Thoughts about Quora

Of course you've heard of Quora. Lots of posts have been written about Quora. I've been using it for some time now. I'm not a heavy user; I dip into it every now and then. I think it's interesting. It taps into the power of asking questions. I am surprised though that Quora took off so quickly. Is the world really waiting for a new and separate platform specifically designed to ask and answer questions? For now it seems the world is. For the long-term I don't think Quora will stay around in this form. As I tweeted I think Quora will be acquired by and integrated into Twitter (like in Yammer). Or Twitter will add Questions functionality (like Yammer).
Why? Because knowledge workers are extremely efficient. They don't want to have the tools spread out everywhere and have to look into all those tools one by one. Furthermore, we could already ask each other questions on Twitter. Tweeps would just mark these tweets with a hashtag like #question, #justasking or #durftevragen. (The last hashtag is an extremely popular hashtag in Holland. Translated it means 'dare to ask', helping tweeps to ask questions more openly instead of keeping them for themselves.) You can even filter tweets with a question mark.
I guess Quora does a great job underlining the power of asking questions. As soon as we deeply 're-understand' this, we'll continue to ask questions elsewhere. And so for now I'll continue to use Quora happily!

Do you agree with my view on the future of Quora? If not/so, please leave a comment.

The Difference Between Email and Social Bookmarking

Well, Arzu just finished her Masters thesis last week with a good grade! As you know I posted several snippets from her work. Soon her thesis will be public for you to read. I think she did a really good job and the results, though focussed on social bookmarking, are interesting in general if you're interested in technology and social media adoption.

But how do you share bookmarks? Do you use a social bookmarking tool? My experience is not many people use a social bookmarking tool. Of course they bookmarks stuff and save the bookmarks in their browser. Hardly anyone knows you can share them publicly as well.
At least that's the experience I have. I give workshops about social media and I always have a slide about bookmarking. I've been tempted to leave it out. Because every time I get to that slide and ask how many of them know what social bookmarking is and use it, hardly anybody does. The ratio is 1-2 out of every 10 workshop participants.
Is this the reason why Delicious, Xmarks and the like have a hard time? I think so... Most people keep their bookmarks private and share them via email if they're interesting enough. Of course, lots of links are shared (but not stored...) via Twitter.
So, we have work to do. Again it shows social media maybe easy to use, but not always easy to understand and adopt. Training and explaining is necessary. I like the way Arzu explains the difference between email and social bookmarking:
In the e-mail case, the provider anticipates who is seeking or in need of the specific knowledge as a result of inter-personal relationships and therefore intentionally pushes the information through to the recipient. In the social bookmarking case, the provider shares bookmarks without knowing who the receiver is and who might be in need of specific knowledge. In such a case, communication streams are pull-based rather than push-based. The difference between pull and push has two implications for the social bookmarking tool: potential seekers perceive the information in the social bookmarking tool as information overload and potential providers ask for a balance between these two mechanisms. Balancing pull and push processes will optimize the knowledge flow and overcome the problem of information overload by providing people with both awareness of and access to what they need (Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Holtshouse, 1998).
Maybe this points to a design flaw in most social bookmarking tools? Is telling you who's reading your shared bookmarks an improvement? (You can follow each other's bookmarks in most social bookmarking tools.)

Anyway, I'm not giving up my bookmarking tool Diigo any time soon. Just hope they will keep their head up!

What are your experiences with social bookmarking? Are you using a tool? If not, how do you collect and share bookmarks?

