Monday, March 31, 2008

What corporations should not do on twitter

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more corporations moving into the twitter arena:. @oracle, @capgemini, @accenture, etc. I’ve been thinking whether this is really an appropriate usage for this technology. Many of these corporations just use their tweets to either announce blogs or use the platform as a mechanism to make PR-like announcements. This usage is probably more useful in an RSS feed. Some might say that the misuse of twitter to publicize such events is an attempt to use twitter as an aggregator for social networks and RSS feeds. Personally, I use twitter for a more personal reason – I like to see what people are doing and thinking. As I follow Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), I like to see what he is doing (who he is visiting, etc.). Based on his tweets, you can understand how his ideas develop and you can help influence his ideas.

Of course, behind many of these corporate accounts is one or more individuals impersonating the corporation. In my opinion, this really doesn’t make any sense. A corporate account can’t tweet about a few crazy ideas about Facebook or ask you where he/she should stay in San Francisco. For me, twitter is personal – as my followers grow I can interact with these individuals on a personal basis. Interaction with a corporation at the same level is impossible.

If I want to complain about Macy’s, then an exchange of tweets with @Macys twitter user is probably going to be unsatisfying. I can exchange tweets with others in my social network about a particular product or corporation. If I want to interact with a corporation, there are better environments such as GetSatisifaction. As James Governor (@monkchips) once said, twitter must be fun.

If you want to represent your corporation in twitter, then it is probably better to personalize your account @acme_marketing for the Marketing director of Acme widgets. Still better might be a real person with a profile that links with your company. When I check the profile for this user, I’d like to see a real name of someone and an twitter avatar with a picture of a person. If users are looking for your company, they will find you via other search-related means.

If you are planning to use twitter as a corporation, be aware of the expectations that accompany its usage. Twitter is not a blog – it is a lifestream whose usage is much more intensive. Followers expect multiple tweets per day and to see that those being followed respond to interaction request by followers. Thus, it would be unexpected to see a CEO to use twitter - although this would definitely be an interesting experience.

I just found the Editorial Policy Guidance Note from the BBS regarding their presence on social networks. In this policy, it emphasizes the importance of "conversations, participate online; don’t “broadcast” messages to users". I then checked out @bbc on twitter and discovered that it is just a news feed. I don't consider this a "conversation".

I obviously see a value in corporations joining twitter but such an association must be based on the environment’s unique characteristics and not the usual assumptions that accompany traditional marketing campaigns.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The effect of relationship type on social networks

If you look at social networks (Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), you will see that they are usually based on relationships between individuals and on occasion (corporations). These relationships are based on individuals with common characteristics and are purely voluntary. Individuals represent themselves. They can act as experts on various topics or provide advice.
Usually relationships in social networks are very loose. Involved users don't have to use their real name and may join and leave the network as they please without experiencing any real penalties. Although certain behavior is frowned upon, the worse that can happen is that their account for that network is deleted.

There are, however, a variety of other types of relationships in which we as individuals are involved. For example, a user may represent his corporation when collaborating with other individuals from other corporations. In such a relationship, there are certain legal requirements that must be met in order for such collaboration to even take place. There are governance issues. Before such individuals can interact, there must be legal agreements that must be present - or there must be some common agreement regarding which rules (moral, etc.) are valid and which must be followed. In a collaborative project environment in which individuals work together, there will be a big difference between environments in which individuals can come and go as they wish (such as open source development projects) and situations where individuals have a certain responsibility (regarding commitment of time and materials) that must be met.

This idea isn't just restricted to corporate cooperation. What about a social network from a clinic that is based on group therapy between an experienced therapist and a group of out-clinic patients. If the group understands that the therapist is obligated by his legal responsibility to not pass the discussed information on to others, the patients may be more willing to speak freely. Thus, such a "closed" group bounded by a legal document / responsibility might be much more effective than a normal chat room.

What effects can different relationship characteristics have on social network technology? One impact may be linked to admittance to the social network itself or to certain parts of the social network. For example, in order to join certain groups, users are required to provide certain legal documents that act as a "governance gate" and which spell out the restrictions and expectations of joining the network.

Thus, it can be expected that as social networks on the Internet expand in their popularity than such networks will expand to include other types of relationships. The technology involved must also change to meet these new restrictions. For example, interaction with other systems (for example archives from notary publics or attorneys) where the presence of documents may be checked. Another possible scenario involves the use of other authentication schemes (besides username/password) where the real identification of users (perhaps via PKI or other stronger methods of authentication) is known.

Currently, this necessary changes in existing social network software is usually the result of custom development work. There is definitely potential here for niche players to move into this area.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tag clouds for active bloggers // Oracle vs SAP approaches to community blogging

I just checked out the Oracle's page for the community bloggers for the Oracle Technology Network .

