Building communities one IP address at a time

Simon Bate / Conferences2 Comments

Day 2 at Gilbane: Continuing in the Social Computing track

Case studies in collaborative computing

  • Frank D’Angese –
  • Mark Yolton – SAP Communities
  • Kym Harrington – Sales Edge

Social communities in Web 2.0:

  • Work best when they are orchestrated, rather than moderated.
  • Rating and ranking of contributers increases quality of the contributions.
  • SAP encourages quality by having users award 3, 6, or sometimes 12 points to contributers. When they reach 250 points, they’re considered “top contributors” or “highly-active contributors.”
  • The super-top contributors (1/100th of 1% of the best in points, professionalism, and maturity in collaboration) are identified as SAP Mentors.
  • Management can be concerned in adopting web 2.0 because of exposing weaknesses to competitors, general risk, and disruptive technologies.
  • SAP sponsors occasional get-togethers so that contributers can meet each other.

Some risks of sponsoring a user community:

  • Self-promoters and anti-social behavior. Both of these are often handled by the community. “Public humiliation is more effective than policing.” sez SAP.
  • If your company participates, beware of inauthentic interaction.
  • Sometimes users will vent about the product or company.
  • A “dead” community (no one goes there) will project a bad image.

Heard in several places. Support calls can be grouped into two classes: How-to questions and true bugs. The point of a user community is to reduce (or entirely offload) support time spent on how-to questions.

User communities follow the “1-9-90” rule. That is 1% of the community are highly active participants, 9% are occasional contributers, and 90% are consumers of the information. SAP focuses on the 9% and encourages them to move into the top 1%.

English tends to be the “lingua franca” of user communities. Multilingual sites present a challenge, because they can be difficult to moderate.

While some communities offer live chat, it doesn’t have the value of public forums, because the information in a forum is captured permanently. Live chat is not as public and much harder to track and follow.

Social Media at Tipping Point

  • Geoffrey Bock – Gilbane Group
  • Rachel Happe – IDC

Dell seeks out conversations about Dell and participates in them. This has a major positive impact on brand sentiment.

HP Wetpaint — Advice was so good, people in printing got annoyed.
Worth visiting.

Use of LinkedIn varies by industry. The overall average is 14%. For low-tech companies, use is as low as 2%; high-tech it’s closer to 40%.
24% of all employees use some form of social networking.
Only 2% microblog (but I think that reflects much more on the novelty of the concept, rather than an acceptance level).

Gulp. 19% of the US workforce will retire in the next 5 years (this data is a couple of years old). There’s a lot of knowledge that will leave along with the people. How do we capture all the knowledge? The preceding figures show that not everyone will use social computing or communities to record what they do. One approach is to establish (and record) conversations with these people.

On the other hand, 41% of 18-35 year-olds use social media and expect it at work. Social media gives them more access to tools, people, etc. It’s NOT for just fun, they know it works faster.

Total content of the internet:
161 Exabytes (Millions of Terabytes) in 2006
900+ Exabytes by 2010
It’s expected that at that time 80% will be user-created.

Technology for Ad Hoc Information Sharing (open source)

  • Peter Monks – Alfresco (filling in for John Newton)
  • Dries Buytaert – Drupal
  • Michael Wechner

The enterprise sofware sales model is obsolete.
Open source eats $60B a year from traditional enterprise software. Open source is characterized as the “Ultimate Disruptive Technology”.

No cost of sales
Typically 7/10 of sales costs fund sales cycle
In Open Source 7/10 plowed into R&D.

MSFT thinks SharePoint will be next platform beyond Windows.

Humans are social animals. The don’t want processes. Need minitools to figure out what to do — particularly for non-tech doc. Technology gets in the way.

Check out Forbes Office Pranks (

Terms to pay attention to

  • Taxonomies – important to content management; critical to searching.
  • JSR-283 – An upcoming Java API for content retrieval.
  • RDF – Resource Descriptor Framework, a language for representing metadata. I considered (and passed on) using RDF in one of our projects, mostly because of what seemed like massive overhead. It’s probably worth a second, or third, look.

Toolsmith’s observations

There is no microblogging tool for the Enterprise (yet).

Many of the tools that make up Web 2.0 have been available for a while. What is different is that a) there is a critical mass of “next generation” tools and b) these tools have been embraced by web communities and the enterprise.

These include:

  • Developer communities
  • Groups/ forums
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Ajax
About the Author

Simon Bate


Involved in TechComm all my working life (since the time of vacuum tubes, core memory, punch cards, and bone implements). I've worked as a writer, a manager, and—for the past score of years—building software tools for TechComm. My motto is "Let the computer do the work." Outside of work, I balance the calories I create and consume in the kitchen with weight-training sessions at the gym. I also sing Tenor in various choirs and choruses.

2 Comments on “Building communities one IP address at a time”

  1. Good job on capturing my SAP piece during day #2 (Case Studies in Collaborative Computing).
    One small correction: When members of SAP’s communities achieve 250 points they are considered “top contributors” or “highly active contributors.”
    The SAP Mentors are reserved for our 1/100th of 1% of the best (both in points and in professionalism and maturity in the way they collaborate – so both quantity of points and quality of interaction).
    Nice recap otherwise.
    Best regards,
    Mark Yolton

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