Proud plumbing

by Robin Harris on Friday, 1 June, 2007

So why did Cisco buy social-networking software provider Tribe?
John Chambers, Cisco CEO, is quoted in the D/ blog on the Wall Street Journal website (it might be open to non-subscribers, but I’m in an airplane right now and can’t check)

“A lot of this social networking kids do is absolutely going to drive business and drive business in a big way,” said Mr. Chambers. . . . He envisions a world where Cisco provides the gear and software that corporations can use to maintain online communities for their employees and collaborate on projects.

I think he’s right. Social networking for business is the cyberspace instantiation of the flat organizations developed over the last 20 years.

On FaceBook no one knows you’re a dog
Imagine a business whose executives know they need a new direction for a key division. Set up an anonymous social networking site and give every employee an account. Throw some questions about what the possible opportunities could be and see what happens.

In an anonymous world the usual suck-ups won’t be blowing smoke at the boss, since they won’t be able to tell who it is. The bright kid in the mail room will have the same opportunity as the dead-ended middle-manager to show what they can do. And the senior execs will the opportunity – and the responsibility – to show their creativity and receptivity as new ideas develop.

OK, how about a more likely scenario?
Few executives have the humility to put themselves out like that. So a more likely example is manufacturer with lots of independent dealers hosts a site for the dealers to pass on experiences, photos, tips and requests. Lubricated by incentives, some will emerge as leaders of the on-line community whose know-how enables new dealers to ramp faster and veteran dealers to more easily adapt and expand in response to changing markets.

So who is going to provide the storage?
Social networking often, but not always, builds on user-contributed content. That content tends to be easy to create and high-growth: photos, videos, audio recordings and short text messages. Most of the data will be cool – accessed sporadically – and whatever gets popular should get cached. Cheap rules.

The StorageMojo take
Computer-based social networks go back to the days of 300 baud modems and BBS’s. Big markets ride on basic human desires. Certainly the desire to communicate is one of those. It won’t be easy, but businesses that integrate that desire into their businesses will build large and loyal audiences.

Comments welcome. I’m on the road so moderation will be a little slower than usual.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Pearson June 1, 2007 at 10:33 am

RE: “but I’m in an airplane right now and can’t check)”

Why is that?
Can you use your Blackberry or Blackberry equivalent for voice or IM or text or Internet? Why is that?
Are you in a Social Networking vacuum in the air?

Social Networking has been around as long as people.
When people lived in close knit communities word-of-mouth spread Information about people, events, movies, music, restaurants, etc.

Now that no one knows their neighbors, doesn’t trust them and is afraid to speak to them the “MEDIA” or “THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE” has come true. For some unknown reason people trust the “MEDIUM”.

Once it was television, the opiate of the masses,
Today it is Internet enabled, the “get high”, “feel good” and “no one will know” cloak of anonymity.
It behooves companies trying to take advantage of Web 2.0 and soon 3.0 capabilities to understand and attempt to “exploit for profit” those capabilities.

When Microsoft embedded their own “spyware” in Windows, DOS had too little capability and XENIX had none, it was a great marketing coup.
Bill Gates is the greatest marketeer since P.T. Barnum.
Who else could have convinced Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world, to give his wealth to Bill Gates, making him the richest man in the world.

Why did Microsoft embed their “spyware” in Windows? They did it to profile millions of PC’s for marketing Information. It has worked like a charm.

My guess is, and it is a personal guess, Cisco wants to be ahead of the wave crest to maximize the “Long Tail” ride to profits home.

Just imagine the wealth of marketing Information generated by YouTube.
It boggles the mind!!!

P.S – way down at the infrastructure level you will need SOA to manage this Information because most of it is ad hoc and so are the users.

Robin Harris June 4, 2007 at 11:20 pm

Robert,

You cover a lot of ground here. A couple of points:

  • I have a lot of respect for Bill’s (Melinda’s?) vision of using technology to eradicate some ancient ills. Warren is no fool. He supports it because he is humble enough to know he could do no better and would probably do worse. He is a smart man.
  • YouTube: You are what you watch. And surf. And search. And download. I’m more concerned about the “marketing” info the US government is developing on all of us. The government has party hacks as powerful prosecutors. Google is making itself a giant target for the government, but don’t confuse them with the government.
  • As for Tribe. I think Cisco wants to propagate network-based sub-group aggregation. I think it is good for powerful businesses to embrace and support cultural differentiation. Sure, they just want to make a buck. So what?

Cheers,

Robin

Robert Pearson June 5, 2007 at 7:16 pm

RE: “Cisco wants to propagate network-based sub-group aggregation”
—and—
RE: “So who is going to provide the storage?”

The Big Picture is, as all the crime shows say, “Follow the money”.

I spent most of my working career at the WorkGroup level.
Are WorkGroups roughly what you mean by “network-based sub-group aggregation”?
I have been tracking the Cultural CCC (Collaborative Content Creation) groups as I can find them. There are many other aggregators other than cultural but my interest currently is mostly in Social CCC.

WorkGroups just benefit from the big server backbones. Greatly. But they can exist stand-a-lone and have a TCO and ROI that are meaningful. With a tool like iSCSI. I always had trouble justifying big server backbones if everything could be handled at the WorkGroup level.

Now we are probably talking more about a Grid Strategy and architecture using iSCSI for low TCO for Workgroups rather than Client/Server.

If Cisco has found a business driver for CCC and Social CCC or any other WorkGroup then more power to them.

I respect Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet as exceptional people. Especially Melinda. To stand that close to a person like Bill and not be absorbed is pretty unique. Much less to be out front with your own agenda. That takes some incredible focus and management skills.

Just as a brief history note.
I first, and only, met Bill Gates when he would come to HAL-PC in Houston. HAL-PC was the largest PC User Group in the US at that time. He would present and then come off the stage and answer questions for as long as his people would let him stay. He went from wearing business casual clothes to “the suit”. He stopped coming when he started wearing “the suit” and his staff got upgraded to very professional. And I mean very professional. The best.
Bill has worked hard for where he is. I wish him well.

Ciao! Robert

Robin Harris June 5, 2007 at 7:37 pm

Robert,

These are “larger than workgroups” groups – hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who share an interest and want to contribute to developing that interest. That is what I mean by – god, did I really say that? – “network-based sub-group aggregation”. By virtue, at least, of their interest they make themselves important.

Every business wants people to use its product or service. To the extent that social networking helps make that happen it will become a major investment area. People will do a lot for something they believe in for a little recognition. That is a powerful force for businesses that can learn to tap into it.

Robin

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