What is interesting is to see that there is a clear division between Oracle employees and non- Oracle employees. There is also a mixture of blogs and external blogs. It is also tough to see if these are Oracle or OTN blogs.

What is very cool is the widget which allows you to see a tag cloud of the most active bloggers.

What is even better is that you can change the timeline to see who has been most active over a ceratin date range. I find this is bvery useful to get a quick impression of how active the community is.
Ideas for SDN might include tag clouds based on category (might be easy to implement since most blogs are associated with 1 or more categories) or what about tag clouds from blog comments.

Changing course on the SAP SDN Blogger Juggernaut

In a recent comment to a short blog on SDN, SDN evangelist Craig Cmehil commented on a new direction that SAP is currently pushing in its over 1 million member strong community. If I hadn’t been reading Craig’s tweets on twitter, I would never would have read his comment.
Welcome to the blogging world here on SDN and BPX, normally a post like this would never have been approved but it was Friday and I just rejected around 72 blogs this week due to content, lack of content or content better suited to a Wiki than a blog.

Welcome to the blogging world here on SDN and BPX, normally a post like this would never have been approved but it was Friday and I just rejected around 72 blogs this week due to content, lack of content or content better suited to a Wiki than a blog.

Sure many people here are not going ot be happy that this was posted, it's basically not what the community expects. But I felt the title and the timing was pretty good.
We are working together with the moderators to push more of the FAQ and "how to" content into the wiki and not have them here as blogs anymore.

This blog was a good start in the direction that many of the community has been asking for experiences of real life with a personal touch. So as I've welcomed your first blog don't let me down on your next one - we want substance, the good stuff from your personal experiences!

No more simple FAQ's, code samples, or How To's your blogs need to attract readers to them, you have to explain why it is that you are telling us what you are telling us!


Now why do I feel that this comment is important. If you look at majority of blogs on SDN, many contain a highly technical content that describe how the blogger has solved a particular problem. This tendency is present in bloggers from SAP (see the current highlighted series of blogsby Benny Schaich-Lebek - which I must say is excellent -) and non-SAP bloggers (including many blogs written by myself). However, as Craig suggests, the question arises if this content is really appropriate for community blogs. To answer this question it is important to look at how blogs are defined (of course, there are many definitions of what a blog should contain - perhaps as many different definitions as there are bloggers). A blog is usually more of an opinion piece - something personal.

I also agree that much of these To-Dos are better located in the wiki where other people can adapt them based on their own experiences. (Take a look at this intriguing new use on the wiki to deal with CE trouble-shooting to see some of potential of the wiki to deal with technical issues.)
There are however certain challenges associated with this shift from blogs to the wiki:
  • One reason blogs are written is that there are more points associated with a blog post rather than a forum post. This is of course correct based on the fact that blogs usually require more work. Points in the wiki are currently not so well understood - indeed, the very nature of the wiki makes giving points a real challenge. It is currently the case that users must currently request points for their work in the wiki. Furthermore, the ability to comment on content - one of the most important features in blogging - is difficult to use in the current wiki-based environment.
  • A shift to the wiki must also impact other areas of SDN. Selected blogs are always highlighted on the front page of SDN and BPX. I‘ve never seen a wiki entry with a picture of the author on the front page.
  • This shift of blog content to the wiki must impact all bloggers (irregardless of whether they are „Expert Bloggers“ or „beginner bloggers“. Maybe, there should be some way that users can vote on which blogs might be appropriate for the wiki.
  • There has to be a better description of what content is wiki content and which content is more appropriate for blogs. If I blog a story about a Visual Composer problem that I solved, is this a blog or a wiki entry. If this is a wiki entry where does it go in the wiki? Who decides that it is a wiki entry, the moderator for that topic? For example, I‘m unsure of where to publish this blog. So I‘ve decided to publish it on my personal blog and on SDN.
    Since BPX-related blogs usually don‘t have a „How to“ character will there soon be more BPX-related blogs in the community blogs?
  • We should remember that SDN is a „developer“ community as evidenced by its name. Any change regarding blogs shouldn‘t have the affect of intimidating any community members who wish to contribute - maybe for the first time - and are now uncertain. (Maybe, there should be blogger mentors??).

