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The Price of pomposity in education

I’ve just been watching (rewatching actually) Euan Semple’s talk on the Price of Pomposity at Life 09 in June of last year.

The core argument is clear, that the old style command and control and the heirarchies built upon it  will find it increasingly difficult to compete in a knowledge economy where staff are “volunteers” rather than conscripts. In such an economy, effective managers are facilitators to collaboration, communication and understanding not “parents” dishing out tasks, plaudits and punishments to children.

Euan argues that organisations have to make a fundamental and difficult change but actually I believe that the scope of change is much greater and  applies to society as a whole but most particularly to education.

The problem is that our entire education system, particularly in the UK where I currently reside, is based around command and control mentality, not only in the treatment and interactions with students but within the curriculum itself.

Education in Britain (and I suspect in many other countries) is designed to deliver moderately articulate manufacturing workers into the job market at the end of a long period of indoctrination into the command and control management systems of the post-war industrial age.

The difficulty is that first world economies are now if not in, at least rapidly moving towards, the post-industrial age. If we’re to have a true knowledge economy we need to change how we build and operate businesses and consequently to change how we educate and form the workforce which will staff them.

Fundamentally the educational curriculum and approach needs to change to one which not only teaches knowledge and skills but importantly, how to collaborate with others to achieve goals. The entire educational approach has to engage with pupils as partners, not subordinates, and collaborate with them to share (yes share! teachers and parents can learn from pupils too!) knowledge and learn the skills they need in a knowledge economy.

Pupils are already learning these skills in their home life by interacting with each other in information and collaboration rich social networking environments but education is not aligned with the reality of their world. It’s fundamentally failing to reinforce the positive education they’re getting in life and helping to guide them to right choices because it’s taken a “we don’t talk about facebook” stance.

Every time some kid gets into trouble because they make poor choices of who they interact with via social media tools, the hysterical reaction is focused keenly on the social network as if the tools, and the people who provide the tools are the source of the problem.

I, on the other hand, believe it’s the parents and teachers of the young person who should come under scrutiny. They have a duty of care to the child which they should not be allowed to abrogate simply because they don’t understand the means by which the child is putting themselves at risk.

Rather than sticking their heads in the sand or worse, pompously looking down their nose at these tools and the interactions they enable, they need to be educating themselves and discussing these tools, their use, risks and collaborating with their children and their children’s teachers to raise their collective education and awareness.

As it happens Euan Semple mentioned just such a head in the sand educational approach yesterday

Ping pongs

Oh my, what a disappointing turn of events.

Tech blogs and the rumour mill have been rife for weeks and months with speculation about “Social” coming into iTunes.

Well Ping has arrived and has completely underwhelmed even the most die hard Apple fans (of which, you could probably argue, I’m one) so far. It’s a mess. Let’s be brutally honest, it’s a steaming pile of poo.

@Euan Semple pretty much sums up the worst failings in this blog post.

The unfortunate thing about Ping is that it’s not a social “music” network but a recommendation engine for the iTunes store and artists. The evidence for this is clear if you see that the discussion about Ping isn’t happening on Ping (it can’t because of the way it’s set up) but on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s a missed opportunity if I ever saw one. Opening up a social platform (based around the music in their library’s as well as what they purchase) to the 160 million customers of the iTunes store is a gold mine. Closing that network so that people can’t actually interact in the way that they chose (or are used to from other platforms) is a mistake of Bill-Gatesian proportions (circa ’99 – CDs are it, the Internet is a fad)

What’s interesting is that it seems from this debacle that Apple share Google’s failure to “get Social”. Microsoft by comparison seem to be closer to the pulse, integrating Facebook into their apps. Could it be that that the recently de-throned King from Seattle still has some arrows in it’s quiver, is willing to embrace the new (instead of trying to reinvent it in a way that they control) and be learning from it’s past mistakes?

Interesting times ahead.

Why Google Wave failed? Too many contradictions.

