Web 2.0 Blog – Discovering Innovation Opportunities using Social Media

Posts Tagged ‘Social Media

Postscript:  Another example of government spoofing was a prank cell phone call from India to the Pakistani Defense Minstry the day after the Mumbai terrorist attack.  The called claimed to be an Indian Defense Ministry Official and was claiming that India was going to retaliate. Planes went up in the air on both sides and the US had to intervene to prevent further escalation.  The call was taken seriously because normal authentication procedures were not followed or did not exist.

Hot off the press: Another spoofing incident which alleges civil damages involving Twitter the St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa.

While in general I dont think western Democracies have a lot to learn from the North Korean Government, I think in the case of Gov 2.0 spoofing there might be an exception.  The North Korean Central News Agency was recently impersonated on Twitter in a way which might have fooled a lot of people.  The twitter feed was made to look realistic because it used actual articles released by the Central News Agency. The prank was pulled off by a parody website called Stupidedia and they didn’t seem to intend to create any harm with it.

But this points out how easy it is to pretend you are an official government agency on twitter.  Recently I advocated for a simple reciprocal link authentication policy which would place a link on any official government web 2.0 account (twitter, facebook fan page etc) to a .gov or .mil page which would then give a link or list of links to the official social media account for that agency.  Then anyone could with 2 clicks verify that a social media account is authentically coming from an official government source.   As government presence becomes more common on social media, we will likely see more attempts to grab attention through this type of impersonation.  While it doesn’t seem like much could come of this, all it takes is one person believing one source is the voice of a government and acting on it to cause at the least embarassement and at the worse some harm.


I am not an economist, but sometimes I play one on this blog. Why? Turns out understanding economics is important. Feel free to correct or argue the points I make.

Socioeconomic (Kondratieff (Kondratiev), Schumpeter, Kuznets) theory seems to be driving the current deflationary cycle more so than fiscal economic (Keynesian / Monetarist) or political economic (Libertarian/Austrian) theories offer the opportunity to reverse it. Socioeconomic theory basically says in order to get out of a deflationary cycle, it is an sociological problem as much as a fiscal one. The solution is the appearance of revolutionary technology promising large profits for investment in order to start the next boom cycle, and snapping the society out of the blue funk created by an economic downturn.

OK, so you expect me to say to get on the bandwagon and say, social media that will be the key to the next economic boom right? I don’t think so but I do think social media could help mitigate the damage caused the deflationary and cycle and may be instrumental in constructing the next opportunity for technological innovation.

But first I want to start a discussion to try to understand what the objective economic potential is of the social media revolution.

Social media uses technology to enhance the ability of people to interact with others.  Technology powered interaction, connection, trust and relationship building. In the business world this means establishing trust and communication channels that support and enable collaboration, and build engaged teams by removing barriers and frustration created by traditional structures.

Social media especially in the form of collaboration has the promise of unlocking hidden knowledge in organizations when needed, lowering the cost of software through open source collaborations, finding relevant information more quickly, and making organizations more agile and responsive. But these are mostly cultural changes which usually occur slowly.

So the promise for change is there, even though will take longer right?  Yes, but the technology needed to invest in to bring these changes about is relatively cheap.

Social media will bring change, though.  It has the promise of creating more efficient companies through collaboration, a greater variety of information services at low cost through mashups and open source, and a lower cost to product and service messaging, when the product or service has great appeal.

But, at the same time social media is having a destructive effect on major existing industries. Traditional advertising media is becoming less and less effective as the more audience becomes more networked and attentive to one another. Friend of a friend referrals, rating sites or consumer oriented websites will become the norm and rely on their objectivity to maintain trust with their followers, therefore are not as subject to trying to manipulate their audience based on the promise of big advertising revenue. Make no mistake, manipulation is clearly part of the social media landscape, but the ability for anyone to broadcast and be heard by large audience networks means it is more difficult and will in the end be the exception rather than the norm.

