Sorry about not keeping up here -- I'm saving the posts here for interesting questions and/or challenges we come across in our journey.
And a few weeks ago, we stumbled into another one.
And it's going to be interesting ...
We Want People To Have Conversations
And they are.
Lots of conversations, really. Mostly about work stuff. But not always.
A while back, there was a notable surge in "off topic" discussions -- favorite movies, raising rabbits, anime, commute times, etc.
In a pure Web 2.0 idealized world, it's all good, right?
Well, we're not exactly in this progressive 2.0 world quite yet. And we have to be mindful of the transition.
There Is A Valid Business Need For Off-Topic Discussions
More and more of our teams are geographically and culturally dispersed. We want people to align and bond around common interests -- whatever they might be.
Just like we spend boatloads of money to fly people around for group meetings -- and subsequent "team building" events -- this sort of idle chatter has a role in "enterprise 2.0", and we don't want to be shutting things down.
But, we also want broad adoption in our 1.0 employee base. And if certain 2.0 behaviors hamper that, well -- that's an issue, isn't it?
Problem #1 -- Clutter
With our current 1.x Clearspace implementation, we have a "home page" that dutifully records each and every thought someone shares (except blog comments for some reason). That off-topic clutter at a corporate level is downright annoying to many people.
Sure, the user can take action: set up filters, personalize, etc. There's some of that in Clearspace 1.x, more in 2.x, and then there's RSS feeds, etc. But all of these are highly dependent on users taking control of their content stream.
And that's a new 2.0-ish skill that not too many people at our company have. Sure, we could tell them "here's what you have to do to control the problem", but we're trying to drive broader engagement and adoption of the platform, and we've had more than a few people new to the environment simply say "I can't handle this social content stream in addition to my email deluge".
It's one thing when they're exposed to the business-related deluge. It's another thing entirely when it looks like 40-50% of the stream appears to be purely social in nature.
Doesn't make it look like a business platform, which is how it was sold to the company.
Problem #2 -- Naysayers
In physics, every force results in an opposite force. And in driving corporate change, the same generally holds true. I'm not being negative, just practical.
And, not surprisingly, there are those that look at our internal social media platform with a cold, cynical eye. They don't understand, they may be threatened, they're not comfortable, or maybe they're generally concerned.
Collectively, they have "voice".
And now they have a bit more evidence for their case.
Problem #3 -- The Proficient
We now have upwards of 1,000 people who are truly comfortable and really enjoy the deep end of the pool. They love being exposed to everything. They're very comfortable controlling the content stream.
And they inherently resist any thought of control, policy, etc. -- it just doesn't work for them. And they're quite vocal that the rest of the world has to adapt to this 2.0 world, and they better get on with it, now!
And -- they have a point. But I'm looking at outcome, and less to make a philisophical statement.
We Thought We Had A Fix
We thought we had a handle on this issue originally. We set up a "water cooler" community for off-topic stuff. But we haven't found any way to limit the feed to the home page.
And, even if we could, maybe we shouldn't.
After all, there are people who choose to participate in the big fire hose, and they should be able to. The problem is the default for the broader and less-proficient audience we've got here.
What We're Doing Short Term
A couple of things, really. First, I went to the more -- ahem -- prolific threads, and simply reminded people that everything they write is syndicated up to the corporate feed, and that their insightful comments were widely read by several thousand people.
And that while it's OK to get off topic, please keep in mind that we've got a business platform, and you may want to think twice before an extended off-topic discussion for several reasons, e.g. is this what you do all day at work?
The second thing we're doing is engaging the community. I wrote a blog post outlining the problem and the tradeoffs, and simply asked "what do you all think we should do?".
People appreciated that we engaged them rather than arbitrarily doing something -- good 2.0 behavior. And, somewhere in the dozens of comments, the discussion became pretty clear: we should take no action to limit discussions on the platform, but we should work towards having a "default" home page for newbies that's a little less intimidating.
So, What Do You Think?
Now that we have a clear "digital divide" in our company with regards to our social productivity platform, what's the ideal compromise position? Or should there be compromise at all?
And -- any proposed solution can't involve a bunch of custom software, nor can it involve hiring and dedicating people to the task. Nor can it involve having tens of thousands of employees learning to control their content stream as a prerequisite for success.
An interesting challenge, to be sure ....