Tag Archives: luis suarez

Being social at work – for six years and more

GP 6I just posted to IBM’s internal blogging network, a short post to record my six-year anniversary as a user of the platform. I won’t share the exact content as it mostly had a load of internal links that would break outside of the corporate firewall, but I do want to stop and reflect.

Six years ago, of course, everything was different. We didn’t have an internal social network of the kind we have now (IBM Connections). We had rich user profiles within our corporate directory, we had an Intranet ID to login, and we had… well, we had a small pilot that someone had setup on our internal Technology Adoption Program (aka TAP), to see what would happen if individual IBMers were able to share their thoughts via blogs. That became known as BlogCentral, and progressed through four different versions over the next couple of years.

In the early days the community was small. There were no Blogging or Social Computing Guidelines, those were about to be developed, mostly by the small community that was in the process of forming; this was a little experiment. The experiment of posting what I was working on (a consultant in IBM Software Services for WebSphere at the time), the technical issues I was having, and any news or interesting links I’d found before the days of instant sharing via Twitter, led me to encounter and meet a huge variety of people. Good friendships formed – I got to know the amazing Roo Reynolds, Ian Hughes, Rob Smart, Kelly then-Drahzal-now-Smith, James Taylor, Martin Packer, Luis Suarez, Michael Martine, and so many others. I was invited to get involved in events, opportunities and projects that I would never have had the chance to even have known about before.

I found my voice in a crowd. I joined a tribe. I grew. I learned how powerful a network can be.

Today, IBM’s early experiments have borne fruit in a great variety of tools that we use day-to-day, and that we know can scale to support an organisation as diverse and large as IBM itself. We really do “walk the talk”. I’ve spoken about this journey often, of course, and I’m always happy to share my experiences and my story. And also – wow. That was just 6 years ago. The technology landscape has completely changed today, with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, and so many other places to share and collaborate. It’s mind-boggling that things have moved so quickly.

I’ll be honest: I’m not posting to my blog 3 or 4 times a day as I might have done in my youthful enthusiasm, in those days when all I had was an internal blog and Sametime to keep me going… these days I share my knowledge and connect with my network far more widely, and more often, outside of the firewall (because, honestly, there’s rarely much to hide). That doesn’t mean I don’t still respect the medium of blogs. They are the “rocks in the real-time stream”, as my friend Stowe Boyd once styled them.

I’m glad I’m still a blogger, both at work and outside of it.

Image credit: holeymoon on Flickr, via a Creative Commons license

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The end of email?

I caught a comment from SXSW yesterday, where my friend Suzanne Minassian sent a tweet from a panel she was at:

are we going to lose email to social networking – discussing in panel #sxsw (minassian)

*insert backward-playing tape noise sound effect here*

So when I left university in…. oh… 90-something 🙂 I ended up joining the UK Post Office IT Services (weirdly, this is my second PO-related post today, albeit more tenuously-linked than the first). As part of the interview process I was asked to give a presentation about ways that the organisation could adapt to the electronic age and the challenges of the Internet. The content of the presentation has long been filed away somewhere dusty, disposed of or lost, but I do remember that my main points were:

  • Physical mail won’t ever go away. People like to receive physical objects, letters, and parcels. Humans are fundamentally social and tactile.
  • As e-commerce grows, parcel mail will grow.
  • There were other ways that the PO could get value from the Internet – I didn’t suggest the ISP route but did talk about, for example, local printing of electronically-transmitted letters as a kind of bridge between the physical and electronic worlds (well, it seemed like an idea as a student at the time, what can I say?!).

I like to think that my first two predictions were pretty accurate – since the mid-1990s the volumes of mail have indeed grown. In my own case I suppose I get a lot less post in the way of bills and statements since much of that is done online; and I write and send fewer personal letters, although birthday cards and the like remain physical objects of importance. I do a lot of online shopping and physical shipping of goods, and ebay has of course increased that trend (and helped the rise of the Mailboxes, Etc chain, as far as I can tell). So in a very real sense, snail mail has not been lost to email. In one way it’s been multiplied by it, and looking at it another way, you could say it has become more focussed by the rise of the Internet and online business.

*fast-forwarding tape sound effect*

And now, back in the present day…

I think the same thing is true of social networks and their effect on email. Much as I admire and respect my good friend Luis Suarez‘s assault on the tyranny of email, I think what he has found is that there’s a base level of mail which he continues to get, as email is often still the most appropriate channel for certain, private or behind-the-firewall communications, for example. In fact, I’m willing to bet that he also gets a bunch of messages that have been generated by the social networks he’s part of, too – I get emails when I receive direct messages, or someone new follows me, or whatever, although it’s possible to opt-out or filter them out.

The core of the email I receive though, is also focussed or narrowed down by the networks I participate in. It’s often far quicker to drop a short line to a friend over IM or direct message then it is to send an email, and I can broadcast status and information to groups more effectively via a Facebook profile or whatever than I could by mass-mailing them all.

I think the effect we’re seeing is a levelling out and an adjustment whereby the relevant tools and means of communication – phone, text, mail, email, IM, and social network messages – all come together and start to be used in the most effective ways, where one size does not fit all.