This is an interesting article about social software in corporations. It talks about trying to get a 10,000 person company to ask as a 10,000 person group instead of 1000 groups of 100 with social software, and using Facebook and similar sites or software.
And it talks about the challenges when you have people that want to find others, but not be found themselves.
I've seen something similar here at SQLServerCentral.com, where I think we've built a great community. There are lots of people that enjoy the site, flip through articles and discussions to learn things, even like reading these editorials.
But they never participate.
I've had friends and people I've met on the site tell me they enjoy it, but they never post or get involved in discussions. And that's ok, because I think that not everyone gets the same thing from the site. Some get entertainment, some get debate, some get knowledge, and there is not great one answer.
But I've also learned that many people prefer to be viewers rather than participants. They don't want to stick themselves out there and be noticed, or have someone attack their point of view. From someone that's out there every day with my own thoughts and ideas, I can completely understand how hard that can be. It gets to me some days as well.
Which is why I'm not sure that social software is a great idea for business, especially if it's pushed on people. Many people won't like it and even though some will see huge benefits, you may do more damage than good if you upset the wrong people.
In some sense it reminds me of the blogging phenomenon. Many companies started to ask, or even require employees to blog. A few people at Microsoft even said that blogging was a part of their performance review for bonus decisions. Over the last few years, I've followed literally hundreds of blogs, and the majority have gone dead, or mostly dead.
Does that mean it's not worth doing? I don't think that's the case. There will be some people that love the new technologies, they'll blog, bookmark, share, etc. with others. And they might get inspired to build something or create new synergies, both of which can make this a huge success.
I'd just be careful about forcing people to use the tools or tying their compensation to them. There are lots of people that would just like to do their jobs well and not be the center of attention.
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