Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's the best way to use social software ?

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Right now, there's a heated debate going on internally at IBM over what's the best way to use one of the social features of Lotus Connections. I won't go into detail here, mainly because I don't want to distract you from the point that I want to make. Ready?

Don't you hate it when you get an email with an attachment that's 200TB? I think you will all agree and say yes. It's annoying. So how do we fix it? Easy, modify the mail client so that it allows attachments only up to 1MB. Right ?


Think about how inefficient that would make you, when you really need to send that financial presentation to your colleague in another town, city, state, country, world, universe, well you get the point.

How about instant messaging? Most IM clients have a feature where you can specify that you are 'Away'. And most IM clients also have a feature that automatically puts you 'Away' when the computer has been idle for 'x' number of minutes. Some people "forget" to change the status back to 'Available'. So how do we fix it? Easy, modify the IM client so that users can't put themselves 'Away' and it's only calculated by the computer's idleness. Right?


By now, you are probably picking up the point that I'm going to make: There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to using software.

Humans, by nature, are all unique. We all learn in different ways. We all do things in different ways (kinda like my sister who likes to brush her teeth before eating breakfast... WTF??). We all use software in different ways. And you can be darn sure that when it comes to social software per se, there is no right or wrong way to use it. And because each person is different, you need social software that adapts to those users' needs.

You need social software that works in the context in which users are already working. You need social software that can be molded into your existing processes. Facebook, for example, got a huge bump in daily traffic when they released their mobile application. In a matter of days, users were hooked to Facebook posting pictures on the go, updating their status every 5 minutes, etc.

Adaptability is they key when considering social software. And the more adaptable the software is, the higher the adoption rate. Adaptability is a key principle of web 2.0 and social software.

Now, there are some recommended practices to make your life easier, but that's another post ... Thoughts?

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