There are a few reasons why Google Wave failed:

Too Much too soon

There’s no doubt that the technology of Google Wave is excellent but the actual implementation that they provided to the public was about the most convoluted awkward interface that you could possibly invent.

I suspect that they couldn’t really think of a good way of demonstrating this technology in a way which would engage with users but not seem like it’s just a copy-cat.

The thing is that there was a real opportunity if only they’d grasped it by doing something as simple as Twitter.

Google tried to demonstrate their engineering prowess but the difficulty is that only geeks are drawn to that. It’s not geeks who have made Facebook the 3rd biggest country in the world… it’s not geeks who have made Twitter so popular, it’s “ordinary” people.

Too little too late

The “invite” model for Gmail worked because you didn’t have to be on Gmail to interact with people who were. In the case of Wave, that same model was fundamentally flawed. If you want a social network to catch on you have to either open it up completely so that I, and my entire network can jump ship onto it or you integrate it with the incumbents so that I’m not missing out by switching to your platform.

I think there was a real opportunity here. There was a certain “jadedness” at the time with the current incumbents which Google could really have capitalised on but they failed to do so by taking the “toe in the water” approach. This was a land-grab. You don’t scrimp on a land grab. You spend spend spend for the promise of future riches. They should have opened the floodgates wide and just bought their way out of the subsequent problems the influx would have caused.

Too integrated

As I’ve said, if only they’d essentially copied Twitter (oh.. too late to the party Buzz!) they might have had a real chance to grab a chunk of social real-estate. Instead they tried to showcase every minute capability of the platform with “bots” and fabulous taxonomies and search capabilities all integrated together into a glorious engineering Golden Calf.

All of these things are great but they end up confusing everyone (I’ve been a computer geek since the dawn of time and even I was confused as hell!)

Come on Google this wasn’t hard to do: Take out more of the cool integrated features. Swallow your pride and just copy your competition (but do it better) which is you’ve already made a global business out of…

A simple Twitter alike (two-way integrating Twitter and Facebook so that it’s not alone in the wilderness ala Buzz…) would have paved the way for all the bells and whistles to be added and integrated as you went along.

Not integrated enough

Holy mother of all that’s holy. Google: You operate two of the most popular internet tools on the planet (Search and GMail) and you don’t leverage them by integrating Wave into them? Cmon… a 12 year old could have worked that one out.

Wave, integrated into email (instead of standing up to “replace” it. – Email aint that broke that it need replacing.. it just needs fixing…) would have been an instant hit. Turn my “postcard” based asynchronous conversations into “anytime” (sync or async) conversations… awesome.

Likewise with Search… You control pretty much the entire internet via Google search which is the default entry point for most people to get onto the web. Why not have integrated Wave to begin to provide some semantics into search results? Talk about a showcase of real value…

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see these things. They’re self evident.

Innovate

The most common criticism I have heard of Wave (apart from it’s alone-in-the-wilderness approach) was that it was “kinda IM, kinda twitter, kinda other stuff” but not as good as any of them.

If you’re going to introduce an “email killer” then it needs to be a pretty innovative solution. The Wave preview wasn’t.

It’s pretty damning when a far more innovative demonstration of your technology is produced by what amounts to a Financial Software company (SAP).

Don’t re-invent the wheel

And on the other side of the coin, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel when it’s perfectly capable of achieving it’s objectives.

Wave was touted as a mail-killer. Does mail need killing? Is it somehow not fit for purpose?

Likewise, while Wave was not totally dissimilar to other systems such as Twitter or Facebook’s status updates, Google tried to introduce a new vocabulary to accompany it.

There was nothing wrong with the old vocabulary!

If you had an equivalent to a twitter Tweet, then call it a Tweet, or at least allude to the similarity so that people can draw your vocabulary into their frame of reference instead of going out of your way to make it clear that “we’re not copying anyone because we’re actually cleverer than all of them”.

