Social Eminence

A discussion I was having the other day with colleagues about eminence and the role of social media in creating the persona of people who are experts at things brought out some rather interesting thoughts. One of the ideas that came out was that social reputation is based on one’s willingness to share knowledge. While I completely agree with that, this viewpoint confuses knowledge with the act of sharing. One can actually share things on social media without really knowing much about them. One of the things I see, for instance, on twitter, is that the rate at which people share links must mean they are reading like probably a thousand words per minute. Quite a few people I know just glance through an article or blog, and share it on social media. This is why I say hat sometime knowledge can be confused with the act of sharing.

Another important thing to understand is that it is very easy to manufacture things on social media. You might have seen a number of quotes from Albert Einstein on the web, and I don’t know how many of them are attributable to him. Taking an instance of a talk show I was watching, the analyst on the show was quoting a long-departed leader as having said something. This didn’t quite sound logical to me, so I started searching. After much searching, I found a blog which told how a lie was fabricated and why, and how it was circulated all over the world over social media. The “fact” may find it’s way twice around the world before folks start finding out. Also, there will be a number of folks on social media who will have spread the word, and very few who would take the effort to validate. What this means is that social eminence can be manufactured, and while there are self-correcting mechanisms which are there in the social ecosystem, these methods may not always be effective in a world with a very short memory. By the time you figure out something is wrong, nobody’s really interested, and setting the record straight is a moot point.

The point I am trying to make is that we need to be selective in the sources we subscribe to, and that we need to do our research before publishing something, a thing which is seldom done.


Recently we were doing an exercise which included getting data frmo a number of people from different parts of the country, collating, updating the data on a regular basis. What this meant was that there were a number of emails going back and forth, which had excel attachments with the updated data. After a few days, and a number of such mails, i was confused as to which excel has thelatest data.

This is something which a lot of people would see sometime. And this is where wikis can play a role. Instead of updating files and emailing them to people, what one could do is, maintain data on a wiki page. This way, the wiki is the one place where the latest data is available. You dont need to try to guess which version of the file has the updated data. All you have to do is to look at the wiki, and you know the picture. Assuming, of course, that everyone is updating the pageas they should be. With the wiki, you go to one place, one url, update whatever you need to update, and save it, and the updated data is available to everyone who needs it. You dont need to send files as attachments (just send the link) and you also dont need to search through email to try to find the mail with the attachment you should be looking at. In this way, wikis can be used to bring the idea of co-creation of content for day-to-day work.

Top KM Areas Poll

There was a poll i had posted here recently. What i was trying to do was to find out which are the things you think are important as initiatives for KM going forward. What came out of the poll is not actually very surprising, though there are some thoughts which i feel we need to look at.

To begin with, the most important areas of KM seem to be communities and social networking. Social networking got 14% of the votes, while communities got 12% of the votes. What this means is that knowledge managers are coming around to understanding the utility of connecting people, whether it be through communities or through social computing. That there is value which can be unearthed through connections that people develop. This can actually be seen by the way knowledge flows in social networks like facebook, linkedin or twitter. Another thing here seems to be though that blogging seems to be something which is not as high on the priority list as one would have thought. Each form of blogging got 8% of the votes, but then, the finding that blogging doesnt to be so popular could also be because i had divided blogging into different forms, more or less for different audiences. If we look at blogging as an aggregate, on the whole blogging (including micro-blogging) 40% of the votes. What this means is that experience sharing, informally writing, tweeting is something which people feel is a very important part of knowledge-sharing, but that going forward, there is the need to have discovery of knowledge, including blogs, easier than the way it is today, and one of the ways for this is through people connections.

What is surprising (actually, at first glance, not so surprising, but let me explain) is that search enhancements dont seem to be high on the priority list. This is probably based on the fact that most organizations already have some form of search implemented. Having said this, a number of organizations also find that search the way it is implemented today doesnt necessarily meet the requirements of users. What this means is that while search is there, users need a better search experience to be able to easily locate more relevant content on corporate repositories. But knowledge managers dont seem to be thinking about this as a priority. Maybe because we arent thinking from the users perspective?

What about wikis? Why i have segregated them into team wikis and enterprise wikis is because from what i have found, a number of organizations have found larger success in adoption with team wikis than enterprise wikis. I have written about this before.

In a nutshell, blogs 40, social networking 14, and communities 12, seem to be the top priority parts which seem to be on top of the priority list. Does this come as a surprise to you?

Wikis …

I had run a poll, on twtpoll, posted on this blog, about the way wikis are used in organizations. The results, i think, havent been too unexpected. What i see from the results is what i have seen with the organizations that i interact with. So, what are the results? Lets first look at the question:

What are wikis primarily used for in your organization?