Where imaginations play, learning happens - A Great Interview

I've always been intrigued by the concept of learning. It's one of the reason I like blogging so much and social media in general. It's a great way to learn!
Every now and then I bump into a great post or interview about this topic. Just recently I read a great interview with John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas about their new book 'A New Culture of Learning' (part 1 and part 2). I was planning to read the book. After reading this interview I'm going to push it up on my to-read list. Thanks Henry Jenkins for sharing this interview with us.
I'll share some interesting statements from the interview with you here:
  • One of the key arguments we are making is that the role of educators needs to shift away from being expert in a particular area of knowledge, to becoming expert in the ability to create and shape new learning environments.
  • Our argument brings to the fore the old aphorism "imagination is more important than knowledge." In a networked world, information is always available and getting easier and easier to access. Imagination, what you actually do with that information, is the new challenge.
  • The force that seems to be pushing the knowledge curve forward at an exponential rate is two fold. First, it is the generation of new content and knowledge that is the result of simply participating in any knowledge economy. This leads to a second related dimension: while content may remain stable at some abstract level, the context in which it has meaning (and therefore its meaning) is open to near constant change.
  • Learning is not a binary construction which pits how against what. In fact, throughout the book, we stress that knowledge, now more than ever, is becoming a where rather than a what or how.
  • In our framework, we stress that every piece of knowledge has both an explicit and a tacit dimension. The explicit is only one kind of content, which tells you what something means. The tacit has its own layer of meaning. It tells why something is important to you, how it relates to your life and social practices. It is the dimension where the context and content interact. Our teaching institutions have paid almost no attention to the tacit and we believe that it is the tacit dimension that allows us to navigate meaning in a changing world.
  • The key difference for us is that in the new culture of learning mentors are very likely to be peers who may have picked up something a little ahead of the curve or who may have more experience in something than their peers. Mentorship is a much more flexible concept and one which is tied less tightly to authority. Since so much of what we see as the key to future learning is passion-based, we think it makes more sense to understand the process of learning as something that can be guided by a mentor, as opposed to being taught by a teacher. No one can teach you to follow your passions, but they can help guide you once you discover what motivates you.
  • What we were able to identify were two radically different learning environments, one which was overly structured (such as the contemporary classroom) where boundaries are put in place to actually discourage play, experimentation and real inquiry based learning. The other environment is completely unbounded and unlimited, best represented by the information explosion on the Internet. Absent some sort of structure or boundaries, learning is not any more likely to happen in an unrestricted space than it is in a tightly controlled one.
  • Where imaginations play, learning happens.
  • What no one seems to pick up on is that innovation by its very nature runs counter to the idea of standardization.
  • Another key distinction we are trying to make is to understand the difference between creativity and imagination, two terms that are often used interchangeably. Creativity is a much later stage and something that can not be taught. It is the product of a fertile imagination.
  • Inquiry as a core principle of the new culture of learning
  • In large part, the role of the teacher needs to shift from transferring information to shaping, constructing, and overseeing learning environments.
  • You don't teach imagination; you create an environment in which it can take root, grow and flourish.
  • This new culture of learning only works if it can be fed by an enormous influx of constantly updated information.
  • We talk repeatedly about the questions being more important than the answers and the idea that solutions to one problem are gateways to dealing with increasingly more sophisticated problems and deeper questions.
  • First, play is not trivial, frivolous or non-serious, in fact, quite the opposite. Play can be the place where we do our most serious learning. And second, it is something we do all the time. When we explore, we play. When we experiment, we play. When we tinker or fiddle, we play. Science is play. Art is play. Life, to a great extent, is play.
Good stuff eh?! There's much more in the interviews. And surely even more in the book.

My Blog's Birthday

It's been 4 years now since I started this blog. 4 years! That seems like a very long time. All I can say is I really enjoyed blogging and will continue to do so in the future. I hope and plan to do more blogging. Some of them will be short (but not as short as my tweets...). And some will be longer. I really want to share some of my deeper thinking with you and would like to hear what you think about them.
I'm also looking for ways to reshare older posts. I don't want to push them at you, but my readership has grown and I'd like to hear from them what their views are on those posts. If you have any ideas on this, please let me know.
I still collect bookmarks and comment on them in Diigo. I don't share them here anymore, but
you can find them easily.
Finally I want to thank you for reading my blog, commenting on posts and sharing them with others. Thanks a bunch, it really means a lot to me!
And if you have any comments about my blog or blogging, e.g. tips to improve my blog/blogging, you know where to find me. :-)

Enterprise Memolane

Wow, this is very interesting! Memolane, a timeline for all your social media traces. One of the things that popped up when I saw this was: hey, this is great way to find back old tweets (as Twitter search being so aweful...).

