One of the interesting things that I have been exposed to over the course of time, specially, as more and more knowledge workers embark on their own journey of using social networking tools in a business context is how there seems to be this notion that we are almost done with that digital transformation. Meaning that those who have been using these social technologies for a while now feel like their work is done and dealt with in terms of that very same digital transformation. To them, it feels like it is time to move on and everything, in order not to stagnate or lag behind. The reality though is much different. We are just at the beginning of it all. We are just getting started.
Over the course of the last few months there have been multiple tipping points at work in our attempt to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise that kind of made me feel like as if my job as a Social / Open Business evangelist is now done and dealt with and it’s probably a good time now to start making the move into something else. One of those tipping points is of particular importance and relevance, since it comes all the way from the top (Finally, after over a decade of exposure to social networking tools) and I am hoping that I may be able to talk about it soon enough, but the intriguing thing is that while I was reflecting on that fact, that is, on whether my job as a Social Computing evangelist was now complete, my network(s), eventually, had other thoughts for me. You know what they say, networks will always outsmart you left and right no matter how much you think you know about your own subject matter expertise, skills and experience, so best thing you can do is listen to what they have to tell you. And learn.
That’s essentially what I have been doing over the last few days, while I have been going through that week of denial of the Social Web that I talked about yesterday. It’s been an interesting journey for yours truly all along through that long week of struggle and plenty of moments of weakness, because as I got to question everything that I have believed in over the course of the years on the impact and key role of social networking tools to change the way we work, interact and make business, one feels like once you reach through enough tipping points you are on your way out on to better things, hopefully. But then again your network(s) will always remind you as to whether it’s the right time for you to make a move or to stick around for a little while longer. After all, they know plenty more about you than you think you do about yourself.
And that’s what happened last week when fellow colleague Ruchi Bhatia pointed me in the direction of this absolutely brilliant short video clip that clearly describes where we are at the moment in that journey of the digital transformation. It’s a bit over 3 minutes long, but worth while going through it all the way. Specially, if you would also want to witness the power of storytelling coming together nicely.
The video clip features a short interview from my good friend Andy McAfee who tells a very inspiring, insightful and powerful story about the inventor of chess and how that correlates to our very own digital transformation that we have been experiencing for a little while now. It’s one of those videos that you would want to watch every now and then, as a social business evangelist, to remind you where we have been, where we are now and where we would need to be in terms of realising that full transformation of the business world in the near future, never mind our very own societies.
If, as a social business evangelist, you feel that your job is done, because you sense that everyone gets it, and it’s time for you to move on to the next thing, whether it may well be Mobile, Big Data, Social Analytics, Cloud Computing or whatever else, that video clip will certainly help you adjust your mindset accordingly, just like it did for me. Why? Well, not going to spoil it for you folks, you will have to watch through it, but, essentially, because of a single key message that Andy himself shared on that short interview and which is a brilliant reminder to inspire you back out of your potential moments of weakness, get that extra boost of energy and enthusiasm and re-focus on what really matters: we are just at the beginning.
And more shockingly, we haven’t even seen anything yet. Andy, once again, setting the record straight on helping us re-find that purpose, that meaning that keeps pushing us forward: start leading your very own digital transformation.
For a good couple of years I have been a huge fan, and big advocate, of what I think is one of the most empowering and refreshing social networking tools out there: Google Plus. Yes, I know I may have well been one of the very few, but all along I have always felt that in terms of features, capabilities, blending of online and offline interactions and, above all, the deeper level of engagement in conversations is what made G+ special. Very special. Till a couple of days ago, where I discovered, by pure chance, which is how these things happen usually, I suppose, how it has been hiding away the best part of that social networking tool: the conversations themselves. Remember the filter bubble?
From the very beginning, I read in one of the review blog posts around Google Plus how the Home Stream (All) doesn’t really display all of the various different posts that your networks get to share. It only displays a fraction that the system itself identifies based on whatever the algorithm. Now, I can imagine how plenty of people may not feel very comfortable with the fire hose of updates coming through, so they may actually appreciate, quite a bit, having Google figuring it all out how it would work for most people. Alas, not for me. I would want to see every single post that comes my way, so I can then decide whether I would want to read it or not. I have always felt that’s the ultimate choice from social networkers in terms of defining the amount of signal / noise they would get exposed to without having that social networking tool calculating automatically what may matter to you or not.
I am sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. So a few months back I started relying more and more on Google Plus Circles to the point where I became rather dependent on them. I created a bunch of them, that I check on a rather regular basis, but there are four of them that I consider critical food for my brain. You know, the One50, Two50, and TheRest and a new one I created which is a combination of all three of those coming up to nearly 500 people in total, which is what I am checking out nowadays the most as my new timeline. Essentially, the one circle of those folks who I would want to receive whatever updates they share.
Thus a little while ago I decided to try out an experiment, which was, essentially, keeping an open tab in Chrome throughout the day for Google Plus and, in particular, for that specific G+ Circle (That I called Everyone), and which would allow me to jump in every now and then and check what people may be saying, talking about or sharing across. You know, in between work tasks, coffee breaks, those spare idle moments in between meetings and so forth. The idea was to be able to catch up with everything that may have been shared across with an opportunity to do it at my own pace, and without any restrictions.
