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On trust and the path to embracing Web 2.0


The phrase ‘radical trust‘ used to be banded around to encourage corporations to virtually close their eyes and throw open their communications to the public, trusting that they should take the good with the bad when engaging in blogging, collaboration through wikis, and similar social computing activities.

An investigation of trust, though, Mark E. Warren’s book on Democracy and Trust [1] suggests that, simply, institutions do not generate interpersonal trust. This is reminiscent of an Australian government paper on Citizen Centred Governance [2]:

“Trust and confidence in politicians and Governments at all levels and in all countries has been on the decline for some time. This phenomena is not limited to politicians but also encompasses professions, businesses and brands.” (p 6)

The report highlights a ritualised negativity amongst the general public toward corporations and government institutions. It suggests that the level of trust is directly related to a number of factors:

1. Degree of Relevance: There is a direct connection between trust and personal interaction. Importantly, people trust people, not institutions. This notion is supported by the recent Edelman Trust Barometer report [3] noting that people trust people ‘like themselves’ and that trust in both corporate and government entities has decreased significantly over the last few years.

Source: Edelman, 2009.

2. Expectations & Performance: A gap between the level and quality of service and the expected level will mean a drop in trust in the service provider. The development and maintenance of trust and confidence is a personal value proposition between each individual and the organisation concerned and is often expressed as basic expectations such as quality, consistency, timeliness, and responsiveness.

This is supported by research by the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) [4] who report that 41% of Australians preferred to use the internet to communicate but are dissatisfied with the time it takes for government to respond and less satisfied with the amount of time it takes to receive a reply to an inquiry (84%).

3. Transparency: The power-distance between organisations and their clients results in a feeling of remoteness from decision-making processes. The degree of openness around reporting of results, availability of information impact on trust and confidence.

4. Scope and privacy: Powerful institutions are often perceived to be too intrusive into people’s lives.

5. Ritualised negativity: Skepticism of organisations is applauded and reinforced via jokes, advertising and even political slogans.

The path to trust

Web 2.0 technologies, though, can improve trust relationships because they focus on building interpersonal relationships. Specifically, if the distance between people and elements of corporations and government are brought closer through person-to-person communication through Web 2.0 technologies a direct and proportional increase in trust will be displayed.

Identity through establishing personal profiles, Laurel Papworth suggests, is the first step to engender trust. As one of the core components of Web 2.0 technologies, profiles enables individuals to identify with the writer. Drawing on elements of social psychology, Papworth illustrates that interpersonal interaction and consistency of responsive communication with that individual builds rapport and reputation through which trust is achieved.

trust, identity and reputation

Ultimately, this indicates a need to move away from large, faceless, anonymous information distribution websites toward more personal, targeted communications. Web strategist, Jeremiah Owyang, reinforces this approach by reminding us that “the corporate website is an unbelievable collection of hyperbole, artificial branding, and pro-corporate content. As a result, trusted decisions are being made on other locations on the internet”.

On trust and the path to embracing Web 2.0 as the core facilitator, Owynag points us to the following actions:

“…do you [know how to] build the most trust? By being open, authentic, and transparent. We know from research that the highest degree of trust comes from those ‘like me’, a savvy marketer will allow content to appear from peers, customers, and the market. These will not always be a product rave, in fact it may be downright criticism, the goal? To take that feedback, and demonstrate in public how you will improve your offerings in plain view.

From these actions trust will grow.


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1. By Mark E. Warren, M. E. 1999. Democracy and trust. Published by Cambridge University Press, 1999

2. Chief Minister’s Department, 2008. Citizen Centred Governance. ACT Government, July.

3. Edelman, 2009. Trust Barometer

4. Australian Government Information Management Office, 2008. Interacting with Government. Australians’ use and satisfaction with e-government services

Being social at work: which communications model to adopt for the enterprise?