Retail product distribution may also take a hit because of social media, since e-commerce services are being enhanced with a layer of crowdsourced social intelligence ‘people who bought X also bought Y’. Also large companies can offer lower prices but still, through social media, have a personal touch, previously the advantage of the small business. Essentially this is pushing toward the commodization of all mass produced products and the markets of the future which have opportunity for larger profits will be niche markets requiring subject matter expertise and customization.  Essentially all growth markets in the future will be niche markets.

So in the short term, social media’s gains in economic investment may be offset by the disruptive role it has in traditional industries.  In the past technology changes lead to obvious and simple routes to large scale increases in productivity and demand. A path for social media methods to lead to an increase in productivity and demand in a short amount of time is less obvious since it requires a cultural change as much as a technological one.   In the longer term, as the culture adopts it to the full potential of social media, there may be large scale increases in productivity but in the near term social media is not providing a clear path for investment to lead to gains efficiency and productivity and even that ROI for social media applied throughout the economy is still anecdotal rather than proven.

Another question to ask is whether social media can help mitigate the damage done during this deflationary cycle.

Tightly knit communities survive economic stress better and social media allows more of the world to get and feel connected.  Also it actually gives people something to do if there is a lack of economic activity.

The motivation for this seems to be a sort of reputation economics which motivates people to do things like create open source software, do reporting on events, and a lot of other information services which before the internet, people would absolutely be expected to be paid to do. This is allowing rich content, development of useful products etc to be done without investment but with returns, such as any business which hosts their websites on linux servers or uses open office to create and manage documents.

In addition, these longer term efficiencies such as the ability to create complex systems such as an operating system (think Linux) at a very low cost and rather quickly, could help bring out a new technological innovation which present a clear path to increase productivity and demand. If we could determine what that innovation is and how to bring it about more quickly, then we might be able to shorten the deflationary cycle which the socio-economic theories predict.

Watch for future posts on why that technological innovation we need, may be the knowledge web promised by the Linked Data concept.

Note: I have no education in economics but economics is beginning to trump all other concerns primarily due to a lack of trust in financial markets, so I am trying to pay attention.  Since one use of social media is to engender trust, can social media play a role in mitigating the damage from the current deflationary cycle we are in?

PS I am certain the educated economic people will tear me apart on my simplifications/misunderstandings of economic theory…but here goes..

Some background from Wikipedia:

Joeseph Schumpeter was “an economist and tried instead to integrate sociological understanding into his economic theories.”  He has some interesting predictions which seem to be playing out in the current news.

Creative Destruction:

“In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized and used the term  to describe the process of transformation that accompanies radical innovation.[2]  “

“In Schumpeter’s vision of capitalism, innovative entry by entrepreneurs was the force that sustained long-term economic growth, even as it destroyed the value of established companies that enjoyed some degree of monopoly power.”

Sounds familiar? Social media as disruptive/transformative? Linux vs. microsoft?  It seems there are 2 social media issues which intersect with the economy.

1. Social media as a both a social and technology innovation which has the potential for significant creative destruction. (I will deal with the creative destruction power of social media in another post because I already have a headache thinking about economics and social media at the same time.)

2. Social media as a tool which is able to spread sphere’s of trust faster and wider than they could normally be spread.

But how about this on the trust issue.. According to Schumpeter as interpreted by Roger Arnold, former radio talk show host and macro economist, the reason a recession becomes a depression is due to irrational decisions which start to occur when leaders frantically try to find a quick fix to stop the downward trend.  They listen to the economic models which promise the faster fix rather than the ones which have most predictive.  They also tend to turn inward as they make the decisions.

The depth and length of the deflationary cycle will be determined by whether cooler heads prevail and on rebuilding confidence of INFLUENCERS in markets, NOT the confidence of markets. (Social media axiom:  people trust people not organizations. Therefore markets cannot trust. People in markets trust and are trusted.  Also financial markets are notorious for being led by their influencers, so an influencer map is incredibly important.)

