The prompt for me was the notion held by some people that social computing activities (blogs, wikis, virtual communities, social networks) are not of value for real work. And this negative opinion hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Stephen Collins rightly fulminates over in a post last year in response to more negative press about social computing.
Yet the features of social computing are not so unusual. A blog is another communication tool akin to the newsletter. A wiki and a virtual community are places in which collaboration and knowledge sharing occur, enhancing the scale and scope of meetings and workshops (and telephone conference calls). Facebook is an elaborate and more readily connected personal network tool that works like a personal address book, diary, photo album, and multiperson conversation piece.
The commonality of these new social computing tools with tools and work practices readily accepted from the past (and continuing still in many organisations) is clear.
What has changed, however, is in the scale, immediacy, and speed at which these new activities can now occur. Moreover, the distinct line (if there ever was a clear divide) between work and the social domain has blurred so that social connections have become part of the connectivity for the workplace. And as the world has become more complex, global and fast-paced, there is a growing need to rely more on trusted people networks and their connections.
Sure, social computing activities can be “abused” in the workplace in much the same way as other workplace activities. Who can forget those famous long lunches and hearing long and arduous private land-line telephone calls pre-world-wide web?
Social computing need not be a threat to the modern workplace after all.