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November 09, 2006


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Sean Burgess

When I said social, I was referring to pure social, non-work related communication. The hey-whatcha-doin-goin-for-a-beer-wanna-come-sure type of communication. Collaborative social/knowledge networks have been an invaluable resource in the intercompany scene for many a year and have even started to become prevalent internally. The problem I see with internal company social/knowledge networking has more to do with human nature than it does with technology. How do you get Sam, with 30 years of experience and the only one who knows how the network is built, to share his knowledge with some college grad, who is being paid half of what he makes, without thinking he is losing the only leverage he has to keep his job? Everyone says that you should write clean, efficient, easy to read code so anyone coming behind you can figure out what you did, but that also means that if you become too expensive, you can be replaced by anyone for a cheaper price. Until that real fear can be allayed, you will not get the people giving up the information that makes them most valuable to the company and the information that is most critical in a "hit by a bus" scenario.


Jean-Louis Seguineau

Sam's knowledge will become less important over time as communication (not network) is made available at the wokstations level and is shared by all the running application. The comoditization of more tightly interwoven communication tools will make Sam's knowledge redundant sooner than he whishes. The challenge of technology is not to offer a single agregated communication device encompassing eveything, but rather to enable the use of any appropriate channel and to move between channels/devices seamlessly at any time while keeping the conversation active and rich.

This is the evolution I see in the making with these teenagers prefereing their IM client to an email client. But I would not qualify this of "generational". IMO it is simply a matter of different "learning" context and priorities , and obviously, as any learning and change process it takes time. That this difference is today more observable when comparing teenagers and adults is only a consequence of this slow evolution ;)

Sean Burgess

I used a network guy just as an example, but the same thing goes for Betty in accounting or John in payroll who get their jobs done in an almost mystical way. They have been in their positions for more years than almost anyone in the company and, while they are often willing to do what is necessary to get their job done, no one is really sure what exactly that is. For this type of person, it does them no good personally to share their company knowledge with others. You can almost consider it their Intellectual Property and it is usually what keeps this person from being fired....ever.

With regards to the new kids preferring IM, ask yourself this question: When have these kids ever tried to get any real work done via IM? I mean besides figuring out who is making the beer run. While short messages are great via IM, the kind of information that is best conveyed via email will not be going away anytime soon.


Jean-Louis Seguineau

I am certainly not disputing your observation of certain employees' behaviour here. I was taking Sam as an example the same way you did ;)

IMO your remark about kids "not doing real work via IM" is not appropriate here. Some of those kids will tomorow be employees, which is what Mike was alluding to.

My own point was that IM is nothing but another channel for communication. And its "real-time" nature makes it more natural to human nature than asynchronous chanels such as email. This is what the observation of all these "social places" is showing.
Now if you are telling that different contexts (inside or outside a working environement) require different communication channels, I will certainly agree. But if you are telling that IM is bad and email is good, I would certainly disagree ;)

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