heard before – Social Capital. I mean, I now know it’s been around for years, with the first cite being around 110 *years* ago.
  • how we can facilitate it – what tools, what processes?

I think it’s partly culture, partly tools,  and partly process.

As part of my Personal Development Plan(PDP), I’d decided this was a key area to understand and try and utilise. My company’s culture encourages us to drive robust PDPs. I’d found a range of tools – each new one pointed to by posting on previous tool, and learned from them. The process is the bit that is currently blocking wider acceptance of this; how do you measure the value. As long as nobody starts talking about a business model  I’ll be happy.

Facebook

I’ve had Facebook for a while, but following the irritation I – and a number of other friends – had been feeling with Vampires, “funny” videos, LOLcatz I removed FunWall and SuperWall. I update my status via Twitter  – and so do many others, and am currently using Twitter more – but I still use Facebook.

It’s still a nice application for seeing what your friends/colleagues are doing and provides a way of managing the various contacts – true, I want to be able to escape from the walled garden – but that looks like it’s coming.

I’ve been able to build

  • online relationships with the people I’ve “friended”
  • knowledge of Web2.0
  • understanding of some of the tools
  • links with people I’d never have heard of…

 JP Rangaswami says

“The information that flows through a social network exists in three dimensions. One dimension is time, past, present and future. A second dimension is number, one to many. A third is movement, static to dynamic. When I share my contact details with another person, I am providing static, present, one-to-one information.  When I share what I am intending to do with a whole community, I am providing dynamic, future, one-to-many information.

The motivation to provide information is, at least in part, driven by an expected value of the information coming out of Facebook. And one other thing: the comfort level of providing, to a community, what is essentially private information.

Generation M and their successors are comfortable with sharing their past actions, current state and their future intentions with the community they belong to; they’re comfortable with sharing changes to states and intentions as well. They do this because they believe new value will emerge from that sharing. Collaborative, communal value, shared value.”

I think that’s fair – and I look forward to how we’re going to use “Facebook for the Enterprise” to leverage the social capital we’re looking for.

Trust, OpenID, VRM, Data Portability and how does it hang together?

… or who am I, anyway? Do *you* trust me?

I’m a moderately keen Facebook user. I have a number of friends, and am in a few groups – although I avoid all zombie battles and the like.

I’m a member of a number of web forums, and a newsgroup user.

I also blog in a couple of places, Twitter, and use some other Web2.0/blogging tools. I use last.fm intermittently.

I don’t think any of my online contacts know all the places I am, and I have differing reputations/standing in all of them.

None of the DVD/bookshops I use know enough about me to target me precisely – except Amazon – and while they provided the infrastructure to learn about my *purchases*, I provided large amounts of rating information to them – and told them which of my purchases (for others) not to use for recommendations.

I became interested in VRM following some posts by JP, whose other posts on ownership of information have exercised me a bit.

I’d also heard about a bit about OpenID but thought that would be a bit taxing to understand for a neophyte like me – when I suddenly discovered that I could use this blog as an OpenID… it now makes commenting on other folks blogs a bit easier, and helped sort out my QDOS application [FWIW, I have a shamefully low QDOS of 1100].

Once again, JP in a series of tweets including here, here and here started discussing communal ownership of information and its relation to identity.

I can use my identity here to let me comment on folk’s blogs. I’m an unknown blogger, and so not trusted as an authority.

One of the forums I frequent, I’ve been a member since near inception; I posted a lot; I’ve accrued karma/reputation points; I know some of the moderators; I organised group buys (basically taking on the hassle of ordering scores of items worth hundreds/thousands of dollars for members). I’m *trusted* there.

Now, does my reputation there belong to me, or to the community who accorded me the reputation?

In fact, some of it does seem to belong to me, as I posted on another related forum (to do with bushcraft, if you must know) and I was challenged about something. Another poster (who I didn’t think I knew) said something like “Nah, he’s alright. I know him from x, and he’s been about for years and knows a lot about this.” He “knew” me because he recognised my nickname and location. He used differing nicknames, so I couldn’t have vouched for him. If I’d logged in with my OpenID, it would be more obvious.

I’d like to take my data with me and share it with whom I want. Is Data Portability the answer? Well, yes. For some of it, and seeing @jowyang’s post encourages me to believe there’ll be some movement.

And no, not unless we sort out which data is mine. The karma others gave me in a bushcraft group? My technorati rating (as if!). Even if it was mine, how we going to transfer that?

I’m going to watch the debate with interest – and learn more, I hope.

Twitter, tweets, twerps and now twivers

Doc Searls in another interesting post posits that part of the reason for the success of Twitter is the contrast between live vs. static and light vs. heavy

What makes Twitter so good is that it’s lightweight and not ambitious about running your life. It’s more service than site. It’s part of the live Web, even though you can still find it in the static one…the twin points of live vs. static and light vs. heavy.

I think I agree with that; I can dial up or back my interaction with it. I follow some pretty heavy twerps and don’t find it too hard  – as I turn off my SMS notification for them – but I get to see their funny/clever attention getting stuff online – and focus on the twits more closely.

