From what I've seen, the main objectives of online social networks in companies are: to facilitate idea-sharing around a theme or topic (e.g. “Our Brand”); help users find out more about their peers; form useful insights to solve particular challenges; and for the network itself to become a useful repository of resources (ideas, inspiration, files, people) for participants.

However, the technology itself won't guarantee these results - it needs to be managed or curated effectively. Here are 20 subjective criteria I've used to help evaluate contributions to these networks:

1. Relevance to the stated objectives of the network
2. Poses questions to the group
3. Sparks discussion and comments
4. Enhances a lecture, discussion, debate or theme related to the purpose of the network
5. Makes a relevant statement
6. Responds to criticisms as well as compliments.
7. Builds on the ideas and contributions of others on the network.
8. Acknowledges the contributions of others.
9. Shares unexpected insights
10. Stories - especially from personal experience.
11. Recommendations to peers
12. Empathy - readability; humour; use of formatting; respect for other perspectives
13. Lists e.g. “Top 10…”, “Best ways to…”, “Our favourite”
14. Thought is given to topic before posting
15. Creativity or originality of ideas or the way they’re expressed
16. Clarity of expression.
17. Well structured arguments.
18. Mixes opinion and data.
19. Uses graphics to illustrate ideas
20. Contributes to the learning experience of others on the network

What you want to ultimately see is that the group is co-creating a knowledge ecosystem - so that if you want to explore any idea that catches your fancy further, you could find out who the contributors to it are.

In his book, “The Wisdom of Crowds”, James Surowieki reveals that the smartest groups are those that allow space for people to individually form and express ideas, independent of the group, which can then be “aggregated” into more cohesive solutions. This is one of  the key advantages of using the online network as opposed to discussing everything in person: it allows space for more ideas around a particular topic to be expressed simultaneously.
I find that as I have less time to spend browing the web generally, that I tend to find my news more via social filters like Muti, communities like Twitter (where people in my network recommend links directly), or by directly searching for a news on a particular topic on Google.

I thought I'd check whether my peers, also media neophytes, are accessing their news in a similar way. So I asked this question on Twitter:

"Do you more often find your "news" via 1. Social-Media, or 2. Traditional News Sites?"

Glen Meyburgh pevideoguy @daveduarte 50/50

Andrew Smith sqroot @DaveDuarte mostly Social-Media, unless I've heard a headline and I want to find out more, then I go to a news site.

Amabacha Amabacha @DaveDuarte Combo of both - Google Reader works overtime! 

Catherine Jenkin cathjenkin @DaveDuarte social media hey. it used to be traditional news sites but now, over the past say, a year, it's been more social-media dependent

robinpietersen robinpietersen @DaveDuarte 30% traditional, 60% social media and 10% word of mouth :-)

Ismail Dhorat ismaild @DaveDuarte rss, twitter and social media 

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte traditional news sites

Marcel_Perform Marcel_Perform Icon_red_lock @daveduarte what if you're trying to avoid all news? I can't on twitter! 

Simon Dingle simondingle @DaveDuarte Traditional news sites for 'news'. Social Media for opinion.

Marcel_Perform Marcel_Perform Icon_red_lock @daveduarte Trying to avoid sceptic, paranoid news-media negative propaganda that sells newspapers.Sticking to SA Rocks & SA Good News thanx 

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte - perhaps perception(NB) that traditional news sites are less biased. Also clear idea as to left, right or centre...

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte or completely up to own choice ie Google News

robinpietersen robinpietersen @DaveDuarte Hope we get to see the results sometime :-) Would be interesting...

As Jonathan Hitchcock pointed out:
Taking a survey about social media on twitter *might* possibly give you a slightly skewed result set.

The results are interesting nonetheless. How do you find your news?
Kindo LogoSouth African  ex-pat, Gareth Knight,  just mailed me about the success of his recently launched startup Kindo, an online family tree application.

They've managed to signup users around the world by very quickly offering it in 14 different languages.  Of course, having startup capital from the guys behind Skype and Last.fm  must have helped that along nicely.

Translation into the other languages was a smart move, because they access market verticals on a regional level. According to TechCrunch, this creates a barrier to entry for other would-be players in this space.

