At work I’m finding our support team often don’t have time to blog about their experiences/solutions, and they don’t seem to be using the forums to ask questions that often. But what I do see is a lot of Instant Messaging (IM) going on.
Why IM is popular?
There is an immediacy, it’s a conversation, it’s real-time and responsive…these fragmented conversations mimic how we behave face to face (accept for the visual gestures).
You don’t bug a lot of people, ie. some people may feel uncomfortable that their forum question has popped a new email in 100 inboxes.
The only thing lacking with IM is that you are pushing a message, similar to email (point to point), and if the receiver can’t help then you have to IM someone else.
Why microblogging is unique?
That’s why I’m thinking that micro-sharing is the perfect tool for opening up the conversation. Why not have that conversation in the open, where there is a chance for more input, and others benefiting, and more awareness.
You may say that enterprise IM has more take up as you have more confidence speaking in private.
But what we can say about microblogging is that speaking in public opens up more answers to your query, more connections, more discovery…it becomes a perpetual path.
The other thing is that you don’t really have to bug people in microblogging, ie you don’t have to use the @reply feature. You can also just blog a micro-post, which will not end up in an inbox, or RSS reader. It will stream past; if your network don’t see it in the stream in time, and they don’t back read items, then that’s cool, but someone may see it.
So in this respect microblogging is like SMS/IM, but also like blogging, as your posts don’t have to be aimed at someone, and they reach a network of ears. And the fact that I can overhear conversations people in my network are having with others in my network or others not in my network makes for great awareness, serendipity, discovery…
IM may fulfil an immediate need; and micro blogging can also do this, but being part of a microblogging network offers lots more beyond this immediate need.
Both IM and microblogging have their unique purposes, but I must say microblogging is like walking in the world: serendipity, discovery, learning, connection, etc…
Just like IM, you can aim a post at people, but it also appears in the regular stream eg. @jeff when are we updating our server?
Jeff, may answer me, but Brad saw it in the stream and gives a more clear answer…and a discussion ensues…and others benefit from listening (this may be people in different teams, infact case studies show that microblogging is effective in cross-functional effectiveness…all the benefits of quicker and richer answers, re-use, awareness, cooperation, and of course innovation)
This example is more beneficial than IM, as it gets sorted quicker in the open. With IM, Jeff would go and IM Brad, and then IM me back, and other listeners miss out. Whereas with microblogging it happened once, for all to see.
This type of transaction is not suited to blogs, and people may not ask in a forum as it will send people another email in their inbox, whereas with microblogging it streams past with less interruption. That is, a @reply post may deposit in one person’s profile, but it will also stream past other people with less interruption…it’s like having a private conversation out loud.
It’s like talking to someone on the train, and others can’t help but overhear and join in…online this goes a step further where someone in another carriage can also overhear and join in.
You can’t do this with IM, as when you send an IM you are not publishing, it’s more of a personal and private point to point communication, where you expect a response. With microblogging you can also simply share what you are doing without really requiring someone to answer, all you are doing is blogging.
So microblogging achieves a few things through the same channel, and the mobile factor makes it more pervasive, and an ingrained communication like SMS.
Microblogging is less about publishing
I see more people using enterprise microblogging than blogging? Because microblogging is not as committed, you don’t need a publishing bent, and you use it to converse and ask for help which people do using IM and email. Plus there is something fulfilling about being social connected, belonging, and noticed.
Microblogging wraps up many types of communications in the one network, and can be used as a pivot to point to other places.
Drawing on your team
John Bordeaux has an excellent post on the different team dynamics and value generation between IM and microblogging.
“When I had a question to pose, I selected from among my list and began chatting. As I did, I learned which people were available and responsive and began to - unconsciously and unfortunately - call upon them more often. The people who were perhaps not as attentive to my insistent IMs were not called on as much as others.”
“I fell back on the natural tendency towards hierarchy and power laws within social networks and unwittingly began to alienate the people I was treating as “lesser” members. In doing this, I missed out on business value and the opportunity to enable contributions from across my team on an equal basis.”
This next part is not really crowdsourcing, but a similar effect that is embedded as a by product of participating:
“Using micro-blogging, I am learning to appreciate fragments and ideas from across thousands of voices. If I had micro-blogging for my team back then, I may have posed questions and listened to the “small cloud” rather than calling on the “best and brightest.” In doing so, I may have led an even more successful team as we would have been able to make use of all the voices to address the team’s challenges and opportunities.”
And the juicy bonus part that has all the enterprise 2.0 goodness of more awareness and innovation:
“…I can hear people who are simply talking about things about which I care who are not remotely in my network/culture/continent.”
“…point-to-point communications, which…presupposes you know who has “the answer,” to discovery. In fact, presuming you know who has your answer can be very limiting. Likewise, presuming you know precisely the right question to ask in all circumstances helps you to thwart serendipity.”
NOTE: Hope John doesn’t mind me quoting so much from his post, too much good stuff.
Why microblogging will have quicker adoption?
The post, The psychology of Twitter, sums up from an adoption point of view:
“This is a key point, because humans are inherently social creatures who engage primarily in conversational talking. Most of us aren’t authors and don’t write books, articles, or even blogs. We simply know how to talk, and Twitter is the first text service to adequately mimic this behavior in an online medium.”
In the post, Social search, Help engines, and Sense-making, I explained how microblogging helps with findability and achieves many of the aims of KM.
In the post, Twitter 3 years on, and why it’s the killer app!, I elaborated how it’s different, unique and can combine the power of: IM, forums, RSS Readers, blogs, links blogs, etc…in one tool/network.