Reddit and Liked it. (Vote for me!)

I’d like more time to work on my blog but my time’s running short because of an impending trip to Melbourne! I’m in the middle of putting my Enterprise 2.0 portfolio as many of you will be or already are, and I’ve decided to write just one more short article.

Reddit is a social media platform that revolves around users submitting links (or user submitted text) and discussing them using a commenting system. Reddit also features a voting system where users can either vote up or vote down links they think are (or aren’t) worth reading and the ones that get the most votes become featured on the front page or otherwise more visible.

There don’t seem to be too many bloggers taking advantage of the categories set up by our Enterprise 2.0 Lecturer, but I’ve got mine all set up and ready to be voted up:

If you guys enjoyed any of my articles, please vote them up!
If you like my blog as a whole, be sure to vote it up too:

Sorry for such a shameless plug, but a Uni student has to do what he needs to do.

Reddit is an interesting formula. The best thing I think its that there’s no complicated rating system, it’s a yes or a no. When something asks me to rate it out of 5, unless it’s a learning experience survey or something to do with my job, I’m not interested. I’ll either vote 5 or I won’t vote.

I like that Reddit’s strengths lie in its simplicity. Simplicity encourages users to participate, and it creates a powerful tool for harnessing the collective power of its readers. The way Reddit works is just like some kind of anonymous suggestion service, “We all liked this, there’s a good chance you might too”.

It also gives users a space to elaborate past that initial rating too and that’s really important too. Sometimes you think something is really good (or bad), but you want to elaborate why so others can consider your view and it is what moves Reddit past a simple rating service, and into a true social media platform.


SharePoint & Sharing a point in blogging

I’ll just start off by saying it’s been fun. It’s been stressful and it has been something to keep me busy during long train rides, but blogging every week has been a good thing. I feel like this ongoing assessment piece has driven me to learn new things about IT that I feel I wasn’t before. Even as I look back, and the amount I disliked blogging in other assessment pieces, I only now see the benefit of being told to “Go research this, then tell everyone what you think”.

An opinion is something that makes us unique to animals. Well, I don’t know if animals can have opinions or not since it’s more instinct for them I think. The point is, is that having an opinion, a voice is important. In high school I studied literary theory, and that is the one most important lesson I took away from it.

Opinion and perspective go hand in hand. If you think back to my last blog, I talked about this with regard to our own perception of whether facebook equates to diminished values on friendships. Opinion and perspective should never be ignored. Even logic is grounded in these concepts.

So I look back and wonder why I ever thought blogging wasn’t my cup of tea. I think I realise now it’s more to do with the fact that I did badly back in my first semester of uni, even though I thought I was doing very well.

So, onto what may be my last entry into this journal (for a while). For weeks now I’ve been hankering to do something original with my blog. That is, something not set by the lecturer. This week is pretty much what I’ve been waiting for as the request from table 346 is “Surprise me, but with a side of Enterprise 2.0”.

So, I want to look at SharePoint, because I feel like it’s something I should be looking at and as of yet haven’t. As of 25/09/2010 10:25PM AEST Wikipedia’s legion of authors have decided that Microsoft SharePoint is best described as “a software platform and a family of software products developed by Microsoft for collaboration, file sharing and web publishing.” The SharePoint website is more or less the same deal, except with some text to make it a bit more flowery.

So, it’s an example of a collaborative workspace marketed at the Enterprise setting. It’s no new concept to what I’ve spoken about before, but what is important is that it’s a real example that is being implemented by companies around the world.

Rather than bog you down with heavy jargon, here’s a youtube movie developed by Microsoft’s SharePoint team.

I am a wordy man. I like words and I like reading them. I find them easier to reference and to interpret. There’s that whole taxonomy issue with videos and images that makes things difficult and messy. However, I found that what SharePoint actually is, felt so broad that I needed to watch a video to properly understand it.

So SharePoint is like a Document Management System (DMS), but it offers more than that. It’s a fully functional collaborative workspace that not only diminishes the reliance and pitfalls of email heavy work processes, but moves work to a space that offers open channels of communication and better means of version control (By having a check out system for documents, meaning only one person can work on them at a time).

The uniqueness I alluded to before by saying it’s more than just a DMS, is described by Ken Stewart as being “presented as a website. What is unique about SharePoint is that it allows for customization of the content on that web page by enabling drag-and-drop and point-and-click editing of the content.”

In this sense, SharePoint is modular and it can be moulded to suit the needs of the business and to top it off doesn’t require the technical proficiency of an A grade programmer to do so.

Are there any disadvantages to SharePoint? Well it depends. Using SharePoint on its own is great. But it suffers from something akin to quality versus quantity – where SharePoint represents the quantity part. It’s an age old issue of off-the-shelf software versus tailored solutions/in-house development.

