Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Understanding the Tools of the Social Learning Landscape

I am with Mark Oelhert this morning in his all day workshop about the tools of the Social Learning Landscape. Mark's focus is to look at social media tools, their impact on an organisation's culture. When Tim Orielly coined the term Web 2.0, he talked about a break in the way we do business. The catch is that you can use social media and Web 2.0 (or 3.0 or X.0 for that matter) in a very Web 1.0 fashion. Mark's in a world of huge scale and classrooms don't scale for him. When Mark came up with the idea of ACQipedia - their community wiki, the first questions that come up are hilarious, "What's the management and approval process for the articles that come up on this system?". The end result of this was that the process they wanted to have became just too heavy for them to manage. So it's quite pointless to use new tools in an old fashion.

We're looking at Mark's social media implementation at Defense Acquisition University and while the tools don't look like they're the best designed from a visual standpoint - they definitely look quite awesome from a utility perspective. There's a stackoverflow style Ask a Professor app that allows people to ask questions, get answers and then give people ways to vote on answers and comment on them. Someone in the room also mentioned chacha as a social QnA app. Mark's also deploying SocialText, an enterprise grade social media platform and now that starts to look like what I'd like to see in the enterprise social media space. A cool thing Mark mentions -- social media is not about the tools, it's about the people. The tools are a really small part of the entire big picture and wikis, blogs, microsharing only enable the humans involved. I've written about this - do check it out!

"Do you hear that sound ....? That is the sound of inevitability..." That's a Matrix slide Mark has talking about the fact that social media is defining the inevitable capatibilities that enterprise tools will need to have in the next year or so. "We tend to overestimate the effect of technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." - Roy Amara. I'm stunned to see a Department of Defense portal (screenshot above) which is a social media hub that faces out to Flickr, Facebook and what not. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullens has a social media strategy. The words at the heart of this strategy are Engage, Align, Drive, Expand. It's about time the enterprise woke up and smelt the coffee.

What is social media

"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as a a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform" - Tim Orielly

Here are some characteristics you're likely to notice with social media implementations in the enterprise:
  • They largely use existing technology.
  • Web 2.0 technology is not culturally new when we introduce it.
  • This generation of enterprise software is driven by a consumerisation of the enterprise. These products come to the commercial public for testing and refinement before entering the enterprise.
I like Mark's quote - very similar to mine "Think big, start small and move fast!".

Image from Kathy Sierra
The main barriers for social media implementations are around Fear, Control and Trust, not cost, technology or anything else you'll imagine. Fear takes a fantastic idea, tacks on risk management and makes it an awful product at the end. There's an opportunity cost attached to not doing it though. What's the cost of not collaborating, not finding new business, not knowing what your customers are saying or not knowing how your people really feel? At some point incremental change will only take you so far and you need to make revolutionary change.

Control is a strange thing. You're already toast if you have email and phones. The wikileaks fiasco happened just because of a little CD writer. Control is an illusion, because regardless of what you do, bad people will do bad things. What you want is an opportunity to see this in the open so you can actually do something about it. We need to move from control to influence using conversations, storytelling, retrospection and integration. Remember, more eyeballs looking means that you have a greater opportunity to engage and monitor what's going on.

"The opposite of imposed structure is not chaos... the opposite of an imposed structure is an emergent structure, one that forms over a time based on the interactions of a lot of people"
- Andrew McAfee

Trust - the question is simple. If you've hired people, why wouldn't you trust them? And the fact is that if you trust people, they'll do what they can to keep your brand and to make your efforts a success. And btw, you'll know who the assholes are quite soon as well! Just because you can't see what people are saying that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't actually saying it. Once it's out there, you'll know how to manage it - the USAF has thought it out, so should you.

People resist change when it's insufficiently explained to them. "We participate, therefore we are." - John Seely Brown. Mark advises us to think about wrapping context around your people, not just content - that' why he desists giving contact information and instead gives out social information about himself!

Post Tea Break Section

First things first - Mark's Social Learning Camp linoit board is your guide to all the resources and case studies that we shared here. I'll catalogue what I like under the social learning tag on my Delicious bookmarks. At this point Mark's showing a SocialText demo from the DAU, which isn't very interesting to me because I've seen it before, but I understand that it maybe cool for the group here. Mark does mention that people's time is a zero-sum game. If you're adding social media, it's got to make something else easier. Does it cut down email by 50%? We also need to remember that a vibrant subject matter network eliminates the bottleneck of individual subject matter experts. It's about the connections not the collections.