Irregardless of what happens, I think this editorial change reflects a shift from a community that is largely technical in nature to more of a social network where other aspects of our relationships with one another are also important. I welcome the change and I think it reflects the maturity of this community.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Finnegan's Wake in Twitter: New forms of fiction

If you try and define twitter and distinguish it from other types of communication, one thing that has always fascinated me that tweets could be seen as snippets from someone's thoughts. Sort of like James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake where you can read someone's thoughts. In twitter, you can act as a voyeur (as a casual follower) and just read what the others are saying / thinking: or you can also communicate with them and join in / effect their thought process.
The opportunity exists for a new type of fiction based on tweets. If you look at current attempts to use twitter to create fiction, the usual attempt is to create a work of fiction based on the individual tweets of interested participants . In my opinion, this really doesn't capture the true essence of twitter.
I am imagining a another type of fiction based on twitter where you jump into a story by reading the tweets that characters are writing - real time. Picture a story of a political campaign in which the two candidates create tweets that express their thoughts before certain events - a television debate or an election. Followers could just read and enjoy or they could contribute to the story with tweets of their own reflecting their role as campaign manager or television moderator or voter who is getting ready to cast his vote. Or another story might concern a murder mystery where the murderer and the detective each reflect on the "hunt" and "chase". Users could take over characters such as a television reporter covering story, etc. Of course, you might have sort of a War of the worlds effect where uninformed followers might think these were real thoughts. If you had too many people tweeting on the story line (maybe using #hashtags to coordinate things. Of course, the created story may get out of control if too may people start getting involved but hey life is complicated / chaotic as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are all members of my social network(s) equal?

I was thinking about Charlene Li's blog about social networks (Yes, again) and one paragraph stuck in my mind where Charlene talks about the possible uses of my social network in shopping environments.
Instead, I want to see reviews from my friends when I’m in the book buying process – on sites like and It would mean a lot more for you to look at the Groundswell page on Amazon, and because you’re sign-in with your email address, be able to see any review a friend has written about the book – even if it’s on their personal blogs. That’s the epitome of social networks being like air, when it’s integrated into everything that you do.

I like the idea of the social network being relevant in a particular context (I've blogged about this in corporate settings). If I'm shopping for books, I want to see the book reviews of people in my network. Of course, the problem comes about when I have a huge social network such as that of twitter where I may have thousand of friends. If I have to dig through all those reviews, I'd go crazy. Not only do I have different social networks (perhaps this is just a current restriction of the plethora of social network sites which are available and which don't often share members amongst themselves), I also have different relationships with members of these networks. Some might be personal friends, some might be co-workers, etc.

Furthermore, I may have some personal understanding of the qualities of the members of my social networks. For example, some members share my tastes in music, others have similar interests in books. My impressions of these individuals may also be different from other members of their social networks. I don't know whether these are "sub-networks" of my existing networks ("Facebook friends who have similar interest in Chinese cooking") or new networks. The thought that such networks could exist in the social network cloud (members from LinkedIn combined with Facebook and twitter) is also interesting. Of course, a meta-social network is difficult in that there are many niche social network sites whose collected data reflects their specific interest area (A site focusing at soccer-related networks probably will not acquire information about which books members have read).

Returning to Charlene's example of interaction of social networks in the shopping context, I think that it would much more appropriate to get advice from the select few who taste in books are similar to mine rather than the book reviews of all those individuals in my social network (although this could be provided if desired).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Web 2.0 Ideas on user-provided information

Just read a blog about CityIn which is a Chinese social networking site that lets users identify the brands in which they are interested and then identifies content and relationships based on these selection. This reminds me of Tim O'Reily's speech at the SAP TechEd in Las Vegas in which he describes the importance of having user's create their content and add value to corporate data already present. I heard a podcast this morning about a new start up called SizeMeUp that attempts to deal with the fact that sizes often don't match between stores or brands - just because you wear a size 8 in one brand of jeans doesn't mean that you will be the same size in another brand. The service allows users to describe the various size of clothes that fit them (based on particular brands in their closet) and then uses this information when users shop. I found the idea intriguing in that the more users join and provide information, the better the data will be for all. As Tim suggested, users are more willing to provide information with the knowledge that they will benefit in some way.

The challenge for other Web 2.0 based services is finding the information that users can provide that has a value and fits the corporate environment. If you provide a product and users can provide information (comments, etc.) that may affect the product characteristics of an item whose design, manufacture process takes 8 months or longer, then users don't see the immediate payback and may be reluctant to provide information. Unless they might see how their information effects the design process. An idea: what about providing users the ability to follow their ideas in the corporate landscape - "your idea is now being examined by our marketing dept", etc.

