Enterprise 2.0: Stowe Boyd – Social = Me First

Although often feels like he’s floating in to the stratosphere thinking high-minded thoughts, but very pragmatic and likes building things that make money. But in order to be practical you have to understand what’s going on inside people.

Social software is software intended to shape culture. Stowe said this in ’99, and although was seen as a nutcase then, that’s what has happened now.

Old style groups, your membership in the group dictated your rights and responsibilities in the group. But now, individuals have their own rights and responsibilities – you are yourself connected to a network of people. Primary reason for using social tools is to pursue your passions, connect with people who are important to you, share your passions and desires, and to connect to markets, whether commerce or ideas or any other sort of market.

As more of these techs have moved into our world, the more control as moved to the individual. The edge dissolves the centre. Worthy of a presentation on its own.

Me, mine, and market

Relationship to people helps define his world in an interest area, such as sharing music. Ultimately, the application has to have a mechanism to do what markets do, help people find what they are after, make something more liquid so that you can make money out of it. Last.fm, obvious thing to get involved with is buying/selling music, but they are trying to support people in the discovery of music, but they don’t think that music sales is the right place to make money, but in events and concerts. Value of live shows has gone up in recent years, but the value of music tracks is doing down, and will eventually be zero. Want to help people find events in their area, around music they like, and then broker the tickets.

In enterprise 2.0, the social app may just be to allow people to be more efficient, more effective. In that case the market is informational. So market doesn’t have to be transactional.

Fundamental question, how are you going to take a new app, such as a spreadsheet app, and make money.

Issues people see as the hardest thing: adoption; ROI; how to get a good culture going.

Buddy list is the centre of the universe. I decide who I affiliate with, I decide what’s important to me. I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections.

If you look at a network, it’s mostly connections. The value is in the connections, and the more connections you have the richer the networks is. If you make an implicit network more explicit, you can then start to realise some value from that network.
[Stowe opens up the discussion to the floor.]

Problems around federated social media, so that you can bring in all your projects together in one place, and not have to log in to many different places.

Applications around creating a profile, the novelty wears off. And when creating a system that helps people find experts, many people want to find an expert but not many experts want to be found.

The serendipity that these systems can provide is increasingly important and enormously beneficial. Help create social connections.

Stowe talks about meeting the nun that runs the Vatican website. Despite wildly varying backgrounds, she came to the same conclusions as Stowe.

It’s about discovery. People try to discover, apparently, things, but that’s a bit of a red herring. If you’re trying to find the best folding bike or a trip to Hawai’i. But it’s not really about things, that’s not what their motivations is. That’s what they are talking about, this hypothetical third space of the internet. In business it’s not really the third place, it’s the second. First is home, second is work, third is social spaces like bars. Increasingly the internet has become that third place, they are spending less times in physical third places.

It’s not really about the people, yes you want to meet new people, because you want their advice, but mainly people are trying to find themselves. People are on a voyage of self-discovery. Sounds very high-minded, fuzzywuzzy liberal nonsense – but people aren’t necessarily aware of it, may not want to become aware of it, but as a builder of an application, people gravitate to apps that help them figure out who they are and their place in the world. And the way they do that is through people.

In an enterprise 2.0 setting, the same things are at work. People are trying to figure out what they are good at, what they are doing, what they want to do, who they trust.

Q: This relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and people need to be higher up that in the workplace for this to work.

Stowe completely agrees. The fabric of social networking is very revolutionary to command-and-control businesses. So there is a national cultural barrier to adopting those thoughts and therefore those technologies. Cultural barriers to rolling these things out are the primary barriers – it’s not about does this tech work, or is it measurable. Lots of transitional steps along the way, and there’ll be friction when these things are rolled out in enterprise.

Enterprises are generally not self-aware enough to think about the fact that people are on a voyage of self-discovery. Most people take it for granted that you’re doing that one your own, and the thought that it should be ingrained in the IT systems we work with, most people don’t get that.

Q: Seems that frequently the top gets it, and the bottom gets it, but the middle management are going to suffer the most change. How do we deal with this?

Stowe: When email was implemented, it lead to a reduction in middle management because there was no need for them to manage the flow of information up and down the organisation. So this will happen again. The centre of organisations will hollow out, and the control will move to the edges, to the people actually doing it. So there will be less management and when you move to this model, you need less management. You need some, but the traditional tree structure is doomed.

Q: Is this like what’s happening with Google’s applications?

Yeah, I think we’ll see this as a fractal pattern that will show up everywhere. Just a matter how quick are the transitional changes.

Q: In IBM presentation, they said “Well, of course it’s the enterprise” as if no enterprise worth its salt would risk using something that’s not IBM or SAP. How can small start-ups develop successful enterprise applications?

I think the successes for the future will use different principles. The idea that everything has to scale up in a centralised manner is outdated, and a lot can be outsourced. So you want the sort of scale of Gmail, not enterprise email. My recommendation would be, look at the edge, at the small start -ups that satisfy the needs of small groups of people. Individuals will make individual decisions about what they want to do.