As anyone scanning our blog has noticed, there is a bit of a frenzy of Web 2.0 exploration going on at Allen and in the eLearning community at large. I got back last week from Gartner’s “Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit 2008” and wanted to share some first impressions that don’t really relate to the actual practical implementation question.
While some aspects of the Web 2.0 world offer paradigms around collaborative work flow, the chaotic growth of social networks may be offering a new paradigm of informal learning as we know it. Most of the Web 2.0 applications I have been able to review treat the blog, wiki or Facebook page as a familiar route for information dissemination—just one more way to communicate with the corporate work force. We apply some level of control to the information and monitor its veracity and compliance within the norms of our organization. In the social network paradigm, the regulator is the social network itself. The members of the community itself become the arbiters if what is right or wrong, what is acceptable or not. Familiar terms we’re used to such as subject matter experts (SMEs) are traded in for virtual characters with high post rates and positive reviews by fellow community members. Not only is the individual subsumed in this process but the team becomes irrelevant as the focus becomes the community and the rules and norms that evolve over time. Individual knowledge and expertise are not the criteria of worth but what one is willing to share with the social network they are part of.
When considering how to deal with this world of social networks, look for a small area in your company of like minded people that can be expected to share and support each other not based on a specific corporate goal but a common sharing of value and interests. As an example, as one of our directors and I head out to Learning 2008 next month, it is no surprise that the most active community of practice for the event at this point is the discussion on the nightspots and restaurants in the Orlando area.
Starting small around some non-business critical areas in your company will shed light on the dynamics that will evolve in your company. This will flesh out the paradigm for your organization and can become a blue print for a larger implementation.
Some of the ideas and their interpretation by yours truly came from an enlightening presentation by a Gartner analyst by the name of Anthony Bradley, and he can be googled for his comments on this and other topics tied to social networks.