Ken Stewart quotes a number of advantages and disadvantages outlined by Russ Edelman’s AIIM E-DOC article ‘SharePoint In The Enterprise’ which outlines that SharePoint on its own is limited in certain functionalities, whilst implementing it to co-exist with a DMS that has the depth SharePoint doesn’t equates to higher maintenance costs, confusion and redundant data.

Just like on shopping channels, testimonials are often what people want to see. I decided to cheat once again and poke around Youtube to find something of a case study that shows the benefits of SharePoint. Monsanto is an agricultural company that has implemented Microsoft Sharepoint to great benefit:

So my verdict on SharePoint? Well with success stories like the ones Microsoft has listed on their website it’s hard to ignore as a dominant player in the DMS field and is definitely worth looking into for Enterprises of any scale.

So that’s it for this week. I may have another blog soon or I may not since I go to Melbourne soon. What do you think about SharePoint? Any other DMS’s worth looking into? How about the banner I made last night for the blog?

– Anthony Smith

Perceiving the value of Online Social Networks

So this week’s INB346’s theme is social networks. Seems like it should be the epitome of all the platforms enterprises are attempting to leverage in their respective races to social media success but hey, better late than never (Or maybe we’ve done this before and are doing it again for good measure?). If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you know what the definition of a social network is. So let me tell you about my personal experience with them.

Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are probably the biggest and I’ve had varying levels of experience with all three myself for different purposes. MySpace is probably the one I used least. Back in its heyday every kid had one. Being the IT orientated person I am, my page was all ‘pimped out’, with all kinds of unique html running through it to give it unique backgrounds and such. But I didn’t like it. Nope. MySpace was far too cluttered. I was sick of opening people’s profiles to see more than nine thousand good web design principles broken. Scrolling animated gifs, flashing text, auto-loading youtube videos and music. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a colleague of mine and he said ‘MySpace seems more for kids, Facebook is more grown-up’ and I didn’t disagree.

I eventually made the migration to Facebook, everybody did apparently – to the biggest slice of the social media pie – and I haven’t looked back. Many names are synonymous with ‘social media’, but none more so than Zuckerberg’s college experiment.

Facebook was good for a long time. It still is, but the thing I liked about it most at first was how clean it was. No silly HTML, no automatically loading music. But then I experienced a similar feeling I felt with MySpace when I was receiving twenty-thousand updates a day asking me to play ‘Mafia Wars’ (A facebook game I played briefly) on Facebook because a friend had been conned by a game into clicking my name and sending me a message in the first place.

At the very least, I figured out I could block messages from specific applications. Hey presto! No more recruitment requests to my friend’s mafias. No more unwanted sheep from my friend’s Farmville accounts.

This being said, I do enjoy the side of Facebook we’re all more familiar with – keeping up with friends. It’s been good to reconnect with friends from high school, and keep them all updated with my day to day things. It keeps me in touch with people that I normally wouldn’t talk to for months at a time. It’s also been a useful tool for managing groups of gamers that I organise events for.

I guess the downside for me is the feeling that some of my friendships are diminished somewhat. But that can be a matter of perspective as well. Does keeping up with friends only through Facebook mean I place less value on those friendships? It’s like asking if Facebook is a lazy means of keeping up with friends. It depends on the value you personally and others you are connected with derive from social media.

Twitter I’ve been using of course, and you can read about my foray into that here:

I still don’t see myself using it a great deal anytime soon though. It’s more public and accessible and handy for micro updates, I’ll grant it that. But I guess the issue is that neither I, nor any of my friends really use it. So personally speaking, it’s not useful to me, since I already have Facebook to funnel all of my updates through, but I understand that it can be a handy tool. Updates on current happenings, events, the lives of the rich and famous, businesses. These are the organisations and people who benefit the most.

On that note, it’s important to realise that when weighing the benefits of social media, it’s important to first consider the perspective that you’re viewing these Web 2.0 platforms from. You’ve read what I think personally about three different platforms, but they aren’t necessarily true or even accurate for the perspective of big business.

For example, calling social media an emerging marketing platform for today’s enterprise may also be inaccurate. The fact is, is that enterprises of all shapes and sizes are jumping on the bandwagon and have been on it for a long time. It’s now very much a staple part of the operation of an enterprise.

A notable instance is Joie De Vivre, a large Hotel company operating in California. This company has been leveraging a number of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook in its efforts to promote its business and drive for increased sales figures.  According to techcrunch, the company will ‘tweet’ exclusive deals on Tuesdays for discounted rates on rooms and update its status on Friday’s to offer similar deals for its Facebook followers.

