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Can Social Media be Managed? September 28, 2009

Posted by stewsutton in Collaboration, Communications, Information Policy, Knowledge Management, Stewardship.

Imagine that you have a culture where markings of authority is essential to knowledge pedigree and that pedigree knowledge can only be delivered as part of a carefully orchestrated multi-level consensus campaign.  Does not sound like a very good fit for social media technology.  However, it may indeed be a good home, with some tuning of the technology.

When you get your social media collection out of the box and lay out the parts you notice a “blog” (like WordPress), a “wiki” (like MediaWiki), a “tagspace” (like del.icio.us), a “web cms” (Joomla, Drupal, etc.), a “media repository” (like Dspace), a “discussion system” (like phpBB), a “social profile system” (like facebook), a “microblog” (like twitter), and maybe a few other parts.  All of these components are ready to use in a highly collaborative Web 2.0 environment.

How does that square with a culture that needs to see a completed artifact before it can be “reviewed”.  A culture that by process of review has a give and take between concepts and key points, thereby refining the artifact.  A culture where the “author” is not a group, but a recognized authority and others are providing peer review editorial on the artifact. A culture where the step-by-step uplift of the artifact through levels of management establishes the actual pedigree of that artifact.  A culture where upon establishing sufficient management endorsement (pedigree) the artifact can now serve as a key position.

Now that we have that key position, we can construct a campaign of consensus around the position that the artifact represents.  That consensus builds as a this position is delivered to multiple levels of the customer organization.  A consensus that respects and considers that clarifying the position requires unique communications at each level of the customer organization.

Is such an environment a place to plug-in social media as an out-of-the-box solution?  In a word – No!

Social media in this environment requires conforming of the social media components to the perscriptive business process of peer-review, pedigree forming and consensus forming.  At a simple brush, that requires that some of the general purpose aspects of the out-of-the-box social media stack need to be tuned a bit.  Where is the “version-lock” feature in the wiki?  Where is the private channel page collection within the blog and wiki space?  Where are the explicit “workflow” features that can be process-wise associated to artifact forming, review, and endorsement?  It’s not there in our out-of-the-box experience.  So do we “modify” what’s there, look for an alternative, or wait?  If you have the talented staff in place, then a modify is probably a good alternative.  Waiting works if you don’t have cash and the need is not urgent, and looking for an alternative?  We are always on the lookout for the new new thing!


1. Jason Bright - October 2, 2009

I don’t think that there is a lack of technology in the social media platforms. I believe there is simply a need for a stage before the intellect of the swarm knowledge evolution. Simply put, larger organizations that need to speak with a single voice need a platform that allows the cohesive coordination of media before it is pushed outward. These tools include DAM systems.

What I believe is needed (and work towards) is a reasonable conduit for this information as it passes from DAM to wiki to dspace to drupal etc..

Most current dam tech is only weakly open and only poorly able to handle the variance of data (read static set of fields for assets).

What I believe is needed is: 1) namespace aware 2) character set agnostic 3) strongly attached metadata with 4) standard interfaces to data.

That way you can stage the content in a local system to ensure cohesive presentation, and at point of release allow that data to programatically deploy.

Example 1: GroupA works on a tutorial video and content. A local dam system allows complete control of deployment date, approval, quality, etc. Upon release, the video and content is passed as files to an external system. Each file has all data embedded in RDF (strongly attached metadata), and populates all necessary fields.

Example 2: GroupB works on a tutorial video and content. A local dam prepares as above, but upon release an RSS feed passes content to external systems with pointers to the various thumbnail, preview, and media streams (to allow playback on varied technology easily). The feed client caches these and presents them to users for social interaction. (example drupal).

This view of the world is derived from my work in DAM over the years and hinges on assets becoming smarter with embedded RDF (a form of XML) for all types with arbitrary schemas. There are a number of videos on my site that outline our thought process in going this direction, and how frustrated I have been with the shortcomings of media systems in social and other situations.

stewsutton - October 2, 2009

Nice comments Jason. Embedded in your response is the recognition of process (common process) for social media information streams to operate effectively (e.g. namespace, interfaces, metadata assignment, etc.). Additionally it is nice of you to point out the very approach to content hosting and deployment has a major relationship to digital asset management. The over-arching goals are similar in Example-1 and Example-2 but the technical implementation creates a slightly different governance procedure an custodial responsibility in relation to the digital assets. Thank you for sharing!

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