What’s on your must see list of social media for digital immigrants?

I’m giving a talk next week to the North Shore Interest Group of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago. The announcement is below.

We’ll have Internet access and about 45 minutes. What would be on your list of must see items? Must know stories? Most useful perspectives?

The comments are open for your input. Or you can send me a tweet at jmcgee. Let me suggest “#NSIGtour” as a hashtag.

HBS Club of Chicago: “NSIG Social Media – A Cook’s Tour for Digital Immigrants

NS IG Breakfast Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Max & Bennys, Northbrook

Social Media – A Cook’s Tour for Digital Immigrants

“Why would I want to share what I had for lunch and why would anyone care?” (remark overheard at multiple cocktail parties, country club locker rooms, and faculty lounges generally uttered by gray-haired executives and other digital immigrants in a cautiously disdainful tone of voice)

Starting near the elections of 2008, social media in all its forms has dominated the discussions and pontification around digital transformation that has been underwaJVMHeadshoty since the Internet boom and bust of the late 1990s. Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, Apps, iPhone, iPad, Android, and other new terms pop up in otherwise ordinary conversations. Television news anchors read random tweets as polls close and well-informed pundits sit idly by. Bootleg videos taken on smartphones document citizen uprisings in the Middle East, but only after they are smuggled out of the country using technology designed and supported by the US Government.

On April 12th, the North Shore Interest Group will take an interactive Cook’s Tour of the social media landscape led by early digital immigrant, Jim McGee. Although Jim can pass as a digital native, he understands the reservations and concerns of those who find this new world to be seriously foreign territory. We’ll visit the landmarks and the coming attractions of this new world. We’ll also explore some of the ruins.

We’ll learn:

How to travel safely. How to look less like a target. How to stake out a basic clueful presence in the new world. And how to recalibrate our existing crap detectors to better separate signals from the digital noise. About Jim McGee Jim McGee is the Managing Director of New Shoreham Consulting, a Senior Partner with the Transforming Healthcare Consortium, and co-Founder of Collaborating Minds, an effort to hybridize high-performance teams and crowd sourcing principles to attack complex and wicked problems. He was also a co-founder of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants.

For over 30 years, Jim has been helping organizations make more effective use of information and communications technologies. He’s attacked these problems as an entrepreneur, senior executive, professor, author, blogger, speaker, systems developer, designer, architect, and consultant. His blog, McGeesMusings.net, focuses on technology, organizations, and the management of complex knowledge work. Jim is also the co-author, with Larry Prusak, of Managing Information Strategically.

Jim has a Doctorate in strategy, technology, and organization from the Harvard Business School, an MBA in strategy from the Harvard Business School, and a Bachelors in Statistics, from Princeton University. He’s an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University, and formerly was a Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. Please sign up in advance. With enough R.S.V.P.’s we can order the buffet. Thanks for supporting the North Shore Interest Group!

DATE: Thursday, April 12, 2012 TIME: 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. LOCATION: Max & Benny’s (Brookside Shopping Center), 461 Waukegan Road, Northbrook COST: Please prepay now through the club website HBSCC members and their guests (with prepaid reservation): $20.00; HBSCC members (without prepaid reservation): $30.00 HBSCC Patron and Patron Plus Guest Pass members: FREE! Non-members of HBSCC (with prepaid reservation): $30.00

Reservation deadline: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Click here to buy tickets!!!

Membership: Join the Club!

CANCELLATION POLICY:  All cancellations must be received within two (2) business days of the event or the attendee who made the reservation will be charged, regardless of participation, due to costs associated with the reservation.   NORTH SHORE INTEREST GROUP FUTURE DATES: We meet the second Thursday morning of every month. If you would like to present or have a suggestion for a presenter, please contact Alan Minoff.

Alan Minoff, MBA 1970 North Shore IG Chair minmich2312 AT comcast DOT net

Thanks for supporting the North Shore Interest Group!

Review: Clay Shirky and Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Shirky, Clay

Anyone who can use lolcats to make a relevant and provocative intellectual point is worth paying attention to. Clay Shirky pulls it off in his latest book. Here’s his point:

Let’s nominate the process of making a lolcat as the stupidest possible creative act…. The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. [p.18]

Cognitive Surplus is a follow on to Shirky’s previous book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. In it, he explores the following thesis:

Imagine treating the free time of the world’s educated citizenry as an aggregate, a kind of cognitive surplus. How big would the surplus be? To figure it out, we need a unit of measurement, so let’s start with Wikipedia. Suppose we consider the total amount of time people have spent on it as a kind of unit – every edit made to every article, and every argument about those edits, for every language that Wikipedia exists it. That would represent something like one hundred million hours of human thought….One hundred million hours of cumulative thought is obviously a lot. How much is it, though compared to the amount of time we spend watching television?

