Andrew McAfee gave a great talk at Defrag about Enterprise 2.0, the meat of which appears on his blog as How to Hit the Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye. (His nutshell definition of Enterprise 2.0: “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”) He provided a concise framework mapping protypical tools to levels of connectedness.
In his version this looked like (you guessed it) a bullseye, moving from strong ties to weak ties, potential ties, and finally including folks for whom you have no ties at all. I think this is an interesting way to think about the tools, and you should really go read his thoughtful post, but of course I wanted to make it fuzzy and mess it up. Because we’re people and our connections are often fuzzy and messy. (Not that he was saying otherwise — he was going for the cleanest way to get his point across. I’m poking around for complications.) So while keeping his mapping, I shifted the bullseye and so far I’ve come up with this:
I think tying the “none” circle — people you are really never going to connect with because there is just no reason — to prediction markets is brilliant. You don’t need to connect on any level with other people for prediction markets to work. (In fact, if you are too closely connected, it might not work.) It’s the rest of the circles I want to quibble with and complicate. Notice the + in brackets? Those are things I want to add to each circle.
I don’t disagree with blogging representing potential ties, but I do think it covers more types of ties than that. Social bookmarking — and you know del.icio.us is my favorite here — represents a great way to identify potential ties. I subscribe to both tag streams and people I don’t know (as well as people I do, because I’m obsessive that way) from del.icio.us because I think those feeds are valuable sources of information.
Blogs represent weak ties as much as potential ties (and, if I’m being honest, pretty strong ties, too) in my experience. Some of the folks in my feed reader could as easily be contacts on Linked In or showing up in my facebook feed or part of the twitter stream I follow. Some show up in all four places, even though we’ve technically never met. Weak ties are the messiest category. How would you classify someone whose blog you’ve been reading and commenting on for two years? How do you sort your flickr contacts into “just” contacts, friends, or family? What kind of relationship do you have with the people on twitter you follow? What does ambient intimacy feel like?
Strong ties in a work context generally mean people you are working and actively collaborating with, so in that regard wiki as the prototypical tool makes sense. I just don’t tend to work that way. I think wikis are great tools but they still aren’t that friendly to non-geeks, and not everyone I work with embraces the idea of markup. My work is often about conversations and analysis, and I’d rather do that on a blog. Other people I know would rather do that in QuickBase, or email, or… The one thing we all seem to have in common is using instant message to be in touch when we need to be, and even then, we don’t all use it the same way. I think one of the biggest challenges in this space isn’t which tool to use for what — though that is a significant challenge — it is how we can accommodate different work styles and combine tools into intelligent workstreams.