CSCW Workshop Report – Social Networking in Organizations


I spent the day yesterday in a roomful of supersmart people discussing Social Networking in the Organization. Below you’ll find a not-especially-coherent splash of notes on the whole thing. Big thanks organizers of the workshop, who made it an interesting day and patiently tolerated my industry-skewed blathering.

Some Key Themes Discussed / Questions Raised

Going from memory here…

  • Goals and needs that populations tend to bring to social networking software. What are they?
  • Jonathan Grudin talked about the classic CSCW paper from McGrath which plots the work that goes on in groups and teams on an axis. (Haven’t read this paper…need to.) Usually people pay attention to the production portion of that plotting, but perhaps with social software we should be looking a lot more at how SNS affects the team building and member support activities of team work. Interesting.
  • Great deal of discussion on how to measure activity and assign it a value of SNS. I’d been jabbering a lot, so I did not bring up Rob Cross’s Social Network Analysis work, but Cross has an interesting angle on it.
  • Design for sales. I mentioned that occasionally we’ve built features that our clients sometimes don’t actually use, but which must be there in order to make the sale. Millen mentioned there might be a paper in there somewhere.
  • What constitutes “inappropriate” content…the kind of content that an enterprise theoretically would want to control. Profanity? Sure. Thoughtful criticism of the sponsoring company’s strategic goals? Perhaps. A survey study of different organizations to find out just what constitutes “inappropriate” would be pretty interesting.
  • Plenty more…but space / attention is limited…

Finally, I railroaded a good part of the final discussion into consideration of how moderational / monitoring controls impact population activity / contributions. Patricia Romeo from Deloitte, who has led the development of their internal social networking app, was astonished at how much monitoring / moderational control is built into the SelectMinds application (and if Patricia was astonished, the IBM people were aghast…apparently anything goes on their internal SNS).

Fair enough. There’s no doubt that more moderational / monitoring intervention = less activity, less robust network. My challenge was: can we actually study and quantify the impact of different moderational / monitoring approaches to robustness of the community? That would allow me to present clients with a cost-benefit framework around moderational control. Maybe that’s my next paper.

Some interesting topic that came up, and links

Dana Boyd – PhD researcher concentrating on “faceted identity” online. Related to my last few blog posts, will need the check these out.

HCI Remixed – Includes Grudin’s essay on McGrath’s older paper. Will need to buy this.


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