Mark also mentions that it's not information overload, it's filter failure! Social media needs to integrate into work and build context around people's work so it doesn't become the EXTRA thing to do.

Mark's also mentions Kongregate - 35000 people actively engaging on the site at 11:15 on a Tuesday morning seems like an awesome community! It's a site to just play and make games, and there's mystery and curiosity that drives the participation. The problem with traditional course design is that it gives away the mystery right at the beginning! We need to think about social contexts to courses. The Kongregate games have competition built in, a chat that's in the context of the game and pulls people into participating because they want to achieve something by the end of it. This is what goes into the realm of reputation systems on your Enterprise 2.0 implementation. This is a way to drive people's behaviour, just as I'm proud to be #3 at this point on the DevLearn Dr. StrangeLearn game! So for example, if you could put your product or maybe your course into the open and if there was an incentive for people to provide feedback, how quickly would you think your product will improve? In fact, that's the basis on which products like Rypple can change your company's feedback culture if you create the right reasons for people to participate. Now the incentives (this is a bad word in many places), will vary across places -- you've got to find what works for your organisation. That said, you need to find the reasons why people will want to engage and will be interested. We need to think about the social context around learning content!

All this said, you can't learn to swim by sitting on the shore. You need to be in social media to understand the phenomenon. I can say this for a fact that after some years of blogging and my presence on twitter I now have acquaintances and people I can lean on all across the world. I've had people saying hello to me just because they follow my blog! Speaking of twitter, Mark introduces the oneforty.com website that gives you all the cool tools that work with this wonderful service.

Post Lunch - How do you Get Started?
We need to understand that Web 2.0 is a set of tools, social media is a different way of working. There are several ways to get started and Mark seems to be aiming at a checklist for this:
  • You could work on improving your knowledge, skills, etc.
  • You could work on filtering the huge amount of content that we see on the web everyday - curation or filtering is the word.
  • You could work on establishing, building your authenticity and identity.
  • On an organisational level you could look at several different goals:
    • Increasing sales.
    • Breaking down silos.
    • It's not a bad idea to start by just defining what social media, web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0 really mean. Outlining the benefits is a good idea!
  • There are a bunch of strategies to consider:
    • How are you going drive this. Bottom up? Top Down?
    • How are your permissions going to work?
    • How are you going to increase awareness and educate people? How will you manage change?
    • How are you going to avoid walled gardens?
Last Segment - Wrapping up the Landscape
During this segment, we had Kelly Young from Humana showcase their Social Text implementation (they call it Buzz), which has rich profiles, microsharing, wikis and all of the coolness going on. What is really cool is Hive -- an app they've built to indicate individual reputation on the system. This is cool because it's an interesting visual representation of an individual's community. The visual just shows how healthy someone's beehive is given how many people they're connected to, how they're contributing, etc.

Mark's now just showing some interesting tools - Quora for example is a cool social QnA tool like stackoverflow. Moving onto other tools such as Mindmeister for collaborative mindmapping and Netvibes for personalisation. What I really found interesting is this diagram on designing social interfaces and this infographic on social media in business and the market share of different tools. Mark is quite upset (understandably so) about the lack of focus on personalisation given how much progress has happened with this concept on the public internet. The elearning debate for example is a place where the industry is getting together to discuss a whole bunch of issues. I would have been disappointed if Mark didn't mention delicious - it's my favourite social bookmarking tool and part of my PKM approach. Mark didn't disappoint me by the way! I'm all for the democratisation of content creation and tools like Rome can help you do that. A tool like hotseat , enables collaborative discussion in and out of the classroom. It's a great way of making the classroom social where computers and mobile phones are encouraged and fits the mindset I updated about some days back. Bloomfire's an awesome social LMS. Curatr's another tool on similar lines, as is Simversity and Schoology. Academic Earth gives you the opportunity to listen to world class lectures online, comment on them and rate them.
It's been an interesting day with Mark, he's truly knowledgeable in this space and knows heaps more than most people and has the credibility of doing this in a very very large organisation. He also thinks beyond the surface of the tools, so he's thinking and guiding people in the right direction. I do think this day could have been heaps better as a workshop because that's what I expected. But then again, I think I soaked in a lot just by virtue of his presence, so thank you. None of the material was new, but Mark's affirmations helped me realise that I think right about this.


David Truss said...

Just a quick note to let you know that the very clever "incremental vs. revolutionary improvements..." image was made by Kathy Sierra:

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Anonymous said...

Thats true that the main barriers for social media implementations are around Fear, Control and Trust, not cost, technology or anything else you'll imagine. I realized this when i was doing my Phd in UAE on a related topic to social media.

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