Sunday, June 15, 2008


Untold perspectives on social networking within large enterprises

The enterprise has a knowledge crisis and sees instant messaging, blogs and wikis as the answer. The problem is not with the technology but whether pursuit of these approaches is solving the right problem...

Walk the halls of any corridor and you can find a success story layered on top of an otherwise mediocre technology implementation. You will also find that few take the time to reflect on what could be been done differently and tune accordingly. One of the questions, I have always asked myself is why am I so savage in blogging outside of work and make it a point to blogging every single day while not missing the opportunity to do so in the last two years, while I have not been so passionate about the same at work.

The funny thing is that I am actually more free to share my thoughts outside of work and don't have much of the overhead association with enterprise socialization. For example, if I blog on why Indian Outsourcing firms will never deliver secure code to their clients at home, no one will walk up to my desk and want to chat with me about it. At work, the story is different in that it is guaranteed that ten people individually will want to talk with me about it. Regardless of whether they agree or not, or even the topic at hand, it will manage to consume more time that most enterprise folks don't have.

Work/life balance is elusive, but one way to jeopardize it is to actually share topics of interest in a work context for social networking purposes. One of the things I have figured out about my own personality is that I am very community-oriented. I contribute to open source, I run the local OWASP Hartford user group and so on. The key thing is that communities enables scale while the enterprisey definition of community actually reduces it.

Take OWASP meetings for example. Many of the attendees that participate are there because they have a genuine interest in the topic, have probably done homework on their own and are simply looking for additional insight from others. Within the enterprise definition of community, it is more of a grouping along HR thinking where you aren't guaranteed that folks who participate have done one single iota of research and may not want to be there but are doing so just to manage perception.

Do you want to miss out on time with friends and family only to practice distilling down information for folks who won't take the time to truly understand nor have passion? Is creating Reader's Digest versions of information truly palatable?

What can enterprises do to virtualize conversations instead of continuing the habit of one individual publishing and hundreds of individuals changing the channel and wanting to communicate one on one? I am not saying that face to face conversations aren't valuable as I am a savage believer in them. The key is that they shouldn't always be the default in a virtualized world and more importantly, enterprises have to understand how too many of them reduces agility and is a cancer that could ultimately kill the value proposition of social networking...

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