Mentioning Facebook and Twitter is indeed step one. They provide important context for the conversation. They are commonly known. But people have many preconceived notions of what they offer and what their purpose is. The most difficult part is bringing the discussion beyond ‘people sharing their lunch’ and focusing on what actually makes them successful experiences:
Real-time information about people
Common discussion point: User will miss stuff that falls off
People snack on this stuff. It is not for rich analysis or trend reporting. That still has its place. This is stuff that is happening right now and i can see it and react. Or I can watch it and learn.
Selective Transparency: Feeding the machine
Common discussion point: Those applications are just for sharing with friends. Why would someone share at work?
The truth is, the majority of people don’t share everything. But there is growing evidence that they will share just about anything (hi, Blippy). Teams are sharing via email, and IM. This is just an additional channel for asking questions of team members. It also has the benefit of not having to always choose who gets my message. “Add to my IM”, or “cc in my email” is not a necessary step in these apps. The message is simply broadcast to a predefined network.
Aggregation & Filters: Consuming the information
Common discussion point: There will be too much noise – we would need to summarize
You can’t have aggregation without filters. The idea of a wild fire hose of data and information is daunting. Any conversation about aggregation needs to have a side of filter talk to be affective.
‘Noise’ will likely come up at some point and that’s when the conversation should focus on the myriad filters that many users don’t even need to set — Who they follow, what they follow, where they are from, and what the system decides to tell them will all contribute to the signal-to-noise ratio. All of this can be calibrated once the data is in the system and the stream can be tested out.
Trusted and Expanded Networks
Common discussion point: People already know the people with whom they work
This is the heart of these applications and it is something that is present within companies, whether they have been formalized virtually or not. This network has a gut feel of what is going on with each other day to day. Connections that can be made as a result of the trusted network is something that social sites are really great at fostering.
Disciplined Design Focus (aka simplicity)
Common discussion point: We need to collect more information
Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters because it was originally envisioned as a text messaging tool. But the constraint was a key to its success. It turns out, it is work to create a blog post, but it is fun to post 140 characters. This bite sized functionality broke down the barriers to posting content. One box and one button will often get a whole lot more use than a form.