Ada Lovelace Day

About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.


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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Should we provide incentives for engagement with social technology?

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

It may seem odd, but a question I get asked quite a bit is “Should we pay our staff extra, or provide some sort of bonus, for engaging with social media?” Sometimes it’s asked in the context of getting people to use an internal wiki or blog, sometimes it’s about getting them to engage externally with business-relevant communities.

My answer is always the same: No.

I have based this answer on an understanding of what drives people to engage with social tools, an understanding I have developed over the years through experience and observation. People generally use social tools because they find them useful or helpful in some way, because to do so increases their status amongst their peers or wished-for peers, because they are curious, or because the tools are enjoyable to use, amongst other reasons.

Putting a financial value on the use of social tools feels wrong. Not to mention simplistic, patronising and a gross misunderstanding of what social software is all about. I think it feels that way because social media is all about relationships, and we don’t explicitly “incentivise” (what a horrible word!) the creation and maintenance of relationships in any other context, so why would social media be different?

If I said to you, “I’ll give you £5 for every friend you make” you would rightly understand that this incentive both encourages you to be promiscuous in your friendship making (quantity over quality) and implies that you are incapable of going out and making some friends without financial reward. For some people the incentive itself would devalue the action that it is designed to encourage, thus leading to contrary behaviour.

This interpretation of my gut feeling turns out to be correct, as Samuel Bowles explains in the Harvard Business Review article, When Economic Incentives Backfire:

Experimental economists have found that offering to pay women for donating blood decreases the number willing to donate by almost half, and that letting them contribute the payment to charity reverses the effect. Consider another example: When six day-care centers in Haifa, Israel, began fining parents for late pickups, the number of tardy parents doubled. The fine seems to have reduced their ethical obligation to avoid inconveniencing the teachers and led them to think of lateness as simply a commodity they could purchase.

It seems that scenarios where altruistic, or other social behaviours, are involved a financial incentive devalues the behaviour to the level of an economic transaction, removing the moral and ethical aspect and making it easier to behave badly.

The psychology of social tools has not been adequately* examined, but I suspect there is an altruistic component, despite the fact that I often appeal to self-interest when discussing adoption. When you look at a healthy wiki, some people spend time tidying up other people’s work for no real recognition or reward, a behaviour that could easily be interpreted as altruistic. There are similar altruistic or semi-altruistic behaviours in other tools too. Using tags/categories on blog posts to enable discovery could be an altruistic behaviour if the author themselves never actually benefits from having used tags/categories, e.g. never goes back to look a their old entries.

To social media people, all this is blindingly obvious, but the incentive question is one that I get asked often enough that it’s something I feel we need to address and nip in the bud.

* Did I say ‘adequately’? Aah, the wonders of British understatement.

Monday, October 13th, 2008

A recession: Perfect time to implement social software

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

We’re in recession. The global economy has bronchitis and is coughing up dead and dying banks all over the place. Governments are scrambling to put together bailout plans. The housing market has zombified, with house values plummeting and foreclosures sky-rocketing. Consumers have no disposable income and are struggling with food and fuel prices. Businesses everywhere are pulling their horns in, wondering how - and if - they are going to survive.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that businesses reconsider how they communicate, collaborate and converse, which means that the most important thing they can do is invest in social tools. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, Suw, what are you smoking?” But bear with me here.

Recessions mean you have to do more with less. You can’t afford to have your people wasting time, even unintentionally, using inefficient tools or sticking with bad habits. For many, that means that email is a liability. As I found when I was researching my article for the Guardian on email, some people in business are checking their email every five minutes. Given that it takes some 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after being interrupted by a ‘new mail’ alert, that’s over 8 hours wasted each week.

Of course, that’s not the only way that time is frittered away in the course of day to day activities. Using email to collaborate on documents is astonishingly wasteful, compared to working on a wiki. We lack studies that specifically look at how email is used in this way and how long it takes to collaborate via email attachment compared to on a wiki page, but my experience is that using a wiki really cuts down on the time and effort required to co-author a document.

Then there’s duplication of effort. I did some work with a company recently who had started to use social tools to improve collaboration. One unexpected side effect was the discovering that there were two teams, in different locations, both trying to solve the same problem. Once they knew that they were both working on the same thing, they could share resources, information and expertise.

Institutional knowledge also often gets lost: people end up re-learning what others already know, because there’s just no communication between them. That’s especially true of day-to-day knowledge which is important, but not the sort of thing that gets encoded into documentation (which is out of date as soon as it’s published anyway). Opening up the conversation by encouraging people to do their work on a wiki is a great way to capture information as it happens. It’s not about cataloguing it after the fact, but keeping info alive as a side-effect of just getting on with things. In a recession, you can’t afford to be reinventing the wheel all the time.

A recession is also not a great time to just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. But businesses don’t need to experiment, they just need to work with people who truly understand social tools. More than anything, businesses need to invest in their people, in understanding how they work right now and how they could be working.

Personally, I fail to see how any business right now can afford not to address the inefficiencies inherent in their organisation’s existing comms tools. Now, more than ever, businesses need to raise their game, improve communication, improve collaboration, improve conversation. But in this climate, they can’t afford to get it wrong - there’s no slack in the system anymore. Luckily, there’s no need to get it wrong. There are some great people out there who can help you do it right.