Of course, collecting the sizes on pairs of pants is not the same as collecting information on a piece of industrial machinery. First of all, the number of users who finds this information relevant is - in comparison limited - and what sort of information should such users provide. How they use the tool, CAD drawings, etc. Pants sizes and brands are easy to collect and process. One idea could be based on the collection of data from machines they already have.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Twitter-like systems in corporate environments

I was thinking about the use of a twitter-like environment in a corporate setting that would allow users to send tweets that contained more „appropriate“ (at least in a corporate setting) content than those usually sent in Twitter. Users working on particular projects might keep their followers abreast of their activities (creating marketing proposal for customer x, working on CAD design for Ford Viper 10 air intake value, etc.). Those users who wish to comment could then send a tweet back with advice, comments, etc.

This is of course the goal of most corporate uses of social network technology. Managers know that there will probably be some degree of „personal“ traffic in such environments. Those tweets that are of a more collaborative character will be critical in efficiently using the knowledge and experience of its workforce. Once those individuals who grow up using this technology enters the workforce in greater force then such behavior/opportunities for collaboration will be acceptable and expected in corporate settings.

One critical issue will be the creation of the social networks in the corporate setting. Will individuals be allowed to create their own? Will the corporation add individuals with a certain profile (same division, same customer, etc.) to an employee‘s network in order to achieve the desired efficiency. This might be expected inasmuch as the huge number of potential followers in a global company will be unknown to the individual employee. I‘ve talked about one variation of „dynamic“ creation of social networks in a corporate setting in one of my SDN blogs. There are probably of variety of other options available depending on industry and corporate culture.

Social context for activities: The corporate angle

I just read Charlene Li's blog at Forrester entitled "The future of social networks: Social networks will be like air" and I was reminded of a blog I wrote on SAP's SDN on the relevance of social networks (even private ones) in a corporate setting. Charlene writes: "That’s the epitome of social networks being like air, when it’s integrated into everything that you do. " and although she is primarily talking about the use of social networks in other private contexts, I think it is just as valid to say that as our private and "corporate" personalities merge and have greater interaction with one another that is just as relevant to think about business applications that use our private social networks and vice-versa.
Of course, there may be some who suggest that there might not be a difference between my "private" social network and my "corporate" one. I agree. As Charlene describes it in her blog, her Forrester colleagues are also part of her network. I would assume that some customers as well are present. Thus, there is not really a distinction between the two.
In a corporate setting, the question is what types of corporate decisions are relevant in an examination of this use of social networks. Of course, you probably wouldn't want to include your entire social network in every purchasing decision you made. But what about decisions regarding product selection or marketing. Would you / could you (sort of sounds like Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham), use Twitter to send out questions regarding a product. To your "personal" followers....

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Book list: 2008-03

I'm currently reading:
  • MashupCorporation - A good book that includes a fictional corporation going through some technology-related changes.
  • Book of Salt - Novel about a cooking and a Vietnamese cook for Gertrud Stein
  • Water Babies: A classic children's tale by Charles Kingsley from 1917 that has loads of details about rural life in the England of the time.

Thoughts on Twitter and ITunes Integration

What about a closer association between iTunes and Twitter. You could tweet not what you are curently listening to (see Steve Clifford's Current-Track-to-Twitter for the Macintosh ) which might occur automatically but I think a more interesting approach might include your quick (two words) review of the content (either song, tv show, etc.) that you have just consumed.

Integration on a song level might overflow your followers and might be time-conmsuming, so albums might be better.

You'd have to look at privacy issues as well if you started streaming your iTunes content in the background. Remember the problems that Facebook had.

If you were looking at a windows box, the ITunes API -which appears to be based on COM- could be accessed via JAVA and combined with the Twitter API.

The Red Lion or creativity is difficult

I often tell my oldest daughter bedtime stories. Long ago, I started telling stories based on the adventures of the “Red Lion” - a lion that walk and talks like a human. I created a whole world populated with friends, acquaintances and locations that I always included. To give my daughter an active part of the story-telling process, she could select the title of that evening’s adventure. Based on her suggestion, I would then create an adventure.
Often a I noticed that it was often a challenge to create interesting stories based on her selection. On occasion, I just didn’t want to tell a story about the Red Lion. I preferred to read a book aloud. I started thinking about why was the tendency occurred.

I realized that the creative process takes energy. It isn’t always easy to do. It doesn’t matter whether the creative act involves a new product idea, a story for your kids, or a new fashion design. You have to be in the mood to be creative. You can’t always be “on” and pump out creativity. You can’t force ideas to come - you have to create a conducive environment - which is different for everyone.

If you are able to discover the characteristics of this personal environment, you have won a true gift. This gift can be used for your company to develop ideas with corporate value or for personal gains. For me, the end product of the idea is of secondary importance. The fact that the idea is not wasted is the critical aspect. How you define “wasted” is another interesting question. Is the fact that the you forget an idea mean that it is wasted? Or is the fact that you write it down and down tell others about it. Is this a waste?