April 27, 2009

Changes Going Against the Grain

I recently heard Ed Brill (yes, the Ed Brill) speak about enterprise social networking. Overall the talk was very well done. Ed did a really good job of detecting the audience's understanding of the topic. Since everybody that attended the talk was educated on the subject, he could skip over some background content, which I appreciated.

The focus of Ed's talk detailed corporations use of blogs and social networking to their advantage. He brought up some good general guidelines about corporate blogging. Instead of having product blogs, companies should have individual blogs about products. This gives blog posts a more personal voice, which makes it easier for other people to connect to the blog. Also, companies should establish a blogging standard (Ed mentioned IBM's) for employees to follow. This is an extension of the companies corporate policy, and it helps to establish a standard of quality among corporate bloggers.

One part of Ed's talk was of particular interest to me. Popular, High visibility products/services typically have a strong online community that supports the product. High-traffic sites like Facebook fall into this category. Everyone is on Facebook, and the average user is there frequently (Facebook has a great statistics page). Users love Facebook, but there is chaos whenever Facebook tries to make a change. I asked Ed for input - how are "against the grain" changes are made? Because if it is working, why would it need to be changed?

Ed responded with by saying that the product/service has to be worth defending to make significant changes. Since Facebook is a great service, it is worth the extra effort in defending it when it is changed. Ed went on to say that changes should be made public before they happen, and that users should be aware of upcoming changes. Ed also mentioned that customer reviews carried more weight than any other statistic - so power users of the product/service should support the change before it happens.

Facebook is definitely worth defending, so it is continuously improved. Most of the time, its users are accepting of system changes, but there will always be demands to bring the old Facebook back.

When a product/service is high visibility, there will be more opponents of changing the it for the better. There is reduced risk when things stay the same because of the critical mass of users. But with this reduced risk, there is missed opportunity. High visibility products/services should still have the ability to adapt - even when users are satisfied with staying the same.


  1. First, I would say that Facebook does a nice job of this with their users, but they screw their developers regularly.

    I really liked the voice point. It seems like 37signals does a decent job passing off their nearly pure product blog because their writers have great voice, but there are many terrible examples. I think many of Google's blogs are too cookie cutter. They always say the same thing in the same way.

    I hope our personal blogs can help us be better "corporate" bloggers if we get there. :)

  2. The point about Twitter being "moment-in-time" info was great too. If you are away for a week and come back, you really didn't miss anything.

    Also, his view that RSS feels like email and nags at you was interesting too. Last comment, I promise.

  3. Nate - keep the comments rolling. Let's plan a series on adopting a blogging standard and building a community of Raikes bloggers. We'll do that after Italy, of course.