I love Geek and Poke and saw this recently: Geek and Poke
I think the concept of attention is a key way to think differently about social networking inside the enterprise. As I already talked about in a previous blog post Will you be my friend yes or no? the explicit network ties between people who work for the same organization is nowhere near as useful or valuable as the implicit ones – it’s not “who knows whom” (and the vanity rolodexes that people put together) but rather “who knows what” and “who knows who knows what” that helps people leverage the company’s social network to personal and group productivity. This implict network is primarily based on who works with whom – independent (but not exclusive) of official org charts.
In addition to “who works with whom”, we’re enabling a different type of social capital and connections to emerge – “who pays attention to whom”. Given that the most precious asset that we all have is time, work effectiveness is often a result of how well can can find the most efficient paths to information, knowledge, assistance, experience, and context. Socialtext People and Dashboard allow you to “follow” a colleague – which includes their work activity updates (not just status “tweets” but actual work – blog posts, wiki entries, people tagging, group/workspace membership changes, etc.). This is subtly but powerfully different from how patterns emerge in Twitter. People follow Twitterers because they find what they “tweet” about interesting or fun; Socialtext users follow colleagues because they find what they are working on useful, informative, and relevant.
Back when I was hired into Cisco Systems (September 1997) I remember being overwhelmed by its size, scale, complexity, and pace. My wonderful boss (Howard Charney – one of the best executives I’ve ever had the privilege of working with) gave me some great onboarding assistance and told me that the best way to learn the business and the company and how to get things done was to first meet the right people. He set me up with about 5 different peer VP mentors from different parts of the company. I’ll never forget the advice I got from one of them about the huge amount of information and trying to figure out what’s relevant. He told me to just subscribe to all the same email lists he did, and then unsubscribe from the ones that weren’t useful or relevant to my part of the business. I did that – which was enormously helpful – but I also did the same with 2 of the key direct reports I was now managing who were obviously savvy and effective. This probably improved my onboarding by over 100% as “breathing their information smog” was a really focused way of figuring out which information firehose to drink from. I’ve used that technique at almost every new job since then (although with more modern tools; Ross Mayfield happily donated his ginormous RSS OPML file to me, for example). We think that “following” in Socialtext People will be even more useful, since you’ll get alert feeds based on “in the flow work” from your social network.
So while the Geek and Poke carton is funny, I think the concept is sort of spot on if applied to the enterprise – following and paying attention to the right people can really make you more effective.