SNA study of Wikipatterns.com

Laurie Lock Lee from Optimice has published the results of a social network analysis (SNA) study of the Wikipatterns community (pdf). Laurie used SNA to examine the value of participation, health and value of new relationships of this particular community, using a combination of a survey and "wiki mining" to gather data.

A couple of interesting results in relation to the value a wiki brings:

"Looking at the percentage differentials, we can see that those that took on the more active roles of commenting, collaborating, editing and to a lesser extent, exploring, were associated with gaining more value from their participation.  In other words one could assume that those more active participants also gained more value from being members."

and

"of the 22 new relationships developed through meeting in Wikipatterns.com, the majority have been rated as ‘very important’ by the respondents. This is an extremely positive result for  the community in its ability to broker highly valued new relationships through participation in the wiki."

BTW I’m not entirely convinced we need a new term like wiki mining to describe the gathering of relationship data from a wiki, but its certainly worth recognising that a wiki does offer a particularly rich environment for an SNA study to draw information about different interactions.

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The value of social networking, now just business as usual

Metro Station are a hot band of the moment, but that’s not why I mentioned them here. I like this little story from an interview with them about how they formed:

So how did all of you guys meet?

TC: Uh, me and Mason originally first met because, I knew his little brother, and I just kept hearing, ‘man, I gotta meet Mason,’ and then we got together and hung out, and a few days later, I went to his house and we recorded our first song like that night. I guess our parents were kinda shocked, cause we work pretty good together, and kept making songs after that. Eventually, I was searching on MySpace, and I came across the band that Blake was in, I sent him a message trying to see if he could play synth for us, and he was just like gonna help me and Mason out kind of, and us just do a song together for fun and it turned into something bigger than we thought and he dropped out of his other band, and the three of us started playing shows around LA and we were trying to get signed and put a record out and we searched and we found Anthony after about three drummers. He was a blessing. [emphasis added]

I think this is a fairly typical experience across all industries where people are using online social networking tools, that they are just part of that blended mix of real world and online. Social networking really is just turning into business as usual, don’t you think?

Frog in a SharePoint – is the water boiling yet?

The other day I posted a link to the summary of a conference presentation, titled "SharePoint can lead to huge chaos". Looking at my stats this morning, I noticed an above average response to this post in terms of hits. Clearly, this issue grabbed the attention of some people and in fact this is the very reason why I posted the link, because I know its an emerging problem.

However, its not just about the technology and in response to offers from Microsoft-specific vendors, IPP Consulting are offering a vendor-neutral approach to deploying and sustaining MOSS (pdf)*. But its interesting… the phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook with people asking for help?

Maybe the water just isn’t boiling yet?

Here are some more ideas to help you check the temperature – 7 Signs Your SharePoint Project Is in Trouble:

  1. You require a large amount of process change
  2. Your defaults encourage bad behaviour
  3. SharePoint doesn’t work well for ____, but you’re going to use it for that task anyway
  4. You have a hostile business-to-IT relationship
  5. You have a disconnected workforce
  6. You’re focused on turning off features
  7. Your organization is bad at project management

What do you think? How is your SharePoint implementation going?

*Why vendor-neutral? Because your investment in SharePoint should still be based on a business case and requirements that are independent of the technology.

My Blogging Manifesto

Twittering with James Robertson and Alex Manchester, the other day we found ourselves talking about how we define blogging and the differences between plain old content management and blogging… here are some more thoughts on that issue:

This is something I’ve talked about in the past, describing it as the grey area issue between social computing and other traditional information management tools. What this means is that it is possible for social media tools to be used for traditional information management, and also vice versa. Consider that the earliest "webblogs" pre-dated the existence of blogging software. Blogging is therefore not defined by the software – instead the software evolved to meet a need, allow rapid adoption and then enhanced it (typically as innovators were able to hack and develop different scripts, plugins and services). Likewise, other applications have also since adopted blogging functionality, which can be defined at the most basic level of permitting the chronological addition of content. Of course most users now expect far more sophistication in their blogging tools, including features such as commenting, tagging, RSS feeds and more.