So the real risk we run, is that irrational decisions further corrode trust among financial influencers with the administration.  That leaders will loose the market’s confidence even further by thinking they will pander to constituencies with a quick fix and ignore the concerns of the financial influencers who are expected to come back to the market.  The fact is the rescue will be slow and will need the help of those same finance guys who got us into the mess in the first place. People don’t like that but there it is.

So how do we prevent further loss in confidence?  We need to address economic issues which matter to financial influencers and convert them to evangelists for the administration’s economic policies.  Yes, talk with the a…holes who got us here in the first place.   Also we need to make sure Treas/Fed have a broad economic theory outlook rather than a narrow set of Friedman economic assumptions taken as fact even though they don’t seem to be good predictors any longer.

Is this happening now? It seems the opposite is the case.  There seems to be a trust gap between Fed/Treasury and market leaders right now.   Neither trusting the other to act to work towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

If  ever we needed collaboration where all parties are trusted to act to achieve the best outcome and make sure diverse opinions are heard, the time is NOW and the place is the financial  sector.

The wikipedia entry has been updated since I wrote this post and now clearly seems define social media as content. So what about the technology? Can we call it social technology?

Is the technology used to post, read, sharecontent, improve navigation and relevance by making use of user behavior and input, the same as the content generated content itself? Are both of those the same as the interaction of users with that technology?

I looked at the wikipedia entry for social media and it seems to mix these three items (technology,content and interaction). It says:

“Social Media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”
Then later it gives examples of “social media applications.”

So based on this, social media is a tool used by consumers to create content, an activity that integrates technology and social interaction AND it is the content generated by the interaction.

I feel it can’t be all three and that this should be clarified to help people understand the evolution of the internet and the new technologies and software. Also it would be useful to distinction those of us who create technology solutions vs those of us who create user interaction strategies for organizations.

I think we should start using the term social technology as:

1. Technology which makes use of input and behavior of the users of the technology to enhance its relevance, usability, content, navigation or function. Often this refers to tools which are used in web 2.0 or social media efforts.

Of course where does that leave the definition of social media? When people talk about social media they seem to be referring to the general methods to display user generated content. For instance “Blogs are social media.” But a blog is a general method to publish and invoke discussion. It is not a specific technology. Let’s do a quick thought experiment to illustrate this. We can imagine a large classroom blackboard being used as the host for a blog whose audience is only meant to be those in the class. An article could be published, comments put up, tags manually updated, and even a separate board if you like to match tags to content. Any blogger would recognize this as an internal blog. We also now have video blogs which users very different technology than text based. Let’s also imagine a pure video blog which uses no text and its tags and searches are audio based.

A text blog, a pure video blog and our blackboard blog share the same methodology to solicit feedback from a community but do not share common technology. So a blog is really a social media method, not a specific piece of technology.

Social media seems to be a collection of methodologies for sharing and discussing information as well as navigating and searching for information. This raises another question which is not covered in the current wikipedia article. Should mining of social media data to improve media experiences such as shopping, searching and giving related information? I think the answer is yes even though this is a substantial bifurcation of social media into its seen and unseen elements. Most people do not realize that google uses the behavior of its users to improve its search but I think google results are a form of social media. Here is the test: If you didn’t have the social input, would you have the results? In google’s case: No. Not the same results at any rate and these results are the reason it has won out in the search engine competition. So in plainer terms, crowdsourced content or ranking of content would also be social media. (I would argue ranking of content is content btw.)

Since I first posted this, Deb Lavoy challenged me that social media is actually what happens when technology enables collaboration. And conversations are simple collaborations. I think she is right, but still in the vernacular most people still refer to the actual methods as social media. We comprised on a slide which gives both. The technology enable collaboration definition seems the most powerful yet the more I think about it.