Americans watch roughly two hundred billion hours of TV every year. That represents about two thousand Wikipedias’ projects’ worth of free time annually….One thing that makes the current age remarkable is that we can now treat free time as a general social asset that can be harnessed for large, communally created projects, rather than as a set of of individual minutes to be whiled away one person at a time. [pp.9-10]

Shirky takes this notion and uses it as a lever to pry beneath the surface of lolcats, the Apache project, PatientsLikeMe.com, and other examples to look for something beyond the obvious. What makes it work is Shirky’s willingness to stay in the questions long enough to see and articulate deeper linkages and possible root causes.

One of the things that makes this work is that Shirky understands technology well enough to distinguish between accidental and essential features of the technology (to borrow a notion from Fred Brooks). Where this ultimately leads him is away from technology to look deeper into human behavior and motivation.

Like everyone else who’s been paying attention, Shirky turns to the wealth of insights coming out of the broad area of behavioral economics to understand why so much of the what is apparently surprising about today’s technology environment rests in our crappy assumptions about human behavior. As he argues in a chapter titled "Opportunity" when we find new technology leading to uses that are "surprising," the surprise is located in an assumption about behavior and motivation rooted in an accident of history not a fundamental attribute of the human animal. For example, he neatly skewers both the RIAA’s and the techno-utopians analyses of Napster and concludes:

The rise of music sharing isn’t a social calamity involving general lawlessness; nor is it the dawn of a new age of human kindness. It’s just new opportunities linked to old motives via the right incentives. When you get that right, you can change the way people interact with one another in fairly fundamental ways, and you can shape people’s behavior around things as simple as sharing music and as complex as civic engagement. [p.126]

For those of you who prefer your arguments condensed for more rapid consumption, Shirky provides one in the following TED talk

Shirky has his detractors. There are those who dismiss him as just another techno-utopian who imagines a world at odds with the practical realities of the day. At the level of a 20 minute keynote speech, that’s not an unwarranted takeaway. When you give his arguments a deeper reading, I think you’ll more likely to conclude they are worth your investment in wrapping your head around them.

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Applying End-to-End Design Principles in Social Networks

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...

Image via Wikipedia

 Andy Lippman, at MIT’s Media Lab, offers provocative examples of learning how to think in network terms when designing services in a recent blog post from the Communications Futures Program at MIT. At the very heart of the Internet’s design is a notion called the end-to-end principle (pdf). The best network is one that treats all nodes in the network identically and pushes responsibility for decisions out to the nodes. Creating special nodes in the network and centralizing decisions in those nodes makes the network as a whole work less well.

In this essay, Lippman explores that notion by looking at examples of existing and potential services in telecommunications networks that could be improved by trusting the end-to-end principle more fully. Lippman takes a look at emergency services such as 911 calls in the US. As currently designed, these services allow individuals to reach a centralized dispatch center in the event of an emergency.

Emergencies are no longer solely about getting help for a fire or heart attack. Nor are they purely personal affairs, directed at or for a single individual. Consider the recent attempted attack on a Detroit-bound airplane where passengers provided the service (saving the plane). Early reports portrayed this as a fine solution. Indeed, there is discussion that the best result of increased airline security is that it has made people aware of the fact that they all have to pitch in to help when it is needed; they can no longer just rely on a remote entity a site to solve the problem for them.

End-to-End Social Networks
Andy Lippman
Fri, 01 Jan 2010 21:10:36 GMT

Lippman makes the point that we can benefit from thinking about ways to mobilize the network as a whole as an alternative to using it to direct messages to some centralized authority. Continuing to impose hierarchical notions on top of network designs risks missing other, potentially more powerful, options. We have a set of powerful new tools and ideas that we have yet to fully exploit.

The design reasoning that underlies the engineering of the Internet is applicable in organizational settings as well. Lippman’s examples are a good place to start in thinking how to apply them effectively.

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Does the CIO have a role in successful social media adoption?

Like everyone else who’s awake, my long-time friend and colleague Keri Pearlson and I have been trying to make sense out of the uptake of new "social" technologies into organizations. We are noodling on the hypothesis that the CIO represents the best choice if an organization wants to develop a social technology strategy that is both effective and reasonably efficient in the demands it exacts on the organization.

