SRI Report: Social Media for Enterprise Learning


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SRI Report: Social Media for Enterprise Learning

  1. 1. o LD Learning on DemandBulletinFirst Quarter 2004Eilif Trondsen; e-mail: and Alex Gault( Tom Hill, Marcelo Hoffmann, Thomas M. McKennaLearning Implications of Social-NetworkingTechnology and ServicesSome people who oppose eLearning worry that eLearning may be too technologyfocused and may leave insufficient room for the social element of learning—theperson-to-person interaction and communication. This concern exists despiteevidence that a learner who spends an hour or two in an intense, interactivesimulation can have a far more productive and enjoyable experience than one whosits in a large lecture hall listening to a teacher’s monologue (which is still thepredominant way of teaching in most universities and colleges around the world).Nevertheless, social interaction, dialogue, and discussion with others can beimportant ways of creating rich and satisfying learning experiences for mostlearners. Thus, some of the new tools, technologies, and services that help buildsocial networks and enable and support social interaction can complementeLearning programs and improve learning effectiveness. In the past few years, especially during 2003, a number of companies haveemerged that offer social-networking services and technologies, and these playershave generated considerable interest in the popular press as well as in the venture-capitalist industry. Another category of companies that contribute to socialnetworking—by identifying and locating experts (and thus facilitating personalcontacts and network building)—focuses on so-called expertise-locator systems(see Figure 1). This LoD Bulletin examines how these companies and theirtechnologies may affect learning. All companies and technologies that enable or strengthen personalrelationships and networks (so-called social-networking companies, or SNCs) candirectly or indirectly influence learning—by providing easier access to knowledgeresources, for instance—but this Bulletin focuses on business-related learningenvironments. Companies like Friendster, which has had considerable success inhelping people find dates through friends of friends, are therefore of less interest tous than those that target companies, government agencies, universities, alumniorganizations, and other organizations. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Figure 1 SELECTED SOCIAL-NETWORKING AND ENTERPRISE-LOCATOR COMPANIES Expertise-Locator and -Management Systems • Tacit ( Enterprise-Relationship Management Professional Networking • Kamoon ( • Spoke ( • LinkedIn • AskMe ( • Visible Path ( • Xpert Universe ( • eCademy ( • Interface ( • Autonomy ( ( • Ryze ( • Entopia ( Gaming Meetings • Xfire ( • Meetup Affecting Learning ( by Enabling and Strengthening Personal Relationships and Media Sharing Network Building Social Networks • Flickr ( • ( • Wallop • Orkut ( (* • ICQ Universe ( Dating • Friendster ( • ( • Yahoo Personals ( • Friendfinder (* Microsoft developed and runs Wallop.Source: Small World Ventures; SRI Consulting Business Intelligence (SRIC-BI) The latter type of SNC can affect learning in the following ways: • By identifying experts and mapping enterprise-network dynamics. Companies that focus on business networking or provide expertise-location technologies can contribute to knowledge discovery in organizations. Clearly, organizations could operate more effectively and efficiently if they knew what they know: Most large organizations have great difficulty finding the right people, data, or documents when they need them. Thus, some vendors now offer tools and technologies for mapping communication flows within organizations and for determining what roles people play (see the box on page 3 for a brief discussion of network analysis). © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 2
  3. 3. • By improving the effectiveness of processes for capturing tacit knowledge and informal learning. One area of learning in which face-to-face and personal contact is particularly important is the ability to access tacit knowledge (knowledge that is difficult to explain in conversation or in written form). Experts with long experience in a particular domain know instinctively how to perform complex tasks but often cannot clearly explain or describe what they do or how they do it. Only by observing and working closely with an expert can learners tap into such knowledge. Establishing personal relationships and gaining access to experts through formal or informal networks—and establishing trust between people—are important to transfer tacit knowledge.• By enabling and extending loosely coupled networks. Most people belong to one or more networks inside and outside the workplace, and SNCs can help strengthen existing network relationships or build new ones. Research studies by IBM and others show that “loosely coupled” networks—those among people with “weak ties”—are particularly important for innovation. Thus, stimulating and supporting such networks can result in high-payoff learning activities.