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Podcast: Pew's Lee Rainie drills into mobile, the Internet, and libraries


There's no that doubt mobility has changed the way people access and connect with one another. Just think of how laptops and cell phones have changed our lives. But another clear demonstration of this is in the library. Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, described it this way during a recent podcast with Janelle:

"We see a lot of evidence that the life people lead in libraries is very similar to the life that people lead in a lot of knowledge-based industries. There's a flattening of organizational structure. There are fewer layers of bureaucracy in lots of places and that's a direct result of the Internet and other communications technologies that are making it easier for people to reach across departments ..."

Click play for more from Lee. You'll hear him discuss his latest research from Pew Internet, "Friending Libraries: Why Libraries Can Become Nodes in People's Social Networks." It finds, among other things, that over half of Americans are using the Internet as a diversion and method of coping during the recession.

Lee and Janelle talk about information overload, and how knowledge workers are feeling more stressed about work because of the always-on connectivity of information technology.

But even though it's easy for people to look up things on the Internet these days, it's not eliminating librarians' jobs, says Lee. Patrons are still dependent on librarians as expert gatekeepers and curators of information to help guide them to what they're looking for and filter out irrelevant content.

A major trend Pew Internet is focusing on right now is mobile connectivity. Lee says: "There's tremendous excitement that started with the introduction of the iPhone a couple of years ago, and now there's a whole marketplace for smart phones. It's not clear how this is all going to sort out and it's not clear even what patrons want out of the technology. So we're in a great experimental moment and moment of uncertainty of how mobile connectivity is actually going to play out in a useful way in people's lives."

Lee is also working on a book, tentatively titled "Networking: The New Social Operating System." He and coauthor Barry Wellman, a sociologist at University of Toronto are exploring ways technology has "put traditional social interaction on steroids." It's slated for publishing by late 2010 or early 2011.

Lots of things covered in our podcast, so be sure to tune in!

Enterprise 2.0 Twitter chat tonight with tech consultant Chris Jones

If you want to talk enterprise 2.0 with industry advocates, practitioners, (and maybe even some nay-sayers), hit your computer or mobile phone at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Chris Jones, Consulting Principal of SourcePOV, is kicking off the new #e20ws Twitter chat. The agenda for the conversation will go something like this:
  • Goals and objectives
  • E2.0 challenges of silo culture
  • E2.0 standards, alignment, and diversity of thinking
  • E2.0 engagement (n:n)
  • E2.0 SM technology (intro)
  • Next steps
The chat promises to be a good networking and connecting opportunity. You can also find Chris at his blog, Driving Innovation in a Digital World; and on Twitter @SourcePOV.

How social knowlege networks let you work out loud

"Working out loud" is the best description of what enterprise 2.0 is all about. And I'm sort of writing out loud right now as I think about it, because the idea struck me while I was at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference earlier this year, and I've been meaning to blog it.

Twitter is a great example of working out loud. It allows others to tap into your expertise and lets you tap into the expertise of others. E2.0 is an exercise in symbiosis, where both individuals derive a benefit from the relationship. If you've ever worked in teams in math or a science lab, the key was to show your work so others could help you, and vice versa. In the end, E2.0 is a classic exercise of the sum being greater than the whole of its parts.

I think social knowledge networks embrace the concept of working out loud in the enterprise. There are just too many restrictions, regulations, and constraints within most organizations to allow a social free-for-all, or a Wikipedia-like environment where anyone can deem themselves an expert and update content. This has been the bane of existence for many social strategies.

SKNs, on the other hand, mitigate the free-for-all and allow a designated administrator to provide control over who, when, what, and how contributions are made to the SKN. This allows individuals to work out loud within the constraints of their organization's culture and processes. As a result, content and information retains its veracity and value, which keeps users and contributors coming back for more.

That which makes Inmagic different

Enterprise 2.0 is chock-full of vendors right now. Each company is jockeying for market share, has its own take on E2.0, and is offering a slightly varied solution which will (they claim) solve our knowledge/collaboration/innovation/time-to-market challenges.

