Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo - Session Summaries Part 1

Although the WebGuild Web 2.0 conference started out strong I can't say it stayed that way the rest of the day. With each session being only 45-minutes it was hard to get past the basics that I think most people in the room are already comfortable with. Also the quality of moderators ranged from - 'why are you even here' to 'stop badgering the panelists' to 'great way to keep the conversation going.'

I attended 5 sessions, here are my key takeaways for the first two: Community Building and Social Media Apps in the Enterprise (I'll get to the others in my next post).

Community Building

Moderated by Tom Corthrel, Vice President of Lithium with the following panelists: Jonathan Abrams, Founder & CEO of Socializr, Scott Wilder, General Manager of Small Business Online Communities at Intuit and Sylvia Marino, Executive Director of Community Operations at

The session started off asking what platform the panelists had used to build their communities. Both Intuit and had parts of their communities built with Web Crossing. also uses MovableType 4 for their blogs - everything else was homegrown and in Socializr's case open source.

When asked the open ended question of how they define success it came back to the customer. The ultimate goal in each case was to enhance the customers experience and give them the information they are looking for. Here are a few specifics of what that broke down to:
  • Resolution Rates - the ability for users to solve user problems

  • User Engagement - how well the content was consumed

  • Community Enablement - allowing customers to build their own community and share resources with them

Then there was the question anyone who has tried to create a community has struggled with - how do you get people engaged and how do you motivate your thought leaders (particularly within the corporation)? Sylvia brought up the fact that Microsoft product managers are actually rated against the online product ratings. I personally like this approach and think it's the best way to get everyone thinking about the customer first - all of the time. Other softer approaches are to give people 'points for participation' and hope that the self gratification is enough to keep them engaged. Although I agree with Scott that a little hand holding can go a long way and of course Jonathan's point that you need to make it easy is a must.

Social Media Apps in the Enterprise

Moderated by Sylvia Marino, Executive Director of Community Operations at with the following panelists: Anshu Sharma, Senior Director of Platform Strategy at, Robert Rueckert, Senior Investment Manager at Intel Capital and Ajay Gandhi, Senior Director of Enterprise Social Computing at BEA Systems.

This session was focused around how enterprises use social media apps internally to communicate with each other. BEA Systems seems to have what many people talk about - a Facebook/LinkedIn-like platform that allows employees to find experts related to a specific topic. They do this primarily with tag clouds and ranking functionality. Although he admits it was a bit of a challenge to change people's behavior to do some of the "work" by tagging the content - the reputation-effect ended up being the motivator that got people on the bandwagon. With the "Semantic Web" some of this can be done automatically with search terms that were used to find the content (that would be cool).

An interesting point that Ajay brought up is the organizational complex that an app like this can create. When the new grad joins and is active in the internal communities and looking like the expert how is his/her boss going to feel about that? Maybe you don't need such a structured hierarchy anymore - one idea that Ajay brought up was the ability to capture knowledge and use semantics to recommend the right mix of people for a project team. I hear enterprise 3.0? I wonder how long it will take us to get there.

I really like one key point that Anabu made around 'security' - it sometimes seems like IT has taken security precautions so far that it has handicapped some corporations. When challenged about security, Anabu asked his IT group what their security policy was on email and phone calls. These are two modes of communication that employees within the enterprise have the ability to freely communicate with each other with "no control" of the content that gets out. His point: don't over think social media apps.

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