• By helping organizations build and strengthen communities of practice (CoPs). Numerous companies in the oil, pharmaceutical, and other industries have found that communities of practice are effective tools for learning and knowledge sharing. Technologies that enable organizations to map communication flows and interactions (and that can identify individuals and groups with insufficient ties to other parts of the organization) can help build and strengthen CoPs and thus improve both individual and organizational learning. Systems that help identify experts in critical areas of need can also build CoPs. THE LEARNING IMPLICATIONS OF NETWORK ANALYSIS Social-network analysis has a long tradition, especially in the social sciences. Some analysts have developed tools and methodologies to map and display visually the social networks in organizations. Karen Stephenson, professor in Harvard University’s School of Design and Imperial College’s School of Management at the University of London, is one of the leading researchers doing in-depth studies of corporations. She has mapped communications and interactions to examine the true dynamics of organizations. Organizational charts clarify formal reporting relationships in companies, but they seldom capture the true dynamics of people’s communications and interactions in an organization. Typically, people participate in a number of overlapping networks that help determine how work actually takes place. (These networks also reveal important elements of an organization’s culture, according to Stephenson: “A network is the invisible structure of culture.”) Ignorance of the workings of these informal networks can be disastrous: One study that analyzed the impact of reengineering efforts describes a number of companies that removed people who played important and unrecognized roles (as “key nodes”) in the organization’s informal networks. Below are some of the insights and findings of Stephenson’s work, in which she conducted extensive interviews of employees in a number of firms (from “Quantum Theory of Trust” at an interview of Karen Stephenson by Art Kleiner; and “What Knowledge Tears Apart, Networks Make Whole” in Internal Communication Focus, No. 36): • Organizational-network diagrams depict informal networks and the circulation of information— revealing how one can intervene more effectively to improve organizational effectiveness. Often, powerful networkers play key roles in organizations but don’t show up on organizational charts. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 3
  4. 4. THE LEARNING IMPLICATIONS OF NETWORK ANALYSIS—Concluded • “The association between trust and learning is an instrument of vast, if frequently untapped, organizational power” (Kleiner), and informal social networks in organizations build and strengthen trust. (Building trust is especially important in organizations whose social fabric has weakened because of layoffs, outsourcing, restructuring, and management crises.) • A “direct cognitive connection [exists] between the amount of trust in an organization and its members’ ability to develop and deploy tacit knowledge together.” (Kleiner) • “Tacit knowledge is shared through formal and non-formal networks which bond and motivate people within the organization.” (Stephenson in Internal Communication Focus) • The “connections, or networks, of trust are the veins of a natural resource of knowledge, a honeycomb of collective consciousness which is mined for hidden sources of innovation. The challenge is to detect them, render them visible, understand their underlying structure and leverage them to increase productivity.” (Stephenson in Internal Communication Focus) In Making Democracy Work (1993)—see The Encyclopedia of Informal Education at—Robert Putnam and his colleagues dealt primarily with networks of civil engagement. However, the following insights from their work have learning implications for corporate and social networks. The authors conclude that networks of civil engagement: • Increase the potential costs to the defector in any transaction. Opportunism puts at risk the benefits people expect to receive from all the other transactions in which they participate. • Foster robust norms of reciprocity. People who act in many social contexts are likely to develop strong norms for acceptable behavior and to convey their expectations to others. The network of relationships reinforces these norms. • Facilitate communication and improve the flow of information about the trustworthiness of individuals. Networks allow reputations to develop and spread. All else being equal, the greater the communication among participants, the greater will be their mutual trust and the more easily they will cooperate. • Embody past success in collaboration to provide a culturally defined template for future collaboration. Continuity allows use of past informal solutions.Primer on Social-Networking Services, Technologies, and PlayersRecent buzz about social-networking services (especially in California’s San Francisco Bay Area,where many SNCs have headquarters) has led some people to wonder if we are entering a miniboom-and-bust cycle. Many SNCs currently seek to help individuals connect to each other (tofriends of friends) for purposes like dating (see Table 1). But a number of other companies aretargeting organizations with the value proposition of helping them discover and connect peopleinside organizations or uncover hidden and useful relationships and resources. Such services meeta growing need—especially in large, multinational, and highly distributed organizations—to cutthrough reams of information to connect quickly to the right people to deal with specific andurgent business problems. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 4
