Feb 09

Should social networks replace email?

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I just read through Jack Vinson’s post on email, writing and expertise location (written largely in response to Luis Suarez’s ongoing quest to dump email) — and I think Jack’s right on the money with his observations.

With any system, there is the inevitable volume question — how do we derive the quality information from the mediocre but high-quantity information. As Jack correctly points out, using collaboration tools (think Twitter, FaceBook, etc.) can actually make it more difficult to track that conversation down later on, whereas an email conversation (thread, basically) might be easier to search through.

In addition to Jack’s points, I can also envision situations where client confidentiality or other sensitivities would prevent you from having this sort of public conversation — where you would want the flow of any conversation to be tightly controlled and monitored (counter-intuitive to collaboration, I know, but unfortunately, sometimes a regulatory or legal reality).

I’ve always believed that most of the time, frustrations arise due to people picking the wrong method of communication for a particular conversation. There is nothing inherently good or bad about email, we just sometimes need to give a bit more thought as to whether it’s the appropriate mode of communication for what we need to talk about.

Dec 15

Are you scared of FaceBook and all its privacy-infringing social networking possibilities? Are you suddenly feeling much less social now that you’ve spent some time on FaceBook?

The Wired wiki (yes, there’s a Wired wiki) has an entry to help you un-FaceBook yourself — or if you’re not willing (or able) to break your FaceBook addiction, you can at least fiddle with the site’s privacy settings to allow yourself to get some sleep at night without worrying who’s looking at the skeletons in your FaceBook closet.

As I’ve said before, I’m pretty terrible at responding to anything on FaceBook — but I’ve been trying to get better. But I wonder, if I’m not able to keep up with FaceBook, how will I ever be able to keep up with Twitter? I thought that getting Twitter on my mobile might get me using it more, but so far it’s a no-go.

Nov 19

As I’ve been sick as a dog all week, I’ve been spending way too much time sitting in front of the computer browsing the web (as I haven’t felt well enough to do much else besides watching television). Today’s distraction ended up being Google’s preview video for Wave, which I haven’t had any time to take a look at until now.

Looks pretty cool… I especially like the live typing in IM conversations, as well as the notion of having all of your communication and collaboration options consolidated into one platform.

In case you’re interested in watching the video as well, here it is:

Aug 18

FaceBook getting a privacy makeover?

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I posted in mid-July about the Canadian privacy commissioner’s concerns over privacy and FaceBook — that among other things, FaceBook was keeping dead users’ accounts activated indefinitely, providing private information to application developers and providing no clear difference between deactivating and deleting an account.

Well it would appear as if FaceBook is taking this seriously, as the company has already made some changes to its privacy policy, and it says more are in the works. This is a good thing — not only for FaceBook’s many users, but also for FaceBook itself.

How responsive companies are to this type of issue often has far greater consequences than the actual alleged transgression — and FaceBook’s desire to put this to bed early is both prudent and wise. FaceBook has a real opportunity to come out as the hero, since the company can both further protect its users’ privacy as well as meet Canadian legal standards for that very same privacy. I guess we’ll see how this ultimately plays out.

Jul 16

CBC News (for all you non-Canadians, CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has an interesting story about how FaceBook regularly breaches Canadian privacy laws, according to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. From the article:

Facebook shares personal information with developers who create games and quizzes in a way that breaches Canadian privacy law, the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has found.

The popular social networking site, which is used by 12 million Canadians, doesn’t have enough safeguards to prevent those third-party developers from getting “unauthorized” access to users’ personal information, said the report released Thursday by assistant privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

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Jun 13

Dealing with werewolves at work?

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This article about¬†‘managing werewolves’ (you need to read the article to understand the reference, I won’t bother trying to explain it)¬†was sent to me by a friend recently. It’s a very interesting take on managing relationships (both in the workplace as well as outside the office). Just thought I’d quickly post a link in case anyone’s interested in checking it out — it’s worth a read.

Feb 26

Since I’ve talking about social networking so much lately, I thought I’d point you to an interesting post that Luis Suarez wrote about the business value of social networking (which includes a presentation by David Tebbutt about the same subject).

David’s presentation mentions as caveats that hierarchies get flattened and silos get breached — yet I’m not entirely sure that this is always the case (this seems to be a common claim about social networking tools, which, as Luis mentioned, was something knowledge management often claimed it would do).

It’s very true that the introduction of social networking tools (and I think it’s safe to say that we’re talking about online social networking tools most of the time) can be a catalyst for change, but it can’t really change the culture of an organization. I agree with David’s claim that social networking (often) does have value within the business, it’s just that like anything else, it can fall flat on its face if the organizational culture is not conducive to the approach taken. And thanks to both David and Luis for continuing the discussion on this topic.

Feb 25

This from The Tech Herald: “Lady Susan Greenfield, a professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford, claims that social networking could lead to users characterised by ‘short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise, and a shaky sense of identity.’. There’s also a longer article in the Daily Mail that allows for discussion.

While I don’t know much about the study beyond these two articles, it does seem to be a bit of stretch to me to link online social networking to the rise of specific disorders — but the discussion about social networking changing the way in which people think is an interesting one.

I also wonder about the ‘immediacy’ factor of online social interaction that Professor Greenfield brings up — is it actually possible to interact online any more ‘immediately’ than offline? While you can multitask online (having several conversations at once), you really can only focus on one conversation at a time.

To me, this seems like an increase in the fragmentation of interaction, not the immediacy of interaction (since the person you want to talk to is not responding immediately, you move on and talk to someone else). I talked about this fragmentation (and Richard Senett, who’s an expert on the subject) before. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject — do you think Facebook is actually making you stupid?

Apr 22

I signed up for Plaxo a short while ago, and I have to say, I’ve been less than impressed so far. While the Plaxo platform is not necessarily bad in itself, I kind of feel like it’s just a somewhere between Facebook and LinkedIn — both of which I already use.

I’ve tried to give Plaxo a chance, but ultimately I haven’t really found anything I’m too excited about, not to mention I’m not overly eager about having yet another social networking site to fill in endless minutiae about myself.

I posted before about the questionable importance of LInkedIn, wondering whether most people actually have that much of a use it (besides being a way of keeping in touch with people you normally might drift apart from).

So is there something obvious I’m missing with Plaxo? Some kind of bell or whistle that has escaped me? I’d be interested to hear opinions from either side of the question — does Plaxo actually offer anything we haven’t seen before?

Mar 04

Technology sometimes impedes collaboration.

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Well, I’m back to Toronto after my holiday. I had mentioned in my last post that I had visited Quebec’s museum of civilization — where they had an exhibit on the future of cities around the world.

The exhibit is called Urbanopolis, and is a especially apropos since it’s the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. Within Urbanopolis, there are several models of potential future cities, including New York, Chicago and Quebec City — all of which are projected out 100 years to the beginning of the 22nd century.

Looking back at some of the projections people have made about where we would be at the beginning of the 21st century, it would seem that while such projections are an interesting exercise, they don’t necessarily always pan out to be true.

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