Lon Harris, Creative Director at ThisWeekIn brought up an interesting story on Anthony Orsini, the principal at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, who sent out an e-mail Wednesday morning asking parents to help him get all of his students off social networks and keep careful track of their text messages.
“Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today! …”
His basic concern is about bullying & how these social sites empower cyber-bullying. In response, Jason & Lon go on about how to deal with children, the Internet & even offer a few novel solutions for the car / auto-insurance industry. (I love the Key one, myself.) But, my favorite prosposed solution was Jason’s at 1:13:29 into the show:
Maybe it’s time that there be a service that’s only for kids… I think maybe that’s the solution
In all fairness, Jason doesn’t know about edu.cyn.in but I thank him for the words of encouragement, again!
I have two start-up projects underway. The first, Twetailer was inspired by one of those “OMG! Wouldn’t it be great if you could just yada yada yada?” moments. The second, http://edu.cyn.in, was not. No edu, was created out of my 11-year old daughter Sara’s frustration with her school’s computer curriculum. Complaints like: “Why do I care if something is bold?”, or, “Insert a column? When am I ever going to need that when I grow up?”. Yikes! Wouldn’t it be great if Sara could actually use technology for something she cared about?
You can’t always get what you want
– Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones
But Sara also shared the frustration she felt when some of her friends – who are on Facebook, kept urging others to join up, even though they know the minimun age is 14. Similarly for those with MSN, or, gmail accounts. And while I love seeing kids adopt technology, there are valid reasons why these services have age requirements. So, as a parent, what do you do? Do you stick to the rules & tell them to wait until they’re old enough? Do you let them waste their effortless ability to embrace these social technologies and stick to making things bold & inserting colums?
But what if you were able to trust another parent to monitor your kid’s activities for you? Like when you let your little one go on a playdate to a friend’s house, or, they’re invited to the movies. If you trust the friend’s parents then you let them go.
Perhaps your first digital social safety net
edu started out to be a way for Sara & her Grade 6 classmates to socialize in a secured and monitored Internet playground. A place where they could experience the power of blogs, wikis, discussions, audio, video, image sharing, etc. while learning the new minimun skills sets required in today’s digital and globally distributed workplace. Pretty soon, edu will be made available for the rest of her school and any other school interested under the following conditions:
The student has to be attending an educational institution registered with edu
There must be at least one parent/guardian, teacher/faculty member monitoring that student’s grade.
In Sara’s case, I monitored her grade. Did that mean all the other parents trusted me (and edu with their children’s related activities? Not necesarly. It turns out, most didn’t have a choice. Over the course of the project, I spoke with a few parents and they simply felt they didn’t have the skill sets to monitor. Even after informing them its just a matter of reading their email, they still felt uncomfortable with this “type of stuff”, but looked forward to watching how their kids used it.
Do the math
So in essence, condition #2 above, became those parents’ new social safety net. All they needed was one adult out of twenty students, to feel comfortable enough to watch over their child in their new digital playground. Is this any different than letting your child go to the movies, or, a school field trip with a parent like that?
My parents always told me: “All we want is for you to have more opportunities than we did growing up.” And they certainly succeeded. As a parent in today’s digital world, it would be a shame not to continue the tradition. edu gives those who aren’t as connected as their kids the opportunity to do just that.
On one of the last days before school broke for the holidays, I was left with only ten minutes of demo time. So I decided to quickly peruse the site structure which has a Space for the elementary school and sub-Spaces for the Students and another for the teachers and parents. I explained to the students that parents & teachers can view, but not write, in their Student Space, so they need to be sure that whatever they post is appropriate. Furthermore, they can’t even view what’s in the teachers’ & parents’ Spaces. However, everyone can post (read/write) in the Home and their school Space. Basically, the students are allowed to write whatever their conscience allows for.
Having explained the Big Brother philosophy and with precious little time remaining, I gave them a quick tour on how to navigate the site & then showed them Cynapse’s Status Logs. This is almost the equivalent of Twitter except:
there is no Following, so there’s no need to Follow whoever is in fashion
the messages are threaded, which allows members to Comment on a specific Status message, as well as, Reply to those comments.
Out of the 34 signed-up members, 50% (17) are parents – none of whom, aside from myself, have contributed any content yet. Of the remaining 17 students, nine (9) have contributed. So with an introduction of less than a total of 60 minutes spread over two weeks, the student-MFC numbers (over 26%) better those in the above study of 10%. And that’s over the holiday break!
What does this mean?
