Control at the Expense of Collaboration?

October 10, 2008 CollabNet VersionOne

Amanda McPherson of the Linux Foundation penned an interesting post recently entitled ‘What’s Your Dunbar Number‘?

She had a hypothesis that the tools of the ‘social feed’ could help us to be ‘close’ to a larger number of people, but that we have to work harder in some cases to connect with those individuals. It is interesting to me that I’ll probably never meet the majority of people I follow on Twitter, though I tend to be more selective on Facebook and LinkedIn. The use of Twitter as a ‘personal Zietgiest’ (cool description by Amanda) is fascinating to me, and for all of the ‘trivial’ things that come across my Twitterific client every day, there is always at least one or two things that make me think, or that I find useful to what I’m working on.

So, if that is the case, why is it that businesses see this kind of interaction (‘community’, ‘wisdom of crowds’, etc.) as frivolous, or not worth investing time in? How can collaboration tools (yes, even those from CollabNet :)) do a better job of incorporating these tools of the new collective mindset so that there isn’t an ‘application/attention span gap’ between your ‘vocation’, and your ‘avocation’? Is there a way to take the most powerful aspects of both (plus add in your ‘social brain’) and have a customized knowledge feed spit out the other side? Is FriendFeed the beginning of this type of software? There are already attempts to ‘business-ify’ some of the ‘social media’ applications (see Yammer, a ‘Twitter for business’).

I often wonder if there is a way to quantify ‘business fun’ – the ability to use ‘fun’ to drive your business forward. At their core, a lot of Open Source communities are more often about fun than anything else. Despite the fact that there are successful Open Source projects sponsored/supported by companies who pay people to work on them, there is a body of evidence that monetary rewards aren’t everything. For example, Stormy Peters gave a great presentation at the Southern California Linux Expo (2008) where she talked about how paying people to work on Open Source can actually demotivate them.

All of this makes me question – is there a reason why we function differently when put inside of a ‘corporate bubble’? Despite the rise of collaborative tools like Wikis, blogs, IM, and the raft of web 2.0 things out there, why are some larger companies still focused on how to take ‘project management’ (a.k.a ‘control) to the web, instead of utilizing the project management tools to feed their collaboration engine? Are there companies out there who ARE doing this?

I know, more questions than answers – my sincere hope in these blog posts is to get some amount of interaction stirring, so that we can hopefully learn from each other. Please, feel free to jump in anytime. 🙂

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