There were three options to choose from: Team Wiki, Corporate Wiki, and Others. What comes from the poll is that 67% of the people who polled, say that wikis are used as team wikis in their organization, while 11% say that their organization has deployed wikis both as a corporate tool, as well as a team collaboration tool. This means that 77% of the people say that wikis are used as team wikis, while 11% say that they are used as a corporate wiki. What wasnt asked here was what the wikis were used for. Maybe that could go on another poll?

The answers, as i said, are not unexpected. More organizations i see today either have, or are deploying wikis as a team collaboration tool. Even some of the organizations which have deployed wikis as a corporate-wide tool, tend to find that usage of wikis within teams is far more. One of the reasons could be that within the team, people are more free to write what they feel like, and interactions tend to be more open. This makes this somewhat on the lines of a knol. As i have written before, this is a tool i believe could be the way forward. I dont believe i know why knol hasnt really taken off the way i had expected it to (i dont use it too much, nor do i see too many people using it, either), but having said that, what i am writing is within the organizational context, so maybe we are talking apples and oranges here. As i have written before here, and here, the completely open form of wikis may not be the option best meeting the requriements of organizations, and a model with limited authoring of wikis widely read, commented and discussed across the organization is probably the way wikis are going to be more and more deployed.

This also goes with the way i think E 2.0 could go forward … as a blend of community and hierarchy … as i have written before here, and here, since this model is one where there is the form of community, with some level of control over specific aspects of the community being built up in the organization hierarchy. Whether this hierarchy is in terms of reporting structures, or in terms of technical expertise is not really relevant, probably.

Wikis …

One of the blogs i follow is Grow Your Wiki, by Stewart Mader. Stewart has some wonderful ideas about wikis, the role they play in organizations, and the way they could deliver value in organizations. In his latest post, Stewart talks about specific problems which can be solved with wikis. Here, he refers to the post by Andrew McAfee where he discusses Enterprise 2.0, looking at specific scenarios where social computing tools can be used to meet specific business requirements.

One of the things Andrew talks about is:

Problem: How can we bring new hires up to speed as quickly as possible so that they become effective employees and stop bugging people with all their questions?

Use a wiki. Office supply company VistaPrint initiated a wiki in an attempt to capture what a new engineering hire needed to know. Because this knowledge base changed so quickly, the company felt that any peper-based solution would quickly become obsolete. Within 18 months the wiki grew to contain over 11,000 pages placed into 600 categories, all of them generated by employees themselves rather than a professional knowledge management staff. It became a dynamic and up-to-date repository of the company’s engineering knowledge.

A question which comes up from here, though, is whether the company is letting all employees write on the wiki. Or whether only people with a specific level of experience, and coming from a specific technical background are allowed to write on this wiki. One would probably think latter. Few of the organizations i interact with have a scenario where wikis are written by a set of people, for use by all. From this, one can see that the benefit of a wiki is that it is dynamic, that unlike a document, it doesnt become obsolete (thats assuming participation levels are appropriate).

What this means is that maybe a true wiki is not the appropriate solution, for a large number of scenarios. Something i have blogged about before. The idea is that authorship for these wikis may not necessarily be with all. A specific set of people write, and anyone can read. This seems to be the model which finds more acceptance within the organization. Somewhat like the knol. So where does the participation come from? Usually, team wikis could have everyone from the team participating, but not so corporate wikis. Collaboration, here, could follow the path of the discussion forum, which is why, i guess, some software providers give functionality for discussion forums attached to wiki pages.

This brings to the question of which are finding greater acceptance … corporate wikis, or team wikis? Could you please participate on the poll you see?

The Wiki Conundrum

This is something which is debated in a lot of organizations, and this is something which wikipedia has also adopted … some amount of editorial supervision, on articles about living people. This is something which comes back to a question which has been asked before, about how reliable a source like wikipedia is. Having written about this before, the question comes up again. And i am talking about this question from the organizational perspective. The question is, how reliable is information which is written on a wiki application which may be deployed within the organization.

For example, what if someone writes an incorrect solution to a problem on a wiki which is meant as a Knowledge Database, and using this solution leads to further problems? Or, if someone writes something irrelevant or incorrect on the HR policy page? One could say that within the organizational context, everything written can be identified by author, but even so, this means that incorrect information could make its way to what is considered a reliable source of information. This could be more important if this source of information is required for some critical applications.

Does this mean one needs to ask what applications a wiki is ideal for, within the organization? If that is the question which one asks, the answer is maybe … or then, maybe not. The answer would depend on who is answering the question, actually. But, some people believe it isnt. There are certain applications for which a wiki is ideal, and some for which it isnt. Or, a solution, which is a hybrid. Hybrid would be a solution which is a wiki, but not open to authorship by all. For example, a software company, maintaining a bug-fix database using a wiki may want to have only specific teams writing to this wiki. Something like a knol? As i have written before, this seems to be a solution which could be useful in the organizational context.

Does this mean that a team wiki finds more utility than a corporate wiki? Please do post your comments.