Monday, December 3, 2007

How far does collaboration stretch?

A few years back I worked at a large government enterprise that attempted to implement a knowledge system that expected users to enter titles, descriptions, hierarchical categories, privacy and so on ...

.. it didn't work very well. The argument i heard was that too much was expected of the users who had to enter all this data - they had too many other things to do.

And THEN (roughly speaking) we moved into tagging (delicious kicking this off) and so on - really the first phase of proper online collaboration. This became popular with Tag Clouds (all Scottish ones had rain as a background of course) and so on being implemented by every single web page on the planet.

Of course the last 2 years or so has seen a movement beyond this to real social collaboration - much of it to this point about ourselves (save specifics such as blogging and wikipedia which is a very small proportion of the online community). The interesting thing (and i have noticed this mainly through non-tech family and friends) is that everyone is using linked-in, geni, facebook and so on. And they all required a LOT of work.

Furthermore, sites such as Digg etc are very easy for users to make a statement - pretty much a click and Google seem to be looking at adding similar features.

Here is my question though. How far will this go? We see Mahalo looking at something akin to where Yahoo started out many years ago - human managed information... although now there was is a much longer tail in content and so you needed a LOT of editors - something that is definitely getting easier!

There is also Freebase and Google base to name but a few. These all expect a lot more from the users than anything before - well at least in 7 years.

Will this fail again or are we just at the right time for this kind of user involvement to work? Yes I know the stats about we only need X users out of everyone to contribute, but the more content that is added, the more the authors and those with a vested social interest have seemed to become involved.

There was ALWAYS the issues of creating structures to hold metadata (such as Dublin Core and RDF) but so long as this stuff is abstracted in a nice UI, do we think it can now work in a distributed social environment? In other words, people seem to now be working harder (i.e. actually adding this metadata which in the past was always empty... ask anyone who ever maintained a database of it!) - is this a long term thing or are we just in a social high?

Will this extend to micro-content and the enterprise?

I do have a vested interest as i'm working on an experimental idea i wish to release in the next few days, so please post comments as they will be very useful!


respres said...

This is one of those days that I'm leaning toward "high."

I wonder a great deal about whether those of us who make this our work have too myopic of a view to see this clearly. Example: The other day someone on Twitter said, "The Real Estate community seems to finally be getting Twitter." This was based on an increase in their personal networks. But a Terraminds search shows that only 85 people use the word real estate in their profile on Twitter, only 40 use Realtor. My point? Clearly they are on a social media high.

I find it hard to sort through the hype and the hope. This may be the right time, or we may all just be fooling ourselves.

weblivz said...

This is indeed a good example. When we spend most of our day working on this it is very easy to assume people will *surely* do at least 10% (say) of what we probably feedback online in a given day.

But that will likely count as at least 1 hour per user per day feeding back to the community. That is a lot of hours considering most who are on it won't have "social conversations" - they'll just be "on the web".

Maybe there is hope in hiding much of the data entry or perhaps when it comes to stuff like music and things close to their heart people really ARE happy to have their say.

I do hope it is close to the latter as useful data is becomming harder and harder to find! (It's more luck and obsession now it seems)