June 24, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Can Google Create A Collaboration Society?

Can Google Create A Collaboration Society?

One of the key elements of sharing knowledge is that everyone has to play nice together in the sandbox. That means transitioning a team from Orwell’s “knowledge is power” to creating learning organizations that can innovate.

Google Wave, the collaboration platform introduced by Google a few months ago, allows users to work together and simultaneously edit documents, spreadsheets, photo albums, maps, and many other types of emerging media. It’s a great platform for those who are predisposed to collaborating and less in search of personal kudos. It’s that last requirement of sharing knowledge that causes some people to give a Wave a pass.

Social Media networks work much the same as person-to-person professional networks. If you work at improving your professional network every day and have a goal in mind, you will likely succeed. Chances are you’ve set goals so you can define success.

Social Media circles work the same way: If you work at improving your network every day with your goals in mind, and stay aware how you’re being perceived, your goals may well be within reach.

In both cases, it’s listening and sharing relevant content that makes for a well-paced, steady winning strategy. What I’ve learned about people who are active on social media networks is they are generally early adopters who are willing to give new things a try, share what they’ve learned, and give feedback to try and make the product better suit their needs. They are clearly “knowledge sharers.”

This begs the question, considering Google Wave and their new product, Buzz, is Google actually trying to create a society of collaborators?

This week, Google Buzz was introduced as an optional addition to Gmail accounts. Normally, just click a check box and you have access to a new feature. Buzz required you to go to a different site (and another site for your mobile device) to activate it. The reason: It shares a lot of information.

“Google Buzz,” according to the official Google blog, “is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting.” Smoothly integrated into the Gmail platform, it adds Twitter and Facebook-like updates based on your contacts in your e-mail contacts list.

“The first thing we all do when we find something interesting is share it. More and more, this kind of sharing takes place on line” according to a promotional video. Since you automatically “follow” the people you e-mail the most, you just need to set up a private or public setting.

What’s different from some of the other social sites is that Buzz shows images and plays videos right with the content. This is something that Google Wave can do well.

Of interest is how well it seems to work on popular mobile phone platforms. I can see what people near me are buzzing about, or just my friends. I can keep my info to my friends, or share at different security levels. At a huge conference, this could be super – or overwhelming.

On the other hand, it can map your exact position based on location-aware cell phones. This means you can be found at the convention, but may not wish to have your home location shared. But you can turn that “feature” off.

I was quickly joined by a number of early adopters in playing with the new platform to see how it works and if we find value in it. Just like Wave, the documentation is almost non-existent. Our ad hoc “community” is sharing best practices as we go along, because that’s what we do. Many of us will write in blogs or columns about it, other learnings are in the stream of information that we share (where Google is likely looking to mine insights). Most of us have never met face-to-face, but we still find value in each other’s viewpoints and ideas.

First reviews include everything from “The distraction factor of this is awful. Google is my productivity suite, Twitter and FriendFeed are for this” to “Ugh! I don’t like having “recommended” Buzzers in my stream, especially if those Buzzers are people I don’t follow. Boo, Google. Don’t Buzzspam me.”

Whether we use this is not as important as that we are learning together. Is Google is trying to find and cultivate “knowledge sharers” like us by subtlety showcasing the value in collaboration and teamwork? We are already a fit, but there’s a whole new generation of users of every age who are learning how to collaborate across the miles.

According to a recent Google blog post: “We’re just now starting to navigate all the intersections between sociology and engineering on the web. We — meaning Google and many others in the web community — are in the midst of a burst of energy around all things social that is teaching us more every day about what people want to do with their friends and where.”

And by truly leveraging and integrating our skills, perhaps we can find out what Dr. Seuss truly had in mind in when he told us “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

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