This article had an interesting interview with Tim Walters, an Information and Knowledge Management analyst with Forrester. In it, he emphasizes the role of Social Computing. He’s certainly not the first one to do this, but his comments caused me to think a little harder about this. I like Social Computing, and I have certainly been an active participant in the technology area via this blog and Twitter. I have also leveraged my web site, Facebook, and other resources for more personal community sharing. At the same time, i consider myself the exception rather than the norm. So, when analysts are talking about the need for companies to leverage social computing technologies more prominently, I wonder whether this is playing to a very small market segment.
If you are an information management company/content provider, how many of your customers want to participate in a community around your information/content, and how many just want to continue to be consumers? I think the tools have enabled people who wanted to participate all along to be able to do so, but have the tools converted people who otherwise would not have participated? I don’t know. What I have tended to see are a few people (like me) who love to be an active participant, a few people who love to comment/critique, but never offer original content of their own, and then the other 80% of the people who passively consume, if even at all. If we start forcing content into a more conversational, interactive setting, especially when that content needs to used for business purposes, are we going to make it more difficult to use for the 80% mass market?
The end result is that online communities and social computing technology, like anything else, must make business sense. They can’t be approached blindly. It can be a very powerful tool, but it can also be a very distracting one if it takes away from your core focus.