And, wouldn't this also be great for a business environment? It would tell you when you sent emails, checked-in/-out documents, searched for information on the intranet, etc.?
What I understand is that Memolane is not moving into this space. Business opportunity!

Workshop Social Media for Secretaries

Some time ago I had the privilege to give a workshop about social media and collaboration for about 50 secretaries. I wrote about the exciting workshop in the past, but I never shared the slides with you. They're on Slideshare now and you can flip through them below. I hope you enjoy them. As always, comments are welcome. And if you have any experiences with secretaries and new ways of working, please leave a comment. I'm curious if your experience relate to mine.

My Talk at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2010 #e20s

Thought I'd share this with you now that the recording is also online. I gave a talk about enterprise microblogging at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2010 in Frankfurt. Please find the slides here. The talk was also recorded and can be found here.

Comments and questions about the slides and the talk are more than welcome!

Repetitive Interaction Leads to Trust

Some time ago I told you I have a student, Arzu, who's researching enterprise social bookmarking. We'll she's almost finished with her thesis. And I can tell you, I'm really impressed with her work. She's delivered a very fundamental and also practical piece of work. I hope to share more with you from her work in the coming weeks. I'll share a nice quote with you right now. In her final chapters she refers to research done on 'trust' which I find very interesting.
Hsu et al. (2007) explored the effect of trust on knowledge sharing in virtual communities in different stages. They suggest that trust is developed in virtual communities by repetitive interaction of members over time and appears in three stages: economy-based, information-based and identification-based trust. As the relationship develops, the economy-based trust will move to knowledge-based trust, eventually identification-based trust. In the initial stage of participation to virtual communities, new members who have little knowledge about other members and their activities would develop economic-based trust that rests on behavior in general in the community. Economic-based trust (also called generalized-trust by Kankanhalli et al. (2005), competence-based trust by Abrams et al. (2003) ) is related to the economic gains such as increased knowledge, decreased time etc. Once the economic-based trust is set, individuals may feel a moral obligation and urged to reciprocate the contributions offered by the system. In online communities, reciprocity follows a generalized pattern; individuals decide to contribute when they benefit from the use of any publicly available information. The last formed trust is identification-based trust (benelovance by Abrams et al. (2003)) is based on emotional bonds between individuals.
This is really interesting, don't you think? These steps can be used when we build and cultivate communities in general and in the social space specifically. It also helps us do the right thing at every stage. For instance, don't expect employees that have no emotional bond with each other to share voluntarily. When a community is created/started people will decide to join or not. The decision will mostly be made on 'what's in it for me?' criteria. So, you have to be able to answer that question, or else they'll move to the next community and share there.

What do you think? Are these stages helpful? And do they relate to your experience?

Connected Professionals - Novay

There's lots of buzz about 'The Future of Work'. And quite a bit is focused on technology. I don't think that's very strange. Most technology is specific, it's concrete. You can talk about how it works, which features it has, etc.
The Future of Work is about more than tools. It's also about facilities (building, furniture, colors, etc) and most importantly about organization (structure, processes and networks, culture, behavior, etc).
In my opinion one of the groups with the most fundamental research on this topic is Novay, specifically the Future Workspaces or ProWork group. And they ground there research in practice. Their approach is interesting because it's broad, focusing on organizational and technology issues (not facilities).
They've publish about their work regularly on their blog. One of their interesting reports is titled "Connected Professionals. Flexible working in a networked society". It shows their way of working: deep and broad, applied academic research grounded in daily practice.