As with any market, differentiation is one of the big challenges vendors need to address and manage, which in turn helps users find the best fit for their organization. We believe it is important for us to be clear about what sets us apart from the crowd -- what we are, and equally important, what we are not. Like we've said before, there is no one-size-fits-all enterprise 2.0 solution. In a report by Gartner on the emerging social software field:

"[The social software market] … is evolving in response to the demand for a coherent way to support information creation and sharing, team communication and coordination, and communities and informal social interaction. Buyers are looking for flexible environments where participants can find and interact with one another, and create, organize and share information. The promise is one of improved "connectedness" as well as the capture and dissemination of informal knowledge by capitalizing on community involvement."

With that said, in general terms, here are the basic differentiators between Inmagic and other E2.0 vendors. We gathered this information based on what our customers have told us about their Presto implementations and our market intelligence. If you click the image, it'll open a new window where you'll be able to click on the hyperlinks in the chart. For more explanation of the chart, read on below.

Social knowledge networks (SKNs) created using Presto are differentiated because the core product capability begins with having an existing knowledge repository (or "information honey pot"). Presto then enables that content to be socialized in a controlled environment.

Why is this approach different? Because it is not based on sharing for sharing's sake. Sharing for sharing's sake will likely be the demise of many vendors because it requires mass users and frequent input to get the system going and ingrained in the everyday workflow.

With Presto, users need not engage to fill a void. Rather, the foundation for interaction centers around content. Social knowledge networks are at the intersection of content producers and content consumers. You cannot have one without the other and the SKN is the mechanism for uniting the two.

For Inmagic, it all comes back to the content. The content gives context and purpose to socialization. The socialization makes it viral and pulls in additional users. This "land and expand" strategy does not require a major cultural shift and it can function with few users/contributors and still deliver value.

But because of its viral nature, it will spread as more users interact with it. That's what gets it established and what keeps it going. It's easy to contribute content, build the repository, engage more users, and socialize more content. Soon you have your very own content-based social ecosystem.

Enterprise 2.0 no longer if or when, but how

One of the challenges the knowledge management industry is facing right now is moving enterprise 2.0 from early adopters to mainstream acceptance. Just as Dion Hinchcliffe writes in this ZDNet article, some innovators like Andrew McAfee are firm in their conviction that enterprise 2.0 can solve a wealth of problems. Others, such as Dennis Howlett, believe enterprise 2.0 is "a crock."

Undoubtedly, it will take real success stories to prove enterprise 2.0's efficacy and benefits. And while that might take some time, I think we've at least cracked the enterprise 2.0 door open wide enough to say that it is not a matter of "if" or "when." Enterprise 2.0 is here, and it's now a matter of "how." (More on this in the comment I left on the article.)

Most companies, whether kicking, screaming, or cannon-ball diving, will adopt some form of E2.0 in their business. But how they make use of E2.0 will be the deciding factor in their success. Like we've said before, there is no one-size-fits-all E2.0 strategy. It needs to be finessed, molded, and adapted to each organization, and in some cases, each individual within that organization.

As such, and contrary to some of the E2.0 misconceptions Dion writes in his piece, it might take a long time for some organizations to figure out how to adopt E2.0. If not properly managed, it can be harmful or disrupt corporate hierarchy. Again, this goes back to the fact that E2.0 isn't a black and white solution.

Because E2.0 is still in Wild West mode, there is no right way to implement an E2.0 strategy. But the good news is, on the flip side, there is no wrong way either. Through trial and error and determining their own particular "how," companies will figure out and possibly debunk their own unique misconceptions in the process.

Meet the Team: Leah Barrett Demers


We picked up our Meet the Team series and interviewed Inmagic's Marketing Communications Manager, Leah Barrett Demers. Listen to our podcast to get acquainted, and learn what Leah does at Inmagic, how she got to where she is today, what her favorite tchotchke is, and more.

Signal-to-noise ratio: Finding the sense in nonsense

I just read Mike's thoughts on yesterday's article, and I of course, had a few thoughts of my own. I want to elaborate on several points, so I'm posting here, where verbosity is perhaps more tolerable than in a comment on the article. ;)

I agree with what Mike said, and add:

Yes, the way the wisdom of the community must be managed inside the firewall and outside the firewall are totally different. We can agree that the goal of socialization in both environments is to create or improve our wisdom or intelligence. But to gather this wisdom, we must operate differently on the two sides of the firewall.

