IBM Connections: Default follow on public files is it logical?

At one of my customers a user complained about the fact that every time he opened a publicly shared file it would automatically ‘follow’ that file. This meant that every subsequent ‘like’, change or comment to that file would show up in his timeline. Of course he could ‘unfollow’ the file but found it irritating that it would follow it at all without him making that conscious decision.

After testing and a little digging by our admins it turns out that indeed this is the default behavior for IBM Connections and can be managed by changing a setting in the files-config.xml:

<emailNotification>
    <addOnMediaDownload enabled="true"/>
</emailNotification>

So no big deal but we did have a bit of a discussion as to why this setting is there in the first place and if it is logical. Yes, there is a case to make for auto-follow as that will ensure you keep track of subsequent changes to that file. After all, a publicly shared file that you don’t follow or isn’t in a community that you follow is sometimes hard to track but at the same time it can be quite annoying. In an environment with thousands of users and where public files are shared and mentioned in other sources like the intranet, auto-following a file simply because you opened it once, can cause lots of updates in your activity stream by other people ‘liking’, commenting or editing the file. Information you might not be interested in at all as you only just wanted to read it that once.

To be honest, I think this is one of those settings that can be interpreted either way. The bigger discussion now is do we disable it? This user clearly finds it annoying but what about all those other users? Do they want to auto-follow or not? The setting is org-wide so any change will influence all. You can’t just change the default behavior of a system used by thousands of users without annoying at least some.  I guess this is something that will have to be decided by the the business.

So what do you think: Is auto-follow indeed the logical behavior or not in a Enterprise Social Network and how does your organization handle it?

Slides for our IBM ConnectED 2015 session

On Tuesday Jan 27th 2015 my coworker Sasja Beerendonk and I had the privilege to present at IBM ConnectED in Orlando, FL on our favorite topic of Social Business. Below is the session abstract & slide deck for those interested.

BP202: Beyond Theory: Trials and Tribulations in Becoming a Successful Social Business

There are many theories and ideas around “how to become a social business” but what really does or doesn’t work? We wanted to know, and instead of just going blindly with the theory, we did the opposite and interviewed 32 companies in various stages of their journey to becoming a social business. Not just asking them about the big wins, but also talking about the struggles and small successes that really made the difference for them. Taking these experiences and real life examples of companies the likes of Dutch Railways, DAF, Saxion, Forbo Eurocol and Bavaria, and aligning them to the various theoretically relevant concepts, we were able to come up with some interesting concepts. In this session, we will take you through these concepts and theories and, using the examples provided by the companies, show you how these can help you identify the successes and avoid the pitfalls in becoming a social business.

Folders versus Tags – Infographic

For a while now I’ve been working on various posts on the topic of “Folders versus Tags” and why there is no such comparison really… This is a topic that is often hotly debated among people involved with social business and definitely close to my heart. The problem is, none of those posts ever saw the daylight as they became too long, too complicated and simply said: boring. There is a lot to say about this topic but most of all a lot of explaining. therefore I tried something different. I hope this infographic will help explain some of the specifics of each of the options and why comparing them isn’t always possible. Have fun!

Click on the image to see a full version preview

Folders versus tagging

Social marketing… what's in it for me?

Monday morning someone in my network tweeted a link to a site called “#UncoverPhilips“. A promotion by the large multinational we all know quite well to get some social buzz around their new logo that they are announcing today (Nov 13th 2013). The site was quite simple and showed a gray image hiding the new logo. Users could uncover a pixel of the image and so uncover the logo before it’s actual launch. Catch: you had to do so by signing in with your Twitter or Facebook account, effectively allowing them to access your data and post on your behalf.

Ok, not very shocking or innovative. This is done all the time and plays into peoples inert sense of curiosity. The Terms & Conditions even seem quite reasonable:

“4. Participants agree and confirm that …. can collect their personal information during the Promotion, for the purpose of this promotion. The personal information includes the individual name, the individual’s profile photo, and email address.”

Ok so they get your name, photo and email… Mmm…

But!:

“6. ….will not use participants’ personal information for other purposes <….> All the personal information and the webserver will be deleted after 30 days after the end of the promotion.”