  5. 5. Making such connections and building social and professional networks inside and outside organizations to locate expertise on demand can produce value in the following ways: • Cost savings. Numerous studies show that organizations spend significant time and money searching for information or experts within their operations. Because wasted time is increasingly costly, a technology that streamlines knowledge discovery can produce a quick financial payback. • Revenue generation. Innovation and discovery of new business opportunities call for connecting with the right people and resources at the right time, and a number of the companies in Table 1 have technologies and services that can simplify this task and produce significant top-line benefits. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, can boost their revenue by millions of dollars by bringing a product to market a month or two earlier than they otherwise would. The fact that many of the companies in Table 1 serve pharmaceutical and other life-sciences clients is no coincidence. Table 1 SELECTED SOCIAL-NETWORKING AND EXPERTISE-LOCATOR COMPANIESCompany(Location) DescriptionRyze (San • Has become a favorite social-networking destination for freelancers and entrepreneursFrancisco,CA) • Has a stronger community orientation than other services (enabling members to establish new communities easily), with some very large communities and other small, inactive ones • Coordinates some 30 networking events each month in different citiesLinkedIn • Offers a relationship-building application for business that targets more senior professionals(Mountain than other services doView, CA) • Runs an online invitation-only networking service and gives members control of information • Has a bottom-up structure, with members submitting contactsSpoke • Hosts a social-networking and relationship-building application for business and hasSoftware technology for work groups(Palo Alto,CA) • Works top down, with software pulling contacts from workers’ e-mails, contact lists, and online calendars; rates the strength of relationships • Requires members’ permission for connectionsInterface • Through its InterAction service, pulls information from proprietary databases and publicSoftware records—and thus has one of the largest databases of potential contacts(Oak Brook,IL) • Maps connections between people to promote specific business or social goals • Lacks the privacy protections and gate-keeping methods of LinkedIn and SpokeZeroDegrees • Gained visibility in early March 2004, when Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp—which owns(West numerous online businesses in e-commerce and entertainment—acquired ZeroDegreesHollywood,CA) • Focuses on business professionals and therefore competes directly with LinkedIn, Ryze, and Spoke, among others © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 5
  6. 6. Table 1—ContinuedCompany(Location) DescriptionVisible Path • Like Spoke Software, uses client software that pulls data from contact-management(New York, databases, e-mail accounts, calendars, directories, and elsewhereNY) • Compares people’s contact information and organizes maps of connections that are searchable by name, company, or job functioneCademy • Is a focused business network community with a heavy emphasis on user-generated(Surrey, content, including articles, Web logs, and message posts in “clubs” (discussion forums)England) • Offers extensive face-to-face networking events • In mid-March 2004, had 80% of members from the United Kingdom but launched U.S. eCademy in March 2004 and has clubs around the world • Serves primarily entrepreneurs, business coaches, consultants, and sales and business- development professionals—most of whom work with business-to-business products and servicesKamoon (Fort • Through its Connect Expert product, provides expertise profiling and expert location that isLee, NJ) accessible through portals, e-mail, or a Web browser • With the addition of Connect Enterprise, offers question-and-answer management as well as knowledge capture and reuse • Through the Connect Actions product, lets organizations build virtual communities around projects, meeting agendas, and other business activities to improve execution across organizational boundaries • In mid-2003, formed an alliance with IBM to improve integration of Lotus’s Sametime collaboration software with Kamoon’s products and thereby allow for online-presence awareness and instant collaborationAlwaysOn • Allows members to build and maintain professional, personal profile, and peer networks inNetwork (San “AO Zaibatsu,” as well as to create personal mini-blog sites with personalized AlwaysOnFrancisco, Web addressesCA) • Enables members to find new business partners, industry experts, and friends and to view and post messages and send private e-mails to friends and members of groups in the AO Zaibatsu • Through the AlwaysOn Web site, offers a wide range of resources, including information about events, classified ads, and an online storeAskMe • Uses business rules, work-flow analysis, business analytics, autoprofiling knowledge(Bellvue, WA) delivery, and best-practice engines to create and manage employee-knowledge networks • Searches stored profiles of company experts to match users’ needs with available company expertise • Examines ratings of experts’ answers as well as experts’ workload before suggesting experts to users • Has a long and impressive list of clients around the world © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 6
  7. 7. Table 1—ConcludedCompany(Location) DescriptionEntopia • Offers technology solutions that leverage business context, concepts, and social activity(Redwood relating to enterprisewide content to discover and deliver content and expertise automaticallyShores, CA) and dynamically • Analyzes activities relating to information and personal and business/application contexts to determine the relevance of search results • Combines its dynamic expertise location with its visualization techniques in Entopia Social Networks Analysis, which identifies the social networks within an enterprise that relate to a specific topicAutonomy • Provides a software infrastructure that automates operations on unstructured information—(San providing automatic profiling, expertise management, information delivery, and collaborationFrancisco, networksCA) • Creates profiles by analyzing users’ browsing, content use, and content contribution and allows natural-language searches of profiles • Automatically builds collaboration networks that match users who have common interestsTacit (Palo • Automatically detects employees’ activities in real time, identifying relevant experience,Alto, CA) expertise, and potentially valuable business contacts • Uses a “brokering model” rather than a “publishing model” (common in knowledge management) to broker knowledge relationships • Alerts people to shared interests without identifying them, giving knowledge holders the opportunity to contact seekers directly or confidentially to decline (San • Allows members to join numerous “tribes,” build personal networks, obtain contactFrancisco, recommendations from friends, and join local eventsCA) • By mid-March 2004, had created 1611 music tribes, 412 health and wellness tribes, and 840 school and alumni tribes, along with a large number of tribes on other subjects • Enables searches for events within a certain distance from specific zip codes • Has a listing directory and in March 2004, announced a partnership with, a leading online career site with more than 16 million unique monthly • Provides a global platform to help people organize real-world group gatherings around(New York, topics of interest in thousands of cities worldwideNY) • Since launching in June 2002, has signed up more than 1 million people to Meetup in their neighborhoods • Gained visibility by helping launch Democrat Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaignSource: SRI Consulting Business Intelligence (SRIC-BI) © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 7
  8. 8. Table 1 lists many of the best-known players in the social-networking and expert-locationspace. Other companies in these markets include Verity, which provides “intelligent contentservices,” including search, classification, recommendation, monitoring/alerting, and question-and-answer interfaces; Livelink, which provides collaboration and content-management software,including virtual team collaboration, online meetings, business-process automation, enterprisegroup scheduling, and search services; and Tomoye, which offers software solutions to helpcompanies take advantage of their collective know-how by building better communities ofpractice. Companies like CommuniSpace and iCohere support social and professional networkingby providing technology platforms for building and supporting communities of practice, and manycompanies in the knowledge-management market provide technologies and services that supportsocial networking and expertise location. As SNCs search for the configuration of features and services—and the business model—thatcan bring sustainable revenue growth and profitability, they will likely pursue mergers andacquisitions and strategic alliances. Many of the companies in Table 1 are relatively recent start-ups, so the market needs time to sort out which companies will survive and in what form. Theideal configuration of service features will depend on the specific market and customer segmentthat a vendor targets (see the box just below for one venture capitalist’s view of the ideal serviceconfiguration). THE PERFECT SOCIAL-NETWORKING SERVICE Christopher Allen—founder of Alacrity Ventures, an angel capital-investment firm—offers the following vision of the perfect social-networking service: My ideal service would have the multiple professional affiliation features of LinkedIn, but also allow me to show non-professional affiliations. It would allow me to form intentional communities like, but would also let me do a Wiki [Wikis enable collective authoring of documents in a simple markup language using a Web browser] in addition to a message board. It would have meeting/party invite services like eVite, and blogging features like LiveJournal. It would have an endorsement system like LinkedIn integrated not only with professional endorsements, but personal endorsements as well, and you could even endorse intentional communities. It would let me better map and control my network, giving different friends different privileges. It would handle the release of my personal information like Ryse, but less clunky. (; 16 December 2003)Processes for Capturing Tacit Knowledge and Informal LearningSocial-networking technologies help identify and establish personal connections and thus can helpbuild both formal and informal networks. All organizations have formal structures and networks,but research by Karen Stephenson (at Harvard University and the University of London) andothers shows that informal networks play a particularly important role in the effective functioningof most organizations. Both formal and informal networks increasingly reach into the extendedenterprise and beyond. Thus, using social networks to establish closer links with externalindividuals and organizations can help the whole value chain operate efficiently (see Figure 2). © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 8
  9. 9. Figure 2 FORMAL AND INFORMAL NETWORKS INSIDE AND OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONSFormal Structure,Processes, and Mentoring Networks ThatReporting Relationships Combine Formal and Informal(Organization Charts) Networks and Relationships andFormal Networks Have the Sanction of the Organization gwith Internal and rinExternal Members to en M Potential for MentorsInformal and Social to Use Blogs, CreatingRelationships That an Important InformalAffect the Dynamics Communicationsof Organizations Channel and Enabling the Capture of KnowledgeInformal Networksof Employees,Including PeopleInside and Outsidethe Company Informal Networks of Employees with Members External to the CompanySource: SRIC-BI Karen Stephenson has found that in corporate networks, especially in the informal networks that influence how work actually takes place in most organizations, the personal trust that people build through network-based interaction and direct communication is critical to the success of networks. As trust builds in informal networks, the transfer of tacit knowledge improves (see Figure 3). Transferring tacit knowledge is difficult in traditional eLearning programs without face- to-face, social interaction. If social-network technologies can build and strengthen social networks, they will have an important impact on two key channels of workplace learning: informal learning and tacit learning. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 9
