Notes in the Margin

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

Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Communities, Teams and Organizations; Requirements Differ

Last week was the E2.0 Expo in Santa Clara. This week it’s KMWorld 2010 in Washington DC. The topics seem interrelated, so there must be a swath of people herding from one side of the country to the other in pursuit of the latest thinking on building social Intranets.

One attendee at KMWorld, Bill Ives from Darwin Ecosystem, reported on a session called 10 Principles for Successful CoPs (Communities of Practice).  The principles are listed below, but it brings up another question about the kinds of groups that might form for any Intranet.

  • Communities of Practice, according to Wikipedia, is “a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession.” The principles below are directed at this kind of group, which tends to be cross-organizational and voluntary.
  • Work Teams, are more focused and tend to work towards a common goal. The small and diverse group working on the new Intranet, for example, is a work team.
  • Organizations are structural parts of an enterprise, and can be either horizontal (HR) or specific to a product line or market.

Each of these kinds of groups – and there may be more – has its own requirements for communication and collaboration. An Intranet designed to address all three of these kinds of groups needs to be clear on those requirements, and perhaps even offer different kinds of groups based on the interactions required.

From the blog post, here are the ten principles:

One – Communities should be independent of organizational structure. They should be based on the content.

Two – Communities are different from organizations and teams.  People are assigned to a team. Communities are better with self–selection for joining and remaining.

Third – Communities are people and not tools. You should not start with tech features. A platform is not a community. Readers of the same blog are not a community but that might be a byproduct.

Fourth – Communities should be voluntary. The passion of members should be what drives a community.  You should make the community appealing to get members and not assign them to it.

Fifth – Communities should span boundaries. They should not be for a particular group likes Sales or IT. There is a lot of cross-functional or cross-geography learning that would be missed then. Diverse views help communities.

Sixth – You should minimize redundancy in communities. Consolidation helps to avoid confusion by potential members. It also reduces the possibility of not getting a critical mass. Reducing redundancy also enables more cross-boundary sharing.

Seven – Communities need a critical amass. You need at least 50 and likely 100. Usually ten percent are very active so you can get sufficient level of activity with 100 people.

Eight – Avoid having too narrow of scope for the community. Too much focus can lead to not enough members. Stan advises people to start broad and narrow if necessary.  Or start as part of broader community and spin off if needed.

Nine – Communities need to be active. Community leaders need to do work, often in the “spare time” at their regular work. This means that the leader needs a passion for the topics so he or she will spend this extra time. There needs to be energy to get things going.

Ten – Use TARGETs to manage communities. TARGET includes: Types, activities, requirements, goals, expectations, and tools. Each of these issues needs to addressed and explained to prospective members.  Tools are necessary, but the least important component, so they are placed last.

KM World 2010 and Enterprise Search Summit 2010 Session Notes: 10 Principles for Successful CoPs – Darwin Discovery Engine Blog.


Written by tstaley

November 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

The Collaboration Spaces vs. Communication Channels Argument Continues

Craig Roth at Gartner moderates a debate between himself, Mike Gotta and Peter O’Kelly on how to categorize the way people work together. The traditional categories were “Collaboration” and “Communication.” Mike Gotta (now of Cisco) thinks the distinction may be too restrictive in the current enterprise 2.0 context. Peter O’Kelly upholds the usefulness of distinguishing between the categories, but describes how work flows between them – both synchronously and asynchronously.

The debate is a little difficult to follow when analysts set to this kind of discussion: they are arguing fine points that are sometimes hard to relate to real situations. The value of analysts like these is that, if you adopt their framework, they can provide significant focus and structure to a corporate initiative. But lacking the depth of the underlying frameworks, this discussion is difficult to benefit from.

I *think* I agree with Mike Gotta, at least I do when he says that the distinction is too limiting. Communication seems to be a superset – the environment in which collaboration and social happens. I can’t imagine collaboration without communication. Nor can I imagine social environments without communication. And it seems to me that “Community” is simply a way to limit or focus one’s communication to specific group of people.

In any event, the key is to have the tools and technical environments adapt to how users think and work and have their being, not the other way around. In the process of reviewing over 20 social enterprise platforms, my impression is that tools are moving slowly in this direction, though there is room for plenty of improvement.

Craig Roth: The Collaboration Spaces vs. Communication Channels Argument Continues.

Peter O’Kelly: Cisco Community Central: Enterprise Social Software : Pushing The Reset Button On How We Look At “Collaboration”

Mike Gotta: Collaboration: The Long Journey

Written by tstaley

October 23, 2010 at 6:55 am

Collaboration vs. Communication?

It is interesting to think of collaboration and communication as separate things. How could we collaborate without communication? Yes, as Mike Gotta points out, you can communicate without any sense of collaboration (typical journalistic news, for example), but the opposite is not the case.

He makes the case that emerging social tools are helping rethink collaboration in a broader context of communication.

The way I look at “Collaboration 1.0” and “Collaboration 2.0” is the shift in focus from directed participation (represented by workspaces) to emergent participation (represented by communities and social networking). You could also generalize it as being a shift in focus from activity-centric collaboration to relationship-centric collaboration (which brings culture more to the forefront as well).

The point of the post, and the broader issue for enterprises thinking overly categorically about their systems, is that any collaborative solution should these days accommodate the myriad ways and channels in which we communicate – often around collaborative efforts. As Henry Jenkins wrote in a recent blog post, referred to by Mike Gotta:

More and more, people construct their own information and communication virtual “catch basins” – they are not dependent on any single channel or newspaper in the public sense – platform in the enterprise sense. Information and communication systems need to be designed to be porous – enabling information to be spreadable has become an incredibly valuable (and necessary) part of the user experience.

via Cisco Community Central: Enterprise Social Software : Pushing The Reset Button On How We Look At “Collaboration”.