I couldn’t honestly tell you the difference today between a Tweet, Mail, Blip or Wave… it’s all so…. confused…

So in essence, once again, it feels like Google have committed their usual sin of not being able to step outside themselves and look at the world from the point of view of their potential customers. I think it’s fundamentally because they still don’t “get” social.

They’ve disrupted excellently 3 times with tools which could be seen as “enterprise” or which you could argue everyone basically already understands and “gets” (search, mail, apps) but they seem to still have a mental block about “social”.

Wonder how long “Buzz!” will be around… If they don’t “get it” soon that’s another Dodo jumping up and down shouting “Extinct Me! Extinct Me!”… (Hint: 2 Way FB/Twitter integration might actually give it some legs. I’d personally kill for a decent social gateway/aggregator integrated with my mail…)

Principles of an emergent enterprise

In returning to my favoured topic of the moment (and a lengthy dissertation it’s proving to be) I’d like to give some ideas as to what I believe are the core principles of an emergent enterprise.

Transparency.

Ok, let’s start with some controversy. What’s wrong with total transparency? Why don’t organisations embrace it?

The issue is that most organisations don’t “trust” their workforce, particularly the “lower level” people. Why do we hire people we don’t trust?

If we do trust our people then why can’t we have open, honest debates about issues affecting them and the organisation? Inclusion all but guarantees support, or at least lessens opposition.

For example: The leaders of organisations strategise great things for the future then carry out elaborate “unveilings”. The problem with this approach is that you’ve immediately segregated your organisations into three groups of people. The people who pick up the vision and go with it, the people who could care a less and the people who oppose it. You’ve built opposition into the process towards the end.

If you invert this and invite everyone to collaborate on putting together the strategy we’ve not only increased the pool of clever people to contribute to it but we’ve built the handling of opposition into the entire process not just as something which happens at the end. We not only end up with advocates but we’ve converted the “couldn’t care less” crowd (who now, of course, care because they helped to create it) and more than likely elimitated or at least drastically reduced opposition.

Transparency builds advocacy. Opacity builds opposition.

Build a platform for open communication and collaboration (this is where you can use Enterprise 2.0 and Social Media to your advantage) and use it!

Rules, not Policies.

Policies are one of those things we need to protect ourselves from all of the bad things our workers can do to our organisation. Here’s the problem: they don’t work. In every single organisation I’ve worked for or with, I’ve observed the clever people disregarding, flaunting or downright fighting policies in order to do the “right thing” for the organisation in delivering what they need to deliver.

There is a difference between rules, which represent the contstraints of the environment and policies which represent proscriptions over what you can and can’t do. Sometimes policies exist to “enforce” rules but often they don’t.

Rules represent the environmental conditions and constraints. For example, in the natural world: Gravity pulls you down – This represents a rule which means if you want to jump high, you have to evolve better musculature to do so… or find another way around it. If instead of this rule, we had a policy which said: “Because gravity pulls you down, you must remain on the ground” then where would we be? We wouldn’t have Kangaroos, Birds, Planes… ok, so the example is contrived (and somewhat facetious) but you get the point.

Rules represent opportunities as well as constraints. The natural world has evolved many ways of getting around the “gravity pulls you down” rule… as many as you could possibly imagine and then some. If we aren’t proscriptive (or prescriptive) but instead identify the actual constraints of our environment we have the opportunity to evolve imaginative solutions to work around and through them.

Focus on Deliverables.

Processes weigh your organisation down. They’re a millstone around your neck.

The core reasons why they exist are threefold:

  1. They give an illusion of determinism as if by having mapped out the process we’ve ensured that nothing can go wrong.
  2. They give an illusion of control so that when things go wrong (and they do) we can point a finger at the person or thing which made a mistake and cast blame.
  3. They fool you into thinking they can provide metrics about the performance of your business. Except they don’t. Process metrics are another overhead with little value. Every time someone, or something has to stop to “measure” then that’s cost you time and money. Like Schrodingers Cat, the observation affects the outcome.

The only metric that matters is delivering whatever it is you deliver. Everything else is overhead. Identify the things which you need to deliver and focus your organisation on delivering them. Everything else is fair game to be evolved out of your organisation.

