Tag Archives: social networking

Enterprise Social Search – Belgian Style

Louvain La Neuve, 35 minutes south of Brussels hadn’t featured on my Enterprise 2.0 radar. However, nestled away on a brand new science park, a stone’s throw from the bustling university town is start-up Whatever, and their product Knowledge Plaza.

I spent two days at their San Francisco style offices meeting the team, looking at the product and evaluating their R&D pipeline.

Knowledge Plaza is a Web 2.0 knowledge management environment that mixes the power of a del.icio.us type tool with documents, workspaces, contacts, emails, tagging and some very innovative search and representation.

The team is a great combination of personalities including a star from the open source world, a serial entrepreneur, lots of young talent and……an ex CEO of Apple in Europe.

By the way, if you need reminding of who I am in the picture, then I’m the handsome one, front and center, wearing his iPhone on his belt even though he knows it is soooo wrong! :)

Time Gentlemen Please – Update Your Profiles

It’s been an interesting week. I’ve been thinking about what a Facebook for the corporation will look like and what it might contain. Some companies already have places for their employees to maintain a profile highlighting their role, function, ambitions, interests, strengths etc. Other companies are looking at how they might best provide somewhere for employees to kick start some internal social networking.

So if you do have somewhere for these profiles, how to you encourage people to utilize them? You’d hope that most people would see the benefit and fill them in, maintain them and leverage them on the basis of making new connections and finding new opportunities. However it’s clear there will be a need for some kind of mandate or guidelines about keeping a current profile. Most people will be fine with this, but some may start to weigh up the pro’s and cons of keeping a) their internal profile current, or b) keeping their external profile current.

So where do you invest the time? Your LinkedIn profile, Facebook Profile, or the one at the your place of employment? You can see there might be a conflict in keeping key ‘common’ information up to date.

In steps OpenSocial, see my last post. Savvy and brave developers/implementers of enterprise profile/social networking applications can potentially use the OpenSocial API’s to allow users to syndicate in key information from their external profiles. This would kick start any new profile, allow the user to maintain one profile and syndicate the content to the other(s). I say potentially as I’m not clear on exactly how all this will pan out and whether a developer could create a standalone behnid the firewall app using the API’s. Anyone know?

Personally I’d like to have the ability to expose my work history and description fields from LinkedIn into my corporate (behind the firewall) profile. I’d see instant benefit from doing this and I wouldn’t have to make a choice of keeping one up to date over the other.

There are of course some things to think about such as confidentiality and security concerns, but I think there is definite merit in syndicating chosen external social networking information into your corporate profile.

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OpenSocial

On Thursday the OpenSocial url will go live.  OpenSocial will be the first take in Google’s social networking plans.  It’s  a set of 3 common API’s which will allow developers to access core bits of information and functions at a number of ‘opt-in’ social networking sites;

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)

So far the participating social networks include Orkut, SalesForce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Paxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle.

This is going to be a big deal both on the outside and within the enterprise.  Until now developers who wanted to leverage data and functions from another social networking site would need to gain access to their API, learn new mark-up and hit the learning curve.  Now developers can use the OpenSocial API’s to gain access to the growing list of participating social networks.  Save time, money and offer users a way to aggregate their common social network data.

My next post will hint at why this might be good news for the enterprise.

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Come and join my network (from home)

Tim Duckett led me to this article which describes how a legal firm were forced into an embarrassing climb down after placing a blanket ban on the popular social networking site Facebook. After a series of complaints from across the organization, the IT director lifted the ban and instead issued guidelines for appropriate usage of the site.

Of course these bans are slapped down by IT departments all the time, and coming from an IT department background I can sort of see the rationale. However(!), surely they should first look at what’s attracting their staff to these sites. Why are they flocking to network with friends and colleagues in work time and is any good coming out of it? Here are some examples of what might constitute appropriate (and fair) use of a site such as Facebook on company time:

  • catching up with friends and family during a lunch break (we all spend more and more time at work, so this speaks to a work life balance benefit)
  • exploring who else in your organization has the same interests and connecting. Professional networking, but via the net.
  • sharing media and updates with colleagues such as photo’s and business travel plans
  • general exploration of how web2.0 can be supplemental to company goals

You see, I suspect these bans get put in place due to the assumption staff are wasting time, divulging company information, not properly representing the company image or even putting themselves in an exposed position by appearing to be an ambassador for the company.

Before your company blocks a site such as Facebook why not consider the following:

  • Is the site being used because of a lack of social software/enterprise 2.0 implementations behind the firewall? Put simply, what are the alternatives for the employees? If it’s none, then consider finding someone who can talk to you about implementing enterprise 2.0
  • See what Andrew McAffee has to say about the enterprise potential of Facebook and alike.
  • Consider issuing guidelines for usage instead of a ban. Be up front with people about why it might be a bad thing to do certain stuff.
  • Think about the young, net savvy internet generation your company is probably looking to attract. Will banning sites such as Facebook without offering any viable alternatives attract them to your company? Or keep them at your company?

This isn’t a rant at IT departments, as they are trying to come to terms with the boom in web2.0 applications and social networking as much as anyone. Instead I just wanted to point out that it’s not always a bad thing to do a bit of social networking on company time. The real answer is to learn from what’s going on and build on the desire to connect, collaborate and innovate. Not sweep it away with a block on firewall port XYZ……..