Enterprise 2.0 – Individuals at the Edge of the Enterprise

Stowe Boyd continues to lead.  His posts continue to challenge and educate us on the power and value of social media, social collaboration models and aggregated communication flows.   Recently, Stowe followed up on his earlier January ’07 post titled "the Individual is the New Group" with additional thoughts on differentiated social enterprise applications in his post "New Models of Work: The Individual is the New Group – Reprised".     Both posts offer numerous insights on the evolution of social applications in the enterprise.  Some key points include:

The Individual is the New Group:

"I envision a time where even in the largest organization, our lives as individuals will define the norm for computer-assisted work. The model of  soloware will displace the 90s ideals of groupware in exactly the same way that the pre-groupware assembly line models were dethroned in the 90s. In our work lives, even in the largest, most conservative companies, we are instantaneously involved in dozens of projects, with teams of people that are constantly changing, with outside consultants and partner companies, and there is no end in sight. When everything fractures away from stable, long-lasting, closed teams toward the exact opposite, what is left are individuals in contact with each other, through soloware: individual needs first, group needs second, by extension.

We are, first and foremost, individuals. The concept that whenever we do something it should be intentionally in the context of a specific well-defined group is outmoded, and was always an approximation of what is really going on, socially. We are involved in social relationships, and what we do with others is always social, but not necessarily part of a group, or only of one group. So, let’s put aside groups, and focus on the individual. The groups will follow. "

New Models of Work:

"(S)ome examples of these ideas, and a few notes about tools I have been trying to use:

Contrast the notion of Gmail’s ‘labels’ — which are essentially tags — and the typical use of folders and categories in these intranet solutions. In Gmail, I can tag any email with dozens of tags, if I want, so I can aggregate and find it in a variety of ways. An email from a particular client is denoted with the company name, a location, and perhaps a project, task, or issue. As a result, I can pull up all emails related to London, specific project, or the topic of ‘conceptual design’ independent of project. With folders, things are put in one place, and can’t be sliced in other ways.

Parts versus Wholes — I favor (in principle, since no one has built something like this) treating everything I am fooling with as miscellaneous (thank you, Dr Weinberger, wherever you are), basically a big pile of parts. Here’s a picture, here’s an email, here’s some notes on some topic, here’s a to-do item, and here’s a file (which has parts inside, like slides or sections or spreadsheet pages). What I’d like to be able to do is define assemblages of all the things wearing some tag, or defined by some tag algebra. Imagine pulling together an on the fly assemblage of all the bits in my heap that are tagged ‘conceptual modeling’ and ‘public’, and creating a workspace with that. At the same time, many of those public bits on the topic of conceptual modeling might be included in private assemblages, but they would still be public.

Flow, Traffic, and kinds of Parts — The explosion of interest in Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, and related flow apps turns certain premises on their ear, but even most users seem unable to articulate what is going on here. One factor is the shift to information flowing through defined social relationships in an asymmetric fashion, away from the symmetric and closed groups of the pre-2.0 era. Another factor is the flow of various parts, not wholes, thought the apps. For example, Facebook does not embed my blog as an element in a portal presentation. Instead, new posts appear as they pop into my RSS feed: a flow of parts instead of embedding the whole. Now, a gazillion sorts of bits are starting to flow through Facebook’s traffic: new slideshows, new answers to questions, new events created, and so on. And we see a similar emergence of types of traffic in Jaiku and Pownce.

Mobile versus Stabile — The other shift (very early) is toward pulling information from the traffic of these flow apps, and doing appropriate things with it. (I have appropriated Calder’s terms based on the different kinds of statuary: those that move and those that don’t.) If someone updates an event that I am interested in, and that I have added to my calendar. I think what I want is not automated updating a la iCal subscription, but instead seeing the change go by in a highlighted way, allowing me to acknowledge it or reject it. For example, a smart desktop companion app could be reading my Facebook traffic just looking for event information, and I might get a Growlr update popping on my desktop. I want to stay still, working, and have things of interest find their way to me. The world of browsing, where people are mobile and information is stabile, looks very 20th century."

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