Outside the firewall, transparency and democracy are of the utmost importance. These two concepts deliver the trust that the data is not tainted or skewed to one perspective. Without these concepts in place, people will not contribute and community wisdom will not be generated.

For example, if reviews of a hotel can be edited or deleted by the site manager, the reviews are worthless because the scrubbed site is now an advertisement rather than a open and honest airing of opinions. And because we know that people sometimes post crazy positive or crazy negative reviews, we (the public) know that, just like in real life, we need to take the reviews with a grain of salt.

However, this transparency and democracy lead to OTHER problems. Problem No. 1: Veracity. Let's say I hate a certain hotel chain, so any time I can, I give them a bad review, even if I've never been to that location.

Problem No. 2: Gaming the system. Per the article, "If you have two or three people voting 500 times," the results are not informative. These issues decrease the signal-to-noise ratio. The signal (good content) stays the same, and noise (bad content) increases.

So while these problems damage the value of social commentary generated in public sites, they are necessary evils to ensure transparency and democracy. Remember Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (That's from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947.) To paraphrase: Social wisdom is better than ads.

Let's turn to inside the firewall now. Within corporations, transparency and democracy move down a notch. They are important, but they are not the most important. Accuracy and trust in the data become the most important attributes within a social system inside the firewall. People are making business decisions based on the data, and if they can't trust it, they won't use the system. Therefore, veracity is job one, and gaming of ratings must be avoided.

This takes us to the social volume knob. An internally used knowledge repository should have a social volume knob. It allows the content administrator to control and maintain the accuracy of the system.

If a first-year associate can blog all day about irrelevant topics and make misleading statements, does this improve the overall quality of the system? No. If a comment contains a rumor that is known to be false, should it stay in the system? No. If a disgruntled employee is negatively ranking their boss's contributions, should we allow this to continue? No.

A social volume knob gives the content administrator the ability to edit or delete erroneous or misguided social commentary. It also enables control of who is allowed to blog (only experts please). It also provides reports and statistics on social use so we can identify when the system is being misused. And because users are logged in, it prevents gaming of ratings by only allowing one person, one vote.

The social volume knob must be used with care. If it is seen as dictatorial or capricious, it can damage transparency and democracy to the point where the system and its ability to gather social wisdom will be harmed. But used with care, the social volume knob has the opposite effect. It removes junk from the system and improves overall quality.

Remember the old adage "garbage in, garbage out." With a social volume knob, you can catch and eliminate the garbage before it finds its way into a business decision. In essence, a social volume knob increases the signal-to-noise ratio. More signal (high-quality content), less noise (low-quality content). This is the nirvana of a inside-the-firewall social knowledge application.

Two's crowd wisdom, three's just a crowd

When you go online to look up a product and research what people are saying about it, how much can you trust those ratings and reviews? In short, "can you trust crowd wisdom?"

That's the question Kristina Grifantini posed in her article on yesterday. She goes on to explore the possible distortion of online ratings and reviews, citing a study by Vassilis Kostakos, an assistant professor at the University of Madeira in Portugal and adjunct assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He found a small number of users were responsible for providing a large number of ratings. For example, only 5 percent of active Amazon users cast votes on more than 10 products.

After reading this though, I think the conversation needs to be different when we are talking about social networks within an organization’s firewall. In that instance, it’s not about trusting the crowd’s wisdom. Rather, it's about managing the community by knowing whose input should be trusted, along with managing and moderating the community. This must all be done in the context of how the community relates to business initiatives and the information assets of the organization.

That's where the social volume knob comes into play to moderate who has what capabilities and can provide what content. We've drilled into this on the blog in the past, and I elaborated more in my comment.

Andrew McAfee on enterprise 2.0 and knowledge sharing

KMWorld recently interviewed Andrew McAfee, who coined the term "enterprise 2.0" in 2006, and has written extensively about it. He has a new book coming out in December, Enterprise 2.0, New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges.