The report shows that The Future of Work is mostly about organizational behavior change. I think they really do a good job of describing how the nature of work is changing and what the implications are for organizations and employees to cope with them. They point to four facets of work in the new connected workspace that have to be addressed: being in sync, in touch, in control and in flow. These require different behaviors, skills and tools. I see many companies moving to the concept of The Future of Work just assuming employees cope with working-apart-together, new coordination tools, result-driven work, etc.

The report closes with several concepts they developed based on their research and case studies for several companies. The concepts focus on several combinations of the facets of the new work. They show that existing technology usually only addresses some of those combinations and not all.

I hope this posts triggers you to take a look at their work. I'm curious what their next publications will be about.

My Global Intranet Trends 2011 Highlights

Jane did it again! Her Global Intranet Trends for 2011 report is out. And it's loaded with all kinds of information about the intranet. Fact and figures, stories and trends. As in previous years I'll pass on some of my highlights from the report. For two reasons: to show you what a great resource this report is, and, to get you to buy it. I think it's worth your money.

There's something strange about the intranet. The intranet has been around for a long time now. Some say the intranet is 'so passé'. Social media is the new intranet. At the same time when I read this report I wonder: if the intranet has been along for so long, how come so few companies get their intranet right? Why isn't it the case that we just copy the great practices of other intranet concepts and technologies to have our own great intranet? Of course I know the answer to at least part of this question. But still, with resources like Jane's survey you should be able to make a very good intranet and move around the pitfalls of others. As I said before, Jane's survey results are a great benchmark for your own intranet. And, they're also a great map if you just started defining your intranet.
Anyway, it seems like we just started with the intranet, like we're just starting to understand and use social media (although it's been around for a while). As Jane mentions in the Preface: the number of conversations about the intranet on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc is still increasing. So, I'll chip in with this post as well!

Now for some highlights from the report.

