‘Groups’ an important concept in enterprise2.0

By August 30, 2007Enterprise2.0

When I think about enterprise2.0 I think lightweight collaboration.  For a while now I have been thinking that easy to use shared work spaces like Huddle and Basecamp is the main component.  Recently I have started to think that micro-blogging is also important (status updates to Huddle anyone?).

Today I am thinking ‘Groups’ is an equally important concept.

The thought comes from Clay Shirky, FOUR WHOLE YEARS AGO in this piece (thanks to JP for the tipoff in Social Software is Political Science in Executable Form – with a title like that I was always going to read it).

Collaboration happens in groups.  Without groups there is no collaboration – they are as fundamental as that.  As well as being important they are far from simple.  As Clay points out they have goals, membership processes and rules that govern behaviour.

As an example from venture capital, we form groups to execute deals.  They are small, limited time, single purpose groups formed to manage deal execution through to completion.  Membership is by invitation only and mandatory for those invited.  Membership processes and rules are rarely defined explicitly, but come from the roles of the different participants – investor, lawyer, advisor, investee, supplier, client etc.  Unfortunately there is no easy online tool that we use (there are tools I have tried to use, but that is a different story…).

There are of course many different types of group.  Others are much larger, have more permanence and more fluid rules and purposes.

Finally, they exist in many different places – Facebook, mailing lists, project management software, collaboration tools, etc. etc.

A lot of complexity!

And a pressing need for tools to manage it :).  In a simple, lightweight, non-proscriptive fashion of course.  Which won’t be easy – but there is a lot of value there for the company that gets it right.

  • There are a lot of “group applications” out there, and now tools for building social networks can be pretty easily mashed. Maps, Presence, docs, email, IM…. perhaps this might be termed “light-weight” group collaboration…. each vertical is likely to have its own spin on what’s needed specifically for them. What’s your take?

  • There are a lot of “group applications” out there, and now tools for building social networks can be pretty easily mashed. Maps, Presence, docs, email, IM…. perhaps this might be termed “light-weight” group collaboration…. each vertical is likely to have its own spin on what’s needed specifically for them. What’s your take?

  • Nic,

    I would be interested to get your feedback on our application: Web Groups. It aims at the heart of your comments.

    http://www.mercurygrove.com

  • Nic,

    I would be interested to get your feedback on our application: Web Groups. It aims at the heart of your comments.

    http://www.mercurygrove.com

  • As an early adopter I used to maintain FirstClass servers in the early 90’s for my research partners and my students. FC had so much of the functionality of two-point-oh! Genericly we used to call to call this stuff groupware and in academic terms the domain was computer-supported-collaborative-working (CSCW). FC still seems to offer a lot. I had a world wide usage of 1500 – and virtually no unautomated maintenance. Users had rights to configure their own environments and set up “conferences” ie collaborativework-groups around a subject within a couple of clicks. Pretty formating, embedding quicktime, audio messaging, poking, twittering, reception on your mobile phone, sending from your mobile phone….. it was (and still is) all there.

  • As an early adopter I used to maintain FirstClass servers in the early 90’s for my research partners and my students. FC had so much of the functionality of two-point-oh! Genericly we used to call to call this stuff groupware and in academic terms the domain was computer-supported-collaborative-working (CSCW). FC still seems to offer a lot. I had a world wide usage of 1500 – and virtually no unautomated maintenance. Users had rights to configure their own environments and set up “conferences” ie collaborativework-groups around a subject within a couple of clicks. Pretty formating, embedding quicktime, audio messaging, poking, twittering, reception on your mobile phone, sending from your mobile phone….. it was (and still is) all there.

  • nic

    Thanks guys.

    Paul – what I am wondering is if the group management functionality can be/should be abstracted from the other elements of collaboration you list. Different verticals will have different requirements, and I guess the other big question re this as an opportunity around which to build a company, is whether the differences are small enough that you can serve them all with the same basic product.

  • nic

    Thanks guys.

    Paul – what I am wondering is if the group management functionality can be/should be abstracted from the other elements of collaboration you list. Different verticals will have different requirements, and I guess the other big question re this as an opportunity around which to build a company, is whether the differences are small enough that you can serve them all with the same basic product.

