Monthly Archives: May 2006

More persuasion

I met yesterday with our CIO to talk through social media in general. I had sent her the articles Genie in a Bottle and Where's your wiki? (from the excellent Sviokla's Context blog) and she very diligently read them. She took time to look at the internal blog site and our wiki. In general I was very impressed and pleased with the time she gave before we met to 'check things out'.

We talked a lot about the different social media applications are (i.e. blogs, wikis) but we also discussed the culture of the company and how relevant the challenges talked about in the Genie in a Bottle article are to us. I related some of my experiences and the apparent reticence of people to enter into the conversation. I think she was surprised, but then so have I been. When I began going down this route I didn't have an appreciation for this cultural challenge. I wonder, when we publicise the blog, what percentage will begin to blog and what will continue longer term. I think 10% will be high. Will this be enough to derive value?

The wiki editor was a bit off putting – and I agree. Forcing people to learn a syntax to write into a wiki is not good. This application has to improve if it is to widen its appeal to the average business professional. It needs a WYSIWIG editor, so I wonder if MediaWiki is the right platform.

Right at the end we talked about RSS, which from the beginning is the technology I have seen as most necessary. I am firmly convinced that any IT department should be enabling the desktop with an RSS Feed Reader. This capability to be part of the plumbing. I still have some way to go to win this argument – but this meeting has moved it on a step. My CIO committed herself to read the blog site for the next week. I said, that if she finds herself not going back to it, it is because she doesn't have a feed reader – so we agreed that after a week I'd return to install RSS Bandit (both of us lamented the unprofessional name and logo of the product) and she'd then compare the experience with and without.

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New design

I changed my design, because I like the 2 column sidebar, and because this page renders the posts first on small screen.

Blogging Directive

Well, I met our IT Director this week. Having come away from the Blogs and Socail Media Forum determined to just press ahead myself I got a bit of a "hold it" message from above, so couldn't. Having had a good feeling about the blogs going ahead and seeing Wikis not really going anywhere this meeting kind of shifted everything around. We didn't even get time to talk about RSS!

There was a great deal of concern over what people would blog about – and who would read it, and a great deal of interest in using Wikis to brainstorm ideas, or similar activities, that currently see a vast amount of emails flying back and forth.

So the state of play is that we'll lock down access to the blog platform to just one part of the UK organisation. For me, this is a shame, because I know of a few people globally who have been reading my blog and it has begun to provoke a dialog. As a little test of my popularity (I hope my self esteem is up to it) I challenged any readers who would be cut out to reply to my blog, and if I got enough I might set up a separate blog and cross post relevant articles to the open blog.

On the positive side, and despite this not having been advertised yet, two new bloggers have started posting this week.

Another positive, is that the interest in Wikis gives me more reason to work on the SSO for MediaWiki. I posted recently that I would hopefully get some time. I did, I got the Auth_remoteuser.php script and read it through. I did a search replace to support AUTH_USER instead of REMOTE_USER, and that was as much time as I had.

Guerrilla tactics

At the Blogs and Social Media Forum one of the questions that came up in the open sessions was guerrilla tactics for injecting social media into an organisation. As noted in a previous blog, covert introduction seems to be the norm.

We've recently been having a lot of performance issues with our mail system – it's been going on for a couple of weeks. As a result there is a lot of interest in establishing other lines of communication and (I would like to think partly because of my evangelising social media over the past 6 months) blogs has come up as a possible solution.

Conclusion (with apologies to Buckminster Fuller): a body blow to the existing reality can go a long way to bringing about it's obsolescence.

Honest guv, I had nothing to do with it. 😉

Blogging policy

Although my blog hosting site has some text governing the behaviour of bloggers I will review Sun's policy and adopt some of the ideas in there.

Blogging and Social Media Forum

I went today to the Blog and Social Media Forum in London. Overall impression: useful, but an over emphasis on blogging to the detriment of other social technologies. I guess this isn't too surprising, as it probably is the easiest one to relate to. Of course, it is made the event more directly applicable to my current activity in this space.

So what key messages did I take away:

  • It would appear that every organisation that has adopted blogging has seen it introduced covertly. Even Euan Semple admitted said that this was the case at the BBC despite his position as Head of Knowledge Management. Critical mass is an ellusive quantity that will come at some point. Many people mentioned a year before it really took off. I feel much better about what I'm doing, in fact I am quite determined to send out the email currently sat with the IT Director myself and forget the more 'official' stamp of approval that I was seeking.
  • ROI is a silly question, don't prejudge what will emerge from connecting people. Business has always been done through relationships. The return will come through rebuilding relationships. Anyway, it's so cheap to set up. I've set up our blogging platform with SSO integrated to Active Directory for less than £400. How much ROI do you need for that cost? One of the case studies had spent £30,000 on an experiment, without any commitment to carrying on with the same software to full implementation. I think that's way too much, complete overkill.
  • The question that I have been asked several times is 'Where am I supposed to find the time?'. This seems to be a common theme. People shouldn't look at blogging, or reading blogs as an add on to the day. Do they consider that conversations at the coffee machine are non-productive? Do they make time for that? How much unproductive time is spent in meetings? Networking/building relationships is a proven business enabler.

There is no turning back.

That blogging culture

What's stopping us from accepting social software inside an organisation? David Tebbut blogs an interesting piece called Genie in a Bottle in which he discusses the cultural barriers. Well worth a read and certainly food for thought on my quest to get Social Software embedded in the organisation I work for.