Ok, not too bad. so why do they want me to sign in then?

“5. Participants agree that their names and profile photo can be displayed on <the site> in association with the Promotion during the Promotion.”

“13. You agree that <….> may provide you with notices by email, or postings on Facebook once the image is uncovered.”

Ok, so they get to use my name and picture to endorse their brand AND they get to broadcast that to my social network by posting on my Facebook stream. Again, not too shocking, this is done all the time. But…

what do I get?

Yeah and that’s where it gets interesting to me as there seems to be no added value in it for me, other then to be able to uncover 1 pixel of a 50.000 pixel image. There is no prizes to be won, no secrets to be gained other then a 1/50.000th sneak peak of a logo they are uncovering anyway… And that is what intrigues me! Apparently someone thought enough people would be motivated to participate solely for that so I couldn’t help but follow how this would evolve.

This was the state on Monday morning when I first noticed it: p_shield1

And this is three days later (3hrs before the logo will be revealed):p_shield2

Now ok, does this mean it is a success or not? I’m no Marketing expert but three hours before the deadline only 26% of the picture is uncovered… You might call that a failure but I have no clue what their goal was…. 13000+ people have done it. Let’s say that on average everyone of those has about 100-500 followers on Facebook and that an average post on Facebook reaches about 1/3 of your followers. Also factor in the multitude of people that visited the site based on tweets, links and posts who opted (like me) not to participate but have in the process learned about the new logo… That’s still an impressive reach without having to pay for it (other then to create this site).

I can’t help wonder though what the difference would have been had there been any prizes involved… Would the number of people participating be higher? Did the fact that apart from the curiosity factor there was no real incentive and the fact that most of the actual logo is concentrated in the center of the area (which was uncovered first) influence the results?

Sometimes Marketing can be really intriguing!

How the internet rules who you are

How is reputation build? How do people become known as experts in what they do, how is credibility established and what role is the internet playing in all this now personal information is becoming so much more available due to social networks?

“Reputation of a social entity (a person, a group of people, an organization) is an opinion about that entity, typically a result of social evaluation on a set of criteria. It is important in education, business, and online communities. Reputation may be considered as a component of identity as defined by others.” (wikipedia)

In general you can say that reputation is based on what you say you know versus what others say, and content you’ve published shows you know. That isn’t new, recommendations and background searches have always been a strong factor for people when deciding on someone’s expertise. The difference now is that internet is taking it a step further. It is providing us with many more channels of information and it is giving us all this information we never had before. Forcing us to change the way we weigh opinions on reputations as it is coming less and less from our own (trusted) social circles and more and more from external networks and sources.

Four ways the internet is used to determine your reputation:

  • gifted/attributed reputation: What others say about your knowledge or expertise (linkedIn recommendations & expertise vouching, tagging, commenting, etc)
  • digital output reputation: what people can find about you online in the form of contributions, blogs and anything else you throw out there (linkedin, personal blogs, Google search results)
  • reputation by association: who do you interact with and what is their reputation? Who reads and responds to your content? It’s not just about how many times it is tweeted, liked and recommended that counts but by whom too!
  • system attributed reputation: reputation assigned to you by digital systems based on interaction, submissions and topics you respond to or talk about (Klout, Peerindex and Kred, but also suggested reads, ‘people of interest’, etc).

The first three are not that astonishing. They more or less are what people have always done to determine someones reputation: get information and recommendations from people and sources we trust and form an opinion based on that. The only difference there is that we have more sources and they are much easier to access.

So where the first three merely give back what others have said or done and leave it up to you to interpret that, the fourth one takes it a step further and does the interpretation for you. By using algorithms and complex computations they try to determine someone’s expertise and knowledge areas. The problem is though it does so indiscriminately and without taking into account any of the cultural or social elements that could factor in and without weighing the topics for relevance.

