Patterns of Enterprise Social Software

As Socialtext deployments grow within organizations, here are some reflections on enterprise social software deployment patterns, based on observation of usage patterns of weblogs and wikis at scale on the public internet.
There are three main tiers of social networks in an organization, as Ross Mayfield describes. These map to different usage patterns of social software.

  • Project teams are creative networks, groups that work closely together. These teams use shared workspaces to communicate and collaborate intensively, and maintain a continuous, shared understanding of project status. Schedule and presence capabilities will make it easier for these groups to co-ordinate.
  • Communities of practice are social networks. Knowledge workers want to be able to scan, discover, and meet other in their disciplines across the organization. On the public internet, there are communities of bloggers in technology, law, teaching, and other fields using this model today. There are established wiki communities in technical areas, like Apache and non-technical areas, like, for instance, Kayaking, RSS subscriptions provide an excellent method for members of communities of practice to discover and follow relevant projects and conversations. Blog search engines, including Technorati and Blogstreet, that are used to discover network relationships among blog communities.
  • The enterprise as a whole is a political network. Weblogs can be used by executives to communicate in an individual voice across the organization. On the public internet, the relevant model is popular bloggers such as Joi Ito in Japan and Doc Searls in the US. The link structure enables the discovery and tracking of popular ideas, with blog search engines such as Daypop and Blogdex.
Network Size Application Distribution
Political Network ~1000s Publishing Power-law (scale-free)
Social Network ~150 Communication Bell-curve (random)
Creative Network ~12 Collaboration Dense (equal)
  • Each creative network creates its own core of strong ties among users who can act upon information.
  • Social networks provide a source of new ideas.
  • Political networks assure the rapid distribution of fit memes that benefit from social filtering.

As on the public internet, there are valuable emergent properties of the social software network that are greater than the sum of the parts.

  • Within and across creative and social networks, managers gain visibility into multiple projects and disciplines
  • Users can more efficiently manage attention by choosing their own subscriptions and notification frequency, instead of being flooded by email.
  • Once critical information flows are made visible with a rich link structure, the organization can analyze and improve the information flow by monitoring social dynamics, identifying key hubs and structural gaps.

The adoption of social software starts by benefiting the workgroup with tools for rapid and convenient collaboration, fostering participation. Over time, the aggregation of content, and the emergence of link structures and social network patterns provides value to the organization overall.

Infinite names

More reflection on why I find the Don Park diagram horrifying. Meeting new people teaches you distinctive new things to appreciate. Getting to know another person well is a glimpse of the infinite.
The dimensions of the chart ramify infinitely, the more people you know, and the closer you know some of them.
What poverty of expression, to try to constrain the infinite into a 5-scale in 4 categories.
Pete, of course, suggests a Friendship Wiki.

That Which Should Remain Nameless

Don Park has a draft of a user interface to diagram the level of closeness of one’s friends. I hope this is intended as satire!

A Friendship Circle is basically a nested rings of people (represented by icons with miniture photo and name) around a person. To use the Friendship Circle, the user drag and drops icons from a palette of friends to the circle. Note that this can be done using DHTML+CSS.

Does one spend time with this graph every morning, and move one friend-counter closer, after he has been helpful in a difficult situation, and move one of the mistress-counters further away because she used a unappealing perfume?
Very clever and amusing if satire. Repellent if sincere. It might have a certain appeal among playboy geeks and junior high-school girls.

What I like most/least about Orkut

Most: the pictures. There are people I know through blogs, #joiito, and other online settings. It’s nice to connect faces with names and personalities.
Least: reminders of old squabbles. The trouble with online communities is there are fewer opportunities to make up if you disagree. I wish that Orkut had a “send roses” feature.

Creepy spam

I just got spammed today by something called Word of Mouth Connections, noting that: a user at our website has just begun to look into your background via our anonymous online community.
In order to find out more about the request or contact the person making the inquiry, you need to pay them $10.
This smells like a scam. They’re probably using it to verify email addresses for spam purposes, and to scam money from people gullible enough to pay.

Intellectual Property is the Inquisition of our time

Before modernity, the Church held exclusive rights to authorized representation of the life and beliefs of Jesus. Ecclesiastical prosecutors searched far and wide for unauthorized representations. They issued cease and desist orders to heretics when they found them, and conducted criminal prosecutions when the heretics persisted.
Cory Doctorow reports that Marvel and DC Comics successfully dissuaded GeekPunks comic books from using the term “Superhero” in their titles, claiming they own the trademark on “Superhero”.
In our era, we are free to invent stories and interpretations about Jesus or the Kabbalah in the public doman. If an existing religion doesn’t approve of the ideas, we are free to tell our non-standard stories in public, and gather like-minded folk to start our own sect, without fear of criminal prosecution.
But in our era, some of the most powerful mythical ideas are owned by corporations, not the Church. Disney, Marvel and DC Comics have the right to search out those who transform their message in an unauthorized manner, and criminally prosecute those who refuse.
We the people have given up ownership of our culture’s myths to powerful copyright-holders. And we accept the state of affairs, as most people in medieval times must have thought the Church was right to search out and prosecute heretics.
Future civilizations will consider the corporate monopoly on our cultures myths as absurd and barbaric as we think of the Inquisition.