  • Maybe facebook has some interesting lessons to teach us all about what people want from a group and what the “data inside” looks like. i.e. it groups information and reports it at one time, it prioritises information that is “close to you”, and it gives you “a view” on information that is tertiary to you (friends you kinda know, who if they were doing something where their might be benefit in putting out a “stay alive” message (in networking terms, you ping them!). From a telecommunications point of view we want to see our exposure to others as “faceted”, and we want our information, attention and interruption flows to be faceted to each facet of the group, and in a way, this is like the iLike application: by knowing what we all like, or declare, we can begin to facet the information flows. I cant think of any value in “groups” or “grouping” as a term, unless you are thinking of porting a Group from platform to platform, as one might port an individual identity, as per OpenID. GroupID anyone?

  • Maybe facebook has some interesting lessons to teach us all about what people want from a group and what the “data inside” looks like. i.e. it groups information and reports it at one time, it prioritises information that is “close to you”, and it gives you “a view” on information that is tertiary to you (friends you kinda know, who if they were doing something where their might be benefit in putting out a “stay alive” message (in networking terms, you ping them!). From a telecommunications point of view we want to see our exposure to others as “faceted”, and we want our information, attention and interruption flows to be faceted to each facet of the group, and in a way, this is like the iLike application: by knowing what we all like, or declare, we can begin to facet the information flows. I cant think of any value in “groups” or “grouping” as a term, unless you are thinking of porting a Group from platform to platform, as one might port an individual identity, as per OpenID. GroupID anyone?

  • nic

    In your example Facebook and ILike are applications that individual groups might use to govern their activity. Others are home grown sites like Slashdot or Digg. I am talking about software which could provide common functionality across all these platforms.

  • nic

    In your example Facebook and ILike are applications that individual groups might use to govern their activity. Others are home grown sites like Slashdot or Digg. I am talking about software which could provide common functionality across all these platforms.

  • Ok. I get where you are coming from.

  • Ok. I get where you are coming from.

  • Roth

    Are you only concerned with group collaboration tools for enterprise or across all mediums i.e. social sites? What do you think about group collaboration as a means to increase openness between social sites and engagement of the audiences to use these sites? There has been a good deal of thought lately on the social graph and portability. What do you think about using groups to increase portability or interoperability through positioning between/as a hub to the larger social sites. So using collaboration tools to bring users together for productivity in any terms.

  • Roth

    Are you only concerned with group collaboration tools for enterprise or across all mediums i.e. social sites? What do you think about group collaboration as a means to increase openness between social sites and engagement of the audiences to use these sites? There has been a good deal of thought lately on the social graph and portability. What do you think about using groups to increase portability or interoperability through positioning between/as a hub to the larger social sites. So using collaboration tools to bring users together for productivity in any terms.

  • nic

    I think the distinction between social sites and enterprise use is disappearing – take a look at the widespread corporate use of Facebook.

    Most users of social sites are members of multiple overlapping groups though, which makes it difficult to see how the groups themselves will help portability. If I go with one group from Facebook to Bebo then by default I have to leave all the other groups I’m a member of.

  • nic

    I think the distinction between social sites and enterprise use is disappearing – take a look at the widespread corporate use of Facebook.

    Most users of social sites are members of multiple overlapping groups though, which makes it difficult to see how the groups themselves will help portability. If I go with one group from Facebook to Bebo then by default I have to leave all the other groups I’m a member of.

  • Roth

    nic,

    I see what you are saying. I’ve been giving both of these issues a lot of thought lately and have been trying to work out a solution to more interactive online networking and social portability. I think the two can go hand in hand when we talk about bringing together networks and managing those networks.

    I feel that the answer lies in a platform to foster more social interaction online through groups of aggregated social users from around the web. So that, a MySpace user, Facebook user and Bebo user could all interact together on the platform that sits independently by parsing their data and bundling it into a neat packet. They could then use that online ID packet to interact in the personal group setting.

    Therefore you are creating a platform for openness and also for creating and managing dynamic groups. Do you have any thoughts on that approach?

  • Roth

    nic,

    I see what you are saying. I’ve been giving both of these issues a lot of thought lately and have been trying to work out a solution to more interactive online networking and social portability. I think the two can go hand in hand when we talk about bringing together networks and managing those networks.

    I feel that the answer lies in a platform to foster more social interaction online through groups of aggregated social users from around the web. So that, a MySpace user, Facebook user and Bebo user could all interact together on the platform that sits independently by parsing their data and bundling it into a neat packet. They could then use that online ID packet to interact in the personal group setting.

    Therefore you are creating a platform for openness and also for creating and managing dynamic groups. Do you have any thoughts on that approach?