  • This is Jane's 5th report. This year 440 organizations participated in the survey! (That 130 more than last year.) The focus of this year's report is on the leaders in the intranet space. The difference between leaders and the rest is substantial (p. 5). The differences are most defined in the 'people' and 'real-time' dimensions.
  • Jane already summarized the intranet megatrends in a post. The intranet is becoming the front-door more and more. Team-orientation is important, largely due to integration of the intranet with tools like Sharepoint. People are more and more important, due to social media in the workplace. Very interesting is the fact that real-time is a trend. The numbers give the proof. And, the last trend, is the intranet becoming accessible from devices and outside the firewall. Jane stresses these trends were already seen in 2009 and are confirmed in last year's and this year's data.
  • The previous point is direct input for your intranet strategy. An overarching strategy for the intranet, collaboration and social media is therefore essential (p. 2). I really liked the way the whole report shows how these areas are related and integrate more and more.
  • Even though these are the megatrends it doesn't mean we're there yet... Only 10% of the organizations say their entire intranet is collaborative. There's work to do... But 70% of the companies say they use social media of some sort in the organization. (p. 4) Microblogging is the biggest new-entry in the workplace, also showing the need for real-time communication in companies.
  • As you would expect social media is a big topic in organizations. The benefits are real (p. 41), although not many (less than 20%) are measuring the value. (Measuring in general is not done much. Only 50% measure the value of their intranet. p. 22) People stress that moderation of social media is needed due to findability, security and language issues. Going from experimentation to enterprise-wide deployment of social media is a big jump (p. 30).
  • Interesting statement: "It takes at least 3 to 4 years for social media to become established in a organization." This is something to think about. Organize for the longhaul, said Andy McAfee in his book Enterprise 2.0. This report also gives the data to prove this (p. 42). Don't think social media is an instant success!
  • Clearly the report shows social media starts at employee level. To be successful in the long term senior management needs to step up. The data telling us that senior management blogs are highly appreciated, could convince some to step in hopefully. (p. 52) And McKinsey recently showed that companies using social media are market leaders.
  • Governance of the intranet is still a big issue. In only 12% of the organizations top management is committed to the intranet. I still find this an amazing fact. How do we get senior managers to see how important it is to support information and communication processes in the right way? How do we get them to see that information and communication is the lifeblood of the organization? On the other hand, their commitment is not a guarantee for success (p. 69). The report does not mention what the guarantee is... ;-) Maybe you know?
  • What make the leaders different in this space? They have commitment from top management, social media is well-established in the organization and the intranet is the way of working (it's integrated in their business processes) (p. 11). But only 4 organizations meet all three criteria. 16 meet two out of three criteria. I'm curious if this has to do with the fact that their intranet is more (or less) related to their primary business processes (p. 18 says not many have integration with business applications e.g.). This curiousity increases when I read that 'communication' is the key driver of the intranet. (p. 14) Communication is not a business process...
  • There's something strange about the questions and the resulting data about the unified intranet model. The question is whether organizations are moving to a unified intranet. However, relating to the previous point, shouldn't this depend on the type of the organization if they move towards a unified intranet or not. Right? Maybe a fragmented intranet fits perfectly with the way they do business.
  • 80% of the companies have a single entry point. And personalization is not popular at all (84% don't have it). (p. 17)
  • After reading the numbers on blogging, wiki, video sharing, etc. deployment, I was wondering: having a blog is not the same as actively blogging. It would be nice to hear from the respondents that are blogging, for instance, how many blogs they have and how often they post/comment.
  • The section about the benefits of social media is very insightful. (p. 41 and on) I loved the way respondents gave examples of hard and soft benefits. Furthermore the data shows you get more benefits by using social media. I think both points are something that we are learning from new media. Hard benefits aren't the only thing that count in business and IT. And you can only assess it's value by experiencing it. At least this relates well with my experience! :-)
  • And a last highlight: The good thing for intranet managers and employees is the respondents say their work will become more and more strategic, due to the importance of social media among others.
In general I really liked this report. The overall structure feels much better (than previous years). The data is presented in nice information packages that we can all use and reuse. The report is long, but it's reads easily and is structured in such a way you can skip over sections (and come back to them when they're relevant).

I hope it's clear this report is not limited to the intranet. It's about the digital workplace in general, about enterprise 2.0, internal/external social media use and in essence about IT organization and implementation. That's why this report is so rich and you should read it. I hope you enjoy it! And after reading it, please share your thoughts with us.

Oh, and if this post doesn't convince you, get the free samples from the report itself here.

Jane, thanks again for this report and all the work you put into it. Hope to see you soon in Utrecht!

Re: Expertise Location by @mikegotta

Michael Gotta of Cisco wrote an interesting post some time ago about "Expertise Location: Don't Forget Process & Cultural Factors". He relates to the fact that Enterprise 2.0 is often sold by saying that social tools help find experts in the organization more easily. However what's the assumption underlying this?

The general assumption includes two primary ways of identifying "experts". The first method assumes that employee use of social tools (e.g., blogs, wikis, micro-blogging, communities) and social applications (e.g., ideation), enables their talent and business insight to be more visible and therefore more discoverable by co-workers. The second method revolves around the employee profile created as part of an enterprise social network site. It is assumed that employees will readily create and maintain rich profiles where they willingly share information about their job history, interests, hobbies, education, and areas of expertise. Rich employee profiles create another means for colleagues in need of assistance to search and connect to the right person - or access customized expertise location applications that leverag profile data to find the right resource anywhere in the organization. In both cases, the notion of "transparency" makes it easier for people in need of assistance to connect with the relevant expert.
I agree with these assumptions. I also agree with the fact that if employees use social tools they could be more easily found in the organization and/or seen as expert on a certain topic.
Gotta goes on to say expertise location has been around for some time and also points to Cisco's own solution for expertise location, Cisco Pulse. As far as I understand this tool automatically goes through company data and it's creators and builds an expertise map, giving users the opportunity to use the results to find experts in the organization.
Gotta closes his post with his main point by stressing expertise location is more than rolling out a tool in an organization. We have to pay attention to process and cultural factors as well. For instance, scarcity of information and resources. Or: accessibility of certain information due to security reasons. Privacy is also an issue. Is an employee's email box open for the whole company? And, to mention one more, culture. Is there an open culture in which employees want to share and post about their work?

