I’ve been reading a lot, as you would expect. In this context, I would strongly recommend danah boyd’s months-old article on the subject, titled Social Network Sites: Public, Private or What? I was particularly struck by this quote early in the article:
What it means to be public or private is quickly changing before our eyes and we lack the language, social norms, and structures to handle it.
This is as true within the enterprise as it is amongst individuals “outside” the enterprise. Over the years, as we’ve seen a plethora of communications tools, techniques and devices invade the enterprise space, there’s been a corresponding change in the very concepts of privacy and confidentiality, when placed in the enterprise context.
The persistence, archival, retrieval and searchability characteristics that danah refers to is something I’ve been writing about for quite some time, as part of the Four Pillars approach. When I went down the Four Pillars route in 2004-05, I was quite heavily influenced by my working in a regulated industry.
Which is why I find some of the enterprise pushbacks on social networks mildly amusing. Even without the existence of social networks, there has been a gradual move towards openness and transparency in most regulated industries, with the consequent requirement to record and make retrievable all kinds of conversations. Many firms spend large amounts of money doing just that. So why not consider implementing something that looks remarkably like a social network within the enterprise?