Notes in the Margin

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

Semantics Don’t Matter

Whenever one is confronted with the process of researching a topic online, navigating through the myriad analysts, bloggers and/or pundits, the first task often involves constructing your own Rosetta Stone, with which you can interpret the sage insights one encounters.

A case in point is Gautam Ghosh’s recent post, Thoughts on Enterprise 2.0 and the Social Intranet, in which he carefully describes the distinction between the two concepts:

  • In enterprise 2.0 the tools enable employee to employee communication, awareness and collaboration
  • In the “social intranet” while employees do form communities, the primary focus is on the organization to employee communication customised by the “social” data shared by the employee.

There is hair-splitting here, and some apparently arbitrary definitions that get in the way of his real point, which could be “employee-driven communities work better than communities controlled by management”.

In a similar vein, in his post called Teams, Communities, And Social Networks, Mike Gotta points to the use of, and distinctions between, those three overwrought terms. The distinction between these three terms are as useful as the three descriptors “near”, “mid-range” and “far”. The three terms all relate to the same kind of entity – a set of relationships. They only differ in degree, the closeness of the relationship, especially as it relates to one’s day-day activities. Yet treatises are written about the distinction between them.

It’s hard to read or listen to analysts when they erect their imaginary intellectual constructs because they are, well, imaginary – concepts that are at best provisional. Reading Josh Bernoff’s and Ted Schadler’s book Empowered, I never got used to the term HERO (“highly empowered and resourceful operative”), which was clearly a contrived device to get across a concept that, frankly, didn’t need an annoying, even patronizing, acronym. Even Seth Godin’s “Linchpin” moniker, in his inspiring little book of the same name, was wearisome and limiting.

In some cases, analysts terms and concepts conjure distinctions that might be useful to get people up to speed on a content area, but real world practitioners need to abandon the concepts, or hold them very loosely, because they can interfere with actually engaging with others and getting work done.

For social media, social enterprise, collaborative teamwork, etc., the real point is to become better connected and better coordinated in thoughts and actions among a group, small or large. I suspect that much of this process is an innate instinct, and the rest will be worked out over time – in practice.


Written by tstaley

November 4, 2010 at 6:10 am

Posted in Engagement, Social Web

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