Andrew provides some interesting insights into enterprise 2.0 in his interview with Hugh McKellar, particularly about several shifts happening now with knowledge use, sharing, and management. He touches upon implementing enterprise 2.0 initiatives and handling security concerns, and makes the point that enterprise 2.0 isn't a one-size-fits-all program. Organizations can use and benefit from it in different ways. For more, click over the article.

Latest McKinsey research validates social knowledge network use

McKinsey, a leading organizational consulting firm, released a study last week about how companies are using and benefiting from Web 2.0. You can read their findings on their Web site and analysis on their blog. Jon Husband also posted his take on The AppGap, pulling out this quote from the study:
The largest components of growth have come from using Web 2.0 to develop new products / services internally, to manage internal knowledge and to reinforce the company culture via tools such as internal social networking applications. The companies who have embedded these tools in their day-to-day activities and processes have seen the largest impact by improving communication across silos to reduce duplicate work and leverage experts in other areas.
Sounds familiar, eh? It is written from the same playbook as Inmagic Social Knowledge Networks (SKNs). The role of the SKN goes a step further, however, by uniting traditional content management systems (CMS), or content-producers, to newer social networking applications, which tend to be people-to-people focused. By providing access to diverse, vetted content that is enriched by the wisdom of the community, SKNs are contributing to the jump in the use of Web 2.0 technologies by employees for internal purposes. (Sixty-five percent today, compared to 53 percent in 2007.)

The report also states that expertise in the use of Web 2.0 technologies is becoming a required skill for all enterprises. And sounds like music to all of our ears. ;)

Consumer tech driving E2.0 adoption -- but there's a caveat

Consumer technology used to be limited to a subculture of "techies" or "geeks." That's all changed today, which you can probably confirm from firsthand experience if you use a computer hours on end, carry an iPhone, and sometimes speak in emoticons. To make it official, though, Forrester came out with a study on the topic. The findings aren't too surprising: Three-quarters of American households have cellphones and PCs. Half of adults are gamers. Sixty-three percent of households have a broadband Internet connection.

Jenna Wortham covered the study in an article on, and as I was reading it, it brought me back to something we've touched upon before on the blog: Consumer tech adoption is poised to accelerate enterprise 2.0 adoption.

The nutshell reason is that many concepts and technologies in consumer tech -- particularly social media -- carry over to the enterprise. But there is a major caveat that I like to draw attention to.

Enterprise 2.0 adoption will accelerate only when vetted and tacit knowledge can be combined and leveraged (using social knowledge networks). Social networking is necessary, but not sufficient on its own. We also need vetted content as the base. Context-based social technologies are then the tools we use to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing. Should sound familiar to our regulars out there!

Once content and people come together, we can address core business problems, like competitiveness, innovation, knowledge retention, and productivity of individuals and the organization. More on that in our How to Cost Justify Your Social Knowledge Network Needs series.

Nominations open for KMWorld Awards

Wanted to let everyone know that nominations are now open for KMWorld's Promise and Reality Awards. The Reality Award recognizes an organization that has successfully implemented knowledge management practices and is realizing measurable business benefits. The Promise Award is given to an organization that is delivering on its promise to customers by providing innovative KM solutions, and ensuring the solutions deliver real benefits to customers.

If you're interested in entering, details on the qualifications and submission guidelines are on KMWorld's Web site. Deadline is Sept. 15.

Around the horn with Trimagic's Peter Smee: special library tech, Web 2.0 trends, and more

Trimagic is one of our longest standing partners. They hail from Sydney, Australia, and have been selling Inmagic products and other information management solutions to Australian and international businesses since 1984. It puts them in a unique position to be able to reflect on market changes, and assess where we stand today. And to do that, we enlisted Trimagic's Chief Solutions Architect, Peter Smee.

Our podcasting team interviewed Peter to talk about the state of the special library market down under, what major trends he's seeing, and what organizations are most interested in Inmagic products. He gives us insight into Trimagic's approach to client service and development of customized information and knowledge management solutions.

