What about those not using social networking?

Twice today I was asked by people who are infrequent or non users of social networking solutions (and blogs) – how do you avoid leaving the non users out?  Or, when you are looking at a restaurant recommendation ot a wine recommendation – how valuable is the recommendation, given it is only based on information supplied by social network users, who may or may not be the best judge of the specific appeal of a restaurant or a bottle of wine for me?

If there are large groups of people who do not participate in social networking what is the impact for me, as a social networker and for them as non users?  Is a new elite being formed?  Even if people arecurrently  joining networks such as facebook in their millions, what about all of those users who cease to use the application some time after their initial registration?

Perhaps it’s a little (more than a little) like people choosing not to use a phone or not to use a mobile phone.  They are being left out, but may feel that overall quality of life is improved (or at least maintained) by not participating in a technology enabled, driven, environment.  And that environment is worse off for their non participation.

I tend to believe that social networking (when enabled by technologies/ standards such as SIOC) will prove to be a medium of communication and/or collaboration that people, for the most part, will need to join.  As the networks begin to work together and integrate the case fo participation will become greater.

It’s not all positive on the social networking side – lots of poor quality communication/ idea sharing/ workload sharing.   But grow it will – and opting out will gradually become less of an option for our citizens.

Ireland – leading the way in eLearning and semantic web

Spent the morning at a workshop run by DERI (Digital Enterprise Research Institute) at Enterprise Ireland.  If we spent more time focusing on what we can achieve through the likes of DERI and the Irish Learning Alliance (ILA) we might begin to dig ourselves out of our current difficulties.

Excellent presentations by Johnny Parkes, Bill McDaniel, Liam Moran and Mark Leyden.

Web 3.0 – in terms of getting at the data across the web – has great potential.  Poses interesting challenges/ questions for organisations traditionally obsessed with confindentiality of their data.  However for those who understand and resolve the connundrum (sharing their data) web 3.0 offers the potential of much greater insights and decision making.

case study – social networking in travel industry

Contributed to a case study in the Innovation section (pp42 – 44, Experts’ Advice – P44) of  today’s Irish Times  – looking at how a ski adventure company could use social networking to market their business.

Text of my advice in the case study:

BlackRun: Online for off piste

This is a typical 2009 scenario in Irish business – someone from the Facebook generation (‘gen f’) bringing ideas about social networking to the owners. The concerns are classic: fad or not, geeky or not? Simone is right – at least half BackRun’s target audience is social network friendly. So it’s a ‘no brainer’ – need to get on board. The good news: with some upfront planning this can be achieved, without swamping the team.

BlackRun needs a basic web site, optimised for search – integrated with a blog (could use software such as WordPress). Ruth & Simone need to set targets for blog posting frequency e.g. 3 times per week. Team members should be profiled in the blog and encouraged to post. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts should be established – using auto notification of postings on the BlackRun blog. Worthwhile Twitter accounts should be identified and ‘followed’. BlackRun should aim to tweat daily – ask questions, answer queries, use hashtags. Facebook advertising should be considered.

There are great tools available to assist in managing online presence e.g. google webmaster, WordPress utilities, Tweetdeck, Nexus (Facebook). BlackRun needs to avail of these.

Finally, management should commit to measuring the effectivess of these initiatives on a weekly basis.

Barry O’Gorman consults in social networking, collaboration and semantic web.

Social networking – is it what always came naturally to the Irish?

I participate actively as an online ‘social networker’.  Seems to me there are many benefits – through linkedin, facebook, twitter, blogging.

Interesting piece recently about whether we should blend the personal and the business stuff in social networking activities.  There are many reasons to do so – the technology increasingly means people are available to work at anytime from anywhere (good and bad!).  Part of being successful in business is building and developing relationships – seems to be some logic to revealing some of the personal stuff.

The web based networks facilitate a level of networking simply not possible without.  And yet seems that much of the most effective networking continues to be face to face – or, face to many face.  As someone described it to me recently there is that hour in the pub when people seem relaxed, in a heightened state of awareness and the antennae are up for networking.  Depending on how long is spent imbibing the quality of the networking may subsequently drop off.