My guess, and hope, is that once school starts up again this week, and I start my usually Monday Lunch & Learn sessions the following week, that even more of the students will be contributing content. Once I layout the The Project Plan and dates, I’ll have the students present their own Lunch & Learns about their adopted Features. As their knowledge increases, my guess is their adoption will increase with it. As the student adoption rate increases, my guesss is that the parents and teachers will follow shortly after.
What kind of social software adoption rates have you experienced? Are they better/worse/in line with the MFC study?
My original intent was to play a couple of music videos I mashed-up to see how familiar the students already were with services like Facebook & MSN. Unfortunately, as I plugged the external speakers into my 6 year-old Dell laptop, something went pop & then all we heard was nothing but snap & crackle.
I should have known better than try to resolve the situation. Mr. N. jumped right in with a little discussion on the pros & cons of things like Facebook & MSN. But as Sara gave me her “Daddy…?” look, I figured it was time to move on and demo the mini-site I set up the night before.
I started off logged into the site with Sara’s credentials & displayed the day’s Calendar Event. I toured the bullet items and the Video Gallery – like YouTube, I wanted to show. I clicked on Sara’s Profile page to draw the analogy to Facebook. I showed them the Image Gallery with a few pictures Sara took at their last 3-day field trip & mentioned Flickr. I showed them Status messages & Discussions – sort of like MSN, GTalk, Twitter, Facebook, myspace, gmail, hotmail, etc. Then there was the shared Bookmarks like delicious and digg.
In the end, I never needed the videos. For the most part, the kids were very much tuned into the virtues of social software. If anything, they just didn’t know that that’s what it was called.
For myself, I learned that more than half the kids were already on Facebook & avid MSN users. In fact, the Facebook users were also well aware of the fact they are “ineligible” to register but lied about their birthdays as a work around. MSN doesn’t challenge anyone on registration but it’s buried somewhere in the Terms & Conditions that a “Child” must have the permission of a parent, or, guardian – which seemed to bother some of the kids on MSN.
For those, not registered with Facebook, many were very quick to say they didn’t want to lie about their age – Sara included. In addition, I also found out that some felt the peer pressure to be on Facebook.
A simple analogy
So that’s what we offered the Grade 6 class. All the social software capabilities they want in the privacy and safety of their own school. I pointed out that at recess time, the school doesn’t send them out to the public parks to play. They go out to their gated schoolyard where there’s school staff to monitor them. And on some occasions, they get together with other schools to play soccer, or, football. So this was going to be exactly along the same thinking – just virtual.
While I wasn’t able to play any videos for the kids, I did cover the material the old fashioned way. I explained to them the deal in the making – described in my previous post The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 2. Who, Part 4, under “Who’s in for a little extra-curricular activity?”.
In the end, both Mr. N. & I concluded that there is certainly a desire and need for us to bring social software into the school. In the fact the interest level seemed so high, that Mr. N. offered to integrate the social software activity into his curriculum and even dedicate Friday afternoons for me to mentor the kids – given enough parents grant their permission.
Permission Slip and all the parents/guardians have been directed here to permit, or, not permit their child to participate in the social software activity.
[form 2 “Social Software In Schools Permission Form”]
The rumors were true. There are layoffs & I’m among them. I have until 6 Feb 2009 to find a new job within IBM, or, yada yada yada. This is the second of two posts I’d like to share with you about my experience inside Big Blue. It’s all good. Here is a cleansed version of my 25 Sep 2008 internal blog. (All internal links have been removed.)
More on IBM Values
A pattern was developing in my job search. It started back in the summer – Q3 2008, when I heard how I could potentially fit into a Product Manager role but there was a hiring freeze. As a result, my profile would be moved to the “keeper pile” & I should get back to them in Q1 2009. While it was nice to know I was a “keeper”, Q1 2009 was not going to work for me. Another potential opportunity ended with a reason code of “we can only hire within our group”. Not good. The third point in this pattern emerged when I spoke to another unrelated manager – John Steinbacher, who stated – with all sincerity, that my being given six weeks to find work in Q4 is pretty much a death sentence. Barring a few exceptions, the standard practice is to lock down all spending – including hiring in every Q4. So it was suggested to me to ask for everyone to be reasonable.
And that’s what I did. I spoke to my manager Robert St-Laurent and then spoke to his new pier Christopher Flynn – who just happened to be visiting the Montreal lab on the following day. After confirming with Robert, Chris agreed that it wasn’t reasonable to expect someone to find a job in Q4 when he wasn’t even allowed to buy a pencil. So, I now have until end of Jan 2009 to find a new job, or, else yada, yada, yada. Of course in the meantime, I’m going to have to earn my keep while I continue the job search & we’re now in the process of defining exactly what that is.
