Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Clueless: Social networking and enterprise software

Dan Farber & Larry Dignan at ZD-Net have a good read on the race to "drop" social networking ways of working into legacy and legacy thinking sort of applications: Social networking: Quietly being subsumed by your everyday apps

Increasingly, social networking is looking like a feature more than a business. There will be big ramifications to consider as social networking becomes integrated into your everyday applications.

I don't think this strategy stands a ghost of a chance of succeeding. People who think that social networking is about "feature sets" are sorely misguided. It is way more about the culture and values that have been baked-in to these environments. Mess with the culture, and you break the conditions which give these applications their magic.

I've said it before, but I will say it again, what we see happening in the social networking space is more about values than software. If you don't understand the values inherent in these applications you are doomed to failure. It is obvious to me that the people trying to add these "features" to existing software haven't a clue what they are doing. The future is not a hybrid of the old and new-- it's completely different.

Trying to mix social-networking into a hierarchical command-and-control framework is like trying to mix oil and water. Mark my words-- these hybrid attempts are headed toward a colossal failure.


Anonymous said...

More reason to use frameworks like facebook or OpenSocial to build applications upon. It gives the developer flexibility and a clearer focus on the actual application/delivered value as opposed to trying to mix in the social aspect from scratch.

Floyd Davenport said...


I agree about the cultural issues, although I won't claim to understand them all. I still have a question of integration and leverage.

Web 2.0 is about valuing people. Extension should fit nicely into this framework.

Are we considering levels of social networking, not recreating Facebook, but adding options for collaboration - and possibly easy integration into external networks?

Kevin Gamble said...

Good questions. I don't normally (or ever) talk about work here. So I will try to keep this response generic.

Social networking is mostly about helping people to make connections. Anything that gets in the way of that -- roles, rules, trust, inequalities, lack of transparency, extrinsic motivators... are all things that damage trust and inhibit the ability for people to connect.

I'm thinking organizations need to embrace the values of transparency and openness internally before they try them with their clients. You have to walk the talk.

As you know, I'm an advocate of what I have been calling the Seaman Knapp strategy. I believe that the communities already exist and that universities should be working directly with those communities. So you shouldn't attempt to recreate Facebook, not that you could. I don't think it is realistic to expect people to leave their existing communities. The university should be going to the people.

Nebulous enough? :)