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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Common and real concerns about internal micro-blogging

8:52:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
Here are three authentic concerns from real world adoption of enterprise micro-blogging that my colleague Henrik Gustafsson has captured and which he also helped me answer. Some of these concerns might sound strange to long-time and frequent Twitter users, but you need to deal with these kinds of concerns when trying to facilitate broad adoption within an enterprise.

1. Platform hijack

“A few very active people have hijacked our internal micro-blogging platform”

Can a free and open platform such as a micro-blogging platform be hijacked by a few individuals?

My answer to this is no. And yes.

I answer no because the platform as such does not exclude people who want to participate. Anyone can grab the mike and join the conversation, or start a new one.

I answer yes because even though the platform does not impose any restrictions to participate, we might impose these kinds of restrictions by our attitudes and behaviors as individuals and/or collective. Though, the subjective feeling of not being included that some individuals might have does not necessarily mean that other people deliberately exclude them or don’t want them to participate.

The fact that some people are more active than others is no surprise and nothing strange. This is illustrated by the 90-9-1 principle, which claims that in social groups, some people participate more actively than others. Social participation tends to follow a 90-9-1 rule ((cc) Jake McKee & 90-9-1.com):


Everyone is free to participate if they want to, and choose how they want to participate. If someone just wants to listen, then fine. If someone wants to create, then just do it.

2. Emergent spam

”Some posts are beginning to look like spam.”

Does spam exist on a platform where it is each individual who chooses whom to follow and listen to, and where you can use tags to filter out the stuff that is relevant to you?

Yes, it does. Temporarily, until you adjust and fine-tune your filters. That is something you must learn to do, and to continuously. If someone you follow is mostly babbling about stuff you don’t really interested in, then unfollow that person. No damage done. Someone might start following you, and then choose to unfollow you. You need to do the same if you want to avoid a feeling of information overload (or spam if you like). That is the name of the game, and what you are doing is just calibrating your filters.

Anyone is free to opt in and opt out from any conversation that takes place in public. You need to choose which ones are important and valuable to you. No-one forces anyone to follow someone else. And you can’t (at least you shouldn’t) force anyone to follow you.

3. The risk of being misunderstood

“What if I will be misunderstood?”

All communication brings a risk of being misunderstood. That is because the purpose of the communication is to be understood. If the communication fails, it means per definition that you have been misunderstood.

The graphic “10 levels of intimacy” below by Ji Lee can be used to illustrate a communication continuum from the most intimate way to communicate to the least intimate.

Twitter, and most other micro-blogging platforms, is by this way of seeing it the least intimate way we have to communicate with each other. Whatever you communicate on this platform can seen by anyone; both people you don’t know and people you do know. This includes your boss, and even the CEO. Some people feel that they might say something that will haunt them throughout their career, that they will be misunderstood and will have no way to correct this. I’ve discussed this aspect in a previous post called “Internal micro-blogging can be intimidating”.

Even though micro-blogging is the least intimate way of communicating according to the graphic above and text is not a rich media, micro-blogging is also interactive and immediate. You can have a conversation and you can immediately clarify anything that might be misunderstood. Other people can help you do that by giving you feedback and clarifying your message in a dialog. The original message will also be displayed in context of your clarifications and the other pieces of the conversation. The end result of such a conversation is most likely a higher degree of understanding than what you can achieve with other common ways to communicate, such as email and SMS.

Most humans are risk-avert. We tend to overestimate the risks and underestimate the benefits. It is only natural that some of us are terrified by the risk of being misunderstood when using a new way to communicate. And they will be misunderstood, just like all the rest of us occasionally are. But those mistakes are soon both corrected and soon forgotten. Although we must all estimate the risk of being misunderstood and think about the ways how we can mitigate that risk, we should not forget to estimate the value of being understood and thereby maybe helping and being helped by others, and learning from each other so that we can perform better both as individuals, teams and collective.

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