Web 2.0 technology presents the modern organisation with a plethora of means for communicating new information to staff. While some of us are now running to install wikis and blogs as a vehicle to achieve enterprise 2.0 nirvana there are some important considerations that need to be given time before we jump for, say, Yammer over Twitter, that go beyond the fear of our internal information being communicated outside the organisation.

A very interesting article by Sinan Aral, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Marshall Van Alstyne [1] on access to information through social networks provides some food for thought on this issue. It’s a fascinating examination of how information flows from one person to another and complements a number of other similar studies that look at how social relationships can either block access to information or enhance access to it.

Obviously, traditional communications models focus on the delivery of information as a top-down process, and as a result, limit the amount of shared knowledge that can be passed between the organisational silos. Because of the linear nature of knowledge transfer blockers can be a significant problem in accessing new information.

model - Traditional communications model

Some organisations, though, have adopted various collaboration tools as a means of complementing existing traditional communications channels in an attempt to break-down internal silos and blockers that can limit access to new information. In some instances, these tools also facilitate collaboration with clients and stakeholders outside the organisation.

Model - Enterprise 2.0 model

While there are some obvious advantages with this approach it still doesn’t fully address modern research on how people access information. Aral and Brynjolfsson et. al.’s research notes that:

  • Network diversity is associated with higher levels of productivity for task based information workers
  • Network diversity is associated with performance, in part because diverse contacts provide access to novel information and resources
  • Age, gender, industry experience, education have little effect on access to diverse information, highlighting the importance of network structure for information advantage.

Model - Social media model

These findings support a more expansive adoption of social media tools within the workplace to more efficiently leverage the social networks that individuals have both inside and outside the organisation, particularly given the homogenous nature of networks within an organisation due to the constraints and norming factors of culture.

The important take home message is simple — the more you leverage individual’s social networks the greater their access to information and the higher the levels of productivity that will result for them and the enterprise.


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1. Aral, S., Brynjolfsson, E. Marshall Van Alstyne, E. M., 2006. Network Structure & Information Advantage: Structural Determinants of Access to Novel Information. Workshop on Information Systems Economics.

Who is using social media tools?


Typically, we think of young, technology literate Gen-Ys when we talk about social media — websites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. A recent Nielsen [1] report, however, challenges this perception.

The Nielsen report shows that 670 million out of 1 billion people online use social media and that its adoption is growing at three times the rate of general internet growth. In fact, adoption is so prolific that use of social media now ahead of email use and accounts for 38% of people’s time spent communicating online. Importantly, the report shows that:

  • The biggest increase in use of social media sites in 2009 comes from the 35-49 year old age group — an increase in 11.3 million people.
  • Men and women aged 65 and above moving to social media websites grew by 7 per cent
  • The 17-and-under category dropped by 9 per cent

For those looking for a business case as to why to begin to look at use of social media for professional networking and information sharing, the argument that these websites are just for the young and therefore not a serious business communication tool like email, is no longer a valid one.


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1. The Nielsen Company, 2009. Social networks & blogs now 4th most popular online activity, ahead of personal email, News Release. New York, NY. 9 March.

Being social at work and recruitment


Sadly, you don’t have to look too far for statistics on how people using social media at work are wasting time and money.

A survey conducted by information security consultancy Global Secure Systems (GSS) and Infosecurity Europe found that 776 office workers admitted to spending at least 30 minutes a day visiting social networking sites while at work. This equates to 3 weeks per year or £6.5 billion annually in lost productivity [1] through people throwing sheep and checking out people’s hotness on Facebook. Similar research in Australia by internet security company, SurfControl, estimates that Australian employees spend approximately one hour a day on the social networking site — costing employers approximately $5 billion Australian ($4 billion US) a year in lost productivity [2]. With these statistics, surely you’d want to be firing, not hiring people who use these tools!

Researchers for Gartner, though, suggest that there are huge opportunities for improving the management of large firms by using social media.

“Businesses which harness how employees use these sites stand to increase savings, productivity and profits” — Jeffrey Mann, Gartner.