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 Forum - video

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

The video of my presentation at the Enterprise 2.0 Forum in Cologne on 18th September is now up on the Enterprise2Open blog. Unfortunately I can’t seem to embed it here, and the audio quality’s a bit overdriven, but if you’re curious about how to nurture the adoption of social tools in business, you might want to give it a shot.

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Two dates for your diary

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

As promised last week, I’ve got the dates for my next two Fruitful Seminars in September. The third seminar is still up for grabs, so go and vote now!

The Email Problem and How To Solve It
Wednesday 3rd September 2008

As we move towards a knowledge-based economy, email is becoming an unavoidable part of business life. But not only do some people have to deal with hundreds of emails a day, many of them unnecessary, the ‘always on’ culture of the Blackberry means they can never escape their inbox.

Reducing people’s dependence on email is easier said than done, however. Arbitrary rules like ‘No Email Days’ or tight inbox limits just add to people’s stress and don’t reduce the amount of email people send. This is because the problem with email is psychological, not technical, so such solutions treat only the symptoms and not the cause.

Social media expert Suw Charman-Anderson will take a look what’s at the root of the email problem, and how it can be solved using social tools. During the day you will hear an alternative view of email and will be able to discuss the issues you face in your own company. By the end of the seminar you will have a thorough understanding of the behavioural problems related to email and a clear set of next steps to take.

Who should come?

  • CXO executives
  • IT executives
  • Managers
  • Team leaders
  • Decision makers
  • Social media practitioners
  • Social media vendors

Or anyone in situations similar to these:

  • You are responsible for managing email infrastructure and have problems such as over-full inboxes or unnecessary file duplication across accounts.
  • You have observed poor ‘email health’ amongst team members, perhaps including obsessive email checking coupled with delays in processing email.
  • You are concerned about unhealthy patterns of email use across your business and related inefficient use of IT resources.
  • You are an executive or manager who just can’t cope with all your email, much of which is a waste of your time, and you want a better way to work.

Making Social Tools Ubiquitous
Wednesday 10th September 2008

You may have heard that social tools - such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and social networking - can help you improve business communications, increase collaboration and nurture innovation. And with open source tools, you can pilot projects easily and cheaply. But what do you do if people won’t use them? And how do you grow from a pilot to company-wide use?

Social media expert Suw Charman-Anderson will take a practical look at the adoption of social tools within your business. During the day you will create a scalable and practical social media adoption strategy and discuss your own specific issues with the group. By the end of the seminar you will have a clear set of next steps to apply to your own collaborative tools project.

Who should come?

  • CXO executives
  • managers
  • team leaders
  • decision makers
  • social media practitioners
  • social media vendors

Or anyone in situations similar to these:

  • You have already installed some social tools for internal communications and collaboration, but aren’t getting the take-up you had hoped for.
  • You have successfully completed a pilot and want to roll-out to the rest of the company.
  • You want to start using social tools and need a strategy for fostering adoption.
  • You sell social software or services and want to understand how your clients can foster adoption of your tool.

If you want to be kept up to date with Fruitful Seminar news and discussion, then please do join our Google Group. And don’t forget to sign up to Lloyd Davis’ social media masterclass on 16 July!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

First Fruitful Seminar a success; three more in the pipeline

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

I’m delighted to say that the first Fruitful Seminar on the adoption of social media in enterprise, Making Social Tools Ubiquitous, last Friday was a bit of a hit! I had a fabulous time, and I got some great feedback on the day, so I’m looking forward to running it again. Quite a few people said that they were interested in coming but couldn’t make it that particular day, so I am going to repeat the same seminar, probably on 10th September. Put the date in your diary and keep an eye out for the registration page to go live!

I am also going to run two other seminars in September. One will be on The Email Problem: Email used to be a fantastically useful communications tool, but in recent years it has become more of a burden, with people struggling to read and respond to all of the email they receive. Some companies have tried “No Email Days”, but these put off the problem, they don’t solve it. If, however, you start to examine email as a psychological problem instead of a technological one, different solutions become apparent. This seminar, The Email Problem And How To Solve It will take an innovative look at email and the different ways that social media can reduce its use.

This leaves me with a slot free, and I’d like to put my seminar ideas to a popular vote. These are the options:

1. Social Media in Internal Communications: How can internal comms and HR departments use social media to help them effectively communicate with their constituency? How can you ensure that people have the information they need, when they need it? And how do you engage with your constituency and collect meaningful feedback?

2. Giving It Away - Open IP in Business: You’ve got some intellectual property, but how do you maximise its value to your business? Can giving it away actually earn you money? What is ‘Creative Commons’ and how do you choose a licence?

3. Using Social Tools in Journalism: Forget old-school arguments about bloggers vs. journalism - reality is much more interesting than that! How can you use social tools to organise your own information and help yourself work more efficiently? How can you engage with your audience using social tools? And how do you run a networked journalism project? (Maybe, just maybe, I might be able to persuade a famous journo-blogger to help me present this one!)

So…

And don’t forget, Lloyd Davis’ seminar, Mastering Social Media, is on 16 July and still has some places left, so sign up soon!