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4/20/2012
01:35 PM
David F Carr
David F Carr
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A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation

As editor of the BrainYard, a news site about social collaboration in the enterprise, I know I'm supposed to be an expert on this--but how do I get you, the reader, to talk more on and about this website?

Yes, I want you to "like" our page, but while you're there I'd also appreciate it if you would post a comment or ask a question, to help get a conversation going.

Although we've had this page for a while, for a long time it was being run mostly on autopilot, with an automated script that posted headlines to the page (going back to before I was named editor). I replaced the script with myself, trying to put some more personality into it by adding my own comments or an interesting excerpt from the story, along with the links.

I also will be posting more questions in an attempt to stir up discussion, such as this one asking, "What sort of news or analysis would you like to see more of on The BrainYard?"

Simple enough, and as of this writing it has produced a couple of responses -- with more to follow, I hope, after this column appears.

On Twitter, my efforts are centered on my own personal profile more than the BrainYard page. I admit most of my Twitter posts are little more than a headline, a link, and a couple of hashtags. Sometimes, those get picked up and retweeted extensively, but frankly it's hit or miss. Often, someone else will have tweeted the same headline, or a link to the same story, and that's the one everyone picks up on--which is just fine.

Sometimes, Twitter also sparks conversations -- although personally, I find it to be an awkward medium for any extended conversation. Maybe that's my problem; I know others make Twitter the center of their social media universe.

Okay, here's your assignment:

-- Post something to the comments section on The BrainYard website.

-- Post something to the Facebook page.

-- Take a look at @davidfcarr and @thebyard.

-- In the process, think about the fundamental question I'm asking: is it the medium or the message? What can we do better?

You can also tell me if you think this was a dumb idea for a column. As a journalist, I figure it's better to confess ignorance and ask a question than to pretend wisdom I don't possess.

Comments, please?

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

IT's challenge in dealing with social networks comes on two fronts: How to interact with would-be customers on big social networks like Facebook, and how to provide employees on internal networks with collaboration that's as powerful as their Facebook experiences. This virtual event, Social Business: Marshaling Expertise, Engaging Customers, Building Brands, will help IT leaders sort through their strategic choices. It happens April 26.

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social media optimization
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social media optimization,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/25/2012 | 7:57:47 AM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
It's indeed good to have social media around nowadays because it makes a website/blog closer to the masses. Just like in Twitter for example. Through twitter, news can easily be spread around.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/7/2012 | 10:30:37 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
The new sign-on works really well!

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
davidfcarr
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davidfcarr,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2012 | 1:22:53 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
We're now experimenting with enabling Disqus social sign-on on The BrainYard to see if it makes a difference in the quantity and quality of comments we get on stories. I know a few people commented that they don't like Disqus in the first place. Personally, I think it's a fine tool, and I argued internally that social sign-on was one of it's most important features.

Try it and let me know what you think.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
5/1/2012 | 10:10:58 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Thanks. Interesting feedback on the layout.
pankaj
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pankaj,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/1/2012 | 8:57:24 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
At the cost of maybe appearing a little too big for my boots, I have certain recommendations. As someone else mentioned, being a "frequent reader but infrequent commentor" this is a self analysis of my behavior.

- I am more inclined to comment on opinion pieces as opposed to news pieces. Some of your articles are very thought provoking but news pieces, or coverage of specific products could be framed more as an opinion or conversation about the product category.

- They layout of Brainyard could be a deterrent . There's an impression of the pages being slightly crowded (maybe its the gray tones). As you know subtle impressions on a webpage about how easy/not easy actions are, are a strong determinant of actions.
Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/26/2012 | 1:59:00 AM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
It's definitely easier said than done, especially when the audience is as busy and focused as IT professionals are.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
MSURESH441
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MSURESH441,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 10:09:36 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
And it's fine to offer a 'preview' or 'first look', as long as it's understood that the story is presenting the vendor's claims and much of the information hasn't been validated. We all understand the concept of working on deadline. But there is a line and it's necessary to stay on the correct side, if you want to become a trusted source for opinion-makers.
MSURESH441
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MSURESH441,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 10:01:18 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Thanks for your polite and constructive reply to a fundamentally unpleasant comment. I'm not saying you need to be actively hostile to every new idea-- but a little bit of skepticism-- or at least reserve-- would be nice.

