Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Retro Post ... Social Networking

The more I wonder, the more I think ... there is an amazing social computing tool that we are probably missing out on ... its called email. Social computing as we know it today, seems to be more about discovery than anything else. Let me explain ...

What are the advantages of social computing over email? The primary advantage is that social networking can enable discovery. Discovery of others who are interested in a particular subject. This is what enables you to get in touch with flks who are like-minded. Once this is done, its about communication. How different is communication over email from communication on a social networking site? If you are clued into email, then you can catch up on all the happenings.

Now, let us look at social networks within the purview of the organization. Within the organization, more often than not, the discovery part is taken care of. There are corporate directories which most organizations have, which serve this purpose quite well. In addition to these directories, there are plenty of informal networks which can guide you to the right resources. Why should someone go to that extent? One reason ... Trust. Somthing I have written about earlier. And, I am sure you would agree, thats a very important ingredient. Why should there be more trust here? Because it is within the organization? No. Because of the fundamentally informal nature of these networks.

So, we could say, that email could be a very good way of generating social networks, at least within the organization. Mailing lists have, in fact, been used quite effectively in organizations, much before KM becamse fashionable. One issue is persistence. Emails tend to reside in mail-boxes of people, and hence, are not accessible to people who are not part of the list. This is where, I believe, Knowledge Managers, people who are proficient at managing content, should come into the picture. In fact, there is a very interesting post about this here. While Joe is talking primarily about the buzz nature of communities, where I am coming from is the buzz value of email. At any rate, a thought which is going away from the usual tenor of discussions happening out there. All comments more than welcome ... :-)

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