  10. 10. Figure 3 SOCIAL-NETWORKING TECHNOLOGY IN LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE SHARING Potential Role and Impact of SNT* • Formal training and education are only one • Enable more effective relatively small part of networking that in turn overall workplace learning. enables more informal • A growing part of informal learning. learning takes place during • Identify unknown learning (increasingly virtual) team- resources inside or outside and community-based firms. work. Learning • A range of tools and • Facilitate development of technologies support both trusting relationships that Informal formal and informal Formal enable more effective learning. learning and transfer of tacit knowledge. Explicit Tacit • Help build or support • Only a small part of the existing communities of knowledge in an enterprise practice as well as “weak- Knowledge is in explicit form (in ties” networks that documents). accelerate innovation. • Transferring tacit knowledge is especially important for • Identify hidden resources complex tasks. and relationships that can create a basis for sharing • Personal contacts and tacit knowledge. networking can build a foundation for effective • Develop social and other knowledge sharing. networks that build trust and enable effective transfer of tacit knowledge.* SNT = social-networking technology.Source: SRIC-BI One learning channel that will likely become increasingly important in the future—especially as Boomers retire—is mentoring and coaching. Soon-to-be-retired workers or retirees will help train younger workers joining organizations. (An excellent paper about passing on the knowledge and experience of older workers is Gray Matter Matters: Preserving Critical Knowledge in the 21st Century by Amy Casher and Eric Lesser of IBM Business Consulting Services). Such mentoring programs—if companies organize them in ways that motivate knowledgeable workers, and former workers, to participate—could combine formal and informal networks to enable effective learning. One important benefit would be the transfer of tacit knowledge from retiring and retired workers, who have much valuable experience that companies need. Also, use of eLearning and other communication tools and technologies can reduce the amount of face-to-face interaction necessary in the learning process. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 10
  11. 11. Use of “Weak-Ties” Networks to Boost Innovation and LearningResearch by the IBM Institute for Knowledge-Based Organizations, Liisa Valikangas at SRIConsulting Business Intelligence (R843, Corporate Renewal in a Knowledge Network, andD98-2148, Knowledge Exploitation and Exploration in a Firm), and others shows that theexistence and use of weak-ties networks are important for effective innovation. According to anIBM white paper, “people report getting their most useful knowledge from trusted weak ties. Thispoint may seem surprising at first, but conceptually, it makes sense. Individuals with strong tiesoften have similar kinds of knowledge; they are aware of the same people, ideas and concepts.However, individuals with weak ties are likely to have connections to different social networksand are exposed to different types of knowledge and ideas” (Trust and Knowledge Sharing: ACritical Combination, by Daniel Levin, Rob Cross, Lisa Abrams, and Eric Lesser). A number of networks operate in most enterprises and across the extended enterprise, andthese networks usually overlap in varying degrees (see Figure 4)—depending on the environmentsin which they operate and the way in which they organize. Social-networking technologies cansupport effective operation of these networks and help build and extend the weak-ties networksnecessary for innovation. Figure 4 NETWORK TAXONOMY Work Network Social Network Innovation Network Weak-Ties Network Strong-Ties Network Expert Knowledge Learning Network Network Source: Karen Stephenson; SRIC-BI © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 11
  12. 12. Each of the networks in Figure 4 has processes for informal learning and tacit-knowledgetransfer, and any learning that takes place through these networks occurs because of the interactionof numerous factors. Learning and innovation are also forms of knowledge brokering, as AndrewHargadon points out in “Brokering Knowledge: Linking Learning and Innovation” in Research inOrganizational Behavior (Volume 24, 2002). According to Hargadon, “knowledge brokeringinvolves exploiting the preconditions for innovation that reside within the larger social structureby bridging multiple domains, learning about the resources within those domains, linking thatknowledge to new situations, and finally building new networks around the innovations thatemerge from this process.” The need for and importance of innovation and new-product development will only increase.Thus, social-networking technologies that can effectively build and extend weak-ties networksinside and outside organizations will see significant payoffs and find increasingly receptivebuyers.Social Networks That Support Community- and Team-BasedLearningA number of SNCs allow members to create clubs or communities easily, providing a way toconnect with like-minded people or people who are of interest for business purposes. The fact thatentrepreneurs constitute the largest community in Ryze is no coincidence (see Table 2). As of lateMarch 2004, U.K.