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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?

11 Management Systems That Can Help You Get A Handle On Social
11 Management Systems That Can Help You Get A Handle On Social
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Community managers and social media marketing mavens, help me out, please.

One of my goals for 2012 is to increase the volume and quality of the social media conversation on and about The BrainYard. That includes getting more activity in the comments on our stories, here on the website, as well as more sharing and liking and tweeting on the social web. Of course, these are the same goals every website has, not to mention every competing Web publication.

I just think we ought to be doing a lot better at being social on a site dedicated to social media. I'm asking for your suggestions, and your critiques.

[ Is it just luck? See Science Probes Why Tweets Go Viral. ]

In particular, I'm disappointed that we don't get more comments on the news and analysis stories that appear on The BrainYard. This story is going to be an exception, right? Tons of comments? Help me out, here.

At first, I thought there might be technical issues with the commenting system, and maybe that was true at some point. That excuse went away when The BrainYard and other sites in the InformationWeek family moved to Disqus, particularly once it was fine-tuned for easy single sign-on from any social media identity. I like Disqus and have used it successfully on other websites, but still I'm not seeing the explosion in comments and profile pictures I'd like to see at the bottom of articles here.

Even when our writers end a column with a request for comments, as Debra Donston-Miller did with her piece on social tech leaders on the Time 100 list, the response is often underwhelming. Why is that? Comment below, please.

Possibly, we should be doing more to invite readers to talk about what they want to talk about -- not necessarily just in the form of comments on stories.

A few months ago, Ted Hopton, community manager for our parent company UBM, had me read the book Online Community Management for Dummies by Deborah Ng. Although the title didn't suggest a lot of confidence, it was a good primer, and I read it in a weekend. It gave me a better understanding of the job of nurturing and moderating comments, but I'm still working on how to translate that into action.

At one time, we discussed creating a more active online community, aimed at fostering conversation that would go beyond just comments on our own articles. Our most ambitious plans, which involved fielding a public Jive community, have not come to pass -- partly because I recognized that trying to take on the community manager job in addition to my editorial duties probably was not a recipe for success. It sounded more like one of the case studies I've written about what not to do.

Instead, I've been trying to stir up some conversation on The BrainYard's Facebook page (see below).

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Rosemary ONeill
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Rosemary ONeill,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 6:10:34 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
The cobbler's children have no shoes, right?

One thought I have (since I'm a frequent reader and infrequent commenter) is that the site feels like a broadcast channel, not a community. No faces of members popping up, and if I go to your Twitter feed, it's pure broadcast channel, no replies or mentions at all. It feels very robotic. No one wants to sit down and have a rousing convo with a robot. I'd loosen the tie a bit. Just my two cents, thanks for asking :)
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/23/2012 | 8:38:53 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Thanks for the input. I haven't put the same effort into personalizing the @thebyard Twitter feed as I have on the Facebook page. Just a matter of picking a starting point and trying to build from there.
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
4/23/2012 | 8:56:55 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
You know, it used to be there were only one or two icons to like, print, email, tweet, etc. now look at the string. Your article has them all over but the tone is "hey I'm social why don't you like me?" What would your friends in the hood do to an expression like that? "Wierd, like totally." Social media is because it is. I click on the Facebook like button because someone asked me to help them or the comment like because I agree with the post. The definition of your site is not a social media site but an analysis center of social media sites. So your audience are not members of the social media sites to contribute but those who manage them (if they have the time or inclination to do so and help their competitors?). Might be a good idea in an academic setting, a curriculum item for a SM class. Finally, do you really like the name "the BrainYard"? Just some opinions or thoughts for reflection.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/23/2012 | 10:52:22 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
OK, so mock me, why don't you? Seriously, I appreciate the feedback.

Unofficially, I can tell you we're likely to change that "the community for social business" tagline, acknowledging that this is an editorial website not a community in and of itself. Still, I think it would be helpful to build some more community features and sense of community around it. A healthy news website ought to include feedback, comments, and critiques for starters.

As for the name "The BrainYard," I didn't pick it, but I've slowly grown fonder of it. It is distinctive. I always envision cartoon brains being shuttled around a Conjunction Junction rail yard.
RobGarciaSJ
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RobGarciaSJ,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/24/2012 | 5:10:14 AM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
I follow you guys. I enjoy the content you guys put together. I should be commenting in at least 3 out of 5 posts you put out... the reality is a different one. Here's why:
-Disqus is awesome, but you hide it behind a "UBM TechWeb Log-in"
-The said UBM TechWeb login sucks big time... it's so 1990s. Seriously.
-Your site looks like a blog, and blogs are, in general terms, not receiving comments lately. This is a general trend: most of the coversations are going on on twitter or Facebook. There are some plug ins that allow you to "track" those conversations and embed them into your site.
-Agree with the other commenters that perhaps you don't want to become a "social" site. If you do genuinely want to host conversations, perhaps the format needs to chance.

Hope this helps!

Rob @UpMo
Lexirodrigo
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Lexirodrigo,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/24/2012 | 1:26:14 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
I think the biggest problem is that we need to register to the site before we're able to comment. Few are so committed (as I am) to commenting on your blog as to go through the trouble.

As for Disqus, I utterly hate it. As do many other people. I usually abandon commenting altogether if the blog uses Disqus.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/24/2012 | 2:41:54 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
What is it that you dislike about Disqus?
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
4/24/2012 | 2:41:12 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
I'm belatedly realizing that our Disqus integration is not where I thought it was, or where I would like it to be, in terms of social sign-on. The experience of logging in as a moderator is familiar enough that I didn't realize some of the other functions I was used to had been disabled for the sake of integration with our registration system. It took your feedback for me to realize I needed to switch to a different browser and go through the steps of registering as a new user. I'm working on getting that process streamlined, at least.
RobGarciaSJ
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RobGarciaSJ,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/24/2012 | 4:05:50 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Exactly. Sign up as a user, you'll see the experience is different. But it's not Disqus, it's the other stuff IW puts in front of it (advertising for subscription, etc). I makes it the opposite of a delightful social experience to first timners.
RobGarciaSJ
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RobGarciaSJ,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/24/2012 | 4:11:09 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
Antoher thing I just noticed, David: in all other places where I use Disqus, my comments are linked back to my twitter account, as well as my profile picture is sucked in. Not happening here. Perhaps a configuration issue? or a user error?
MSURESH441
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MSURESH441,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 6:31:09 AM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
First of all, I don't consider this as a site or a community-- It's a hashtag for social networking stories on IW. Not a lot of stuff here I don't see on one of the other newsletters.

Second, Disqus is exactly what I DON'T WANT to use to comment. I can't say anything my clients, vendors-- or anyone I need a relationship with-- might object to if you've chained me to a name. Plus, maybe I don't want those places tracking what I do.

Plus, Disqus is a horseshit editor-. I know I can use HTML:tags, but who wants to insert the code? In Wordpress or any other CMS, I just hit CTRL-B to boldface.

Third, you might want to say something interesting. I've yet to see anything that isn't boosterism, or wildly overoptimistic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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