Good points! But I want to go back to the assumption. It is assumed that employees use social tools. But do they? Yep, some, maybe lots will. But what happens if they don't? Are they then not an expert on one or more topic? The answer is simple: this can't be true. Of course, it does say a lot about employees who post about their work. Apparently they are open about what they know or need to know. And they're probably (more) willing to share.
Furthermore, is it possible to share all our knowledge. For instance, a programmer builds a new tool. In most companies he would have to write a report on the new tools. He'll probably also say in which language he wrote the code. But he'll never say: Hey, I'm an expert on that language. That's for others to decide.

So, we need to take a look how experts are really grown and found in organizations. How do you find the person you need in your organization? I've been writing quite a bit about this, so I'll keep it short here. Finding experts has to do with who you know. People refer to each other based on their experience with each other. Based on knowing each other you can say: this guy or girl is really good at ... This also has to do with how open or closed someone is. Someone can formally be an expert on a topic, but if he/she never has time to talk with you then he/she are not the one to go to. If you look at how people refer to each other in real-life you can also see they relate to expertise that can hardly be written down and captured by (social) tools. This all relates perfectly to Dave Snowden's KM principles, by the way.

Can this be supported by technology? I think so. At least for a larger part than the automated solutions I've seen so far. And Guruscan is the only company I know of that does this well.
To be clear: I'm not saying we shouldn't go for social tools or automated knowledge mapping in organizations. They are very helpful and can support more knowledge and communication process than ever before. But don't think you've solved the expertise location problem by using them...
I hope this helps. All feedback is welcome!

An HR 2.0 Fail

I thought I'd wait a bit before posting this...
As you know I changed jobs not too long ago. During the last year I applied for several jobs and was asked to apply for jobs. One of those jobs was interesting for the fact that they had a 2.0 approach to recruiting. This company is trying to reach out to potential new employees in new ways. They also want to be more open about themselves by using social media. Their recruiting website clearly showed their (HR) employees were on Twitter, they used Youtube to tell more about working for their company, etc. I was impressed by it. And I also thought: hey, it looks like this company really understands 'the new way of recruiting/working'.
So, I applied for the job. I could upload my resume and other info to their site. Things went downhill from there...

Of course I got the automatic email saying they would get back to me within two weeks. After 3,5 weeks I thought I'd ask them how things were going. It took another week for them to reply to that email. Then, finally, after about 5-6 weeks they told me I didn't fit well with what they were looking for.
OK, no hard feelings. Really. Maybe I understood the job description incorrectly. Or maybe my resume isn't clear enough. So, I sent an email back asking them to clarify their decision. I asked for feedback, because they only sent me one line telling me I wasn't eligible. Another week passed by. I sent them another email. No response...

I'm not writing this to pick on them (and I'm not mentioning the company's name either). I think there's an important lesson to be learned here. The lesson is: If you says you want to go 2.0, you have to go full-circle.

Social media is not about pushing more information about your company, department or person via even more (new) channels. It starts with listening. Then start commenting and giving feedback. Listen some more and give feedback. Etc. Social media is about having a true conversation with a person (using technology). But if social media is the only thing you're focused on and you forget that good conversation can (and should) continue via 'old' media like the telephone or email due to confidentiality, people will notice and move away from you and/or your company.

What are your experiences with HR 2.0? Please share them with us!