This would be about the coolest thing since our technology lecture series — a conference-cum-get-together, BlogWalk Chicago, about social software at Seabury — if we hadn’t gotten a foot of snow overnight, with another half foot coming down as I type. Various people have had to cancel including (to my disappointment) Krista and Mr. Boyfriend, but Phil Wolff has spontaneously flown in; I hope he can get from the Hilton to Seabury based on my directions.
We’re going around the room, introducing ourselves (in a good ice-breaking fashion). I already know Jack Vinson and Jim McGee, and I ’ve met Mark and (I think) Denham before (Golly, I feel like I’ve met Denham, but it seems not). Jim McGee observes that until very recently, “more information” tended to correlate to “better decisions”; now, we’re drowning in information. We need not more information, but better discernment of what information helps, and how it helps.
We’ll move into an Open Space phase till lunchtime, based on what Lilia calls a window-wiki, a window with Post-It notes stuck all over it. We’re figuring out how our Open Space groups will divide up.
Right now, we have two main discussions. One started from questions about the definition of “social software” and why it’s a problem, and what kind of problem it is. The other concerns the roles of social software in organizations.
Ooop, that first group just modulated to “why do you blog?” One of the shared topics involves monetizing social software, or — to be more precise — monetizing the benefits of social software. Phil Wolff just referred to the practice of forced blogging simply to satisfy an imposed expectation as “blognosing.”
OK, Lilia is leading us through summarizing. Jim describes a converssation about the changing nature of work, the changing nature of organizations, and where to take those changes. That’s a fair degree of important work in organizations that’s different from the industrial well-defined work taht still dominates thinking. A lot of work tends to be more fluid, more driven by collaboration, even if the tools don’t support that. People are making do, without clear models.
The nature of that change: A conflict in organizations between successes that are emergent, and the impulse to impose that as a top-down phenomenon. How do you bring about emergence, without imposing it? There’s at least an interesting question of whether emergent behavior is antithetical to control-and-predict management. Are there places these tools are inappropriate?
A side conversation involved how [we] monetize expertise in this new world.
There could be value integrating these tools with current processes; some imposed structure, some highlight examples would accelerate the change. These changes take sustained energy being pumped into an organization to reach a change in the organizational ethos. There aren’t a lot of good models. The group debated “good” and “bad” blogging — are there such things, and how would you tell? There’s an economic issue relative to the proportion of a blogger’s company time devoted to contributing to social software. Social software can add tremendous value to an organization in the context of a help center, for example.
Editing and summarizing may catalyze the value of organizational software. Lilia sees a lot of divergence in the discussion — individuals pushing their particular points, with relatively little mutual-contribution interaction. It’s talking like blogging: each of us saying his piece (Lilia’s the only woman here, regrettably— Krista and Judith had to cancel/decline), not changing one another’s minds necessarily. But are blogs really a vehicle for harmonious mind-changing? Just how open are they? In organizations there are real, tangible rewards for making useful contributions; in Blogaria, the rewards are vague and intangible.
In the other group, people disagreed about the very definition of social software. The money-blog relationship came up there, too; bloggers undervalue their writing because they love doing it (they’re starving artists). Blogs deliver tremendous value to their readers (look, measure the amount of time spent reading blogs).
How do you know who’s the expert, and who’s the village idiot? If you read their weblog for a while, you learn about them. And the village idiot about sales may be the expert about baseball, and vice versa.
Now, we’re having a lunch break, during which I flipped a slice of deep-dish pizza over onto my (formerly white) keyboard. The “walk” part of BlogWalk is a snowball fight out in the parking lot.
Pictures available at flickr.