One area that may tend to be overlooked is the value of social media in recruitment.

At a recent corporate executive summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, PR company Edelman revealed that social networking shaved 1% off its bottom line by encouraging its staff to use such websites as a recruitment tool [3]. UK CEO Robert Phillips said it was cheaper than using recruitment consultants and more beneficial at tracking down the right person.

“We get a better quality recruit. They are much more engaged with the firm and who the firm ‘is’”

With studies on social networks indicating higher productivity for those who use virtual networks, recruiting individuals through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, may in fact yield higher quality candidates who are better able to use social media to share, collaborate and find information much more quickly to the benefit of the organisation. They may even be able to help break down the silos and social barriers within organisations that limit knowledge flow [4] . . . wouldn’t that be good!


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1. The Birchley Hall Press News, 2008. Online social networking costs £6.5bn in lost productivity and opens security risk, 13 Feb. Online at:

2. Aune, S. P. 2007. Fuzzy Math: Facebook Costs Australia $4 Billion in Lost Productivity, August 20, 11:57 am PDT. Online at:

3. Shiels, M. 2008. Firms ‘miss’ social site success, BBC News. 07:01 GMT, Friday, 11 July. Online at:

. Aral, S., Brynjolfsson, E. Marshall Van Alstyne, E. M. (2006) Network Structure & Information Advantage: Structural Determinants of Access to Novel Information. Workshop on Information Systems Economics. Online at:,%20brynjolfsson%20&%20van%20alstyne%20-%20network%20structure%20&%20information%20advantage.pdf

The ROI of being social at work


Decades of psycho-social research on team work suggests that effective teams have both strong task-based behaviour as well as good social cohesion.

“A high-performance team works together to achieve mutual goals, recognizes that each member is accountable and committed to achieving team goals, communicates effectively with each other, shares the joy of achievement and the pain of not meeting goals, shares information, helps each other, and recognizes that the success of the group is dependent upon each individual” [1].

Without both the factors of task and social cohesion a team tends not to be as effective.

In some cases, though, modern businesses struggle with the idea that being social has a business benefit. Taylorist management practices in particular only focus on those things that are measurable and directly associated with the task rather than understanding whether or not social interaction is of benefit to the task at hand. The result is seen in many modern managers who believe that their employees need to be busy and not wasting time (where wasting time equals socialising). Particularly, this attitude has impacted on the adoption of social media within the enterprise because networking with peers and colleagues through Facebook, for example, is believed to be time-wasting and of very little actual value to “busy work”.

Recent MIT research, however, is challenging this idea [2].

MIT research shows that 40% of creative teams productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others to discover, gather, and internalise information. In other MIT studies, research shows that employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues. Furthermore, those with the most cohesive face-to-face networks are 30% more productive.

This reinforces similar research by Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne [3] that highlights the importance of these networks because they “strongly influence information diffusion … and access to novel information”. Availability of these networks, their research shows, is a highly significant predictor of worker productivity.

Since information does not diffuse randomly in organisations, but rather reflects the nature and structure of human relationships, providing the right tools that support human social relationships, communication and interaction, will provide a significant ROI to the enterprise.


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1. Bulleit, B. 2006. Effectively managing team conflict. Cary, NC: Global Knowledge Training LLC.

2. Pentland, A. 2009. How Social Networks Network Best. Harvard Business Review, Feb, p 37.

3. Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne. 2007. Productivity Effects of Information Diffusion in Networks.

Using social media on IT projects


Taking care of reporting for IT projects can be rather tiresome. Often, the needs of a project are highly variable from managing expectations, educating end-users about functionality, to communicating project status and lessons learned – a task made all the more complex when there are multiple stakeholders involved with differing needs.