-based eCademy had some 900 clubs with self-appointed leaders, but most ofthe clubs have a relatively small number of members (with varying levels of participation)—atleast they have fewer than the communities and “tribes” of Ryze and Tribe do. Although mosteCademy members and clubs are today in the United Kingdom and major European countries,eCademy is expanding into the United States and is also building a regional presence around theworld. How successful these online communities for social-networking companies will be—insustaining membership growth, increasing members’ participation, and successfully connectingmembers for business purposes—is unclear. But success does not necessarily require largenumbers of members. Niche communities that meet specific needs—and that perhaps can takeadvantage of face-to-face social events that SNCs organize or support—could bring significantbenefits to participants. The ability to access profiles of small-business owners in Eastern Europe,for instance, and to participate in active dialogues about business issues could be useful tobusinesspeople considering doing business in these countries. Most of the communities and groups that SNCs have created so far are so-called affinitynetworks, according to Soren Kaplan (CEO of iCohere) and Peter Bartlett (e-community organizerat Hewlett-Packard). In their paper “Creating Communities for Collaboration and Learning” oniCohere’s Web site, Kaplan and Bartlett say that these networks comprise “people who sharecommon characteristics and derive value from building relationships based on their sharedinterests. They often involve peer mentoring and a structure to help create connections that lead topersonal and professional opportunities.” Three other types of communities that could develop viaSNC-driven networks are learning communities, communities of practice, and project teams.Although the types of clubs and communities that SNCs support could form on their own withlittle effort, most organizations have had difficulty in building and managing learningcommunities, CoPs, and project teams. Most communities will not survive long if they lackstrong, active leadership and senior-executive sponsorship. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 12
  13. 13. Table 2 COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP IN RYZE, TRIBE, AND eCADEMY Number of Company Communities Members* Ryze • Entrepreneurs 5260 • Marketing, Channel/Partnership & Sales Execs 3672 • Small Business Owners 3374 • Million Dollar Mastermind 2958 • Ryze New York City 2684 • Writers and Editors 2503 • International Business 2460 • Wild Business Women 2346 Tribe • Mac OS X 1591 • Bush versus Kerry 1368 • Social Software Intellectuals 1289 • SF Bay 1136 • Recipe Exchange 1077 • No George W. Bush 1049 • Crafty Vixens 884 eCademy • Business Referral Club 1391 • eCademy Marketplace 818 • Gadgets R Us 537 • The Entrepreneur Club 440 • Mobile Applications Club 438 • A Woman’s Place 360 • A Home Business 265 * As of 27 March 2004. Source: Ryze; Tribe; eCademy; SRIC-BITools and Technologies for Supporting Social Networking andLearningThe CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, recently acknowledged that his company missed a majorbusiness opportunity by dedicating only a small part of its enormous R&D budget (some$6.8 billion in 2004) to search technology, thereby allowing Google to gain dominance. ButMicrosoft aims to make up for this mistake because it now recognizes the growing importance ofsearch functionality for both consumers and businesses. (A growing number of other companies © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 13
  14. 14. are also targeting the search market, so competition is intensifying. Search companies alsoincreasingly recognize the importance of the so-called blogsphere, as Google’s 2003 purchase ofPyra, the developer of Blogger software, illustrates.) The growing business opportunity in searchtechnology reflects the increasing difficulty of finding needed information quickly in the rapidlygrowing volume of information and data on computer hard drives, in databases inside and outsidecompanies, and in various corners of the Web. These developments are good news for companies with proprietary technologies that enableefficient search and analysis of large amounts of information and data and that can make sense ofthe information by discovering important (hidden) knowledge resources and relationships.Companies like Tacit and Interface have developed algorithms for continuous monitoring ofdocuments, data, and activity-based information and can link this information to requests forexpertise or use it to identify relationships that are relevant to particular business objectives.(University researchers are also focusing on the area. In mid-2003, the University of SouthernCalifornia’s School of Engineering Information Sciences Institute announced development ofeArchivarius, a tool for organizing and visualizing collections of e-mail messages to showrelationships between messages, identify existing communities of people who converse on thesame topic, and determine relationships among those communities.) Not surprisingly, IBM has also launched a major search-technology project and has developeda new service that it calls Web Fountain. According to the Financial Times (17 March 2004),“Using algorithms developed in its research labs, this service digs far deeper into the Internet thantraditional search engines, for instance extracting information from chat rooms and blogs (journalsavailable on the web). IBM has sold this capability—Mr. Horn [head of IBM’s Watson ResearchCenter] calls it ‘Google on steroids’—as a one-off service to companies that believe commerciallyimportant information lies buried in the Internet.” More advanced search, visualization, and pattern-recognition tools will improve informationand knowledge discovery as well as help connect people and foster development of affiliatenetworks, learning communities, CoPs, and project teams. A variety of existing and emergingtechnologies will also support these communities, both by helping people establish them and byenabling