Last month I attended a very interesting event at the Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, called Social Software @ Work. I did not have a chance to write about it earlier, so I’m doing so with some delay.

At the venue House Mickeln

Social Software @ Work was organized by the information sciences department together with the English linguistics department. It was through the latter that I was invited to participate and present by Cornelius Puschmann.

Theory and Practice in Six Themes
During two days we discussed the use of social media in the workplace around 6 themes. Each of those themes was covered with both more theoretical as well as more practical examples coming from academics, companies and practitioners alike.
The six themes were measuring results, social search, current trends, communications in science, e-learning, and social media in large organizations, all in relation to social software.

During sessions

Presentation on ‘Tools in a Broader Context’
I contributed to the ‘current trends’ panel and was the last speaker of day 1.
That’s why I chose to share a bit more general story (‘The tools in broader context’) on how internet and mobile technology is changing our societies. Social software in that light is the first batch of tools that really use the new affordances internet and mobile tech give us (easy sharing, easy group forming and networking, low threshold participation, largely time and place independent) by employing human relationships as navigational structure. This requires new skills, routines and knowledge. Organizations, workplaces, learning, meetings, and even things like public tendering all change and shift towards a more networked appearance. It puts previously predictable situations in the complex realm all of a sudden. I held up the project at Rotterdam University as how ultimately that changes how we perceive ourselves, and how we define humanity. At the same time we see new waves on the horizon that are not only bringing the social digital realm into each and every ‘real life’ context (context based services) but also bring new elements to the networked environment: everyday objects (internet of things), all data elements (semantic web), production (personal production / FabLab)

People Tagging, Contactivity, and Identity
There were many other interesting presentations, out of which I will only highlight three notions that stuck with me particularly.
In the Social Search panel Simone Braun talked about ‘people tagging’ as a way to complement competence management with a bottom-up way of building your ontology of competences. People tagging, not just for competence management, to me feels like a key element when people are your path of navigation through information. When I want to know stuff about a topic I don’t immediately dive in, but look for people I know connected to the relevant topic, and then search their context for relevant information. It is why I am still very eager to find a feedreader that allows me to tag individual feeds (for me feeds mean people, I have my feedreader organized that way): I want to be able to ask my feedreader “What are information scientists I know in SE Asia saying today, what do they think is important today.” and “What are the coders in Berlin up to this week”. People tagging is important. As is the notion of augmenting taxonomies with tagging to keep your taxonomy relevant and up to date, that Simone Braun tapped into.

My friend Karsten Ehms of the Siemens Knowledge Management team in Munich talked about the internal blogging at Siemens in the panel on social software in big organizations (otherwise filled with good presentations from Sun, BASF, and Daimler). One key point he made was on the relevant measurements of success for internal blogging. In the end it’s the cross organization and the cross country connections that are build that count. The connectedness and the nature of those connections between people, which together I call contactivity. (Slide 15 in Karsten’s slideset)

Karsten Ehms on the power law of participation in Siemens internal blogging

The final presentation was given by Michael Habib of Elsevier in the panel on communications in science. In his talk on scholarly reputation management he positioned Identity as a possible centre point to a more networked approach to classical reputation ingredients in science like the number of publications and the number of times they are referenced in other work. Both of those indicators are under pressure because the whole peer review and (paper) publishing model is. Tools like Elsevier’s Scopus could use ‘identity’ as a replacement. What identity management looks like also depends on the stage of your scientific career. Seniors need different aspects of their reputation to be readily findable than when you just start. Michael’s whole slideset is worth looking at but the picture below is I think relevant to everybody when it comes to thinking about your ‘presence’ on-line.

Identity Matrix as used by Michael Habib, after the founders of ClaimID

More slide sets are on Slideshare, and more info on the program and abstracts (all in German) can be found at the event website.
This was a good event, and my stay in Dusseldorf was made all the more pleasant, as I as well as Elmine took the opportunity to visit and stay with Pedro and Patricia Custodio.