Case in point is a piece that didn't even exist when I filed my comment-- Eric Zeman's "OMG!!!! GOOGLE DRIVE TOTALLY ROCKS!!!! I LUVLUVLUVLUV IT!!! <3 GOOGLE!!!! SQUEEEE!!!!!!" that's adorning your front page. How would you describe a piece that calls something-- after it has been up for one day-- "Hands-On Winner" (over Dropbox, Box, iCloud and SkyDrive) and "another transformation for the world of collaborative file management"?

At the very least, we know Zeman can have absolutely no knowledge of its bugginess, stability, interoperability and customer service, He doesn't bother to address the issue that would concern my clients-- encryption and privacy. He's ecstatic that you can search (OMG!!!) what you store. I'm wondering if the terms of service permits Google to suck down all the data in anything it searches, drop it into its profile of me and use what it finds to sell ads. That's a critical concern for anyone who handles confidential information and is looking for storage.

Zeman does, at least, makes his prejudices clear in paragraph three. ("I've used Google Docs every day for more than five years. Its online document and sharing/collaboration tools are an essential element to my workflow.") The review doesn't have to be done by Dan Tynan, Bob Cringely, John Dvorak (or whatever curmudgeon you like). But it might have been nice to have a piece filed by someone who isn't a lovesick fanboy.

After reading the piece, I certainly feel I can't trust Zeman's opinion unless I vet the product myself-- and it raises questions about people who gave him the podium and ran it as-is.

I'm likely to be one of the least receptive people to the virtues of Enterprise Social Networks, because I worked with Notes and Groove, and used BBS software before that to try to manage a community. My feeling is that it only takes a couple of clueless middle managers complaining that there have been 45 posts about the technology shown on last night's episode of 24 (or the online poker site one of the engineers saw his uncle playing) to scare everyone off and kill your chances of duplicating Bell Labs, Xerox PARC or the 'Skunk Works' at 3M. The enemy of these things is always the "This stuff isn't making us any money-- everyone get back to work" mindset.

I recognize that the first implementation of an idea doesn't always work (see Engine, Analytical) and that mindsets change. But maybe it would be nice to adopt a "wait and see" approach toward an idea that has been tried and found wanting, rather than assume it's All That And A Bag Of Chips?

I haven't said anything in the past because I assume a new content site has implemented its model after considerable thought about the market, and the niche that it can best fill. If what you're doing is working, that's fine-- there are sites that are run by people (like me) who were working during the Internet bubble in the 1990's, have read Charles Mackay and do not assume that every startup or new concepts will work. I had expected more from a site branded by Information Week, but maybe that's just me.

If you are looked to be useful to me, and people like me, understand that the first questions I want answered is "Does this idea, product or strategy work? Does it really do what the proponent claims? How do you know these things? Who has done them and gotten these results? How well does it perform in real-world conditions? What's the catch?" And most importantly, "Can I recommend it to clients without being yelled at, fired or sued?

The degree to which you satisfy that is the degree that I engage with you. Thanks for your time.
jackmason
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jackmason,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 6:25:49 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
I think we are all confronting the same challenge...we want to provoke "conversation" and engagement, but people are only keenly interested or passionate about a limited number of things, so there are some inherent limits. And any impediments, whether requiring extra steps or registration, is also going to curtail activity. Bottom line, driving dialogue is hard, labor-intensive work.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/25/2012 | 4:24:55 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Re: "you might want to say something interesting. I've yet to see anything that isn't boosterism, or wildly overoptimistic."

Ouch.

As far as being interesting, we do our best, and some days we do better.

I certainly try to keep the boosterism in check. When we write about new product announcements, we're often writing about the potential of those products. However, we certainly try to point out flaws and holes. When Jive talks too loosely about cloud software that many would consider traditional hosting, or Yammer cites user statistics without distinguishing between paying and free account "customers," I call them out on it.

I particularly try to challenge software makers to come up with customer references who can vouch for the usefulness of whatever they've created. When they can't, I take that into consideration.

I also look for case studies on companies that have reported success with social software and social business strategies. I like success stories, but I'm just as willing to write about social business disaster stories if we can get the facts to back them up.

We have also done published some openly skeptical articles, such as my piece on the Yammer And The Freemium Trap ( http://www.informationweek.com... ). In the process, I tried to get answers to questions IT folks had had about how to gain control over a cloud service, if employees had signed up and started using it for business purposes without authorization.

Other stories focused on the downside:
http://www.informationweek.com...

http://www.informationweek.com...

http://www.informationweek.com...

If it seems like I'm protesting too much, maybe I am. Looking through our archives, I do see a preponderance of stories with a positive slant, and maybe we need to balance that better.

On the other hand, the column you're commenting on explicitly invited criticism. So thank you.
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