Twitter is NOT a social network – I agree

Earlier this month, at Nokia World 2010, Kevin Thau finally openly confirmed that Twitter is no longer a social network.  While this seems to have come as a shock to a lot of people, I couldn’t agree with Kevin more.

When I first joined Twitter, it promised to allow me to communicate with my friends in quick short messages.  It offered itself as a micro blogging site.

Today, it no longer mentions my friends.  Instead, it promises to deliver short, timely messages from so-and-so.  It is irrelevant whether I even know this so-and-so.

Twitter has become a place for people to vie for followers and promote their websites, blogs, companies and, finally, themselves.  It is also a major source of news.   And, at times, a vehicle to communicate directly with the companies that are willing to listen and engage.

Clearly, the focus of Twitter has changed from what it started off as.

How do you use it?  Is it still a vehicle to communicate with friends or do you find yourself consuming information more than contributing to the conversation?

Has this change in direction turned you off Twitter?

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IBM Lotus Connections 2.5 – Book Review

The wonderful folks at Pearson Education sent me a copy of a new book from IBM Press IBM Lotus Connections 2.5.  The book was written by a team of some very talented people at IBM, including Tim Speed.  Several years ago I had an opportunity to work with Tim Speed on a Domino 6 upgrade project.  Everything I know about executing a proper Domino upgrade project, measuring a server’s performance and gauging hardware resources I learned from Tim Speed.  So having Tim’s name on the list of authors set certain expectations for me.  And I was not disappointed.  The book arrived at a perfect time: we at PSC were in the process of deploying Connections 2.5 internally and I was able to use the book right away learning what was possible and how to use some of the new features.

Let me begin by saying that this book is not for the faint of heart — it is very technical.  Other than some opening sections about Social Networking, the book gets real technical real quick.  Lotus Connections is arguably the best product to come out of Lotus in a long time.  But for us, the long time Lotus experts, Connections is very different from other Lotus products that we may be familiar and comfortable with.  The book got me to appreciate the complexity of Connections, the architecture and the design behind it.

The book does a good job explaining what is involved in deploying Lotus Connections in an organization and how to install it.  The book covers the options for connecting it to different LDAP directories, using different databases and platforms.  The different scripts that need to be run as a part of installation and configuration and the various “behind the scenes” configuration variables make this book invaluable for anyone who has to configure and administer Lotus Connections.

For a consultant specializing in advising organizations on best practices of planning and deploying an enterprise social networking platform, the book offers some very valuable tidbits.   And the section on using Lotus Connections covers Day-In-The-Life scenarios, which would help any Lotus Connections evangelist help their coworkers learn how to make Enterprise Social Software work for them.

Of course, the book is not without its faults, although most of them are not with its content but rather with the organization of the book itself.

First of all, I found that the Index of the book was a disaster.  The multiple levels of indentation, the run-on indents that span multiple columns and pages, the mixing of proper and lower case words — all of it made the Index very confusing and nearly useless.

The organization of the book seemed done rather haphazardly.  It is a reference book written by techies for techies: if you want to do THIS, here’s a section that explains how to do it.  But the poorly organized Index makes it fail as a good Reference.  And if you’re looking for a book to guide you through the steps of installing, configuring and setting up Lotus Connections, this book is probably not going to work for you.

And on the content side, the book made no mention of SharePoint.  It would’ve been good to see a section on integrating Lotus Connections with SharePoint.  Instead, the authors decided to include a section on integrating with Confluence – an odd choice.

In conclusion, this book was written by a team of very talented and knowledgeable individuals.  They compiled good reference material for everyone working with Lotus Connections: administrators installing and managing Connections, developers extending Connections through APIs and widgets, evangelists and consultants supporting social software deployments in organizations.   The book, however, falls short of being a great reference book based on its organization and index.  It may be better in an online version, where it is fully searchable.  A free online edition is available for 45 days through the Safari Books Subscription service.

Blogging and corporate responsibility

When it comes to blogging, commenting on forums, using Twitter or Facebook and in general engaging in any kind of online social networking, my one rule has been the one of if you wouldn’t want your mother, your significant other (wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend) or your boss to know, don’t say it. Using profanity, discussing a hot coworker, depicting how trashed you got last Saturday night, complaining that you didn’t get a raise or posting pictures of you peeing on the side of your company’s HQ — are all examples of things that, if you know what’s good for you, you probably shouldn’t be doing online.  But if you think about it, the realm of things that you should or should not be discussing openly online could be much broader than that.  Exactly how broad and where the boundaries of this realm lie is very different for every person, with some topics and behaviors falling into a very gray area.  It all becomes even more uncertain when you consider who is impacted, negatively or positively, by your actions.

One of those “gray” areas is criticism.  Criticism for the sake of criticism is, in my book, nothing more than bitching.  But, on one hand, it is very popular and brings readers to your blog and followers to your Twitter.  On the other hand, for a lot of people, it represents the very value of social networking and the wisdom of crowds.  Many of us have come to rely on blogs and customer reviews when making purchasing decisions.  I myself am a strong believer in sharing the negative and positive experiences with products and companies that I encounter.  But is sharing a negative opinion always a responsible thing to do?

When I say that Acme Anvils make the worst anvils in the world and that mine broke after dropping it off a Rocky Canyon cliff and that Acme Anvils’ customer service was rude to me and offered no help and that I would never deal with them again, who am I impacting?  Am I only impacting myself and Acme Anvils?  If the answer is yes, then I am doing a good and responsible thing by sharing and warning others would be Acme Anvils’ customers to stay away.

But what if my company has, perhaps even unbeknown to me, a large contract to provide services to Acme Anvils?  Am I still doing a good thing even though I may be potentially endangering the relationship my company has with Acme?  What if Acme Anvils will find my blog post and will terminate the contract based on how my organization’s managers perceive Acme Anvils?

Do I, as an employee of an organization, have a corporate responsibility to not express my negative opinions about my company’s clients?

The answer to that question becomes even more ambiguous, if you consider future, potential clients.  It is possible that at the time of my post, my company has no relationship with Acme Anvils. However, 6 months later we are competing for a piece of business and we lose the deal because of something I had said on my blog.

On the other side of this question is my employer itself.  As a company, how far do I go to ensure that my employees don’t say bad things about my current clients and target accounts?  And do I have a right to ask an employee to take down a post?

I don’t have all the answers but would be curious to find out what your experience has been.

What do you think?

My presentation on Social Networking and Social Media

Back in December I spoke in front of the Chicago Lotus Notes user group, GRANITE, on the topic of Social Networking, Social Media and how it all applies to the business world.  Here is the slide deck from the presentation.

And just in case the embedded viewer doesn’t load for you, here’s a link to the slides on slideshare.net.

How do you decide what to blog about?

As you are sitting there pondering the topic for your next blog entry or your tweet, how do you decide what to blog and what NOT to blog about? Do you ever worry about blogging about a topic someone has already covered? If it is something from the Internet or the media, what are the chances that someone has already twittered it? Do you worry about being thought a “copycat”?

Those are the kinds of thoughts that always end up going through my head whenever I’m considering blogging about something I just read or heard somewhere. Is that a concern for you? Or does it not matter and it’s the point of the Internet and of the social networks to get more and more people to talk and discuss?

What do you think?

How to Pick Up Followers on Twitter

Whether you’re a seasoned Twitter user or just starting off (like myself), here’s a great collection of tips on how to build up your following.

Thank you, Guy Kawasaki for How to Change the World: Looking for Mr. Goodtweet: How to Pick Up Followers on Twitter