easier and more effective communication and collaboration once communities form (seeTable 3). Kaplan and Bartlett do not mention blogs (or Web logs), but these online creations—as wellas Wikis (a group-communication mechanism based on Internet-browser software)—areincreasingly popular tools for communicating and sharing information. Some analysts think thatblogs and Wikis could become the backbone of enterprise knowledge networks. Blogs are seeinggrowing use in corporations for a variety of purposes, even though these grassrootscommunications exist outside official and sanctioned channels and thus concern many corporatemanagers and executives. Blogs and Wikis are important forms of communication that helpconnect and build informal networks among people. Standards groups and internationalcollaborative R&D groups are now using these tools—as well as other technologies coming out ofthe path-breaking work of Doug Engelbart (on augmenting human intelligence)—to supporteffective collaboration in communities and open distributed teams, through the use of a technologyplatform from CIM3 (see © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 14
  15. 15. Table 3 CORE AND SUPPORTING TECHNOLOGIES FOR COMMUNITIES FOR COLLABORATION AND LEARNINGType of Community Core Technologies Supporting TechnologiesAffinity network • “Community”-focused tools, including • Synchronous Web-conferencing tools synchronous discussion areas and chats for periodic online events • Basic document management • Instant messaging • E-mail • Polls and surveysLearning community • Synchronous Web-conferencing tools • Document collaboration • Streaming audio and video • Chats • Basic document management • Instant messaging • Asynchronous discussion • E-mailCommunity of • Asynchronous discussion areas • Synchronous Web-conferencing toolspractice for periodic online events • Expert search • Document collaboration • Document management • Instant messaging • Knowledge management • E-mailProject team • Project-management tools • Calendaring • Work-flow tools • Instant messaging • Document versioning and management • Synchronous Web-conferencing tools • E-mailSource: Creating Communities for Collaboration and Learning, Soren Kaplan and Peter Bartlett The Future Clearly, better understanding of the social aspects of work and learning processes is of great value in learning initiatives. Moreover, the ability to enable and support such processes—whether they occur inside or outside corporate facilities (for example, in home offices or in the field by mobile workers)—can influence the nature of work or learning as well as people’s effectiveness. User- friendly technologies that allow people to identify and establish new social connections and networks are therefore likely to be popular and will find growing use in corporate environments once the positive impacts of such technologies become clear. The availability of credible case studies of the business benefits of these technologies will help accelerate adoption. © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 15
  16. 16. Studies have analyzed the relationships between social relationships and networks (starting with the pathbreaking work of Stanley Milgram at Harvard University in 1967 on the small-world phenomenon and the six-degrees-of-separation experiment), the trust such networks and communities generate, and the impact on learning and knowledge transfer as well as innovation. In turn, research programs by companies like Microsoft and IBM show that these companies recognize the importance of such relationships and the payoffs of using technologies that improve and accelerate social networking. Indeed, Microsoft is pursuing a number of interesting projects in an area the company calls social computing (see Table 4). Table 4 SELECTED MICROSOFT SOCIAL COMPUTING GROUP R&D PROJECTSProject DescriptionWallop Allows users to share photos, blog, and interact with friends Explores how people share media and build conversations within social networksSapphire Aims to have automatic, dynamic grouping of documents by association, replacing folders as the primary means of organizingConversation Seeks to group e-mail conversations via text indexing using hierarchical clusteringClusters methodsPersonal map Models contacts, communications groups, and social networks Aims to help users organize their e-mail contacts in a meaningful way, according to their e-mail behaviorMSR Connections Provides an online social map to show users the informal, dynamic groups and projects in MSR and allow them to navigate for information using the connections between people and groupsMS connect and Uses active directory information to show both formal relationships and informal,Point to Point dynamic relationships between people Recognizes that any knowledge and resource transfer across groups in an organization depends on social awareness of who is doing what, which is a challenge to document because of the dynamic, informal nature of many groups and projectsPhotoStory Aims to preserve emotional content in storytelling with photos and videoNearMe Relies on the buddy-list service for global system for mobile communications phones and notifies users when their buddies are nearby using cell-location informationBridge Studies the effect of location and awareness of groups on learningTrust online Uses social-dilemma testing to study how different modes of communication and different aspects of user interfaces affect trust and cooperationOnline-community Studies what makes people actively participate in online communities, what makes aanalysis compelling group, what types of online communities are popular, and other questionsSource: Microsoft; SRIC-BI © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 16