As for social technology, I really didn’t just make it up. (Well I did but then I found I wasn’t the first by any means.) There seems to be ample precedent both in published books and popular blogs to start use of the term more commonly. Below is a list of references I found which use the phrase:

In the news: A degree in Social Technology See also the school’s site.

Reference Web site
Forrestor Research: The Growth Of Social Technology Adoption

Blogs using social technology as a term:
Social Technology Innovation by Alex Vorbau
The impossible dream – Social Technology
Social Technology
The Pattern of Social Technology Evolution
Leveraging the Future of Social Technology

Books using social technology as a term:
Perverse Incentives: The Neglect of Social Technology in the Public Sector
By Theodore Caplow
Published by Praeger, 1994
Item notes: pbk. : alk. paper
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Aug 24, 2007
ISBN 0275949338, 9780275949334

Innovation and Social Process: A National Experiment in Implementing Social Technology
By Louis G. Tornatzky
Contributor Louis G. Tornatzky
Published by Pergamon Press, 1980
ISBN 0080263038, 9780080263038
225 pages

The Social Technology of Organization Development
By Wyatt Warner Burke, Harvey A. Hornstein
Compiled by Wyatt Warner Burke, Harvey A. Hornstein
Published by University Associates, 1972
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Mar 21, 2007
ISBN 0883901269, 9780883901267
340 pages

The Social Technology of Applied Research
By Alexander J. Matejko
Published by Sadhna Prakashan, 1975
Original from the University of Michigan
Digitized Feb 6, 2008
194 pages

There does seem to be a competing definition which I found in..

2. Technology which is entirely in the public domain and does not have restraints or restrictions on its use.

I found this in Human Rights & Social Technology: The New War on Discrimination By Rainer Knopff, Thomas Flanagan. I don’t think this is a popular or even solid use of the term and better terms have come to descriptions various public licensing arrangements.

Now to make the case in Wikipedia.. Anybody with me?

I want to thank everyone who came and made this first in our series of workshops a success.

First an error in omission. Jill Foster was not properly announced as the blog-reporter in the audience. Her review of the workshop is at http://solutionsarepower.com. Also I want to thank Gabriel Key, a participant, for setting up a Mostly Plain English group on linked in. Look for “mostly plain english” on linked in to find it.

Of course this was only possible through the support of our sponsor
Enigma Business Solutions and it’s E-learning offering.

Thanks Mayra for taking and posting pics as well.

Now for the workshop.. ok ok… We tried to do a complete overview with examples and did not have time for all 9 activities. In the future we will try to keep focused on solving particular aspects of an issue or on part of the framework, so we have time to dive into it tools and all. We wanted to present an overall strategy this time and see if our audience-centered framework is useful and comments seemed to be in favor of that.

Some comments I want to share..
“Being someone who is of an older generation and lovely Computer literate this was great workshop and was actually a lot to understand everything.”
An early gift from ‘Santa’ who basically summed up our first goal of making this accessible to non techies.

The other goal was to test the audience-centered framework as a way to think about what is needed in a Web 2.0 app. A comment we received on this was..
“Something to really start thinking about ,in web 2.0 world of choice and customized everything it seems critical to always operate with a target audience in tenses in mind.”

Another comment suggested we have a more structred seminar then breakout groups which I think would especially work well when are trying to do an overview.

I welcome any other comments and hope we can continue to improve the methodology and frame work in future workshops.

Again thanks to our speakers as well as Jill. Please feel free to contact them online or off:

Jill Foster
202 203 0255

Mayra Ruiz
slides are available on her LinkedIn profile and at:
Blog: http://www.mayraruiz.com/

Andrew Bates
Slides at http://marketing.networksolutions.com/seminars/

Tony Arko 571-238-6882
Blog: http://www.loudounstats.com/

Ken Fischer
Slides at http://www.clickforhelp.com/Presentations.aspx
Blog: http://web20blog.org/
Linked in:http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenrfischer
Twitter: http://twitter.com/web20blog_org