And some people are just more comfortable networking…’the gift of the gab’ as we sometimes describe it.

So long as we see social networking as another channel, another way of networking I think we won’t go wrong.  But when people start to substitute wikis, facebook, etc for actual face to face encounters…then they risk losing the plot.

Moving on from traditional thinking

I guess it’s challenging for all of us who have worked for the last 25 years.  In my final year in Trinity College Dublin I was writing Assembler for the Motorola 68000 chip.  The Mac was about to burst on the scene.  Since then I have worked in a Professional Service Firm, my own IT consulting business and with a number of start up businesses.

Many of us have come to think of the business entity as the key business unit – be it a company, a group of companies, a sole trader, a partnership.  And businesses do business with other businesses – ordering, buying, selling, etc.  And each business operates to a set of standards – standards to meet their own expectations and those of their customers.  Many of the standards are driven, underpinned or enforced by external agencies e.g. State, Professional bodies, Insurerers, regulators.

The web has had all sorts of impacts on business – the emergence of online B2B abd B2C, major reengineering of processes and business themselves, globalisation on a par not expected.

And now the web is throwing new opportunities and challenges at all of us.  In fact one can only wonder if we had had this web 10 years ago what types of businesses would have been built over the last 10 years?  Which businesses would never have existed?

Even back in 1984 in TCD we were collaborating – as we worked in a group of three students to design our basic computer.  We also collaborated on the cricket field as we set traps for opposition batsmen.  And we collaborated in preparing for exams – through sharing of lecture notes, etc.

But what we are witnessing now is a series of developments – Social networking, Semantic web, the cloud – which when combined mean that those who do not collaborate risk being eliminated.  We have often discussed the importance of knowledge management within the organisation – even between partner organisations.  However the tools beginning to emerge now promise to facilitate collaboration and knowledge management on a scale previously unimagined – right across the globe, the web and time.  ultimately traditional business practices and structures must be transformed to enable society to benefit from what’s beginning to happen.

Thoughtful piece on social networking and facebook

Interesting piece from Fiona McCann in today’s Irish Times, ”on facebook“.

Would agree fully that Facebook has changed (and devalued) meaning of friends.   Much of what Fiona says rings true with me – as someone who spends a fair amount of time blogging, twittering and updating facebook.  Her comments would also be well received by many of those who are actually my friends.

Many of us set out  to use FaceBook for the personal stuff, sites such as linkedin for the business networking, with twitter and our blogs potentially reaching across both.  However, even within this, there is inevitable overlap between personal and business.  And Facebook wants the business stuff anyway!

Many people also waster a great deal of time working to update their various sites/ presences – with material which is of very little interest and/ or benefit to themselves or the reader.  There was a an excellent piece recently by Dion Hinchcliffe 12 Rules For Bringing ‘Social’ To Your Business.

I think one of the other interesting areas in all of this is bringing the various islands of social networks together.  Much of this is being pioneered out of DERI in Galway.  Projects such as SIOC spring to mind.
Comments certainly make a lot of sense.  As of now do not have all the answers.




Reading the news online

I have restricted myself to reading the news online

Over the last few weeks I have restricted myself to reading the news online (as against print copy).  On a Sunday I typically scan the following online: Sunday Independent, Sunday Times (Ireland edition), Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post (not available until later).  Many attractions include: free, no pile of paper to get rid of, easy to index anything of interest (using www.faviki.com), easy to search for what’s of interest.  So what are the disadvantages? – reading on my computer screen is a strain, reading at a laptop in the lounge area seems less sociable that actually flicking through newspapers where you can handon the paper to someone else in the room.  There is also a perception (for others and for myself) that because I work in the information systems sector when I am using a computer (even to read the news) I am working.

To some extent reading the news online faciliates greater social newtorking (tagging, indexing, etc) but impacts negatively on the immediate social network – the people with whom you live.