However, this blogging functionality still doesn’t define the activity of blogging (what I consider to be the "form" of usage and is different from the "function" of the software). Its like the difference between using PowerPoint as an artist’s medium, rather than a presentation tool. So the key difference between blogging and content management is the intent of the blogger to engage their readers on some level over a period of time, rather than simply broadcasting information. And that to me to is best described as a conversation, although hyper-connected one at that.

The inclusion of commenting (and other track back)functionality to me reflects a desire of the blogger to engage with their readers, particularly those that don’t blog themselves. In particular, a blog without comments limits the conversation to only those that also blog. But an even better proxy of intent is how the blogger engages with the conversation around them. Ultimately, participation is still more important than functionality.

In this respect I don’t consider the posting of news items under the banner of a "blog" as blogging. It has nothing to do with the blogger’s voice, although this might make them a more effective and credible as a blogger overall. Again it comes back to intent. But remember, this isn’t a prescriptive statement and it doesn’t stop anyone from using RSS or blogging software for broadcasting information (a great information management benefit).

Incidentally, Alex reflects on the key message in Niall Cook‘s book, "Enterprise 2.0", with a blog post titled, Intranets can’t just be about conversations. This reminds me of the model in Stenmark‘s paper on "The Relationship between Information and Knowledge", which I use to discuss the different roles of intranets:

  • Information;
  • Communication;
  • Awareness; and
  • Collaboration.

In the past most organisations only used the intranet for information and some communication. Intranet 2.0 however is beginning to offer a much more rounded purpose – getting back to Alex‘s point, I agree its not just about conversation. Similarly, blogging software can be used for all the purposes listed above, but in my mind a true blog is still all about the conversation.

Information security myopia

My article in the current edition of IDM magazine used examples of traditional information security failures to provide some balance against concerns about Web 2.0 security. In the latest example from the UK a contractor lost an unencrypted memory containing "details about 10,000 prolific offenders as well as names, dates of births and some release date of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales – and 33,000 records from the police national computer."

Again, I’m not saying that Web 2.0 is more secure but that we need to look at the information security risks of both existing technologies and the new social media tools. Even in this latest example the data wasn’t stolen with some criminal objective by the person who lost it, they probably just wanted a copy of the data to work on offline. In that respect this kind of incident is probably just the tip of the iceberg. A marketing study by Dell suggests that hundreds of thousands of laptops are lost at airport each year – they claim:

"half of the mobile professionals it polled for the study admitted to carrying confidential company data on their computers without implementing the appropriate steps to ensure its protection."

Securing enterprise data and devices is important, but one other obvious part of this strategy is for organisations to also provide the collaboration and information access channels that people need so that staff and contractors don’t need to download data on to sneaker net or elsewhere in the first place.

"SharePoint can lead to huge chaos"

Blogging from NZ’s BrightStar Intranet conference, Michael provides a summary of Chandima Kulathilake‘s presentation on SharePoint governance. Kulathilake is a Microsoft SharePoint specialist and explains how "SharePoint can lead to huge chaos":

  • Site proliferation … no plans
  • Server proliferation … people and groups doing their own thing
  • Technology proliferation … many different tools, where do you put things?

Since this warning comes from a SharePoint specialist, don’t say you haven’t been warned. Of course, IMHO governance should ideally be addressed before you pick your solution. In a brown field site its quite likely that SharePoint overlaps with other existing solutions, which can only add to the chaos that if left unchecked it will create.

ICT is the 5th most important factor in attracting and retaining staff

During the last year or so I had been working on a number of projects that linked ICT to staff recruitment and retention, so its always good to see other evidence supporting the argument for investing in the information workplace. I noticed that Colliers International’s 2008 Office Tenant Survey reports that cutting-edge ICT is the 5th most important factor in attracting and retaining staff. And compared to the last survey in 2005, its importance to recruitment and retention has increased.

However, while its nice to have a statistic to quote in presentations and reports, I wonder what their definition of "cutting edge" is?