Notes in the Margin

On the intersection of web apps, digital content and social media

Social Media Apps Make Digital Work Visible

I just came across a post from last summer by Jim McGee called Managing the visibility of knowledge work. It seems like a relatively old meme: he references it in a post dating back to 2002 and a post called Knowledge Work as Craft Work.

The idea of “observable work,” as applied to the challenges of working digitally, may have first been created by Jon Udell in a 2009 post. A related meme, Narrate Your Work, was described by Dave Winer later that same year.

There are a few obvious ways I’ve typically quantified, or made visible, my work in the past – say, when creating a consulting invoice:

  1. Search for documents created in a client folder for the designated time period
  2. Trawl through the Sent Items folder in email
  3. Scan through one’s calendar to identify meetings held and attended

There may be cases when archiving these artifacts into a zip or PDF file would be appropriate for making one’s work visible.

These days, the context in which work happens is evolving beyond documents stored on a hard drive or email. Online productivity apps like Google Docs, and scores of cloud-based tools now automatically log your activity, whether you’re planning, authoring, commenting or otherwise collaborating. Of course, few of these tools in my experience offer convenient ways to filter and view – make visible – the work you’ve executed. So, as before, you may be forced to create your own journal entries, perhaps with hyperlinks to your work artifacts.

It will be interesting to see the way in which working in online social environments might make work more visible. Of course, the signal-to-noise ratio will inevitably go down in such environments as items unrelated to work will be included, but increasingly important morsels will be shared in short fragments, as little as 140 characters or less. Sharing links, or answering technical questions, or reviewing text are all lightweight ways of adding value to a project, and often go unnoticed or unmeasured.

But if you conducted your projects within a group on a social platform like Jive, Yammer or Convofy, there would be stored in that location a record of all interactions, digital work and value added. This seems like a positive development in the process of making digital work visible – and valued. As teams look to the accrued value in these social platform, it might also push participants to be more conscious of their digital work as craft – that is, worthy of being observed and valued, and therefore worthy of taking greater care to deliver quality.

Like older sharing platforms, I don’t know that any of the newer social platforms offer a convenient way to capture, quantify and make the digital work of the team and its individuals visible. Furthermore, the hard part – identifying value in the stream of updates – remains as an exercise to the interested user. But all the data is there, and it seems like only a matter of time before digital work becomes more visible, its value better quantified and its quality more conducive to the elevated form of craft.

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Written by tstaley

September 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm

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