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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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stalking made Easy

As the social web continues to grow, and more and more people are filling in their personal details everywhere, it is no wonder specific social search engines start to pop up, which can actually turn up all kinds of embarrassing and potentially invasive information about you.

Besides making online stalking easy, specialized search engines are making it increasingly easier to combine socially shared information together into a highly detailed profile of our virtual lives. These specialized search engines go by a variety of terms such as "social search" utilities or "people search" utilities and many of them brag of their ability to search deeper than even Google. [InfoPackets]

We all see it happen, but sofar I have not seen any serious attempt at redesigning the identity management and privacy issues on the web. It will take years untill we will figure out how to tackle this problem as it will probably take a full redesign of the entire internet architecture at base level. For now, you have to take charge of your online identity. Tips and tricks on how to regain some control can be found at PC World, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

What is Social Webdesign ? Is it dangerous?

In my post yesterday I briefly mentioned a potential danger of social webdesign. But what exactly is social webdesign?

Social webdesign is not about website builders building websites for social networks. Well, not entirely. Social Webdesign is more than putting together a social network, making a site design and putting bits of code into the website. Social Webdesign is about the features on these websites that create communities and addiction.

It's actually about psychologists designing mechanisms that get you hooked, that pull you in hook, line and sinker untill you can't get out anymore.

From a graphical design point of view you could argue that the Facebook design is rather boring, maybe even unattractive. From a technical design point of view you may fuzz about their ecosystem and from an Interaction Design point of view you may freckle over the layout of the interface, but looking at it from a Social Webdesign point of view, it's a different ball park. Social Webdesign is about what makes Facebook work, about the widgets, the features that have attracted millions of users almost overnight.

Let's go S.O.C.I.A.L.

Social webdesign works around several key principles, which we at Sogeti have neatly called S.O.C.I.A.L;

  • Socialness: The measure in which a platform stimulates social interaction and gives social incentives.
  • Organicness: The ability of a platform of self organising communities.
  • Collaborative Intelligence: Mechanisms to make talents explicit and converge
  • Aliveness: Necessary signs of live, buzzcreators and talk of the town to create a vibrant community to which people can easily connect.
  • Linkedness: ‘no social platform is an island’…

These principles are the foundations to our Teampark experiments, an enterprise solution to utilise the power of the community inside corporations. Social Webdesign can benefit companies to leverage the creative forces inside.

The hidden danger to Social Webdesign

There's a side to social webdesign though. Yesterday I blogged a little on how Authority based filtering for example can bring about the danger of creating an elite, a dominant opinion in which new and refreshing ideas are taken out of the equasion.

First class social webdesign can have the power to play the masses. It can ignite emergent behaviour and lead groups of people into doing things they would normally not do individually (or are even strongly opposed to). It may well bring about the tools to mass manipulate.

Further reading tip:

One site you might want to check out is Joshua Porter's blog called Bokardo. It is a blog about interface design for social web sites and applications, about recommendation systems, identity, ratings, privacy, comments, profiles, tags, reputation, sharing, as well as the social psychology underlying our motivation to use (or not use) these things.

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Authority Search and Social Webdesign

Loic Le Meur wrote an interesting article last week on filtering by Authority to which I fully disagree:

"There were more than 7000 tweets posted during the two days of LeWeb, no way anyone can read them quickly. We need filtering and search by authority. We're not equal on Twitter, as we're not equal on blogs and on the web. I am not saying someone who has more followers than yourself matters more, but what he says has a tendency to spread much faster. Comments about your brand or yourself coming from @techcrunch with 36000 followers are not equal than someone with 100 followers. Most people use Twitter with a few friends, but when someone who has thousands, if not tens of thousands of followers starts to speak, you have to pay attention.

Brands do pay attention and already start understanding the difference. We made the experiment with Ben Metcalfe. I started complaining that Sprint was not offering the new Blackberry (they still don't, I want a BB Bold with worldwide unlimited data) on Twitter and minutes later a Sprint representative contacted me and offered me VIP customer service. I loved it. For the experiment, @dotben started also complaining about the same issue (and really would love a Bold too, it was true) but nothing happened for Ben. Why not? Sprint understood that I have nearly 10x the number of followers of Ben so I had to be answered immediately, even with my weird last name no one can pronounce. Ben has almost 2000 followers, I think Sprint should actually pay attention too.

What we need is search by authority in Twitter Search. Technorati had nailed it years ago by allowing searches filtered by number of links the blogger had. It would be very easy for Twitter to add an authority line in their search criteria, with the number of followers so that you can search for say, only people who have more than a thousand followers and see what they say. React as fast as you can for criticism from them. It is not a criteria for being smart or not, but clearly a criteria for how fast something can spread."

I fully agree with Loic that the amount of information we spread out nowadays is too much. If you pick up a saturday issue of the New York Times you'll be getting more information than a person would get in his whole life say 200 years ago. Every year we see a stellar growth in information. The information poured onto us in the last five years through the internet is more than the information mankind has produced in the 5,000 years before.

