The power of context

I had the pleasure of spending some time this morning with Don Tapscott, who dropped in to see me at the office. Don is someone I’ve tracked ever since I read Paradigm Shift maybe fifteen years ago. Fascinating book. He was in the country doing a number of seminars around Wikinomics, his most recent book, and we’d arranged to meet.

The conversation meandered across a wild range of subjects,  all linked, to a lesser or greater extent, to that strange space where the enterprise meets social software.  And one of the subjects we touched on for a while was the power of context. Conversations using social software tend to be wrapped in context, a context that is portable across time and space, with a significant reduction in switching costs as a result.

You only have to use a decent “true” group IM application once to know what I mean. It becomes easy to figure out who’s doing the “talking”, something that isn’t all that easy in audio conferences. For some reason, the socially induced begging-your-pardon pregnant pauses that occur in audio or video conference tend to be minimised in group chat. If the baby needs seeing to, or there’s something on the hob about to go ballistic, you can walk away, attend to the pressing need and return to the conversation with complete continuity guaranteed. You can see what you missed. Where you have global distributed teams, you can even minimise losses due to translation errors, they tend to occur more frequently in speech rather than in “written talk”.

Who spoke. Who spoke before. What was said before. In what sequence. On what subject. For how long. Who interrupted. Who was there. Where was all this. When. Why. Everything. Those are some of the things I mean by conversation wrapped in context. And it will get better. As the tools get better.

Now some of you may be thinking, JP’s completely nuts, there is no better context than live speech, who needs any of this contextual wrapper horse manure? And if you feel that way, I understand. Told you I was Confused. All I can do is to offer you, for your particular weekend delectation, this story of what happens when, for some reason, you don’t have all the context you need in a real live conversation. Enjoy.

3 thoughts on “The power of context”

  1. In case you missed it, the concepts of Wikinomics are being translated into real world enterprises. Don Tapscott is working with Steve Papermaster and nGenera to implement the concepts of the book into the Global 2000 companies. Click the link to learn more.

  2. Thanks Mike. I know both Don and Steve. In fact I’m due to be seeing Steve in London very shortly.

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