Social media can be leveraged for more than just marketing purposes as well. Best Buy’s Twitter account ‘Twelpforce’ is employed to manage hundreds of employees that are using Twitter to provide customer support to its potential customers. This is one amongst a sea of examples as to how companies are attempting to cut costs or find better ways to do business through social media.

The pitfalls however are the usual suspects with any enterprise 2.0 venture. As I covered in this blog post, productivity, information leakages and damaging a company’s image sit amongst the potentially disastrous consequences of not employing a social media strategy. Furniture Store ‘Habitat’ experienced that last one I mentioned, a damaged reputation, when they began a thoughtless Twitter campaign consisting of spam via the use of inappropriate, yet popular hash tags in order to maximise its exposure. This backfired, as it tastelessly advertised with hash tags such as ‘#iPhone’, ‘#apple’, even Australian masterchef contestant ‘#Poh’. Readers not only picked up on it, but began complaining about it and the company as well. Whilst the company took immediate action to remove the tweets and began anew with a strategy non-spammy in nature, the damage was done and the viral nature of news about the deed was spreading far quicker than they could contain it. They eventually made a public apology when they realised that social media wasn’t as easy to control as they thought.

Something I reiterate often is that inaction is worse than action with social media. Learning from your mistakes is important, just Habitat did. Not adopting it will put you behind in terms of competitive advantage. Heck, even my social life would be behind if I didn’t use social media myself.

It’s almost like not owning a mobile phone.

Quick! Wiki Wiki!

Despite promises to myself at least to do a blog post on sharepoint or something similar, I’ve decided to continue with the current theme of examining different enterprise 2.0 platforms (mostly because of my Enterprise 2.0 workshop activities from my course on Enterprise 2.0).

Standing at number 7 in Alexa’s top 500 visited sites on the web, Wikipedia represents the largest of this blog’s focus – Wiki’s. As most of you will be well aware, Wikipedia is an online, collaborative encyclopaedia that contains millions of articles that can be edited by anybody. The motivation and exploration as to why a phenomenon such as Wikipedia works is something I’ve covered before but right now I’m interested in how one might integrate a ‘wiki’ into an enterprise setting.

Wiki’s are a defining example of a collaborative work space. defines them as “a database of pages which visitors can edit live.” Put simply, they provide a workspace of organised web pages. These trees of linked pages are used to exchange ideas, information and manage projects amongst their other potential uses. Visitors to these wiki’s can leave comments and engage in online discussion too.

The benefits of wikis are better enunciated with examples from a number of case studies I’ve been looking at on the net. Lasica recently wrote about ‘Intelpedia’, “the Intel encyclopaedia that anybody can edit”, a reference to Wikipedia’s own slogan that carries the same message. Intel, with its penchant for Web 2.0 has taken to maintaining its own internal wiki for the purpose of knowledge sharing. However with time, employees with different interests converged on the wiki, bringing information about different areas relevant to Intel employees, such as clubs for sports and recreation.

Beth Stackpole of Computerworld has also talked about the way a number of different organisations have implemented wikis as a new means of collaboration. She notes especially that enterprise system software giant SAP has taken to employing a point system that seeks to increase participation and garner quality. It’s something of a social engineering experiment, where users under this regime will want to create high quality articles and edits in order to be recognised.

Despite these benefits, there are always a number of lingering, problematic issues that can hinder contributions and even cause failures. With communities of expert contributors like the SAP wiki, there can exist a reluctance to contribute or edit work as a user may feel their contribution will be rejected by their peers. A semi-failed wiki implementation reported on by Mayfield of Many 2 Many is that of ‘LA Times’ and their “Wikitorials” described as “an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials”.

The project forked, deviating almost immediately from its original intention of allowing users to edit an editorial, which is essentially a biased point of view, to giving them a ‘Counter point’ page that would see a Wikipedia style entry created about the editorial. The initial problematic idea behind “Wikitorials” was compounded by editors having strong, differing points of view (the first editorial was on the subject of ‘war’).

In my own experience, using wikis can be useful for collaborative group work. Although, since my first semester of uni, I’ve not used one for any of my uni work. This is simply because I have a preference for using Google’s ‘google groups’ for basically all of the same functionality of a wiki, with the ability to update all other members of the group with emails. As long as members are checking the wiki often, it is merely a matter of preference.

I’ve also made small contributions to a wiki myself. In my scenario, it was a wiki maintained for a competitive video game, and I’d tasked myself with maintaining wiki entries composed of player information. It’s a somewhat finicky system at times, insofar as formatting goes. With the lack of a GUI, I was forced to try and decipher how the formatting tags worked and even today there are issues on some of these pages that I haven’t been able to rectify. Actually, I haven’t touched it in a couple of years, and it’s severely out of date.