As an aside, I also *love* how fast the twit/twerp meme has travelled and some of the kickback  it’s received…

… and lots of the fun with twitter is how fast you can check what’s arousing ire by a quick terraminds search.

 I’m still learning with this all the time – but I love it (rather more than my mild regard for Facebook). I haven’t had to unfollow anyone yet…

Web 2.0, blogging, wikis and OpenID

Work’s been pretty busy the last few weeks leading up to the holidays (and I’m now on holiday till 7 January, hurrah!

I’m continuing to talk with my colleague Sandy about how we could show used for more stuff in work in the Web2.0 area – trying to avoid the old work trap of “Here’s a solution.Now, let’s find a problem it might fix.”

We’ve now actually got a WordPress implementation at work, and I’ve been blogging there, too. Mostly about my previous views as to why a wiki *might* be a useful adjunct to an intranet.

I’ve been using twitter a lot more, and am currently feeding jaiku with twitter…

I’ve open a Backpackit account with my WordPress OpenID, and tried to do the same with QDOS – failing miserably.

Lots of Web 2.0 bits

Since I started using Facebook regularly, the most interesting things I’ve found are:

  • blog posts written by others, that lead me to find out more about what’s happening in the internet area (OK, I’m failing to avoid saying Web 2.0)
  • bits in people status feeds that make me think “I wonder what that is?”

Some of the things I’ve found recently (yes, I know they’re all probably old hat)

Twitter – letting folk know your presence/activity

Jaiku – another presence/group/blogging monitoring thing, with the ability to add “channels”

Spinvox – does voice to text stuff, but lets you update Facebook/twitter/Jaiku by phone, which is fun

Tumblr – which allows you to rapidly add links, quotes, text, photos to a stream – and you can add channels, too. I use it for grabbing links, which I RSS to my blog

Tabblo – a photo/text/story/printing site – lets you *easily* bring photos in from Flickr and fairly easily from Picasa; let’s you produce interesting photo displays that you can print as PDF; locally; for free …

Picknik – which lets you edit *online* phots on your PC, Picasa, Facebook, Flickr. Very nice.

Pandora – recommends – and plays – music for you based on characteristics of music that you’ve indicated you like. Lots of fun, and works differently to last.fm which I also use

I think I’ll probably edit this as I recall/use more bits ‘n bobs.

So, how's your outsourcing going?

If you look back, perhaps you can occasionally learn what the road ahead may bring.

JP Rangaswami, MD of BT Design used to work at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, and was a believer in outsourcing – as are we all in this day and age.

He had some useful warnings, listed here:

http://www.watersonline.com/public/showPage.html?page=129216 

But what about outsourcing, which has become Wall Street’s cost-saving darling? Isn’t this one way banks can rid themselves of routine tasks? Rangaswami warns investment firms of the seduction of supposed cost savings. “What I lose with offshoring is far more than I gain,” he says of DrKW’s own experience, which was “focused on the war for talent rather than wage arbitrage. With outsourcing I may reduce the core execution cost but I pay for it by increased coordination and training costs.” DrKW found in some cases that the local offshoring staff had to be spoon fed and that the typical attrition rates of 40 to 50 percent meant they were often training staff to ultimately benefit others.

Rangaswami also urges firms who do embark on outsourcing contracts to “clean up their garbage first,” rather than dumping it onto the vendor, who will most likely charge a considerable premium for the cleansing. “In the current climate, we cannot afford to feed the mouths of outsourcers. The focus has to be on getting rid of the layer of fat and then parceling it off neatly to someone who has the critical mass to provide economies of scale,” he says.

Sensible really. Work out what you’re outsourcing; why; and what the likely true return is.

Do you want transactions, or relationships?

JP’s blogged about VRM a few times.

Recently, he mused

I believe in VRM. I believe that in the 21st century, product-driven advertising is fundamentally flawed. Personal recommendations, whether direct or via collaborative filtering, count for a lot more. Recommendations from people I know and trust, recommendations that scale now that I have the tools and the technology to discover the recommendations and act on them.

I followed the link, and ended up with a discussion of the scenarios that result depending upon your answers to 2 questions.

Q1: Who controls the interactions between vendor and customer?
Q2: Are the interactions focused on transactions or relationships?

having looked at these, I found I much preferred The Global Village or
The Matrix (Blue Pill).
Why? Because it centres on relationships. These relationships tend to benefit both parties…

… which is why we should strive to build our relationships as strong as we can.

In my mind, who controlled the interaction, was much less important.
I’m interested in the views of others.

Tara Hunt in her Dear World of Marketing post pointed out that

Truly long lasting brands are those who build RELATIONSHIPS with their customers, who then go off and recommend them to others they have RELATIONSHIPS with. …

Believe me, this VRM stuff is not only good for customers, but it is good for YOU as well. It puts you firmly in the position of being exactly where you need to be (available) when the customer has money in hand, poised to purchase. It puts you in the role of helpful sidekick. It makes you indispensably useful.