Written by tstaley

October 19, 2010 at 7:30 am

Social Media Humanization

Nice article in Social Media Explorer on how social media messages from businesses can be just as impersonal as traditional messaging. It includes a set of approaches that can humanize a social media presence, largely about showing the faces and identities of people behind the messages.

Social Media Humanization.

Written by tstaley

October 8, 2010 at 6:39 am

George Lakoff: On Environmental Communication

Sobering synopsis by George Lakoff of his recent work into the failures of progressive and environmental activists to be effective in their communication. This includes insights such as:

  • All politics is moral: “Parts of the conservative moral system contradict environmental values — Man over Nature, Laissez-faire markets, personal not social responsibility, etc. Environmental values derive from a moral system centered on empathy and social responsibility.”
  • “Moral Versus Merely Factual Arguments. Facts matter. But for their importance to be communicated at all, they must be framed in moral terms. Facts by themselves are not meaningful to most people. Just arguing the science of global warming is not effective. If done defensively, it can be self-defeating.”
  • “Systemic Causation and Risk. Every language represents direct causation in its grammar. No language in the world represents systemic causation in its grammar. Yet both the global economy and global ecology are systemic in nature, with large-scale overall causes, positive and negative feedback loops, and so on. Systemic causation must be taught; it does not arise naturally as a concept. We must learn to think in systemic terms. Systemic risk is different from local risk.”

via George Lakoff: On Environmental Communication.

Written by tstaley

September 28, 2010 at 6:39 am

Posted in Communication

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Building Trust Without Being There in Person

Mashable’s post today, The Science of Building Trust With Social Media, discusses how to build trust in social media; it’s a useful, albeit incomplete, primer on good online behavior. The challenge they address is that, without body language and other non-verbal cues, it’s often difficult to convey the full meaning and intention of our messages.

The point of the article distills down to two principles:

  • Responsiveness: in the absence of being able to convey the qualitative aspects of your message, it’s important to respond promptly. A long lag before responding conveys indifference.
  • The response medium hierarchy: Video is more effective than audio, and audio is more effective than plain text. I guess this is obvious, because the richer media enable more of the non-explicit communication, like stance and tone.

There are good examples of each of these principles well-executed, from Southwest Airlines’ response to Kevin Smith, to Governor Schwartzenegger’s video message of thanks to Twitterers.

In the spirit of the previous post, about “cheapening” the value of words, I’d also like to add one more principle. It will completely betray my age, I suppose, but I still think spelling and grammar matters. Why? Because poor construction of a message glaringly indicates your unconcern for the message, and therewith the recipient. If you respect your audience, they are worth the effort to re-read your message before sending.

Having said that, I’m certain to inadvertently spice my messages for the rest of the day with typos and other errors 🙂 .

Written by tstaley

February 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Communication as a Continuous Process

Conversation Agent: The “Fall in Love” and “Now I Know You” Effects.

This is a thoughtful article, with references to further reading that sounds compelling. The concept of relationships as a dynamic, continuous process of giving and taking certainly makes sense. It gets a little deeper when he cites Toru Sato writes in his psychology book The Ever Transcending Spirit:

According to Sato, communication is a continuous process of breaking down and rebuilding our self-esteem. People change. People’s circumstances change. People’s desires change. In order to keep any relationship working, we need to be constantly open to those changes and adjust accordingly each moment we interact.

It raises the question for organizations seeking to fully engage online with their customers, partners, stakeholders: how to be responsive, open to input and changes, while still presenting a consistent and reliable persona?

An interesting case in point about the (perceived) risk of this kind of radical openness to input/feedback: I was doing taxes this weekend – online, in TurboTax. On the right side of the screen was an area called “Ask the Community”. This is a nice, simple way to allow other users to support each other. But last night, one of the questions that appeared in the box was from an indignant user, very unhappy about the program. “This is the stupidest online system I have ever seen!”

The effect on me – since I was having a fine experience – was actually positive. I appreciated that Intuit allowed unfiltered feedback – and face it, there will always be flamers having a bad day (I recently had such a bad day when trying to start a blog on Typepad – I sent a pointed email to support, but if I knew it would have been viewed by the general public, I doubt it would have been so brusque). I must admit, that when I went back to find the exact text of the message – TurboTax lets you look at all recent questions – it must have been removed from the list.

Getting back to the continuous conversation idea… It may be easy for a company to treat their web presence like a billboard – something that you create and make public, and then forget. A lesson I’m continuously trying to learn is how to stay awake – online and receptive – a higher percentage of the time. It’s easy to muster your creative resources for short spurts of energy, deliver something, then slip back into relative quietude. Engaging online requires more work, and continuous effort. Staying in real conversation – not just spouting marketing platitudes and approved talking points – requires a person or a company to be more fully “on”. It also makes it hard to take a vacation – are you prepared to tend to the conversation round-the-clock?

If done right, of course, you can create an actual “community” (not just a label applied to an unallied group of people), and there will be many voices working on your behalf. Still, you can’t fall asleep – this is an always-on world, with more information being shared than you may be comfortable with. Don’t hide behind slogans, but make sure you are sincere, supportive, positive and helpful. Your attitude becomes your brand far more effectively than your advertising slogan or company tagline.

Written by tstaley

March 9, 2009 at 4:51 pm