Inversion of power.

This is self-evident to me and perhaps it is to you too (in which case apologies for preaching to the converted) but the most appropriate person to make decisions about something is the person in possession of the most complete knowledge of it.

In most organisations (in my experience) this is rarely someone “up the chain of command” but the people “at the coal face”. Instead of disenfranchising our workforce we should be empowering them with decision making authority and responsibility. As I’ve pointed out before, we’ve hired them for exactly that reason and because they’re going to do the “right thing” according to the alignment of their values and beliefs with the rest of the organisation.

Why then do we invert our power structures and have the decision making as a top-down? Empower our clever people with the right to make decisions. We don’t need to have the illusions of control which top-down decision making promotes because we’re going to be totally transparent so if the wrong decision is made the entire organisation can pick up on it and fix the mistake (and learn from it and evolve as a consequence)

Embrace Mistakes.

Mistakes happen and contrary to a great deal of opinion, mistakes are good. They’re good because they open up opportunities for learning, improvement and troubleshooting.

It’s a very human instinct to want to “cover up” our mistakes which we make as individuals and the essential character of most organisations reflects this desire of it’s human workforce.

Organisations never want to admit to failure particularly in situations where reputation is at stake but this is actually counter-intuitive. Sure mistakes cost money, time, perhaps reputation but you know what? They’re going to happen anyway. If you try to hide from them, they’re going to bite you in the ass. Embrace and learn from them.

See your mistakes as opportunities to  grow your business and improve it. When mistakes happen they need to be transparent to everyone involved so that we have the opportunity to immediately iterate and evolve in order to avoid it in the future. Emergent behaviour will ensure that with full knowledge of what’s happened and an environment that encourages introspection and improvement, those mistakes don’t happen again.

This is why modern Enterprise 2.0/Social Media tools are vital to 21st century business. They open up this immediate collaboration and feedback loop and encourage everyone to take part in improving the organisation immediately when something goes wrong.

Hire People, not Human Resources.

Maybe this is self evident but we hire people, not resources. Resources are nice and clean and deterministic in their behaviours but the actual people we hire are not. They are, each and every one, unique, perfect and flawed.

Making the mistake of assuming that simply adding a dehumanising moniker (ironic that it uses the word “Human” in there) doesn’t actually stop your human resources from being human, it just fosters the illusion that they are as fixed and constant as, for example, “computing resources”. This view is not only flawed because it fails to account for peoples frailties and needs but it also places a box around people which means that you’re never going to get the best from them.

Hire people. Treat them as people. Empower and motivate them as people. Give them the power to drive your business rather than dragging them along behind you. You may be surprised at the results.

Make it up as you go along.

Final principle: There are no hard and fast principles (or rules). Clever people, with all the facts and a full awareness of what needs to be done will find a way to do it. The trick in an emergent enterprise is to keep doing it again and again with continuous, iterative improvement and evolution as the core (only?) processes in operation.

Do what feels right. Break the rules, ignore the environmental constraints and do something new.

As you can no doubt tell, I’ve left out as much above as I’ve written (and then some) but I’m hoping you (clever person) will fill in the gaps for yourself.

Feel free to offer up your own ideas, opinions, critiques and comments. I’m interested in learning how other people think about these things.

Facebook Panic Button. Another excuse to not parent?

I’m thoroughly unconvinced by the Facebook/CEOPS “Panic button”. It seems to me once again like a technological solution to a management problem.

The flawed logic being applied is that a child is cognizant enough of their risks online to (a) install the app – no mean feat in and of itself and (b) recognise when they’re at risk.

Show me a teenager who fundamentally understands these risks and I’ll eat my hat.

The key to minimising our children’s risks online is not daft barely thought through technological solutions but education. It’s up to parents to educate themselves and to educate and monitor their children’s activity (i.e. manage) particularly on social network sites.

