On this page:
  • Process: How to ask communities for help
  • Enterprise 2.0: The business value of social networks
  • New presentation: “New media, New generation”
  • IBM Pass It Along – social learning!

Process: How to ask communities for help

Reaching out to communities can be a powerful way to find talent or resources. Your personal network may take a while to find the right person or file, especially if key people are unavailable. If you ask the right community, though, you might be able to get answers right away.

Here are some tips on asking communities for help:

  • Providing as much information as you can in the subject and message body.
    • Show urgency. Does your request have a deadline? Mention the date in the subject.
    • Be specific. Instead of using “Please help” as your subject, give details and write like an ad: “Deadline Nov ___, Web 2.0 intranet strategy expert needed for 5-week engagement in France” .
  • Whenever possible, create a discussion forum topic where people can check for updates and reply publicly. This will save you time and effort you’d otherwise spend answering the same questions again and again. It also allows other people to learn from the ongoing discussion. If you’re broadcasting your request to multiple communities, you can use a single discussion forum topic to collect all the answers, or you can create multiple discussion topics and monitor each of them.
  • If your request is urgent, send e-mail to the community. Most people do not regularly check the discussion forum, so send e-mail if you feel it’s necessary. You may want to ask one of the community leaders to send the e-mail on your behalf. This allows leaders to make sure their members aren’t overwhelmed with mail. Using a community leader’s name can give your message greater weight as well.
  • Plan for your e-mail to be forwarded. Because your e-mail may be forwarded to others, include all the details people will need to evaluate your request and pass it on to others who can help. Omit confidential details and ask people to limit distribution if necessary. Include a link to your discussion forum topic so that people can read updates.
  • Promise to summarize and share the results, and follow through. This encourages people to respond to you because they know they’ll learn something, and it helps you build goodwill in the community.

Good luck!

Enterprise 2.0: The business value of social networks

Both our internal Social Networks Analysis community and Colleen Haikes (IBM External Relations) tipped me off to some absolutely fascinating research on the quantitative correlation between social networks and performance based on an analysis of IBM consultants. You can read the research summary and view the presentation, or read the research paper for all the details. Highlights and what I think about them:

  • Structurally diverse networks with abundance of structural holes are associated with higher performance. Having diverse friends helps. The presentation gives more detail – it’s not about having a diverse personal network, but it’s about connecting to people who also have diverse networks. I suspect this is related to having connectors in your network.
  • Betweenness is negatively correlated. Being a bridge between a lot of people is not helpful. The presentation clarified this by saying that the optimal team composition is not a team of connected superstars, but complementary team members with a few well-connected information keepers.
  • Strong ties are positively correlated with performance for pre-sales teams, but negatively correlated with performance for consultants. Pre-sales teams need to build relationships, while consultants often need to solve a wide variety of challenges.
  • Look! Actual dollar values and significant differences! Wow. =)

    Here’s another piece of research the totally awesome IBM researchers put together:

    A separate IBM study, presented at the CHI conference in Boston this week, sheds light on why it’s easier said than done to add new, potentially valuable contacts to one’s social network in the workplace.  The study looked at several types of automated “friend-recommender” engines on social networking sites.  The recommender engines used algorithms that identified potential contacts based on common friends, common interests, and common hyperlinks listed on someone’s profile.

    Although most people using social media for the workplace claimed to be open to finding previously unknown friends, they were most comfortable with the recommender engines that suggested  “friends’ friends” — generally, people whom they already knew of.  The friend-recommenders with the lowest acceptance rates were those that merely look at whether people have similar interests — although they were the most effective at identifying completely new, potentially valuable contacts.  Friend-recommenders that took the greatest factors into account were deemed the most useful.  (IBM’s Facebook-style social networking site, Beehive, uses this type of friend-recommender engine.)

    Personally, I don’t use friend recommenders to connect to completely new people, but they’re great for reminding me about people I already know.

    Check out the research – it’s good stuff. =)

    (cross-posted from our external team blog, The Orange Chair)

    New presentation: “New media, New generation”

    I’ll be in Washington, DC from Monday to Wednesday next week to participate in a panel on new media. It’ll also be my first presentation using the nifty new Cintiq! I thought I’d put it up on Slideshare and share it with all you folks… =) The current version’s designed for in-person delivery, so some of the slides might look a little obscure. (If all else fails, you can do Powerpoint Karaoke.) I hope I can put up an audiocast after the event.

    new media, new generation
    View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: web2.0 enterprise2.0)

    This was fun. It took me a while to figure it out, though. The presentation hinges on two pairs of pairs: the first set is new media = social media and new generation = net generation, and the second set is the 2×2 matrix. I only came across that while ironing handkerchiefs and playing with my speech topic out loud. Once that pattern floated up, everything else fell into place.

    Part of the fun of making presentations is figuring out a natural pattern for the topic… =)

    IBM Pass It Along – social learning!

    I’m happy to share that one of my favorite Enterprise 2.0 tools within IBM is now available on the Internet. IBM Pass It Along is now available on Alphaworks, a public IBM site for people interested in trying out emerging technologies–all you need is a free ibm.com account. IBM Pass It Along is about sharing what you know and learning from other people. If you have a how-to you’d like to share, create a topic for it. If you’re curious about something, request it. If you’re just curious about the crazy tools we use within the enterprise, check it out! =)

    Here’s what I love about Pass It Along, and I think you’ll love it too:

    • You can find out who’s learning a topic and see what else they’re interested in. Sharing what I know becomes a lot more fun when I can see who’s learning, because it gives me feedback that what I’m sharing is useful. Lists of people are much better than anonymous hit counts because I can view their profiles to see what else they’re interested in.
    • You can learn from other people’s contributions. People can add links, related presentations, discussion topics, and other updates. For example, the "How to Make the Most of Your Commute" topic I started within IBM drew lots of interesting suggestions.
    • You can create a place for discussions. I give a lot of presentations, and Pass It Along topics are a terrific place to hold follow-up discussions and reach out to more people. I post my presentation material using the Presentation Wizard and include the URL of the Pass It Along topic on my slides. It’s a great way for learners to connect with each other, too.

    I also really like how a newbie like me can create value for other people by sharing what I’m learning. =) Whee! I’m copying some of my public content over, and you can find my topics on Pass It Along.

    IBM Pass It Along on Alphaworks is a public site open to everyone. Access controls will follow soon, so you can limit topic access to just your organization if needed. IBM Pass It Along is even better inside your organization, where you can link it up with your employee directory or do all sorts of other cool stuff.

    Check it out – it might be a great fit for your organization!

    IBM Pass It Along