About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Corporate guidelines for social software

Tony Karrer's posting on corporate guidelines for social software/web 2.0 had some interesting links. Of all of the corporate guidelines, I liked the Sun corporate policy. First off, I have a bias towards open communication within a company. It is next to impossible to keep secrets in a company, and often the effort backfires and results in hard feelings to the employees. Sun's seems to have a balanced approach:

Don’t Tell Secrets · Common sense at work here; it’s perfectly OK to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it’s not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces. There’s an official policy on protecting Sun's proprietary and confidential information, but there are still going to be judgment calls.

If the judgment call is tough—on secrets or one of the other issues discussed here—it’s never a bad idea to get management sign-off before you publish.

In my mind, Sun treats their employees with respect and as grown ups with intelligence.

What surprised me about these guidelines, however, is that they assumed that all social software was the same. How can a social book marking program such as del.icio.us be on par with a wiki? A wiki acts very differently than a blog. And shouldn't there be more codes like Sun which recognize the difference between the use of these tools internally and externally? In looking at these codes, the one question that kept popping into my head was who do the management feel own the products of the social networking tools (often they feel it is the property of the individual when something goes wrong, but the property of the corporation if it adds to the corporate value).

Likewise, I wondered who users of social software imagine is their audience. I know that my students rarely think of others reading anything they write except for those in authority or their friends (another reason I like the Sun code as they point out that others might be reading blogs, wiki's, etc..., not just those the author intended should read).

This brings me back to who bloggers write for. I think many write with an imaginary audience (I do) whether that is true or not. I was surprised when Tony Karrer mentioned that my blog was "specialized" as I thought it was very broad. In fact, I tried to write my profile as broadly as possible (which I guess made it specialized).

Blogging vs. Wikis

While bloggers write either for their thought processes or an "imagined" audience, wikis are the result of group interaction. The product of the blog is a record of thoughts, often with little evidence of the thought process that created those ideas. On the other hand, wikis show the thought processes that created an idea. The importance of the wiki is the thought process (and group cognitive development) whereas the importance of the blog is the final thought.

Social networking software such as Ning and Facebook is still another tool that creates totally different dynamics and insights into the creators and contributers. Like a wiki, the process is important, but so is the development of social relationships. Unlike blogs and wikis, the final product is a "feeling", usually of trust or belonging (confirming or disconfirming behavior as group communicators term it). What is important to users are the patterns of communication, the roles that individuals play in their network, and the building of communication.

As a result of the differences in each of these tools, doesn't it make sense to create different "rules" for their use within a corporation? I think the real difficulty is in balancing "rules" with the affordances these tools can bring to the corporation.

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