Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why I Believe Social Network Is Future Of Communication Platform

I was having lunch with my coworkers yesterday and talking about some websites that were still using static HTML to render their content. While describing them, I said they looked like they were from 1990's. Then I quickly realized that it was only 1995 when Netscape popularized websites, and most websites were developed after 1996. That was just 16 years ago.

Since the birth of graphical world wide web technology to allow people to communicate each other and share information have been evolving in dizzying pace. Pagers have been replaced by mobile phones, mobile phones by Blackberries and Blackberries by touch-screen iPhones. Email which quickly became de-facto electronic communication standard evolved to become webmail, then mobile messaging, and recently to microblog messages called tweets.

Abusing the power of email to the max;
how many of these group emails do you get a day?
(Don't worry, I know better not to send this particular one,
but I've done my own share of group replies)
But businesses still rely on face-to-face meetings, phone calls, conference calls, and emails to get our work done. As most of US economy has shifted to service industry, most of us derive our value from communicating or collaborating with other workers. Although some rock star programmers might be reluctant to admit, we spend our better part of day communicating and collaborating, not coding.

It's safe to say that most businesses would come to its knees if mail server is down and emails do not get delivered. We've become so dependent on email for almost all communication activity that we do, it's fair to say that our day revolves around email.

The problem of email is that it's meant to be private exchange of information between two parties. It's built using postal service analogy. There is a sender and there is a recipient. Message travels from one person to another. The message is not public, and is not meant for sharing with other people. In fact sending too many mails and asking them to reshare is prohibited by law (chain letter anyone?). Well, same applies to email.

But we are using email mostly for non-intended use cases. Take a look at your inbox and see how many emails were sent as group mail. Or look at the emails that you sent with multiple recipients. We are all using email to collaborate and communicate.

Enter the social network. Social network started with totally different paradigm. Everything is public. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter changed the way we think about information, and how we can collaborate when information is free. When information is free, idea is immediately tested and evolve into better idea. When information is available, people can access the information, rather than multiple copies of information are sent to people's private inbox.

In too many organizations, there are enormous challenge of not sharing enough information. Many times information is locked in someone's Inbox, and that created strange practice like archiving emails which is supposed to be private information sharing channel. That's because there hasn't been public or group sharing platform.

Already there are matured enterprise social networks in the market. IBM Connections, Jive, Microsoft Sharepoint, Yammer and others are in the market to address this emerging communication and collaboration paradigm shift. These networks help enterprises control the information flow and access, yet allow employees to discover, access and collaborate within their privilege.

There is no fool-proof system;
be mindful of what you are sharing
Social networking as a collaboration platform is a must. All organizations will have to adopt this new paradigm of communication in order to reduce the cost of sharing information and stay competitive in 21st century.

Who knows? This may well mean that all static HTML websites might all be social network site with AJAX in the next few years. Well, college course websites might be exceptions.

What do you think? Do you see the adoption of enterprise social network as collaboration platform? Please leave us your comment below.

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