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Role of social knowledge networks in Enterprise 2.0

As an Inmagic consultant, I have the opportunity to view many different areas of the business landscape from an outsider's perspective. From messaging development, to on-site customer consultations, to product roadmapping, my colleagues call me the "Renaissance Man of Social Knowledge Networks."

In my travels over the last few months, I've learned from customers how social knowledge networks, and specifically Presto, fit in to the E2.0 ecosystem. Time and again, the social aspects of our product are the special sauce that makes a difference within enterprise communities. In no particular order, here are some ways I'm seeing social knowledge networks apply to E2.0:

1. Content is the heart, social tools are the blood. When implementing any E2.0 technology, there is typically an initial enthusiasm for a product, particularly when it is first deployed "in good condition." Over time though, many products loose impetus and are abandoned, as has happened with many-a SharepPoint implementation.

A key aspect, and perhaps the saving grace of social tools, is its ability to keep content relevant by encouraging people to say (rate, comment) when it is not. This in turn will cause updates to the content to happen when necessary. So if you think of the Presto repository and its content as the heart of the system, the socialization is the life blood pumping through the heart to keep it going.

2. Build with content and they will come. When a Presto repository is built, it is built with a particular set of individuals and content in mind. Building community around the content is the next natural step in making the content much more useful. And by useful I mean that when peoples' tags, ratings, and comments are what create unique efficiencies in the system.

Think of When I view a product, I immediately look at the ratings and comments to see if other peoples' experiences are good or bad. So too with content. If there are lots of related documents with overlapping subject matter, the social tagging will help weed out the good from the bad, or the successful from the not.

I like this quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein, which frames this point well: "Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgement." Applied to Presto, I would say this means that until someone rubber stamps content and says it's good, it is potentially misinformation, not knowledge.

3. People provide power. Enterprise organizations shouldn't underestimate the power of real community. The community is what keeps enthusiasm for social technologies going over longer periods of time, and what creates new and increased value coming from them. I believe that connecting people to people, with content as context, is crucial.

4. Tapping community wisdom fuels knowledge retention. This is a biggie now and will be bigger over the next few years. Companies are focusing initiatives and spending money on this issue now. Knowledge retention focuses primarily on what's in people's heads, and encouraging the use of community-based social tools is probably the easiest way to do this.

5. Subject-matter experts improve content quality. Individuals marking content as "good" or "bad" through social tools will ensure others are pointed in the right direction, and will decrease trial and error. In addition, content analytics will also clearly show over time what's used and what's not, and what's useful and what's not. This will be crucial information that feeds directly into the systems designed for content creation (DM, DAM, etc.).

For example, if the company spends $XX on producing a sales toolkit or other materials, and it is accessed by one person rather than 100, is it successful? Should it be updated or scrapped? I think this is a good way of thinking about how Presto relates to content creation in general, which creates value even outside of the community that directly use Presto.

6. SKNs connect content in relevant, informative ways. When people find useful stuff, they like to find more related useful stuff. This is usually done by searching and seeing related items. Social knowledge networks offer the opportunity to find other useful stuff by letting users:

a. Group documents in collections.
b. Leave comments such as, "if you like this, perhaps this would also be useful," because they have been in this situation before.
c. Discover that "if Joe thinks docX is good, lets see what else Joe thinks is useful."

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