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.
SNAI read recently about an ongoing study that looks at the influence of social networks on people's lives. The startling results so far show that the people in our life - friends in particular - have more of an impact on us than we may have ever considered. If, for example, I have a friend that becomes happier, I'm more than 60% more likely to become happier - same with obesity, drinking and smoking habits, depression, ill-health, the inclination to turn out and vote in elections, a taste for certain music or food, and even a preference for online privacy.

It turns out that the best way to ensure that we have health, wealth and happiness is to ensure that the people around us are doing okay too.

Of course, taking this a step further, our friends are all influenced by a network of people that is beyond our direct reach - our third degree friendship circle. These people, people who we may never have met, have an impact on our life because they affect our friends, who in turn affect us. The only possibly way to turn what could be a vicious cycle - a social epidemic of whatever it is we don't want in our life -  is to ensure that our friends in turn know that they need to help all their friends achieve their goals.

This is the fundamental understanding of uBuntu, which, besides being a slick alternative to Microsoft's Operating System, is an African Humanist Ideology that is perhaps best summed up in the phrase:
"Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu" or "People are only people because of other people", or even more plainly stated: "You are a product of your social network".
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AuthorDave Duarte
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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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AuthorDave Duarte
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A couple of weeks ago Nic and Matt posted pics and commentary about the world first public screenshots of the Wikia Search project (also picked up by Mashable and TechCrunch) that were recently shown in Johannesburg. Well, now I see that iCommons has released the video of his whole talk (here). I've edited it down to a short clip just about the Search project:



In the clip, Jimmy explains that Wikia is developing a freely licensed search engine, using open source software, to compete directly with Yahoo, Google and all the big search players. It Aims to match or exceed the quality of the major search engines

He also makes a strong "political statement" that it's not healthy that so much power is in the hands of a few search companies who are secretive about how the information is ranked (other's think so too).

Lastly, he showed screenshots of the Facebook-like contributor interface, dubbed by others as his "Socialpedia".
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AuthorDave Duarte
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Image Courtesy of Yale Daily NewsThe issue of whether to allow employees access to social-media apps, Facebook in particular, is a growing concern in many companies. Bandwidth costs are soaring, and some people think it's affecting productivity. As someone quipped on the Nomadic Marketing course "Is it Social-Networking, or Social-NOTworking"!?

Of course, the people inside these companies probably don't appreciate their access to these sites being curtailed. I, for one, think these things enhance my productivity. But I'm obviously a bit strange.

Of course, someone has created a support group for these people, on Facebook, ironically.

The group, called "I hate IT departments who block MSN, MySpace & Facebook" could be big, but only if it's target membership can actually access it!

Anyway, some interesting commentary is coming from the group:
We have found a way to access the book at work - hee hee ..... www.logmein.com... basically download the free software to your pc at home - leave it running while at work - and you can access your pc from work and facebook ALL DAY .... WICKED!!!

An IT guy had this to say:
We (The IT Guy) is not the enemy we do as we are told and what security procedures we have to follow... But what the boss doesn't know wont hurt him!

And:
Make friends with the IT guys they have basically your office world at their finger tips...

Where there's a need, there's a Facebook group. What are your thoughts on this?
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AuthorDave Duarte
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27dinner27Dinner Cape Town has a new home: The Hotel School restaurant in Mouille Point (next door to the Waterfront and the Radisson Hotel). *

The good news: not only do they offer a beautiful spot (right on the ocean front!), delicious food, great value for money, and all the sound, lighting and projection equipment we need... but we can seat 100 people too! So this means that there's now a further 20 spaces available for 27-4

As always, the 27dinner is a great opportunity to meet other people who are interested in media, technology, marketing, programming, technology, the web, and generally fascinating combinations of those.

There will be a couple of talks, and the wine will be sponsored by Stormhoek. If any other company would like to sponsor a prize or two (or hundred), then we're also open to that.

To join us, go along and pop your name on the wiki - or drop me an email.

* Thanks to Mr Knox and Captain Chris for scouting and scoring the new venue :)
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AuthorDave Duarte
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