Still, the value is there. If I got my act together and cleaned that wiki right up, maybe I’d have something both to be proud of and something valuable to the community as well. You can’t let the prospect of failure turn you away, especially with the relatively low cost of Wiki software. (Or no cost if you’re using free web hosted wikis).

Afterall, to keep up with competitors in the IT space, you’ve gotta Wiki-wiki. That is, ‘Hurry-quick’ in Hawaiian.

Internal Blogging – Crowdsourcing ‘within’ the enterprise?

So we know what a blog is and why we do it. At its core, a blog is a log (A web log) which is a diary of sorts. People use them for all kinds of things, perhaps if only to help them remember the things, the thoughts and feelings they don’t want to forget. Blogs however are different. They can serve that aforementioned purpose, but they also serve a variety of different agendas, themes and goals. Unlike diaries, blogs can be maintained by multiple people, and can represent the thoughts and opinions of more than just an individual.

In the business world, blogs can represent entire corporations and companies. Like a blog belonging to an individual, a corporate blog of this nature can be used to express corporate opinions, stances and most importantly, create a personal brand or in this case, a company brand. It creates a channel of communication, a wide channel of dialogue between the company and its readers and it informalises the positions of both, creating a sense of familiarity and even loyalty amongst its readers.

However it’s a topic I’ve touched on before. Blogging is a form of Web 2.0 and if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll probably be sick to death of it by now, that is, how business’ can harness Web 2.0 to generate and conduct business.

Generally speaking, these social media platforms are harnessed in two different ways – internally, and externally. It can almost be likened to the way in which businesses used to be able to differentiate between what the customer could see and what they couldn’t when they looked at a business. It’s not a foreign concept even without that analogy, since in all organised groups we have different levels of visibility.

I make these points because I want to explore blogging as a tool within an organisation. It is as you might expect – a blog maintained by an organisation targeted at and for the benefit of the organisation itself.

For example, the US navy has begun to maintain a blog entitled ‘The Pulse’ for the purpose of informing Navy personnel about the direction of IT in the navy, what proposals are being put forward, and what its staff can expect to see happen. They also maintain it in order to garner feedback and opinions from its staff. This kind of blogging creates a channel of internal communication, giving members of the navy a means of keeping up to date with updates as well information on projects currently in progress.

Another interesting entity is wal-mart. I’ve studied how they conduct their business, their business model, information systems and distribution logistics, but never anything about their social media forays until last night when I read about their internal blogging.initiatives. Wal-mart’s blog exists to ask their one million employees to help them innovate as a business. Their first open question to employees asked through the blog was a request for ideas on saving energy. Five thousand employees responded, with one employee suggesting that they simply remove light bulbs from vending machines. The idea spread across wal-mart stores across the world and saved the company one million dollars. This outreach from the executive level to the operational level and everywhere in between encourages a type of informality that helps to remove the air of stigma between the two levels of the business. It also presents a form of expertise sharing and competitive intelligence since it is the collective expertise and intelligence of the crowd that is being sourced and shared amongst the company.

Great! So let’s jump on word press, set up a blog and mass email everyone to board the blog train!

No. Well yes, but not yet.

As I’ve already covered not too long ago, forging your way into the social media spectrum can be a perilous journey. A few careful considerations need to be taken into account before leaping into it:

–          Aims!

  • This is always a good goal to shoot for. In the previous examples, they provided the base and reasoning for the blogged content (Navy IT direction and wal-mart collaborative innovation)

–          The Bloggers!

  • Afterall, these people will be responsible for the face that the blog reading employees will be entering into a dialogue with. They should be good communicators and sensitive to particular issues. Consistency is good too.

–          Training and Policies

  • Even in my own experience as an IT professional, throwing rules and policy at an employee won’t ensure that they’ll do the right thing by the company. Professional development is necessary to ensure that policies and guidelines developed for posting blogs and comments is abided by.
  • Blogging guidelines must be clear to ensure that employees understand what they can and can’t do and why.
  • A good example is Intel’s social media policy that not only sets out guidelines to follow, it also encourages users to become social media representatives, rather than to scare them with threats of employment termination

As with any social media endeavour in the Enterprise, it will take time for the idea of blogs as a form of business-wide communication to take place. The theory is always that people should want to adopt it on their own accord once they recognise its value.

– – –

That’s it for this week. This blog was meant for last week, but I’ve been super busy with other assignments. I got stuck on public transport today, the trains went out because of a police incident, so I had some time to squeeze this blog out.

Along with this week’s activity for our Enterprise 2.0 class, are there any QUT INN/INB346 students out there with some suggestions on what kinds of social media platforms I should write about? I was thinking a straight up blog on Sharepoint.


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