Wikis or Blogs? In an eye-opening blog post, Andrew McAfee  talks about “How to Hit the Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye“. His theoretical foundation is derived from Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties” — applied to social computing. In a nutshell, McAfee argues that the we need to look at social relationships from the perspective of their relative strengths. While we each have a small circle of trust (“strong ties”) we also have several hundred if not more “weak tie” relationships. The insight into the social computing world is that a tool like Wiki is useful for people with strong ties working closely together, while Blogs can be seen as a way of both nurturing and creating new weak ties. Don’t you feel like you start knowing me already as you read this post?
The opposite view is that strong relationships are what we use to derive “real value” from a social network– see Brian Goodman’s post “Getting the brain to swell” as well as a Cory Doctorow podcast about why people migrate from one popular social network to the next (to get rid of all the weak connections accumulating in Friendster, MySpace, and now Facebook).
In a long-tail business model like Facebook, everyone is a “friend” — colleague, boss, spouse, golf buddies — and, as Brian correctly states, any extra step in the registration process is considered a nuisance — a strong incentive to simplify it. In one of my previous posts I’ve talked about this very problem — and suggested that we need to build a social-network-equivalent in the corporate world that actually makes an attempt to classify relationships beyond the binary.
In the good scientific and engineering tradition of over-analyzing any problem, I hope we will not have a full relationship taxonomy implemented in the next enterprise social computing solution — but we may want go beyond “friend”.