The solution as stands is, frankly, more dangerous than no solution as it once again bestows the illusion of safety ultimately all but guaranteeing that some parents come to believe that the problem has been dealt with and they can take a step back from managing their children’s online interactions.

As a parent I feel that a much more appropriate solution would have been to give me, the parent, vetting privileges over my child’s (who’s only 2 so not yet using facebook ;>)  friends and the ability to monitor their communications if I become concerned (or even possibly to put some smarts into the communications system to be able to alert me to something potentially dangerous going on).

Given that this is not what’s been provided, if it were me (thankfully I’m not in such a position for some years yet) I wouldn’t touch ClickCEOP with a bargepole.

I prefer to parent my child  – I’m never going to trust technology (and/or my child) to do it for me.

Eureka! "The network is the person"

Yesterday morning I had something of a Eureka! moment (while showering – typical!).

For whatever reason, Sun’s motto from the 1990’s “The network is the computer” started buzzing around in my head however my context was thinking about people’s social networks.

Suddenly it hit me, what Euan Semple has been saying on a few occasions when I’ve seen him speak (and chatted with him) but which I hadn’t fully grasped bubbled up in my mind. My most valuable asset as an employee is my network! As an employer the networks of my employees are a vital asset. (I mention @euan not because he’s necessarily the first person to propose this but because he’s the first person who helped me to recognise it… and also because if there were a vote for one person to run the planet tomorrow he’d get my vote as he just “gets it”). Hence the paraphrase above! The network is the person!

It’s blindingly simple when you think about it. If you hire someone, even a really clever someone they can only ever solve the problems that they can solve on their own but if they come with a network of friends, family, ex-colleagues and aquaintances which they can tap, their potential to solve problems increases manyfold.

I feel like a bit of a dimwit that I haven’t consciously recognised this before now and perhaps I’m the last person on the planet to cotton on but darn, it’s as obvious as the nose on my face!

When building teams and interviewing people I’m a big fan of competency based interviewing techniques and generally speaking the core competencies I’m interested in 99% of the time are adaptability and learning capacity. It’s never occurred to me that there is another key consideration I should have when interviewing and that is to investigate with the candidate how extensive their social network is. Of course I should be concerned with this as it gives me a measure of how well they can answer the questions they don’t yet know the answers to!

In a one of those weird synchronicity things yesterday I later read an article from Phil Bradley bemoaning the shortsightedness of the “Forum of Private Business” around proscribing social media access for staff as a productivity measure.

Phil’s message (in a ranty way which I can empathise with) is that it’s as idiotic to deny workers access to “social media” as a productivity drain as it is to prevent them having paper and pen for doodling. This resonates with me as I’ve always maintained that technologies like “WebSense” etc. and restricting access to the internet for staff as a means of ensuring they don’t “slack off” of “do something inappropriate” is as idiotic as preventing them from buying a morning paper.

If your staff are finding excuses for not working or acting inappropriately in the workplace that’s a that’s a problem your organisation should be looking very closely into, not covering it up by plastering over it with a draconian policy. (Ironically, once upon a time I used to be involved, as a technical consultant, in selling WebSense… most of the time I spent trying to persuade my clients not to buy it… they still did! The illusion of control was too strong a pull.)

In my opinion the overall effect is greater than Phil has alluded to (mindless pursuit of the illusion of control), it’s not just about productivity but if you cut your staff off from their networks you’ve seriously curtailed their effectiveness. (not to mention the morale implications leading to negative productivity) You’ve limited them, in effect, to being only able to solve the problems they can solve for you instead of the vaster set of problems they, with access to their networks, can.

This realisation has begun to fundamentally change my thinking about how I should manage and recruit. Awesomeness will ensue!

Noone ever fixed a process by adding more process

One of the recurring problems I’ve come across in organisation after organisation is this tendency for “Process” to become a lodestone for everything to accrete to over time. Eventually you end up with a situation where the “Process”, originally intended to get the organisation towards some goal has become a ravenous beast in and of itself which requires more effort to sustain it than is required to deliver the goal it was created to achieve in the first place and every time we come across a problem with the “Process” we add more controls and process to it, increasing complexity and contributing to the problem over and over.

