Defrag Blog

Muddling through metaphors

by Eric Norlin on Aug.26, 2009, under Uncategorized

In the past day or so, there’s been some talk of Twitter’s dim future — all predicated on the fact that “kids” (people 18-25ish) don’t really like the service. Okay, it’s not really a “dim future,” so much as it is a future that’s dimmer than you’d think.

I can personally attest to some of this thinking. My brother-in-law stopped using twitter, claiming he’d take another look when they “cleaned it up” (from all of the spammers). My step-son had never used it, and when I set him up an account was really pretty uninterested. My friends that aren’t in the technology world are CLEARLY not twitter people.

What *are* all of these people? Facebook users. Every single last one of them has, maintains and is completely addicted to Facebook. Receiving updates on Facebook from their friends makes sense in a way that Twitter misses them.

That in and of itself is interesting to me, but I think it gets more interesting when “facebook” and “twitter” technologies move inside of the “enterprise.” How does that alter the equation? I’ve seen people in enterprise settings really take to twitter-like tools (socialcast), but I don’t have any experience with facebook-like tools for the enterprise (I’m sure I will soon).

I think it all speaks to our “modes” of being social, and I’m sure that the intricacies of what that means aren’t really understood by any of us yet. We’ve got “social business software” and “social business design” and “social computing” - but I’d bet that we don’t have any real *experts* yet. We have experts in training, but not experts.

The key is (counter-intuitively) not to get lost in case studies. Too often, we miss the forest for the trees by thinking that case studies will help us to find some holy grail of implementation. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be tactical in our planning and in calculating things like ROI - but let’s not skip merrily right on by thinking about the metaphors that underlie the technologies and architectures we’re working on.

Thinking through the “open follow,” the “guarded friend model,” the “one to many broadcasting” metaphor — these things are useful. And finding broader analogies in network dynamics, marketplaces, rainforest, bird flock behavior - these are things to be studied - closely.

Of course, you can catch that all at Defrag (but do so by August 31 to get the early bird rates!).

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