Saying the Dell or P&G has a social technology strategy is a common shorthand that obscures a more important truth. There are real people in specific roles who take on the responsibility for developing and deploying the collection of initiatives and programs that get labeled as an organization’s social technology strategy. The specific people and the particular functions involved greatly influence the success or failure of these initiatives

Some manager in marketing experiments with Twitter or a fan page on Facebook. A lawyer in the general counsel’s office raises a concern about whether an employee comment on Twitter creates a liability for the corporation. A divisional general who still has his assistant print out his email traffic creates a task force to develop a corporate social media policy proposal. While there may be no right answer for how an organization handles social media, these choices matter. The hypothesis that we are considering is this:

The CIO represents an excellent choice for who should coordinate an organization’s approach to social media/social networking.

Why we think this is a reasonable hypothesis

From an IT manager’s perspective, the technologies of social media/social networking appear quite simple. They are either web services hosted outside the firewall or they are very simple new capabilities hosted on internal servers. Compared with the complexities of a global ERP system, a distributed point-of-sale system, or a terabyte-scale data warehouse, social media/social networking capabilities are technologically trivial. Why then are they a problem relevant to the IT function? Why not simply let ownership and management of these capabilities reside in the business?

First, much of the value in social media/social networking lies in the masses of data they generate. Whether in the content of employees at Microsoft blogging internally or publicly about their work or in the network linkage data embedded in the interactions among customers and customer service staff using @ComcastCares on Twitter, there are masses of data to be managed and manipulated. IT knows and understands the issues that arise when dealing with data on this scale. Moreover, they understand how to filter through and extract insight from this data.

Second, there is huge potential value in connecting activity in social networking venues to specific business process steps embedded in the current enterprise support environment. This too constitutes an area where IT’s existing perspectives add value as social media/networking activity moves from experiment to operating at scale.

Third, many of the issues with social media/social networking cross functional boundaries in the organization. IT as a group routinely handles cross-functional issues in designing and deploying other technology around the organization. They will have established relationships with the right people around the organization and they will be sensitive to the kinds of organizational issues that arise in cross-functional undertakings.

The general point is that experiments with these technologies will occur naturally in multiple spots throughout the organization. As these experiments grow in scale and scope the particular management challenges that will appear fall squarely in the sweet spot of the IT function.

What we’re doing next

Organizational work is messy and complex. Social technologies are messy and complex. Put the two together and you have mess squared.

What that means is that there aren’t any maps and there aren’t any checklists. There is no cookbook or operating manual to follow. Not yet, at any rate.

The appropriate research strategy now is to capture and start to understand the messy stories of what is actually going on. It is too soon to strip the story down to its essentials, because we can’t yet differentiate critical step from colorful detail.

We are looking to develop case studies of what organizations are actually doing. At this point, it is premature to be distilling these stories into a coherent and over simplified narrative. For now, it is enough to get multiple stories of successful, failed, and too soon to tell efforts. Comparing and contrasting those stories will begin to reveal the patterns of what matters. if you’re interested, drop one of us a line or leave us a comment.

Patti Anklam on The Year of Personal Net Work

Patti Anklam and I have reconnected after first meeting several years ago. We navigate in the same circles and our networks overlap, but I hadn’t been carefully following her work. My mistake and I’ve fixed that now. Here’s a recent piece from her with a very good overview presentation on moving from a general understanding of networks to concrete actions. Worth taking a look at both for the content and for some good ideas on presentation design.

Chris Brogan writes about his strategy for deepening his personal networks. He starts off his list of tips with this one:

"Devote two hours a week to this effort. If, out of the 60 hours an average person works, you can t find two for this, reconsider how you re running your day.

This is not the only new year’s resolution I’ve seen along this line. As we become more and more connected through social media, the more we are aware of what those connections mean.

My new year’s resolution? I’m resolving to share more of my thinking, especially about personal networks. Here’s a slide show from this past October I hope you will enjoy.

Personal Network Management Km Forum Oct 2009

The Year of Personal Net Work
Tue, 12 Jan 2010 20:52:00 GMT

Learning to love the backchannel

Just before Thanksgiving I was at the KM World 2009 conference in San Jose listening to a keynote presentation by Charlene Li. Like many others, I was tweeting during her presentation and posted the following:


At just about the same time, on the right coast, danah boyd of Microsoft was delivering a keynote at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City that didn’t go as well. Her experience and the subsequent conversation around it represent the latest installment in the evolving relationship between audience and presenter. It also contains comparable lessons for the successful adoption of social media within the enterprise.