However, over the course of time, I started noticing how after a short period of time, without checking things out, the lovely blue box would show up indicating the number of new posts that I had catch up with since I last refreshed, and I started to notice how if I would have, say, 74 new posts, when clicking on refresh it would just display (I counted them!) about 36, which means that half of the content is gone. Just like that! WOW!!!
And here I was thinking that G+ algorithm was only in place for the Home Stream (All) page. Well, apparently, not. I have actually raised this very same issue on my Plus Profile, on this post, where I talked about it more extensively, and a bunch of other folks have been very helpful sharing their insights, including reference blog entries like this one on that very same topic with the flair that it’s working as designed. Well, no, it’s not. At least, it is not my design.
See? If I create a new Circle in Google Plus because there is a list of contacts / networks that I would want to keep up with and get exposed to everything they share in G+ that’s what I expect the circle to handle graciously, not just show to me what it thinks is better for me. Never mind how much data you have about me. No, sorry, systems should not be making that choice for people. At least, people should be given the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of that model, which in this case it’s just not happening. And I am finding that incredibly frustrating and perhaps somewhat disturbing as well for that matter.
Why? Mainly, of course, because of that filter bubble. I would want to be the person in charge of what I get exposed to, how I would want to get exposed to, and, most importantly, how I would want to consume that content shared across. And let it be down to me to decide if I would want to mitigate, or not, the fire hose effect of content I get exposed to. It should be my decision, not the system’s. That’s actually one of the reasons why I have never been a fan of Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking tools that do pretty much the same thing: putting constraints in place by the system, within the streams, thinking it knows better than their end-users. Well, maybe not.
Yes, I realise that I am perhaps making a big fuss out of anything. I mean, I am sure that you folks would be able to identify a whole bunch of various different areas of improvement for Google Plus in terms of missing features and capabilities, but, to me, it’s all down to this: can I use it for work? Yes, I know I can use it for personal use, which I have already for a long while, just like any other social networking tool, but, to me, Google Plus was special, because I could also use it for work. Or, at least, that’s what I thought, because, after finding out about that behaviour, I am just not sure anymore. I mean, think of this very same scenario happening with work email…
Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. There is no way that you just can’t miss work related emails, specially, from a customer, or business partner, or from an urgent request from your boss or your fellow colleagues, only to find out the system thought about dropping it out, because it was not that important. Goodness! That would never happen with email. Period. It’s out of the question, even. So why should social networking tools be different? Why can’t we have that opt-in / opt-out option where we, the end-users, the social networkers, get to decide how we would want to process, consume and digest those streams? That’s a fair request, don’t you think?
So what’s going to happen next then, you may be wondering, right? Well, for now, and while I am awaiting for an official answer from Google Plus Help and some other folks, G+ has dropped out to the same level of attention, engagement, involvement and relevancy as plenty of other social networking tools, because no matter how hard you would try it looks like with Google Plus, just like with plenty of others, you will always be missing stuff and, to be frank, if that’s going to happen, I rather prefer to focus my attention elsewhere. It’s not even worth the effort anymore. Does that mean I will be ditching Google Plus for good? No, not yet. Like I said, I like it quite a bit. I am not going to give up on it that easy or that soon, even though I fully realise I will never get an answer from the Help & Support team(s), which is also another one of those issues with all of these public social networking tools on the Open Web. I will continue to make use of it. It’s just that instead of spending a substantial amount of time in it every day, the level of attention has dropped quite a bit, to the point where it no longer has the priority on my external social networking activities as it used to have. That focus is now gone.
And that’s a pity. I know and I fully realise about that. But I guess that’s what happens when you, Google Plus, in this case, make the assumption you can own the filter bubble of those who have given you the mere existence of your own being, ignoring their voices and opinions, thinking you know better than them. Perhaps you don’t, perhaps you shouldn’t have. Perhaps you need to address the issue before I will be coming back. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, I still want to own the filter bubble. My filter bubble.
Thank you very much.
After having just returned from another business trip to the US (Westford, MA, this time around, to participate on a client workshop on Social Business and Knowledge Management to figure out whether they could blend and become one and the same, but more on that one later on…), I guess it’s probably a good time now to share another blog post over here on that progress report around Life Without eMail, specially, after my last article on the topic, where I was mentioning what it was like going back to basics through that massive hard reset I experienced earlier on this year. I am sure plenty of folks are wondering where I am with it today and whether I am back on track, or not, right? Well, yes, I surely am! In fact, today’s entry will be about a Newcomer Challenging for King eMail’s Crown.
If you would remember, about a month ago, I put together the last progress report to date where I was indicating how for the first 20 weeks of year 6 of Life Without eMail I was noticing a rather steep increase in the incoming number of emails received. Nothing to do much with the fact I moved on to another job (Although it contributed as well somewhat!), but, essentially, that intriguing trend of how both my social networking activities, as well as my incoming email, grew up further along hand in hand highlighting perhaps another interesting trend I have noticed as of late: over-sharing of information and knowledge all over the place, just for the sake of making yourself visible and ensure everyone knows you are out there, working really hard, whether on social spaces or in email, so that people would not jump into the wrong conclusions of you slacking off while at work. I guess tough times and work pressures are kicking in stronger and harder than I ever thought they would.
