Thursday, 5 February 2009

Against the Spam Argument

I have been thinking about Intranets and Web2.0 a lot over the last few months. One thing that really bugs me is that I can do some much learning, networking and collaborating over the Internet, the benefits are so apparent and so obvious, why can I not do the same at work? I will soon be moving to small company where these problems are not likely to apply, but how is it that so many medium to large companies completely resist new ways to use technology amongst their employees? The larger the company, the more likely there is to be someone who can help me, unfortunately without the right technology the less like I will be able to find them.

I will be posting a series of thoughts tagged with "why_not_at_work" for a while to vent my frustration and suggest ways in which social technologies could help.

One common argument against things like micro blogging/social networking etc. at work is that when managers (of the traditional Corporate nature) are introduced to it they quickly come to the conclusion that it is largely spam and irrelevance, not serious enough for real work etc. this is usually after only gaining a trivial understanding of what is going on.

Of course this is the case but this does not invalidate the new method of communication because maybe every communication medium has been the same, it is the nature of communication between people. Who would argue against the importance of snail mail in its time, yet consider the junk mail problem, consider the huge resource spent to deliver greeting cards with pointless messages, holiday postcards that don't really say anything etc. Spoken language itself is largely phatic communication that doesn't really mean anything of significance. Telephone lines are saturated with meaningless twaddle ......

Don't blame the communication medium for human nature that makes us blather away, we need that, it maintains and creates connections, we will still need it right up to the point that we can make direct data connections between the lumps of jelly that sit in our skulls. Think instead that a traditional letter that had worth would have to be sent to a newspaper (or other medium) deliberately and published to be made available to to a wide audience, yet a single tweet can be plucked from the maelstrom and instantly made available on a Newspaper website. A single undirected micro-blog post about a piece of software can elicit an immediate response from the author of the software. a carefully selected RSS search in my feed reader can alert me when two people I don't know comment on something I said in a presentation months ago. How easy would it be for me stop listening to a source of traditional snail mail? It is the searching, categorization, scalability, and personal control that give the Web2.0 technologies their power.

If all you see is spam and a trivial waste of time then maybe you just don't know how to look yet.

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