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Google validates social knowledge networks

I was recently using Google Maps to search for a restaurant my friends and I wanted to have dinner at. Once found, I got distracted. And, like 99.9% of people who have used Google Maps or Google Earth, I wanted to see what my house looked like from 30,000 km.

So, I punched in my address, and Google whizzed me to my house. Except it wasn’t my house. It was my neighbor’s -- three doors up! Pretty close, to be sure, but not completely accurate.

Then I noticed Google allows me to provide feedback. In fact, it lets me change the search results to what I knew were accurate (my house, not my neighbor’s). This ensures the next time people search for my address, they will find my house, and no one else's.

How useful! The community is providing its wisdom to make search results more accurate and relevant. Sound familiar?

Providing input on content -- in our case, the map -- is precisely how a social knowledge network works. The vetted information is the street names and locations. I didn't have the ability to change that information -- nor should I be allowed to.

Where I could provide input was around that content, also known as socialization. By changing the search results, I made the content richer, more accurate, and more relevant. In this situation, the "wisdom of the community" is essential because I have knowledge of the exact location of my house.

Similarly, in organizations, social knowledge networks allow vetted information -- such as documents, images, videos, presentations, RSS feeds, and so on -- to be enhanced by comments, ratings, and other feedback from the community. And it all happens in same the place, which is the knowledge management framework.

Of course, feedback from the community must be monitored for accuracy. This is where the notion of a "social volume knob" becomes important. Depending on the company, the community that is allowed to provide feedback can run the gamut from a small, hand-picked group of individuals, to a broader set of experts.

In either case, this type of interaction adds tremendous value to the content, making it much more accurate and relevant.


DVMarques (Portugal) said...

What if your other neighboor replied saying that your house wasn't yours and it was, in fact, his house?

I mean, what if somebody else, at your "level", came with a contradictory argument? How can there be a decision on which information is the most accurate and should be available to all? And more than that, because this decision can be achieved even if it takes some time, what gives you the competence to say that something is like this or that? How do you assess your expertise and recognize it in the social knowledge network?

Don't take me wrong, I'm in favor of this initiative. In fact, I'm trying to develop a similar reasoning in my company, but there seems to be many questions to be answered when we try to put this in practice.

Thank you.

John Callan said...

Your comments are 100 percent relevant, and epitomize the challenges that people in the corporate world face when trying to understand how best to leverage new social media without causing a free for all.

In a social knowledge network, the control over precisely who has authority to comment, edit, rate etc., truly depends on the person or group charged with administering the information and ensuring that value is derived from it. In many cases, it is a function of the culture of the company, how information has historically been created and dispersed, and how much latitude people have had to criticize. This varies greatly from company to company.

One particularly good strategy we have found is that the community itself can begin to self-regulate. In the example from my post, if my neighbor objects to my edit as being wrong, and states this to the community, he will be challenged by our other neighbors (our community). He will be found in error. The community might then decide to limit this person's contributions in the future. He might receive a lower rating from the community, for example.

This is just one aspect of what is known as the "social volume knob." It's a very effective way to ensure that the information remains accurate and relevant.

Great comment, and thank you for your thoughts!

Phil Green said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Green said...

Dvmarques touches upon a challenge facing Inmagic, which is to define what makes corporate social knowledge networks (SKNs) different from public social media sites.

I believe the primary difference is control. In a public social media site, such as, there is little control over what is published. Anyone can be a blogger and anyone can post comments.

This is key to the success of public social media sites. The community values transparency and the ability to freely post their opinions. Not mediating the site keeps it "open," and maintains audience.

However, this comes with a cost. In a public site, people can publish virtually anything -- including irrelevant, inaccurate information. This leads to a catch 22. While lack of mediation ensures anyone can post, it also allows bad information to be published.

On the other hand, corporate SKNs should be mediated. Key to their success is information with high veracity and a wide scope. This ensures high quality and reduces "comment spam."

But SKNs come with a caveat too. It's crucial to strike a happy medium when controlling SKNs. If they are mediated too much or too little, they will fail.


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