Exploring social media

Before my maternity leave (early summer last year), I met with one of the guys in SAP’s Emerging Solutions development organization.  He told me that they had spoken with some young students and received some use cases for different technologies.  One of the uses cases for email?  Sending a thank-you to parents of a friend.  Note to self: email is for old people!

I created and have been managing a listserv called anthrodesign for a number of years.  I really enjoy the dialogue and the community that has been formed, and I don’t really mind the administration because I spend so much time in front of a computer anyways.  But partly as a result of this use case, and partly because of the changes at work, I am realizing the the listserv is SO old timey.  I have been asked by one of the members for an RSS feed, but I have been reticent because the listserv has been restricted for so long.  I have always been concerned about spammers, and particularly because I use my personal email account to manage the list.  Anthrodesign is not publicly listed on Yahoo!, so most people find it by word of mouth.  Somehow I fear a feed will unravel that.  Even with organic growth, it’s grown to nearly 1400 members who exchange well over 100 posts a month.

Someone sent me a YouTube video about how (and how much!) students are using Facebook today (you can see the video here).  At the same time, I was feeling the limits of what anthrodesign is / can be because I am the hub of the network, and I am at capacity.  For example, I used to send a personalized note to people who joined, but it’s been ages and ages since I did that.  At one point I had about 250 messages in draft and I finally let it go, and realized it wasn’t going to happen. think that some of the power of the list has been lost as a result of my inattention, and I would like to correct that.   Through a series of posts to the list and discussion with listmembers, I outlined the high level requirements:

  1. facilitate social networking,
  2. provide better access to the knowledge generated by the community, and
  3. enable the community to build on & extend that knowledge if they’re interested.
Right around the time, I also read an article by Jakob Neilsen called Facebook and Metcalfe’s Law:

We are getting close to the bursting of Bubble 2.0, so it’s a good idea to review some of the precursors of Bubble 1.0.  In 1999, I wrote an article “Metcalfe’s Law in Reverse” about the problems of so-called walled gardens, where a service cuts itself off from the Internet and tries to add value by being closed.  Facebook and the current generation of social networks are trying to replicate the walled garden strategy that failed ten years ago. It’ll fail again.”

All these things have really gotten me thinking about what the next steps should be for anthrodesign.  How much social media do we want to introduce into something that works well (however old-fashioned it is)?  Can I retain the integrity of the list through these experiments, and especially if the experiments fail?

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