“…Klout declared me influential in ‘Bollywood dancing’…”

It’s scary to see what digital systems nowadays know about us. It’s even scarier to see how they interpret that knowledge. A good example for me was when Klout declared me influential in ‘Bollywood dancing’….. I can tell you I have no relation with Bollywood dancing, know next to nothing about it, have never practiced it or ever expressed any knowledge about it but still Klout was telling the world I was an expert on it. I could not determine how it came to that conclusion nor could I really influence that other than by having my Klout account removed.

So how do I control my reputation?!?
The thing is, you don’t. Your reputation is not something you determine yourself. It’s being determined for you and you’ll have to life with that as it’s very hard to get rid of. There are however things you can influence. One of which is your online profile. And as your online profile is becoming more and more important in determining your reputation, finding ways to influence it becomes more important too.

So what can you do to build your online profile in a way that helps your reputation?

  • Your name“: Hardly anyone is unique but some are more so then others (I pity all John Smiths out there). So before ‘going social’ research your name (Google it!) and try to come up with a social handle (twitter name, etc) that makes you recognizable. Not just to other people but to automatic systems too. Once you do, use it everywhere and stay consistent. That is your key to being recognizable and unique. It’s your trademark in a sea of ‘John Smiths’ so to speak.
  • Company affiliation“: Try not to affiliate your complete persona to a company name. Not seldom do you see people having a twitter handle or personal blog domain mentioning or linked directly to a company name. Realizing you’re losing your job is bad enough without having to realize that your whole digital profile is tied to the company that just kicked you out. Like someone told me recently: “your work might be owned by your boss, your digital reputation is yours, guard it!”.
“…You would be amazed how much influence you can have on what Google shows…”
  • “Be visible“: Determine your visibility and monitor what people find if they search for you. Keep your profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc) up to date and go through the first 20 Google hits for your name / handle regularly to check what people will find. Is it still current?  If not, can you influence it (e.g. post blogs, respond to hot topics in popular sites, etc)? You would be amazed how much influence you can have on what Google shows.
  • Project your vision“: Envision what it is that you want to project with your online profile. Do you want them to find you work related stuff or is it fine with you that they will hit all the other stuff you do too? There is nothing wrong with being a prolific contributor on all kinds of topics or someone with a wide area of interest but if you want to set a professional image you might have to think of ways to highlight those areas that you want people to notice. Balancing your output or using different aliases to distinguish professional and private life and keeping different networks for your business and private stuff can also help in setting your profile vision.
  • Be connected” Build a network of people around you who do what you want to be associated with. Not just so your profile gets associated with them but also because by being in their vicinity you learn and get alerted to relevant information and posts. Interact with these people, provide feedback and ask (and respect!) their opinion on your content. When done sincerely most people are more then willing to help you on your way.
“…Don’t let your online profile make you look like a ‘corporate robot’…..”
  • Be human” There is a lot to be said for keeping certain areas of your life private but at the same time social media and social business is also all about connecting on a human level. Don’t let your online profile make you look like a ‘corporate robot’ by being all business and no pleasure. In a social age this could actually look suspicious. Don’t be afraid to be human just do it in a balanced way. And for goodness sake use a recognizable and consistent profile picture on all your public profiles. Interacting with a persona that has a smiling kitten as a profile pic really doesn’t help build you a professional reputation.
  • Be culturally aware” Realize that the internet is taking away borders and that your content (tweets, posts, blogs, etc), although perhaps only directed at people directly around you can usually be read by anyone, anywhere. Something that might be funny in your circle, country or culture might actually be offending to someone else. Some things can’t be helped, like being named “Dick de Cock” (and yes, that is an actual name in The Netherlands) but others can. So be sensitive for that. In general a good thing to keep in mind is what my mum told me when I was going off to university: “Never talk about sex, religion or politics in public or with anyone who at any moment in your life could become your boss or customer”. Well that makes for almost anyone.
“…people tend to forget the positive very quickly and remember the negative much longer…”
  • Voice opinions, not frustrations” There is nothing wrong with not always being a ‘happy bunny’ but be careful not to come across too negative. Remember that people tend to forget the positive very quickly and remember the negative much longer so be careful when voicing frustrations and try not to be resentful when others scorn you. Taking the moral high ground might not be easy but almost always is best.