No wonder we get lost along the way, and you've got a hell of a job in finding out who really does know something about the issue you're pondering. I don't have Loics reputation, so I don't count as an authority here, but I dare say Loic is wrong. He's off by miles.

In his blogpost he pleas to have a twitter search by authority, just like technorati who worked out an algorithm to define the authority of your blog. I'll walk a mile with him on this path as the algorithm to define authority by number of citations or links is much better than counting sheer numbers of followers. However...

There's a catch.

The catch is in creating an elite layer, the twitterati, the digerati, or whatever you'd like to call them. While reading Loic's blogpost, two things came to mind. First a conversation I had past New Years'Eve and a blogpost I wrote about half a year ago on the Social Web.

The New Years Eve conversation I had was a conversation with my neighbour and my Sister in Law who has recently received her PhD at the Oxford University. She graduated in the interaction between insects and how that would affect a Ecological systems or something like that. Fact is she worked at the same department as Dawekins (the Evolution theory zealot) and the discussion went into Evolutionism vs. Creationism. On both sides you have zealots and with neither you can have a normal scientific, fact based discussion. Evolutionism is the dominant philosophy in Science these days and to most people it seems like the case has been closed. Evolution has been scientifically verified, beyond doubt. Well, it isn't. I didn't see a video on YouTube to prove it (nor did I see a video on YouTube to prove Divine Creation) and if you would conduct objective, unbiased science, you would have to conclude that the evolution theory has gaps. In a scientific setting you'd count on educated minds questioning these results, but in the way it is presented to our children who do not have the cognitive skills yet to analyse results, we are brainwashing them. If you look at how the scientific scene works it explains a lot. Authority in Science comes from the number of publications you have in a major magazine. Every paper you submit is reviewed by an editor who likes it, or not, regardless of the argumentation to your findings. Let's say you write an article about how Evolution sucks, no matter if you include 100% proof, if the editor doesn't like it, you're out. Next step is the peer review. Every paper, once it has passed the editorial selection, is sent to peers, colleagues and the same selections starts over again. Let's say my findings are solid and proves the previously published research of one of my reviewers wrong, he won't like that as it will make him lose his reputation, authority or stature. Case closed. No publication.

Selection and authority in this process kill Science as it should be unbiased and objective. It isn't. I think the same would count for authority based filtering. The key issue here is in automation. Google and other search engines have worked out algorithms, as well as technorati who put auhority to blogs. No matter how much intelligence you put into these intermediates, they cannot compete with the selection capacity of the human brain. These selection mechanisms will undoubtedly produce a prevailing elite, just like in the science case above and smart, intelligent and argumented opinions to the contrary will be neglected.

This made me recall a post I made several months ago on the social web called "Power to the Community" In this blogpost I discussed how my colleague defines social webdesgin. This is way more than defining the social web. It is about desinging your websites to create emergent behaviour. In extremis this could lead to Isaac Asimov's foundation series in which he presents the Psychohistory.

The basis of psychohistory is the idea that, while the actions of a particular individual could not be foreseen, the laws of statistics could be applied to large groups of people and used to predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: in a gas, the motion of a single molecule is very difficult to predict, but the mass action of the gas can be predicted to a high level of accuracy - known in physics as the Kinetic Theory. Asimov applied this concept to the population of the fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered in a quintillion. The character responsible for the science's creation, Hari Seldon, established two postulates:

  1. That the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large
  2. They should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses.

In creating automated intelligent interfaces to filter through the inprocessable amount of digital information we might just be on our way to do that...

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Is it Web 3.0 time?

Aside from Pownce shutting down , today looks a pretty fine day as both FaceBook Connect and Google Friend Connect emerge from closed beta into the wide public. Both these projects will undoubtedly boost social networking immensely. John McCrea of Plaxo posted quite a nice blog today on "the birth of the Social Web" as he called it:

December 4, 2008. Today may be remembered as the birth of the Social Web, as two major projects aimed at turning the Web social emerged from their restricted beta periods for general availability, Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect. Together, these two major events sound the death knell for the walled garden phase of social networking. Early reactions to the news are quick to frame this as a head-to-head battle between Google and Facebook, but the truth requires a look at the details…

read full article here.

But, does today live up to its outlook? One the one hand I welcome these projects as they may bring some sync into the countless social networking accounts I have, but on the other hand I fear the widespread grip Google is starting to gain on our digital identities (see this blogpost for instance).

The image above is from Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and depicts Gulliver being tied up by the people of Lilliput. As their ropes are mere strands of hair to him, he would have no trouble whatsoever in tearing these ropes apart.... at least, one or a bunch at a time, but the vast amounts of ropes will hold him tied down, captive.

This analogy was used by professor Vincent Icke in the Dutch talkshow "De Wereld Draait Door" yesterday on how the government is getting a grip on our online identity with all sorts of new files and registrations, but I think this is even more true for Google. It is time for a new web, and yes it is time for the Social Web, but that would require a thorough redesign, a proper 'new web' with a different architecture supporting it; An architecture which can provide privacy and security when it comes to Identity Management

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