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

  • Abraham Maslow – The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance (1966)

The problem of course is if you’re trying to fix a process with another process that’s akin to trying to fix the problem of a sinking ship by punching more holes in the hull.

Glen Notman, writing on the ITSM Portal about “Process not working correctly? Add more process” tells of such a tale where when faced with a failing process the implementers added more process. As the end users put it: *“We told them the classification scheme was difficult, their fix was to add more complexity!” *

This is not an uncommon approach in general. I’ve observed it time and again in organisations big and small. It seems ludicrous to me that we keep repeating these mistakes again and again in organisation after organisation as if each one is so uniquely special as to be able to “make it work” as a strategy “this time”.

I prefer to approach the problem from something I call: Emergent Enterprise. Emergent Enterprise is not Enterprise 2.0 (E² not e2.0), it’s about changing organisational thinking from front-end design oriented to evolutionary oriented.  In the same way as there has been a tendency in the “Development” world towards agile iterative processes, I believe organisation, process and control systems in enterprises can benefit from a move away from up-front design to fast evolving emergent behaviour based around simple rules, processes and conditions.

This is where I feel the world of Enterprise 2.0, Social Media and the empowerment of the “workforce” with tools for collaboration and collective decision making (by the people with the right knowledge and skills to make them) is leading us. Instead of wrestling to control more and more via process, prescriptive policies and prohibition in a parent-child behavioural dynamic, organisations ought to step back and allow the clever adults they’ve employed to arrive at the “almost” right way to do things by doing them in as transparent and communication rich an environment as is possible and introspecting on what they’re doing continuously on order to feedback improvements at the earliest possible point in time… and with the understanding that evolution doesn’t stop, it’s a perpetual process.

Where a complex process is failing I’d replace it with no process whatsoever most of the time and instead  have a short iterative cycle (with continuous feedback) which favours best practises evolving towards the top of the proverbial foodchain. For sure you will end up with “processes”, some of them likely imperfect but the thing is they’ll work most of the time and when they don’t you’ll have immediate feedback and the next iteration will be better.

You don’t need to design complex perfect processes and plug every gap, allow simple emergent organisation to evolve naturally.

Of course the control freaks will argue that such would lead to chaos, that if we don’t have “control” nothing will get done correctly how will Order come about? The thing is that the core evolutionary tendency (natural selection) is towards order, not chaos. Evolution is often mis-characterised as “randomness over design”. It’s not about randomness, it’s about iteration and selection of the most suitable traits (albeit due to random mutation) contributing towards a goal.

In an emergent enterprise we would set up the conditions which specify the goals, the environment which allow communication, collaboration and fast iterations over the work towards the goal and constant introspection to catch the mistakes as soon as possible in order to stop the current iteration and feedback to the next. The emergent traits (properties, behaviours, organisations, processes) will become dominant via natural selection.

The key is, of course, around being able to clearly define the goals, establish the right environmental conditions and empowering people to allow emergent behaviours, properties and organisation to occur.

More thoughts on how to go about establishing those that in future articles.

It’s time to Evolve!

Emergent Enterprise

During my career to date I’ve run the gamut of organisation sizes and types from small “family” run businesses through medium enterprises and all the way through banks and large corporations in both an employee and external consultant capacity so I’ve got a sort of inside and outside view of how businesses and management practise work across almost the entire spectrum of business type, sectors and approach.

Some of the common themes across my experience I’ve put together into pithy truisms which I trot out on occasion, some my own, some overheard or offered up by friends and colleagues. I thought it might be interesting to offer some up and see how other people’s experience relates, negates or coincides with mine. I loosely label all of this with a coined phrase “Emergent Enterprise” because the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) are about how enterprises, large and small, need to look again at how they run, manage and control themselves and (I believe) replace the sort of thinking which leads to stagnation and overburdened processes with an evolutionary model which encourages the best process to do a particular job to evolve in the doing (and continue to evolve going forward).