If you ever expect to stand and deliver in front of a group, these are issues you need to think about beforehand. That can be as adrenaline inducing as boyd’s keynote or as seemingly innocuous as running a status meeting while the team focuses on their laptops, Blackberrys, and iphones.

I’ve been gathering and organizing links to some of the more useful and informative material I’ve found on this topic. For starters, here are some key pointers specific to boyd’s experience, including her own reflections and assessment:

danah body isn’t the only one dealing with this new relationship between audience and speaker. Here are some other accounts and overviews of other less than successful encounters, both recent and not-so-recent:

Fortunately, we’re also starting to see some good advice emerging on how to cope:

These examples are highly visible. They also take place in settings where you have the additional problems of a degree of anonymity that seems to encourage a level of boorishness more reminiscent of middle school than anything else. At the same time, they are also leading indicators of a default working environment that will be more public and transparent than we are accustomed to or comfortable with. Paying attention here and thinking through what lessons are available and how they translate into other settings is time well spent. Some of the questions on my mind include:

  • Where and when can you influence the tenor of the backchannel? As a presenter? As a conference organizer? As a member of the audience?
  • What can you do before the fact to set useful expectations or standards of interaction?
  • What can you do in the moment?
  • What can you do after the fact?
  • What’s likely to differ in more private venues? What will differ for the better? For worse?
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25 Words on Social Media Wisdom

D winning

Liz Strauss offers up another of her provocative challenges; to craft 25 words of advice on social media.

Here’s my 25 words:

Social media wisdom, like all wisdom, comes from experience. Engaged, mindful, reflective experience. Deliberate and intentional practice will yield wisdom. Other experience need not apply.

The picture is of my coxswain son and his crew just after winning a 1500 meter race after months of work and practice to get to that point.

Some links on social media applications within organizations

As part of my talk yesterday at the Social Media Strategies conference, I made passing reference to a number of stories, blog posts, bloggers, thinkers, and writers. It’s an occupational hazard of being a former professor.

I’ve written about different elements of yesterday’s talk over the course of various blog posts over time. Here are links to some of the most directly relevant together with links to other items I referenced:

Finally, I drew on a number of smarter people than I on the topics of expertise and organizational change. Here are some good entry points for further reading.

Seeing Organizational Patterns : A New Theory and Language of Organizational Design, Keidel, Robert W.
Keidel is an organizational theorist/designer who builds a very practical way of thinking and talking about organizations around the simple observation that all interactions in organizations can be understood in terms of the blend of control, cooperative, and autonomous ways of relating that organizational members can engage in. For the sports-minded, Keidel maps these three basic relating choices to the sports of American football, basketball, and baseball. He builds a nice case that organizational design choices can all be understood in terms of how these three fundamental relationship choices are mixed and blended.

Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Lave, Jean
Jean Lave is an ethnographer working as part of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. In this volume, Lave explores learning as primarily a social phenomenon and builds a very practical theory of how apprenticeship forms of skill acquisition and learning work in the real world.




Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, Hunt, Andy
I’ve become a general fan of Andy Hunt’s pragmatic programming series of books. They are useful well beyond the narrow area of software development. In this new book, Hunt offers a useful introduction to the Dreyfus model of expertise and how it applies in the general context of knowledge work.




Quality Software Management (V1) : Systems Thinking, Weinberg, Gerald M.
The first of a four-volume exploration of the particular and peculiar challenges of managing the development and implementation of software. The first volume introduces fundamental notions of how to model and think about complex systems and how they respond to change. Weinberg adapts Virginia Satir’s family therapy theories to the environment of complex organizational environments.




Quality Software Management (V3): Congruent Action, Weinberg, Gerald M.

While all four volumes of Weinberg’s work are valuable, this volume on what Weinberg describes as “Congruent Action” is the most useful for understanding organizational change in concert with Volume 1.

Social Media Strategies Conference – presentation on internal communities

Here is the presentation I did today at the Social Media Strategies conference going on at the Stanford Court in San Francisco. We got some excellent input and interaction going. There should be a full size version of this graphic linked to this version.


I did this presentation using MindManager 7.0. It mostly worked, but not as well as I would have liked. The link to the MindManager file itself is below:

MindManager format file: Internal communities mindmap