Some attention in the bloggersphere has recently turned to the use of social media to replace some of the more traditional project management tools. Microsoft has long since used blogs as a way of communicating its progress and issues with iterations of software like Windows and Internet Explorer , as has IBM and Sun Microsystems. Even some government departments, like the Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations in Australia, are starting to use blogs for project communication with key internal stakeholders across multiple jurisdictions of government.

The use of wikis, though, can lead to playing “whack a mole,” according to Dell’s Scott Griffin [1].

“Everyone is putting in data and keeping it organized is at least a part-time if not a full-time IT job. You end up in a mess … furthermore, the information is often added to wikis but not deleted when no longer relevant or accurate or updated when changed, he notes.”

It is important to note, though, that like their document management predecessors, Wikis are collaboration tools, not social tools, because social software focuses on the personality above all else — who is creating this, why did they create it, and who else should know [2]? This emphasis lends itself nicely to the use of blogs for the social side of projects – communication, storytelling, knowledge sharing, and discussion – as a natural complement to wikis – where the collaboration occurs in order to produce project information.

In order to get the best out of these tools in project management, try out my top 10 list, based in part on CIO’s article “How to use enterprise blogs to streamline project management“:

1. Rules of engagement

Lay out what the rules of engagement will be. That will make the executives more comfortable with going forward.

2. Start small

Blogs work well when they catch on virally, so you need to introduce the idea to the right people, who will then sell the idea to the rest of the organisation.

3. Curing the email addicts

“The primary communication medium is still e-mail,” says Jonathan Edwards, a Yankee Group analyst. “We’re all so accustomed to it. You can’t change the way people work overnight.”. One way to wean employees from e-mail communications is to use the sister technology to a blog: Real Simple Syndication (RSS) with invitations sent through email.

4. “Tag It” or “Bag It”

Teaching employees to use blog-editing tools isn’t hard, since they essentially look like a lightweight word processor. Instead, the challenge comes in reminding them to tag their posts with keywords that will help with later search and discovery needs.

5. “No” is not a good answer

If companies don’t adopt blogging technologies for the enterprise, line-of-business heads are just a credit-card purchase away from a hosted offering.

I’ve had this experience myself, where the project team has just gone to WordPress because its free and the internal support just isn’t there.

6. Wikis can be a challenge for users to learn

Although it’s easy to set up wikis, it’s not always so easy for users to take advantage of them. “Wiki platforms have a bit of a learning curve. You have to dig in to learn how to use it”[1]. The use of wikimarkup instead of a WYSIWYG editor will definitely put some people off using it.

7. Diversify

Blogs can use embedded material from a wide range of sources, including YouTube for project and stakeholder interviews, Flickr for pictures of workshops, and Slideshare material of PowerPoint presentations to the Executive. Even your team’s useful internet bookmarks shared through Delicious are likely to appeal to people reading the project’s posts. This will help your posts appeal to a wider range of people.

8. Don’t create a blogger. Free one!

The best Bloggers are those who are motivated to write, so utilise their enthusiasm rather than forcing someone whose heart just isn’t in it.

9. Low barrier to adoption

Wikipedia works well because anyone can create and edit just about anything. Even when there are errors they are typically fixed within a few hours [3].

Rather than putting in place hard security models for approvals, leverage the rules of engagement and encourage discussion and interaction by having few barriers (if any) for participation in the conversation.

10. Two-way, not one-way

Social media like blogs are about conversation, not the one way dialogue that project reporting typically adopts. Be ready to answer questions and engage with stakeholders openly, honestly, and with transparency.

Adults often forget that ‘play’ is one of the most effective ways to learn. Experimentation with different tools within a project will allow you and others to understand their use so that when it comes to employing them for external communications you’ll be well equipped to know the ins and outs of social media — what works, what doesn’t, and why.


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1. Schwartz, E. 2008.
Do’s and don’ts for managing IT projects with wikis. InfoWorld, 03 Sept. Online at:

2. Charlottetown, J. 2008. Wikis are not Social Software : Enterprise 2.0 Insights and Strategy. 03 Apr. Online at:

3. Krupp, E. 2008. Wikipedia, Britannica battle over credibility. The Examiner, 10 Aug, Online at:

Social media strategy — do I blog first or last?