Despite the popularity of sites like MySpace and Facebook globally, there are many examples of social-network success on a regional level:

  •  Skyrock is the biggest social network in France (Alexa Rank 2), bigger than WindowsLive, YouTube, Yahoo or Ebay there;

  • StudiVZ (Germany) is the biggest soc. net. in Germany and the 6th biggest site in Germany (Alexa);

  • There are at least 10-15 massively successful local social networks, some more of them are vkontakte.ru (Russia), Mynet.com (turkey), netlog.com (Benelux+France)...


I sincerely hope that we see the same patterns emerge in South Africa, and we start seeing sites like Zoopy.com, MyVideo.co.za, Afrigator.com, Amatomu.co.za, Laaik.it, and Muti.co.za out-ranking their international counterpart's  traffic in our country.  Do you think is likely?
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When Max and I started a restaurant a few years ago we knew that the core of our business had to be regular customers. We began with just a few people who came in almost every day, and we made sure that they felt special, and that other customers could see how valued they were. We'd do stuff like refer business to them, or occasionally give them and whoever they're with a free round of coffees. This not only kept them coming back, but it also created a sense of aspiration among other customers who also wanted to be recognised and valued. The business gained a phenomenal amount of regular customers, and became virtually immune to the usual seasonal boom and busts that many other restaurants in Cape Town experience.

This same principle of having a conspicuous hierarchy of regular customers applies very strongly to building and sustaining online communities. Digg, for example, used to have a list of "Top 100 Diggers" which was very hotly contested because appearing on that list gave those users power and reknown. Unfortunately Digg has now removed the list from their site, and is already starting to lose top users. One of them, Greg Hartnett writes:
So this is how I see it playing out: more and more top users will continue the exodus, which will in turn contribute to the deterioration of the quality of the content being submitted. The SEO crowd, and others trying to game Digg, will continue with their efforts, and an even greater percentage of front page stories will have gotten there through artificial means. Average users will grow tired of the spam (or perceived spam) and return less and less often. Daily visitors will diminish over time, resulting in a front page story that generates a couple of hundred visitors. At this point, the SEO crowd will realise that the ROI is no longer there, and they'll move on to the traffic generator du jour. In their wake, they'll leave Digg in shambles - a mere shell of the site it had once been.

In the end, Digg founders and investors will be left scratching their heads at what went wrong.  You should have nurtured your top users - not screwed them.



Patricia De Lille blogPatricia De Lille has denounced the freedom of bloggers, asking government to crack down on bloggers. This follows a bout blog of criticism targeted at ID colleague, Simon Grindrod.


IOL reports that she's even applying to use tax-payer's money for a National Intelligence Service investigation to track the blogger down.

Fortunately, we live in a free and democratic country where this will not get very far. Perhaps, as Angus points out, MP De Lille will find a more sympathic government in communist China or North Korea?

The point of citizen journalism, as opposed to regulated mainstream media is free and natural expression of ideas by ordinary people (i.e. voting constituents). If these issues with Grindrod are being raised online, people are probably talking about them in natural conversation too. She could gain alot more benefit by paying attention to what is being said, and possibly responding in a public forum to the issues that have been raised. This is the meaning of "join the conversation".

This is why your fellow parliamentarians Helen Zille and Ebrahim Rasool from the DA and ANC respectively have social-media profiles... And I congratulate them for that.
There's been a real uproar in the blogosphere recently after David Bullard, a very popular journalist, slated bloggers in his weekly Sunday Times column.

In classic Bullard style, it's over-the-top, opinionated, and tongue-in-cheek arrogant. The man is a master of fuelling debate and controversy.... typically selecting prominent public targets who will make lots of noise. Hence bloggers were ripe and ready to be picked.... And boy were they juicy! (This incident has been dubbed BullardGate)

I've often echoed P.T. Barnums assertion that "No Attention is bad attention" (if you channel it well). Colin Daniels, Sunday Times' New Media strategist, would probably agree... Bullardgate has attracted a massive influx of traffic and inbound-hyperlinks to SundayTimes.co.za.

Kudos to the Sunday Times multimedia team for making the most of this (they grabbed the bullard by the horns) and immediately recording a follow video-cast series and dedicated page on their site.



Best of all, this gives me a good reason to point out that Mike and I were quoted in the same newspaper on the same day in another article about blogging: Business Times: Business Missing Out on Blogging.
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