There are so many more things you can do but in short it all comes down to this: be truthful, be sincere, be aware and most importantly: be vigilant about what your online profile is saying about you.

It’s your introduction to the world, make sure it fits you

 

Social Bacon

Ok, I’ll admit it, this has got me stumped for a while now but “WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE BACON?!?” there isn’t a day without someone in my social networks mentioning or referring to ‘bacon’ in some way, there even is a bacon day, a bacon society and a bacon ipsum generator. Searching for answers I came across the most eclectic collection of bacon-products imaginable.

I even posted a question about this in a Skype chat I’m part of. That resulted in one of the weirdest conversations I ever had (edited it a bit to make it somewhat coherent)

<Me>: Ok, at the risk of sounding very blond, or ignorant or both…. But what is this fascination with bacon all about?!? I constantly see people on FB and Twitter making references to it and so called funny remarks…. I’m sure I’m missing something here but what’s up with that or is it just my imagination???
<UK-girl>: I like bacon, but not to that extent. Marmite – well that is a different matter
<Me>: Ok going from the weird to the disgusting here… 😉
<UK-girl>: noooooo! Marmite is AWESOME
<US-guy>: Mmm. Bacon.
<UK-girl>: marmite bacon .. double mmmmm
<Me>: Mmm… Not getting very far this way, do I 🙂
<UK-girl>: you think you are going to get a serious answer out of people talking about bacon?
<Me>: And why not??? Arggg, really getting confused about bacon here
<US-guy>: Bacon is serious. And good with anything, including chocolate. I fully admit that I am from the South, so loving bacon is genetic.
<Me>: Ok so it is just in my head that I see all these bacon references and think there is a second meaning to it that I don’t get?!?
<UK-girl>: no .. there is lots of bacon, I noticed it too
<US-guy>: True. I would say Canadians are also misguided, but then they actually call theirs ‘peameal’.
<Me>: @<UK-girl> Ah! So I’m not alone in noticing!
<UK-girl>: nope
<Me>: But no clue why?
<US-guy>: It is important to not think about where bacon comes from, but instead just worship the awesomeness. 😉
<Me>: Hope we didn’t offend the gods of Bacon then with this conversation… 😉
<UK-girl>: they will be getting ready to fry or grill us 😀

Right…. after a good chuckle I gave up on the idea of ever getting a serious answer from this group as you can imagine.

But it does highlight an important factor and that is that we all bring certain cultural or social aspects and concepts into the mix that others might not be familiar with. Nothing wrong there but it could lead to misunderstandings and confusions.

Now me not understanding the US/Canadian bacon mania is one thing but misunderstandings in communications can cause serious problems, especially where people from different backgrounds get more direct interaction with each other like in social business environments. Take for instance Belgium and The Netherlands. In both countries Dutch (Flemish) is spoken and geographically spoken most foreigners won’t even know where one ends and the other starts. Our cultural etiquette though has some very distinct differences. Dutch are often seen by their Belgium neighbors as too direct and harsh where the Dutch sometimes perceive their Belgium counterparts as unnecessary formal and overly cautious. Nothing wrong there if you are aware of this but sometimes it can be a good idea to give new social platform users that are not familiar with communicating through social platforms or with people in other cultures a bit of an explanation and awareness of social etiquette before turning them loose.

After all the whole idea of getting people to adopt social business is to get them more productive and ‘bringing home the bacon’, not burn it.

 

Ning – Social platform off the shelf

While looking for a cloud based solution for a non-profit organization that is looking for a low-cost, configurable, expandable and manageable solution to set up a social collaboration network for its ever expanding target audience I came across Ning.com:

Ning: Your key to an awesome social community!
Create a perfect social website to bring people together. With your own look and feel, and choice of social integration, Ning opens new doors to revenue and involvement.

 

for a relatively low monthly cost it offers a click-and-go configurable private social network with profiles, groups, file-, photo- and video sharing, blogs, forums, a facebook like activity stream and the option to support an unlimited number of users.