(She’s fairly damning about corporates setting up Facebook pages, mind, but I bet she’d expect them to react to try and retrieve relationships)

How should corporates engage with Facebook?

Facebook has now started a wide range Business Services, and a number of businesses are establishing Facebook Pages.

One I know relatively well, was a firm called Plusnet ( a wholly owned subsidiary of BT) , who set up their pages at Facebook on November 9 – (the link won’t work unless you’re a Facebook member, but the closed model isn’t the point of this posting).

They’ve decided to set up an official presence there, in addition to their engagement with an “unofficial” PlusNet group. How’s it working? Difficult to say, they have attracted about 100 odd fans in the couple of weeks since the group has been formed. How are they going to interact with people with issues? Well, on their user forums, they do actively engage with their customers. I hope they’ll do so in Facebook, too.

Why do I think it is important?

Well, in a Web 2.0 world, the way companies do business, largely through their marketing, is changing, and we have to step up to it.

In 2001, Idris Mootee discussed a new 4P’s in High Intensity Marketing. This was pre-Web2.0. He talked about

the “New 4Ps” model to supplement the traditional marketing 4Ps. They are Personalization, Participation, Peer-to-Peer and Predictive Modeling. …

The first “P” is the simple idea of “Personalization” which now takes on a whole new meaning … I was focusing on customization of products and services through the Internet.

The second “P” is the concept of “Participation”, it is to allow customer to participate in what the brand should stand for; what should be the product directions and even which ads to run. This concept is laying the foundation for disruptive change that we have yet to see the full impact. Looking back I was grossly underestimating the degree of democratization brought about by this idea. By enabling each of us to create and publish our own stories, the power of deciding what we read; listen and watch has spread from a handful of media companies to anyone with a camera, a connection and a computer.

The third “P” is “Peer-to-Peer””interruptive” which refers to customer networks and communities where advocacy happens. The historical problem with marketing is that it is in nature, trying to impose their brand on the customer. This is most apparent in TV ad, which pushes out its own idea of what brand is without engaging the customers. These “passive customer base” will ultimately be replaced by the “active customer communities”. Brand engagement happens within those conversations.

The last “P” is “Predictive Modeling” which refers to neural networks algorithms that are being successfully applied in marketing problems (both a regression as well as a classification problem).

His recentish post about this highlights changes

strategic marketing theory, concepts and practices. In this “experience economy”, strategic marketing now plays a different role. It is now “conversation-driven”, “social network-powered”’, “technology-enabled” and “information-intensive”.

Miss the conversations about you on Facebook… miss the pressure points you need to hit.
Don’t engage with your customers where they want to enage with you, they may not stay your customers.

If you want to be 1st for Customer Service, you need to be hearing what your customers are telling you.

After all, how do you want to hit the headlines in a Web 2.0 world?
“They talk to me from Facebook” or “I complained via YouTube

Most big corporations have a High Level/Executive Complaints team; maybe they could actively pursue service improvement opportunities that are made in similar public spaces. After all, why haven’t the normal routes worked?

The Cluetrain Manifesto has a few thoughts about how people might interact

  • We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
  • You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
  • If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
  • We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
  • You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
  • You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
  • Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?

Wikis and intranets

In an ongong bid for speed and agility, my company are changing the way we manage resources on the intranet.

I’m a proselytiser for social networking and wikis (I love my TiddlyWiki, FWIW) so I’m hoping we’ll see significant changes.

Lars Plougmann has written in a couple of places about what you could do if you have no intranet. In If your organisation has no intranet: An opportunity

He suggests some of the disadvantages of an intranet

  • Information changes quicker than the intranet team can update it. No content is static.
  • When the perception is that the information on the intranet is not up to date it stops being the first source for vital business matters
  • The intranet structure typically reflects the shape of the business as of yesteryear
  • The process for updating information on the intranet involves finding out who is responsible for a particular page, then describing a proposed change in an email which gets added to a work queue. Most people only involve themselves once in that process if they don’t see the page updated within a short time
  • Ownership is often skewed: When only a few people can edit stuff on the intranet, an “us” and “them” culture arises. In the worst cases, the intranet becomes the object of blame and ridicule.

and he suggests that a wiki can address many of these shortcomings, with use of tagging, links and *search* – surely a key component of any Knowledge management system.

If you tie authoring in a wiki to ID, then control is easy and if someone screws up… revert the change.

In How to avoid mysterious golfing cart accidents he develops this further and   suggests he has a client who wants to replace their intranet with a wiki. Why?

  • To cut the publishing cycle from days or weeks to minutes or seconds thus ensuring that the content is more relevant
  • To move from content nobody wants to read written in corporate speak to information about what is really going on written in a human voice

He point back to the Cluetrain Manifesto for a lovely quote

“The intranet revolution is bottom-up. There’s no going back. If a company doesn’t recognize this, the top-down intranet it puts in can breed the type of cynicism that results in ugly bathroom graffiti and mysterious golfing cart accidents.”

More wikis; more involvement; more openeness; more benefit – like the Cluetrain says

  • What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
  • Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. “

Go and re-read (or read if you haven’t) the 95 theses.