In the past few months, a number of respected social media strategists have noted the rise in evangelists and carpetbaggers selling their social media services in the face of the global financial crisis as a way to make instant money.

“Unfortunately, blog first, then engaging in social networks remains one of the most prevalent trends one finds. This ironically is probably the worst thing a company can do [1]“

Theirs is the suggestion that identity and trust can only be established successfully by going into other online communities first to establishing reputation and relationships.

“Great social media begins with research and listening, then participation.”

My AppGap colleague, Celine Roque, though, puts this into perspective. She reminds us that this new Web 2.0 world is all about interaction, from which one can establish relationships, and trust. Understanding this medium and consistently communicating in it helps to establish a reputation that can then be leveraged through other channels of communication.

By no means does this suggest that you must first, therefore, go into other communities and begin interacting before you can blog effectively. In my experience, blogging is still the the first among many things you should try first. Why?

  • Blogging tools are easy to set up
  • Blogging is easy to understand for most people — probably the easiest amongst all the social media tools — because its generally just a short-form article like you might find in a traditional newspaper
  • Blogging is easy to try, and if it doesn’t work, to learn from its mistakes and try again
  • Blogging is a highly effective means of talking about new thoughts and ideas
  • Blogging is an excellent storytelling medium — therefore, one of the most effective ways of transferring tacit knowledge to others
  • Blogging enables a range of interactions that includes discussion, commentary, link sharing that can establish reputation and trust
  • Conversations on your blog can be more easily ‘controlled’ — after all, its you establishes the rules for user comment and input in setting the criteria for participation

So why are others suggesting to ‘do blogging’ last?

  • Many blogs are still fake and more about company spin than relevant, personal and personalised conversation
  • Many blogs are still only about push of information and not interaction or conversations
  • Many blogs don’t have a point — there’s a message in there somewhere but no one is interested in listening to it or engaging with the person saying it
  • Many blogs are just carbon copies of each other — there’s nothing to differentiate you from the competition
  • Many people blog without understanding their audience and what they want — the blog is therefore waste their time and effort

I think that many of these issues reflect that some organisations just set up blogs as a token gesture — that blogs are often the only visible thing a company does as their social media strategy. Part of the solution, therefore, must be in undertaking research (just as you would any other communications strategy) to understand who the target audience is, who they are, what they want, what they need, and where they are most likely to want to receive communications and share knowledge and information. And no, just broadcasting a message on a blog like you would a television adjust doesn’t cut it anymore.

As Gene Smith of Atomiq suggests in his honeycomb model, social media enables a range of interactions and relationships to be established that are highly relevant to today’s information workers and more targeted, relevant and personal than your typical tv advertisement.


Unfortunately, blogging only enables conversations, and is more about establishing the writer’s identity, reputation and presence — this is really where corporate blogging is failing.

Blogs and the Honeycomb Model

An effective social media strategy, though, must take into account tools that will enable all of the online interactions identified by Gene, with right messages targeted to the right audience in ways in which they will want to interact.

So do you blog first? The answer is ‘yes of course’! Your own blogs can help you to establish your own communities, but you probably want to do it at the same time as you engage in a range of other activities in other communities that will enable you to:

  1. Share ‘stuff’ with others in the online spaces where they already gather — whether its photos on Flickr, bookmarks on Delicious, or video on YouTube
  2. Build relationships with those you share ‘stuff’ with
  3. Have conversations with the right people in the places they feel safest to communicate — like on Twitter or on other’s blogs
  4. Support groups and communities of practice

These activities will help establish an online reputation that is real and communications that are relevant to others that you can then leverage for the communities you build yourself.


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1. Livingstonbuzz, 2008. Blog last. 17 Dec, Online at:…7/blog-last/

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