And while email seems to be Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online (Very worth while reading Wired article, by the way, on the power of email in terms of its successful conversion rates vs. what social networking tools out there are doing), we should not forget though how emailing gives us all a false sense of progress. And if there is anything that I have learned during the course of the last few weeks from year 6 of having ditched corporate email is that realisation that I am now more convinced than ever about the paramount role that social networking tools will play in a business context in terms of how we share our knowledge and collaborate helping accelerate both our innovation efforts and our decision making processes, to the point where email still is a massive disruptor of that free flow of knowledge and information across the board. And it shouldn’t be.
Indeed, email fosters closed, private, secretive interactions amongst a few people, what I have been flagging all along as sharing your knowledge across on a need to know basis vs. what social networking tools do, which is promote that wonderfully inspiring mantra of default to open. It’s been rather interesting to note as well how email is pretty much used nowadays as a way of managing your employees and your knowledge workflows vs. perhaps walking along the virtual aisles of social networks to find out what your team members are doing in terms of opening up the conversations, narrating their work or working out loud. And all of that without having to even ask a single question once. Somehow the latter approach sounds so much more of an effective use of our time than the selfish, egotistical use of email just to fit our own individual purpose(s).
So while that transformation keeps taking place I am sure you may be wondering what has happened in the last 4 weeks since the last progress report I shared over here, right? Well, like I hinted above, at the beginning of this article, things are slowly, but steadily, coming back on track. As you can see from the attached snapshot, after the massive peak of email activity for Week 20, with the highest amount of incoming emails for a single week that I can remember in years!, there has been a steady decrease on the amount of emails received for the following four weeks, which I can think can only be, but some really good news. For a moment, I thought all of that hard work of over the course of the last 6 years around Life Without eMail was just gone! Well, not really. We were just having a break, apparently…
As you can see, the average amount of incoming emails is still sitting on 31.2 per week, which is pretty much the very same volume of incoming email that I was receiving back in 2009, but the good news is that over the last four weeks you will see a decrease on the total amount of emails received, and that is a good sign that things are going back to normal, the new normal: a Life Without eMail.
Yes, this year it may well have been a bit of a bumpy road, but that’s a good thing, because, amongst several other things, it’s allowed me to revisit, review and reposition the whole movement since I started it, and, if anything, I have also learned that I may have gone back to levels of email activity as I had them in 2009, but I have got plenty of years of first hand experiences of how to turn it back on the right track, once again, by living social, by living Open. And I know I am not just ready yet to let things go away like that forgetting everything we have done in the recent past. There is still a good fight out there to go for. One where we transition from closed systems of record into open systems of engagement. One where we continue walking the talk, leading by example on what really matters: a much more purposeful, meaningful work where openness and transparency through social networking tools help us all become more effective and eventually more productive at what we do, i.e. get our work done collectively as teams, networks and communities. And that can only be a good thing for businesses that want to promote sustainable growth as their primal reason for survival in today’s Knowledge Economy. After all, when was the last time that you could do your job without the help or support from your (extended) team(s)?
And talking about that Openness and Transparency, I just couldn’t help closing off this progress report post sharing across a recent article I had the privilege, and true honour, of writing it for The Times where I basically shared some additional insights in terms of how king email’s crown is getting more and more challenged by the day by a certain newcomer that’s transforming the way we work: social networking for business. Indeed, over at The Social Business report, pages 12 and 13, you would be able to read “Newcomer Challenging for King Email’s Crown” where I mentioned the larger impact all of these social technologies are having around how we get work done in a business environment nowadays:
“Social sharing, when occurring in the workplace, is becoming more focused, purposeful and is making a meaningful contribution to productivity. […]
Knowledge workers are more comfortable with sharing work-related items in the open, but they are also encouraging transparent working. There is an understanding that the more business-related information available out there for practitioners to benefit from, the better the decision-making. It is increasing the ability to share responsibility and accountability“
Yes, I know, I just couldn’t help teasing you all with a couple of paragraphs from that article, so that, if you would be interested, you could have a look and read on, specially, if you are keen on finding out plenty more how that openness and transparency are challenging the traditional role of management, decision making, knowledge sharing and, eventually, executing work. Resulting, all in all, in helping us address what I still think is the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee engagement.
Because, after all:
“Socially integrated enterprises have been empowering happy employees to create delighted customers, all through the clever use of digital tools. Social technologies have just become the new overlord. It’s about time.“
[Oh, and before I forget, here's a friendly reminder, in case you may want to find out further more, to come and join us at the Life Without eMail Google Plus Community where a bunch of us (Including the coiner of the well known mantra I have been reusing for years > "eMail is where knowledge goes to die") have been having some rather interesting, refreshing and thought provoking conversations of how social technologies are reshaping the workplace by helping email repurpose itself into better things…]