Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Key to the Magic Quadrant of Social Software

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L.

In this comparison I also showed the Gartner graph on Social Software;

In their review, Dogear Nation rightly pointed out that for instance Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and so on are missing. So where have the Garter researches been?

However, the graph also shows that none of the currently available platforms moves into the socalled 'Magic Quadrant';

The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner inc., a US based research and advisory firm. It is designed to provide an unbiased qualitative analysis of a “markets’ direction, maturity, and participants

Time to work magic

In the upper left quadrant we see both Microsoft and IBM named "challengers" with a great capacity to execute (read established corporate penetration), in the lower right quadrant we see a number of "visionaries" like Atlassian, Jive and Socialtext. The majority however falls into the lower left quadrant of "niche players" and no solution has made it to the magic quadrant yet.

What does it take to get into the magic quadrant? In blunt translation of the Gartner graph it should be Microsoft buying Atlassian for instance to combine 'completeness of vision' with 'the power to execute'. But that is not the correct answer.

If we mix up Jive with IBM or Atlassian with Microsoft it does not create a winner, it will not be a magic quadrant recipe, because it will undoubtedly be a functional cocktail from a technical point of view, not from a social point of view. It will result in a (probably very good) platform which offers everything you would want, but in the end won't work.

The 'ppp' Protocol

What does it take to get into that magic quadrant? Basically this is an identity management based issue. In my opinion we use the web in three ways:

  1. Private
  2. Personal
  3. Professional

Probably we should rename 'www' to 'ppp' ;) .You could argue the terminology though, it could just as well be personal, social and professional. However, I think theseare the three domains to which we use the internet and with the current cloudcomputing trends this will create a new paradigm for identity management (IdM) and this will be the key in stepping inside the magic quadrant.

In the 'old days' we had our home pc to facilitate our 'private need', meaning we used it to store our documents, photos and accessed the internet to find information for our hobbies. We also had a corporate pc on which we stored our work related documents. And in the Web 2.0 age we started to use the internet for social interaction.

Nowadays, more and more is shifting towards webbased functionality. We use Google Docs for our documents, share our photo's on Picasa, Webshots, Flickr, Paintbucket or wherever. We started blogging, and we started Tweeting...

Each of these three domains is becoming more and more webbased and it confuses us, it frustrates us. We're constantly putting up content on a variety of sites, distributing our lives through various media to various audiences and we often find the content should move beyond the boundaries of just one domain and we end up duplicating the same information to another blog or wiki.

IdM Divergence is Key

The current trends on aggregation, the creation of lifestreams is convergence; pulling the content of various media into one single lifestream distributed to all our contact. Regarding the three domains however, we want - no, NEED - divergence; one single point of entry and the option to distribute it to different audiences, across the boundaries set by these domains. One of the functional prerequisites is the ability to organically group contacts (there are more ;)) regardless of the domain they are confined to.

This is, what in my opinion, will make it impossible for each of the platforms mentioned in the Gartner graph to truly claim the Magic Quadrant. Each of these solutions focus on one particular domain; social / personal or professional. The Magic Quadrant platform needs support all three domains in one coherent mashup of these multiple online identities we have fostered with ample mechanisms to guard our privacy, with the appropriate tools to include and exclude people to see certain types of information. It needs to be able to discern who is allowed to see which part of a certain domain

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is Social Software?

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L. But what exactly does it mean?

As of this moment we only have a Dutch version of our book available, so I'll try and write up a few bits and pieces here on the blog.

Social Software

The foundation of Enterprise 2.0 is social software. A TeamPark which has a lot in common with MySpace for instance, but with clear differences.

What should your TeamPark look like? Whatever we think of and eventually build, a core requirement should be that it should be a place where people like to come to, without directions in their function description or receiving notification all day long to let them know something of interest has been added, or changed. A corporate hangout which lets people experience community and mutual interest. Various literary sources call this aliveness, as an important quality of social websites and, as far as we're concerned this pretty much nails it. It is just like in real life, as people are looking out for signs of life to find a place to socialize. Once inside that environment it takes some time to find the talk of the town.

It is not really that difficult to sum up what is necessary to build a social website, more or less. Which means; which are the elements that give a website a social character. A website on which you lookup a telephone number or are reading a text is not really social. In no way you can see what happens or who else is there, what the others think and there are definately no options to collaborate. A social environment does show these signals. As soon as you can see the presence of others, track their activities it suddenly gets a lot more social. It is perceived entirely different, and these signals, or stimuli, create an environment to interact. Which (inter-) actions actually do take place, and the result of these actions in consequence is primarily dependent on the focus the designer puts in the environment. The design of the website is a dominant factor, both the layout as the interaction design, in delivering the right stimuli.

All these stimuli a social environment offers, will stimulate people to engage in conversation, produce content and share ideas.

A conversation is quickly started by allowing users to react to a newsarticle. Different sorts of conversations can be facilitated by various web elements ranging from Instant Messaging to Chatboxes, Shoutboxes and a forum.

If there is a lot of content added to the environment, it will become important to weigh (rate) and filter which will allow content to surface that really has value, is popular, interesting, funny or up to date. With these mechanisms you avoid an information overload and stimulate quality.

As soon as a website starts to get a lot of users, the urge to create subcommunities arises. Each of these will form itself around special interests or themes. In large groups individual ideas are lost in the din and a sense of anonimity grows. A well designed social website stimulates growing optimum sized communities.

Finally, it requires enough mechanisms which truly enable to leverage the talent of the crowd. These are called aggregationmechanisms. Participation and UGC (user generated content) only is not enough.

Translation: Johan Vermij / VeeJay Burns
Original: TeamPark Method, the development of the intelligent organisation Page 13/14 by Arnd Brugman and Patrick Savalle, Sogeti Netherlands.

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