I’ve been test driving Ning for a few days and I must say I like it! Yes, ok, there are things it doesn’t do like full blown community management (it does have groups that offer a lot of similar options though) and I’m still struggling with some customization limitations but overall it offers a very decent set of social network functionalities with lots of options to either keeping it simple or building it out into a full blown platform.

It opens up a lot of opportunities and at the same time also triggers lots of questions, future reliability of the service provider being one of them (for me), but overall with all its configurable settings and templates, integration with external social networks like Facebook & Twitter and its intuitive administration module that a non-techie could easily maintain, I must say I like it and will definitely be looking into it further!

 

KLM: Surfing the social media tidal wave

Earlier today KLM, the biggest flight operator at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam experienced problems after a software update. It caused their site, booking systems and other operations to fail and caused lots of delays and disruption at their main hub, Schiphol Airport.

I’m not flying today but noticed it because of an article on a Dutch news site. Now in general I wouldn’t really have paid much attention especially as I read the article several hours after it had been posted and the disruption had already been cleared and services resumed by then, but one line intrigued me:  [translated from Dutch]

“….Travellers can contact KLM through its social media accounts Twitter or Facebook. There will be employees there that can check in customers online or book flights.”

Now a major international company taking their online reputation and social customer service serious during a major services outage isn’t new but to specifically offer operational help (like booking or check in) through a Facebook or Twitter account is not something you see often. The reason being that in order to do that on a large scale you need a totally different skill set then for simply answering a customer service question or responding to remarks or complaints.  Traditionally most companies still see the role of a social media department mostly as a communications / marketing endeavor and hire their social media staff accordingly. Thereby limiting the reach of their social channels.

From experience learned during the 2010 Iceland volcano eruption that caused worldwide mayhem in the aviation industry and a major boost in social Media use, KLM instead chose to create a Social Media department with people from all sides of its operations: “… a dedicated team creates synergy by sharing their expertise from a varied background including communications, e-commerce, customer care, ticketing, marketing, operations and cabin crew” [source]. Thereby making it possible to quickly and autonomously react to possible problems and easily involve other departments (volunteers) when needed.

And that meant that when their own IT services went down today they could immediately react and go beyond the normal realm of social media customer service and offer services that would otherwise not have been available.

They described their social media strategy and the process of how that came to be in this 4 part blog series. I can certainly recommend reading it as it is a really good (and entertaining!) read for all those interested in how big corporations tackle the ever expanding social media tidal wave that is hitting them.

Paving the way for others, KLM is certainly among those facing it head-on.

The power of Greenhouse

I’m working on a project where a customer is evaluating several social business platforms for an onsite implementation. To get him a better feel of what Connections could do for them I helped him set up a community in Greenhouse and told him how to invite his project members. I was somewhat apprehensive to let him loose on it as it can be overwhelming but I clearly underestimated him as it took him no time to get his team involved and experimenting. He loved it:

“…I wish more vendors would offer something like Greenhouse! Being able to have my project team members experiment within a fully functional and operational environment where they can interact in a real-life scenario with the software and experience how others do that before having to commit to buying or locally installing it, means they now for the first time get what a social platform can do for them. It means I no longer have to peddle abstract concepts about Social Business and can finally move on to discussing actual use cases and possible implementations!…”

I’m sure todays upgrade of Greenhouse to the brand spankin new Connections Next is going to make him even happier.

Living, breathing and working IBM software I sometimes take for granted that we have something like Greenhouse. The truth is: I love it and use it daily. Not just as a demo or test environment but also to interact with other business partners, IBM’ers and customers over Sametime, to share information and to learn what’s going on in the community. Silently it has become a staple in my social diet and I actually missed it when it went offline for the upgrade last Friday!

It’s easy to take things for granted. Sometimes it’s good to step back and appreciate what you’ve got

Kudos to the Greenhouse team!

Microsoft buying Yammer: big steps forward or stifling a promising hatchling?