  17. 17. Not only are we likely to see consolidation among SNCs in the next few years, but we mayalso see vendors incorporate various social-networking technologies into other enterpriseplatforms. Spoke, for example, is positioning itself close to customer-relationship–management(CRM) solutions, working to ensure seamless integration with leading CRM suites (particularlySeibel and SalesForce). Most companies in the enterprise-relationship–management segment arelikely to become acquisition targets for these much larger, established CRM players in the nearfuture. This scenario is compelling because these companies are well positioned to put social-network technologies to good business use and enable marketers to find new routes to keyinfluencers and decision makers of their prospective and current customers. Currently, much ofthis valuable information is hidden in personal knowledge and not sufficiently known incompanies. With fast changes in organizations as well as increasing international rotations, social-networking technology takes on greater importance. Some vendors may also integrate social-networking technologies into learning products andplatforms—as a way of bringing a social element to eLearning. This step would take the much-discussed blended model of learning to a new level and result in more effective learning. CONTRARIAN VIEWS ON SOCIAL-NETWORKING SERVICES: ERSATZ RELATIONSHIPS Jay Cross of the Internet Time Group and CEO of the Emergent Learning Forum has been a frequent and outspoken commentator on learning and eLearning-related issues and developments, both through his Internet Time blog and the blog he writes for the American Society for Training and Development. Here are a few perspectives on Jay’s recent experience with and views about social networking— which he sees as “ersatz relationships”—and those of another blogger, David Weinberger, whom Jay often agrees with: • Jay receives a steady flow of LinkedIn requests to connect someone he does not know to someone else he does not know because a friend of a friend in each direction knows the person. He has refused to make most of these introductions because he does not see why he should do so. • Jay agrees wholeheartedly with David Weinberger, who writes the JOHO—or Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization—blog (see and who recently offered his take on what he calls Artificial Social Networks (ASNs). According to David, “First, ASNs attempt to recreate our social network by making us be explicit about it. But our social bonds are necessarily implicit. Making social relationships explicit uproots them, distorts them and can do violence to them. Just try describing your child to someone, with your child in the room. Second, ASNs make us be precise about that which is necessarily messy and ambiguous. This not only leads to awkward social moments (Am I a friend of some person I met once and don’t know if I like?), it also reinforces the worst idea of our age: The world is precise, so our ambiguity about it is a failure. Third, they inculcate the stupid belief that relationships are commutative. LinkedIn is especially guilty of this. I have been C in a five-term series that A initiated in order to contact E, which means someone I don’t know asked someone I marginally know to introduce him to someone I kind of know who maybe knows someone I don’t know at all. The formal name for this is ‘using people.’ (See my first paragraph.) Fourth, the fact that they require explicitness in public about relationships guarantees that they will generate inordinate amounts of bullshit. For example, some ASNs let you write ‘testimonials’ about your friends, a feature destined to encourage flattery and sucking up. Worse, they don’t let you refuse testimonials as part of your profile, so I’ve had to explain to a handful of people why I’m not accepting the sweet sentences they spent time putting together.” © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 17
  18. 18. CONTRARIAN VIEWS ON SOCIAL-NETWORKING SERVICES: ERSATZ RELATIONSHIPS—Concluded • David makes the final comment that “I want to say to the Friendsters of the world, we already invented a social network for friends and strangers. It’s called the Internet. Why are you privatizing it? Why do we need a proprietary sub-network to do what the Internet has already done in an open way? I don’t like this thing coming along that implies that the existing social networks on the Internet—my social networks, the ones that constitute my social world—are so inadequate that some badly designed system with a derivative name (enoughster with the ‘sters’ alreadyster!) sweeps the Net like photos of Janet Jackson’s poppin’ fresh wardrobe malfunction. What’s a matter, the Net wasn’t good enough for you?” About the LoD Program SRI Consulting Business Intelligence’s Learning-on-Demand multiclient research program leverages the subscription fees of multiple clients to examine the evolution and features of the emerging electronic-learning marketplace, explore adoption issues, and define the components of effective workplace learning. The LoD multiclient program provides a cost-effective way to discover, evaluate, and implement LoD solutions that will yield high business payoffs by improving employee performance. The program benefits both LoD users and developers: • Potential LoD system users gain an unbiased source of information about LoD implementation, benefits of LoD systems, and innovative LoD solutions emerging in the marketplace. • LoD system developers receive information about the factors driving or constraining market demand for LoD systems. For more information about the Learning-on-Demand multiclient research program, contact: SRI Consulting Business Intelligence 333 Ravenswood Avenue Menlo Park, California 94025-3476 Telephone: +1 650 859 4600 Or visit our Web site: Director: Eilif TrondsenSRI Consulting Business Intelligence: +1 650 859 4600; Internet: o LD Learning on Demand © 2004 by SRI Consulting Business Intelligence, LoD Bulletin 18