Some Friday evening ruminations around Facebook et al

I guess I used to be a CIO for a while. At least that’s what my business card said. I have so far not been able to convince my employers, past or present, to let me call myself Grand Panjandrum or (my current preference) CXO (formally expanded as Chief Something-Or-The-Other). So CIO it was, and CIO it had to be. At least until recently, when I reverted to being a Managing Director, something else I used to be multiple iterations ago, in both my previous incarnations.

Because I was a CIO for a while, I became part of a network. Many networks. An embattled breed, CIOs tend to work together, ask each other for advice, share experiences and issues. Which is a good thing. Cross-enterprise collaboration is always a good thing.

Over the last eighteen months or so, one of the questions I got asked regularly was my attitude to Facebook. Some of the questioners read my blog, so they want to know why I am so pro Facebook. Others, less aware of my position, just want to know what my employers think. What stance we take.

So a lot of guys asked me about Facebook. Which was interesting. Because these guys never asked me my stance on MySpace. Or Bebo. Or CyWorld. Or Flickr. Or LinkedIn. Or Plaxo. Or Spoke. Or Xing. [For completeness’s sake, I should point out that a few of them did ask me about YouTube, particularly after there were rumours of an Amarillo video taking down the army’s network.]

Why is Facebook different? I don’t quite know, but it is. Stuff like MySpace and Bebo are overtly narcissistic, it’s all about how you express yourself. Facebook, on the other hand, is about relationships and conversations. I guess you can say that about LinkedIn as well, but it’s not the same thing. LinkedIn is a very narrow one-dimensional conversation. If you’re not looking to hire or be hired, it’s not a place to go. I may have a few hundred connections on LinkedIn, but the reality is that it becomes a useful virtual address book for me, one that gets kept up to date by the person who owns the address.

So that’s my guess, that Facebook is a multidimensional conversation. Why is that important to the enterprise? Why is it important to work-life balance? These are questions I will seek to answer over the next two days. If you’re interested, keep an eye out.

3 thoughts on “Some Friday evening ruminations around Facebook et al”

  1. Why is Facebook different? Why is social networking important? What does it do for you, and why do you do it?

    Important questions, and also asked by Chris Brogan (

    Facebook is flavour of the month; it;s used by a lot of corporates, and a lot of youngsters, who aren’t MySpace user.

    I told him:
    “What do social networks do for me? Don’t know all they’ll do for me yet, but let’s start with:
    Lets me interact with my CEO in a way I didn’t expect;
    turned me onto VRM and Doc Searls;
    let me learn a whole heap about things like jaiku ‘n twitter ‘n tumblr;
    started me blogging again;
    got me back into learning about the changes in this space;
    and hey, lets me keep in touch with what my family are doing too!

    That’s not too bad, is it.
    Lifelong learning is pretty cool.”

    Your employer may have views about YouTube, and I’m trying to persuade them to engage with Facebook more actively.

  2. JP,
    Jeff Pulver has an interesting take on this. Believe it or not, posted today in a note on Facebook. I am still thinking about it too but I agree that it’s different than the others. I think the clue is on the login page where Facebook describes itself as a social “utility” not as a network. Defining it that way makes it more about something that is flexible and useful to me. I also think Facebook’s simple design and ability to customize programs rather than backgrounds makes it a better tool for more people. Will be interested to read your thoughts.

Let me know what you think

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