Some interesting discussions going on this week about Social Business, Yammer being bought by Microsoft one of them. Until now I really haven’t given my opinion on it even though I was asked about it by several people as I have been blogging a few times about Yammer before and have been specifically looking at it for it’s possibilities of extending Sharepoint, one of the platforms on which we actively sell services and solutions. But not just about the Yammer/Microsoft move but also in respect to what this could mean to IBM Connection. IBM’s social platform that has been a major focus for me professionally over the last few years.

To be honest, I had to mull this one over a bit before I could answer but here it goes, my 2 cents worth on it…

 

First steps

First of all, I think Microsoft did a really wise move buying Yammer. I think someone in Redmond finally realized that just calling Sharepoint a collaborative ‘social’ platform doesn’t make it one and that they really had to take some bold moves to catch up as others like Jive and IBM were miles ahead there in the social business arena.

Maturing

Secondly I think Yammer can benefit from this as well. As I said before I believe Yammer has one of the best social conversation streams in the Social Business arena right now and their way of bottom up adoption is innovative and effective in getting new users, but their collaboration options (file sharing, activities, communities) just aren’t mature yet and on that end it was missing out and in need of some serious investment.

So combining Microsoft’s capital and Sharepoint’s collaborative content management with Yammers  capabilities in getting the social conversations going, I think, could benefit both. Especially as this is already being done. Integrating Yammer in Sharepoint isn’t something new, it is already there. This move will only embed Yammer into Sharepoint even more.

Competitive position

So what does this mean to IBM Connections and to Microsoft’s competitive position on the Social market?

To be honest, I don’t know. It all depends on Microsoft’s next moves:

  • Will they take Yammer as is and just make the already existing integration stronger? Yammer right now is a cloud based product. Will that appeal to customers who deliberately chose for on-premises installs?
  • Will they incorporate the Yammer data into Sharepoint? A big downdraft I see with the existing Yammer/Sharepoint integration is the fact that the conversation is separated from the content. The document, file or workflow being in Sharepoint and the ‘conversation’ and social content about that document, file or workflow being in an externally hosted social environment. Maintaining integrity and consistency of data with a model like that over time and during the contents lifespan can be a big challenge.
  • And lastly…. Will Microsoft allow Yammer to fully incorporate into Sharepoint allowing the social knowledge Yammer has to embed itself into the more document oriented current Sharepoint environment or will it remain a little new playfriend on the sideline? From the communications right now it seems Microsoft is keeping Yammer as a separate entity within it’s portfolio and not blending but integrating it into the other product streams, not bad from an innovation stand point but not beneficial to Sharepoint either which is in desperate need of some ‘social understanding’ influx.
Leading by example, building from experience

So what does all this mean to IBM Connection? Well, for now little I think. Of course, Microsoft will use this to strengthen its position on the social market and give some footing to it’s claims of being a social platform provider. Rightly so, it is taking steps. But to really leverage Social Business I think it needs to do more. It needs to start thinking as a social business.

And that is exactly where I see IBM’s strength coming through. IBM Connections wasn’t created as a platform to fill a gap for a new hype, it was designed from personal experience in becoming a social business, living an ideal and experiencing it’s challenges and pitfalls as IBM itself was becoming a social business. It was build on experience and is focused on getting people to leverage their strengths to grow as an organization by collaboration and participation. To say it bluntly: It’s not just about starting a conversation, it’s about getting that conversation to turn into collaboration and therefore to start generating revenue.

Taking it forward

Yammer was well on its way to build a truly collaborative social environment over the last year and a half or so. So if this move from Microsoft is going to succeed depends, in my eyes, solely on how much of this Microsoft really gets. Personally I hope Microsoft will recognize it and use the knowledge and social strengths of Yammer to, for lack of a better word, “infect” it’s organization and Sharepoint development with the social bug. Or, better yet, build out Yammer to eventually overtake Sharepoint (I know a bold thing to say!). The market for social business is booming and the combination of Sharepoint’s market with Yammers social aptitude has enough potential to grow into a major player. But I also think Microsoft still has a few steps to take before they truly ‘get it’.

After all, social isn’t just a tool to be bought, it’s a mindset and requires a major culture shift, and on those IBM can still teach Microsoft a lesson or two I think.