The conversation also turned personal, and we learned about what makes Peter tick when he comes to work each day, what sport you can find him playing when he's away from the office, and what music he's playing off the field.

Listen in below, and stay updated on Trimagic and their offerings by visiting their Web site and blog.

Web 3.0: Rise of the intelligent machines

Web 3.0, also known as the semantic Web, is many years from maturation. And while analysts and experts continue to speculate on what the semantic Web will be like, there seems to be agreement that we are heading toward a Web where context and smart search engines are king.

I wrote more about this in an article for Information Management. You can click over to their Web site to read the full story. I talk about how the semantic Web might play out in the enterprise, and how some concepts of the semantic Web are already in place at some organizations. What I'm referring to is social knowledge networks. Organizations can tag records and capture socially intelligent metadata in ways that bring contextual meaning and relevance to those records. Examples of this are in my article. If you have any questions or want to talk about this more, as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Social knowledge networks are more valuable than enterprise social networking

I took a survey back in April from Wainhouse Research that covered adoption and usage trends of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) systems. Wainhouse has compiled the results and shared some of the findings with the respondents, which I'll talk about in a minute. But more importantly, this jogged my mind about explaining the difference between enterprise social networking and social knowledge networks.

At first it might sound like we're playing with semantics, but hear me out and I think you'll see the difference too.

ESN is largely defined by the industry as bringing consumer-based social media technologies into an organization. So for instance, it might include using IM, Facebook, Twitter, and other tools inside the company to facilitate communication and sharing among employees.

We describe SKNs, on the other hand, as a tight integration of a knowledge repository and social media. Core, vetted content-- like internal documents, news, and research -- is collected, organized, and made accessible. This content is then socialized with the wisdom of the community. This consists of people's knowledge, opinions, and feedback about vetted information, which they provide using context-based social tools, including commenting, rating, tagging, and blogging.

Unlike ESN, SKNs are secure, and specifically built with the enterprise in mind. SKNs use the concepts and benefits of social technologies as a platform for knowledge management, which provides benefits that ESN cannot. Consider this finding from the Wainhouse study:

32 percent of respondents consider inward-facing ESN (those used by employees) to be extremely or very important for the value it delivers to the enterprise. Benefits cited included improvements in collaboration, teamwork, productivity, and time to market.

This might be true. But SKNs do a better job at providing these benefits. Although value is derived from connecting people, greater value is derived when social media tools are integrated with content.

SKNs eliminates information silos by centralizing relevant information and social content into a single knowledge repository. This increase access to relevant information and helps employees do their jobs faster and with more accuracy, which increases their productivity.

SKNs fosters collaboration and quality control through context-based social tools, including comments, ratings, tagging and tag clouds, and blogging. SKNs are also a significant way to preserve knowledge assets and enhance the value of information. As employees retire or relocate, organizations can capture their knowledge before they leave. We need a central organizing element, that is, a community, a SKN, to capture and share that information.

The contribution and transfer of knowledge can be managed seamlessly and continuously in a SKN. Everybody plays a role in making the information richer. While users contribute to the relevance and quantity of information, librarians moderate input to ensure veracity.

SKNs give organizations a way to assimilate and get value out of social media faster than ESN, which I think will accelerate enterprise 2.0 adoption. Content is a natural honey pot. Social media can make it richer.

We'll be at the Gilbane Boston conference

We'll be traversing downtown in December to exhibit at the Gilbane Boston conference. The three-day show will cover "Content, Collaboration, and Customers," focusing on the business impact of various content solutions.

Many aspects of a business is tied to content. Communications. Marketing. Advertising. And it exists throughout the company. Web site. Blog. Technical materials. Product collateral. Content is indeed an integral part of an organization, which makes managing it a key business objective.

The Gilbane Boston conference will cover topics including Web Content Management (WCM), enterprise social software, enterprise mobile content, authoring and publishing, content globalization, XML and XBRL, enterprise and site search, semantic technologies, and enterprise content management (ECM).

You can take a look at the conference schedule and sessions for more info. If you're interesting in attending, you can register online. Be sure to stop by our booth!

We'll have more details on what we'll be bringing to the show and keep you in the loop as we get ready.


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