Facebook and the enterprise: Part 2

Yesterday’s post on Facebook and the enterprise seems to have elicited quite a few comments, so I thought I’d carry on where I left off, catalysed by what you’ve had to say.

Tom Foremski raises the issue of Facebook’s addictiveness. I think this is really important.

What does this addictiveness represent? Ease of use? Simplicity and convenience? Value?

A quarter of a century ago, I remember when the first Trivial Pursuit games turned up in the UK from Canada. It seemed to me that everyone was playing it, rashes of TP were breaking out at work during lunch breaks and even at dinner parties. A while later, another rash broke out. This time it was Rubik’s Cube. In a weird kind of way the more recent “addictions” to Sudoku are clear parallels.

We’ve had addictions before, but our ability to embed them into our work-life balances was negligible. I guess one could argue that Rubik or Sudoku improved problem-solving skills, one could argue that Trivial Pursuit helped team-building, but that’s about it. Where does something like Facebook fit into this?

I think Facebook is different. A different form of addiction altogether. It’s more like Bloomberg Professional. Now my memory’s not that hot any more, but what I remember is that the Bloomberg Terminal and professional service were originally targeted at buy-side firms and the investment professionals they employed. That the original service included an almost-accidental feature, messaging, that really took off and later became the reason why people flocked to Bloomberg in those days. [Sean, help me out here, your memory’s better than mine….]

Bloomberg messaging was addictive. But whom was it addictive for? Buy-side firms. Staffed by people who might just have had a disproportionate interest in making money. These guys were not into wasting time, they were pretty much single-dimensional about work and work and oodles of dosh. And more oodles. So why would they go crazy about the “chat” facility?

Because they got Cluetrain, that markets are conversations. They got Doc’s Nigerian pastor, that relationships come first. They got the Middle Eastern souk approach and tied these things together: relationship before conversation before transaction.

I think Facebook is a bit like that. There’s something about it that mirrors the relationship-conversation-transaction structure, and that’s what makes it addictive.

A coda. I have a hunch that many of the firms that are “banning” Facebook are doing nothing of the sort. It’s probably happening by default. What is probably happening is this: Companies buy lists of sites to ban for a variety of reasons, covering stuff like pornography and illegal gambling and pump-and-dump sites and dating rooms and so on. Now this is a sensible thing to do. Provided.

Provided the lists make sense. Sometimes they don’t. And my guess is sometime recently, someone somewhere went and put Facebook on a banned list. The list was bought by hundreds of companies as part of their security and protection services. And overnight Facebook was banned. Without anyone actually taking a strategic decision. Or even a tactical one. The trouble with decisions like this is that the larger the company, the harder it is to overturn default decisions.

You’d be surprised how often stuff like this happens.

More to come. Next I shall concentrate on Facebook and Knowledge Management.

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