So once again, my faith in IBM management and IBM Values has been boosted. Thanks to all for their respective reasonability & John for encouraging me to push back!
Look beyond what you see
Are you trying to convince your friends, or, colleauges that they need to get into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, etc. Worse yet, have you convinced your boss that these tools of social software are not developed and promoted by the Axis of Evil for the purposes of killing our productivity?
Don’t get me wrong. Look at what I blog about. Look at my photo. Do I look like a member of the Axis Of Evil Social Software Society? Look back at my Starting My Own, Thanks to â€¦ post & you’ll see that at one time, I too didn’t see the business value of this stuff. However, since then I can honestly say, that I don’t recall ever learning so much from some many different people – absolute strangers yet, in such a short period of time. Oh yah, did I mention that it was all for free? All thanks to social software, social networking, social media and most importantly the folks that provide the intellectual property – the content. Now that’s just my experience. And it may be just yours too. But it may not be your colleagues’, or, boss’. So the big question is; “What did your organization gain?” Where’s the business value for social software?
The originator of the phrase “Enterprise 2.0”, Professor Andrew McAfee defines it as
the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customersâ€.
Oddly enough, he specifically states that
Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc. These are for individuals on the Web, not companies. Some companies use sites like YouTube for viral and stealth marketing, but let’s explicitly put these activities outside our definition of Enterprise 2.0.
Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative.
Is it just me, or, don’t you find that a little bit funny? In my opinion, I think these examples of social software actually feed and drive Enterprise 2.0. I think its more about content than tools. But it’s Andrew’s phrase so I guess I’ll have to come up with my own. How about “ Social Content 2.0“?
Hint #2: What starts with someone requesting something & ends with someone else delivering it? (And it’s not pizza.)
Step 1: Find a cause
Now, if we could see beyond all those tools, beyond what is and what is not Enterprise 2.0, and simply concentrate on the content, then I think we’re well on our way to becoming that hero. So find a cause. Find something you need to deliver. Something that you can’t do on your own. Something that cries out for collaboration, sharing, communicating. Use the tools to help you achieve your goal. Sound a little too abstract?
How about a project?
Projects start with someone asking for something and end with someone else delivering it. Projects are very social. So we’ve got our cause now. Now let’s look at our tools. We already have enough examples of social software, so now let’s consider our tradtional project management software.
… “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” says Colonel Tom Kolditz, the head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point. “You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote. Unpredictable things happen – the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect. Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.”
Now replace some of the key words – like “enemy” for “customer”, “armies” for “software labs” and “battle” for “development”. Sounds like the Colonel and I have been on a few software development projects together. And I doubt we’d be alone in that analogy.
… project management is about people making commitments to other people to work with still other people to get something done or built for perhaps some other people. Project management is about people. If that’s not social then I don’t know what is!
Collaboration in software development isn’t a luxuryâ€”it’s a necessity that software teams have to figure out how to do better. With the right tools such as IBM’s Rational Team Concert built on the Jazz technology, any size software development team can stay in sync in real-time, regardless of location.
Step 4: Get viral
Take a look at Business Week’s Social Media Will Change Your Business By Stephen Baker and Heather Green. You don’t have to read it. Just look at the number of comments it solicited. At the time of this post, it was at 3110! Now that’s social. That’s viral! That’s Social Content 2.0. And apparently, it doesn’t even matter how accurate, or, truthfull some of those comments are. According to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. So while having Web 2.0 technology features in your project management tool may make it more social, it’ll never make your deliverable more viral.
1. Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud/SaaS solutions. This seems like an obvious prediction but how it plays out will be very interesting. This could end up actually helping the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and others. But in reality, once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, SaaS enterprise apps, and so on, they may find the one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers more than they can resist. Make no mistake, however, IT shops and businesses alike will be looking to cut costs and I expect a lot of IT and business downsizing to happen in a surge of “Economics 2.0â€³.
Did you catch that? The “pre-integrated solutions” part? To me, that’s the sweet spot. Whoever can, not only integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their project management tools, but integrate that viral Most Frequent Contributor Social Content 2.0 into the products developed by those tools will rule.
Do you have any experience with any of the products in this space? If so, I’d love to see your comments. If not, are you a traditional project management type? Do you think this is just one of those phases & in the end folks will return to the classics?
In the spirit of openess, I’m going to reach out to some of those mentioned above. In addition, I’ll ping someone at Basecamp and Cynapse who I know do great things in collaboration software but am uncertain about the extent of their project management features.
Your opinion along with any constructive feedback is much appreciated.