Note: This post was written before this concept evolved into what is now known as crowdsourcing (or crowdsourced software for content development). It was also written before the evolution of private social production platforms like HipChat and Slack
What Web 2.0 brings to the table
Often I am asked, “What the heck is Web 2.0?” by my non-technology friends (most of my friends are not technologists).
Here is the answer I give:
Web 1.0 let organizations publish information that could be accessed easily by all of us when we needed it, at our convenience. This changed entirely how we read the news, looked up movie times and checked stock quotes or the weather. The problem with Web 1.0 was that it was biased towards making it easy for large organizations to share information. CNN could easily setup a web site to share news and opinion. However, if *I* wanted to share information with many other people in this fashion, I had to setup my own web site, publish content, figure out how to control access to it, etc. This was too hard for the everyday person (who had “more important” things to worry about in his or her life).
Web 2.0 changed this by making it easy to share my views and information–and to control how I share it. Now I can use Facebook to share my vacation pictures with my friends (but limit my contact information to my professional colleagues). I do not have to build a web site, administer it, share the URL with my friends and get them to bookmark and visit it. Instead, I can rely on the fact they will visit facebook as part of their normal life and see my updates there (the network effect). It makes it much easier for me.
Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 do the same — but directly in support of the missions of public and private enterprises. They let stakeholders share information and views regarding how industry and government should work (instead of simply proclaiming, “I feel blue today.”)
I have had pretty good success with this definition. It is short and relevant enough not to bore them and detailed enough to not insult their intelligence.
If you keep this in mind, it does not take a large leap in logic to see that the Web 2.0 communications medium can be used to create new services to help manage businesses and public organizations. These types of services will be ones that leverage the network effect, i.e., interaction with members of the community to find information, measure opinions, foster collaboration or share ideas…
How Web 2.0 an evolve ideation into social collaboration
Ideation is a defined as the process of forming or creating ideas (hence the terrible portmanteau). People have been using various ideation techniques for years to design more compelling products, processes and campaigns. The problem is that ideation has been limited by how much input you could manage in a collaborative efficient manner. This typically limits you to working face-to-face (ideation over conference phones — even tele-presence units — is not efficient) in groups no larger than 8-12 people. To get the input of many, you have to incur travel costs and hold many workshops or focus groups. This is slow and expensive. Here is where Web 2.0 comes to play.
Using Web 2.0 technologies and communications practices you can manage ideation in a way to lets people from all over the world participate in the ideation process — with far more speed efficiency:
- People can participate when they the are ready
- They can do so remotely, looking at content you have made accessible on line
- They can interact with each asynchronously, e.g., I can make an idea at 2pm in Florida and someone else can comment on it twelve hours later in during normal business hours in Tokyo
About five months ago I began using the name “Social Collaboration” for a social networking business service to manage this:
So•cial Col•lab•o•ra•tion |ˈsō sh əl kəˌlabəˈrā sh ən| (noun)
A Business Service that enables—
- Enterprises (business and public sector) to call their stakeholders (customers, employees, and citizens) to action to solicit their input and ideas
- Stakeholders to respond collaborate with each other to build on each others ideas and drive preferred ideas to high level visibility
- Enterprises to gain understanding and insight into their stakeholders’ ideas and demonstrate that these ideas have been heard and acted upon
Abbreviation: So•Co |ˈ’sō kō |
SoCo can be used in many arenas to improve product research, service delivery, customer loyalty, business change management and public policy outreach.
What makes a good social collaboration business service
Several companies are working on building ideation-related SoCo services. The ideal SoCo service will have the following characteristics:
- Be easy to use — from anywhere, by anyone
- Support multimedia-based ideation (so people can collaborate using videos, pod casts, documents and pictures)
- Enforce structured ideation, i.e., automatically organizes collaborative input, content and preference (without this you will not be able to manage large-scale collaboration)
- Based on the network effect: if it does not work in a manner that leverages the power of the network you will gain no benefit from going beyond small working groups
- Require attribution (to reinforce the natural process of person-to-person collaboration and enable direct follow-up)
- Enable multiple levels of moderation (to make the ideation safe and ensure it remains focused on the problem or challenge on hand)
- Readily support analysis (to enable you to find the most popular, most unpopular and most controversial input so you can take informed action and ultimately realize your business benefit)
Two-thousand-nine, the year of Change (political, economic, business and technology) may ideal time and place for Social Collaboration. Using it, we can figure out how best to be more efficient, develop our infrastructure, work globally and recover from our current recession.
Follow-on Note (January 2010):
By the end of 2010 this line products coalesced around the category name of crowdsourcing. At Neighborhood America we combined both our ideation (e.g., Microsoft Public Sector On-Demand) and YouTube-like UGC contest products (e.g., Kodak Idea Center–now ShutterFly) into a category set of crowdsourcing products.