While I’m not even going to pretend that i know everything (or even very much) about management I’m hoping what I write may seem completely obvious or straight forward common sense to you because I often think that the core of wisdom are the things which seem self evident or which just remind one of something one intrinsically knows (but maybe haven’t consciously thought about in a while). Therefore, if in reading one of these pieces you end up thinking: “statement of the obvious! I already knew that!” I’ve probably done my job right.

The truism leading off the first article of this series: “No-one ever fixed a process by adding more process” (coming soon) which introduces the concept of Emergent Enterprise isn’t one of my own but was said to me recently by my friend and colleague Rob Ellis (@rob_s_ellis) and it struck an immediate chord with me as I’ve often found myself in exactly that situation where organisations try to fix broken processes or a perceived lack of control with more processes or more “rigourous” control structures and that’s where I inevitably end up concluding that less command and control based thinking and more “influential and evolutionary” thinking would be a far better fit.

Hopefully you’ll get some value out of this series. If so (or even if not), please do comment and let’s share some of our experiences.

...there's an app for that.

It’s official… when Apple say there’s an app for everything, I’m just going to give up and believe them.

When I wrote a while back about recommended news from your social media “cloud”, little did I know that there’s an app for that.

It’s called Social Reader and it’s pretty much exactly what I was talking about. It hooks into Twitter and Facebook and basically farms all the status updates which include a link in them.

It displays this as a list on the left hand side, and when you click on an item, it brings up the relevant page on the right hand side. (In landscape mode of course).

Now it’s far from being a perfect app. It’s a little ugly for one thing and not as intuitive and elegant to use as it could be (note to Benelux Ventures LLC: Go look at “Sobees for Facebook” and “Early Edition“) but it’s functional and it does the job.

I particularly like this app because at present I’m so pressed for time during my working day that I rarely get to ‘check in’ to my online social scene. Social Reader allows me to sit down with my iPad (yes, I know I haven’t talked about it yet. Keep your hair on, that’s coming) at the end of the day and after a healthy dose of “real news” from apps like “Times”, “FT”, “WSJ”, “Reuters”, “Bloomberg” and “Early Edition” I can also catch up on what my friends have been reading today.

I look forward with no small degree of anticipation to future versions which I hope will knock the rough edges off this application to reveal the sparkling gem underneath.

Recommended news? Social Media revolution?

Lately I increasingly find myself ignoring the 999 links to news items in my google reader in favour of items which have been tweeted about or I’ve seen FB updates about from friends and colleagues.

Effectively I’m subverting my own choices (after all I’ve set up the google reader feeds to my tastes) to my friends.

That’s quite interesting. I’ve spent some time trying to understand the psychology behind this and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the recommendation which makes all the difference.

News, while chosen by me (in terms of sources) doesn’t have any implicit recommendation and therefore I’m less inclined to trust it or be pulled to it. When it has an implied recommendation from someone who I have an interest in then it has an automatic draw.

The obvious next thing to consider is if complete strangers have a similar “pull” effect. We accept recommendations from complete strangers as a justifiable basis to (amongst other things) purchase goods (Amazon) and trust other people (eBay) so would it be a stretch to accept complete strangers recommendations?

Of course I’m aware that sites like Digg are doing exactly this, but their model is much more about aggregating opinion rather than giving recommendations (although recommendations are implied by the numbers)… I’m talking more about recommendations targeted at me the individual, or at the small group of people who follow me (or anyone)… e.g. a story/link posted in my twitter feed.

It feels like there’s a disruptive power in that which goes beyond the “number footprint” model of Digg or Del.icio.us and co…

Then again, perhaps I’m just waking up to something obvious to everyone for years… that’s entirely possible. There are days when I feel like the Rip VanWinkle of the Social Media world anyway so it would come as no surprise to be told that I’m just 10 years behind everyone else… :>

Maybe the answer is simpler. Perhaps I’m just “getting” social media… 😉