Saturday, October 13, 2007

Trust, Web 2.0 and Influence, Continued

Anne Adrian has an posts an excellent response to my posting this week on Trust and Web 2.0. I agree with much of what she has posted. Especially her statement:

Additionally, Web 2.0 can be used to maintain and build upon existing professional relationships. Let me give a personal example.

I see some of my colleagues from other states only 1 or 2 times a year. Social networking, blogging, commenting, Twittering, and instant messaging (and Facebook, to a much lesser degree) helped build upon the acquaintance of our relationships into a higher level of professional respect.

Now, when we see each other at conferences "we start in the middle of conversations." The respect and understanding of philosophies were not created through the face-to-face time, but rather through (online) casual and informal conversations and through blogging.

Without social networking--particularly, blogging and presence technologies--this would not have happened. On a few occasions, confidential remarks have been made in IM or email--mirroring how we communicate with our local trusted professional friends. Are any of these online friends my "Top 8" closest professional friends? Not yet, but I will not discount that from every happening.

Anne's post allowed me to see this issue from a different perspective. She did an excellent job of summarizing the issue. I agree that some low level trust may be developed with complete strangers using Web 2.0 tools. These types of social networks are useful in many ways, mostly in influencing through spread of knowledge. This trust may lead to behavior change in the sense of transactional change. For example, I might purchase a different type of golf club brand after reading a blog, or after noticing twitter postings by a significant golfer and his frustrations with one brand or another. All this is true, but it is equally true of all other forms of Web 1.0 technologies. Web 2.0 adds a bit of the reality TV quality to Web 1.0 in my view.. but that type of trust is very limiting. Where I still have grave questions is whether Web 2.0 technologies can lead to high trust communities.. Teams that we know from research will perform at three times the level of productivity of typical low trust community.

For clarity sake, my question is not intended to negate the many wonderful Web 2.0 positives. Web 2.0 technologies are enhancing productivity and enabling more collaboration than ever before, but at this time I do not see them creating high trust-performing social networks. And while these low trust social networks are an improvement to no social networks, they have much less potential than if one can discover how to build high trust within Web 2.0 social networks. Here is another question for you..

Think of a significant transformational change you observed in yourself or a close friend where someone influenced you to change. The key word is transformation.. a new way of living or working completely. Now, what level of trust did you have in this individual? Can you build this level of trust using Web 2.0 technologies? How?


Anne Adrian said...

Mitch, I am glad that you have started this conversation.

I understand your question about trusting individuals online, like a very trusted confidant. Because it is with these trusted individuals who give credibility to actions we want to take and do take to change our behaviors.

I think it is too soon to say no..It's not going to happen in the Web 2.0.

An experiment I would like to see tried is for Extension to develop a fairly small community that works with individuals who need to make a behavioral change--such as money management or fiscal changes, diet or fitness changes.

The online portion would serve as the support systems that you lose in between meetings. All kinds of Internet applications would be included--presence technologies, social network sites, blogging, and possibly a learning managed system. This community could develop as a local community only or as a geographical separated community.

I believe that the online system could play an important and useful role in changing behaviors because individual influence can be present almost at anytime.

Anyway, time will tell I am sure.

I guess too maybe the kind of transformational change you are talking about is not a benefit that many think of when we talk about these technologies...I am just saying there may be potential--don't discount it yet.

Best regards,


Kevin Gamble said...

Transformations are rarely an "ahh haaaa!" sort of event. They are the result of thousands of social transactions, and to say that one person or group of people is responsible for those would be quite difficult. Your online network gives you diversity that is often hard to achieve in your work or water fountain network.

I've met many people completely online who I trust, who I trust a lot. We're all just learning together.

Mitch Owen said...

Anne and Kevin,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with Anne that it is too soon to know. But I can't go along with Kevin. I can believe that you really do trust people online, but I also feel that this is more a rarity than the norm. What complicates this, is your business is online. What you do is the net and thus, you can see how competent they are by what they do on the net. How well they blog, can they build objects in Second Life.. etc.. Not sure this works for non IT people. Competence is a huge part of trust. That said, I believe there are individuals who trust online.. at a high level. I just don't see that as common.. especially within teams. The exceptions is where those teams knew each other before, or got to know each other face to face at some moment in time.. and that during this time.. a degree of high trust was formed.

One other observation.. It is rare to see virtual teams and social networks appear on the net that do not relate to the net. They happen, but often are contextual(conference or funding formed), or grouped around a non-virtual existing organization. Blended tends to be the norm for non-IT groups. There is a message in this.

Kevin Gamble said...

Actually Mitch, I think we're in agreement. Blended is the norm. What you see happening in the tech community is just a precursor to what we will see in the other groups in time.

Greg said...

It's encouraging to see others having similar thoughts. I view "Web2.0" as just another marketing term for which I have little use. What you're seeing is another technology which can be used to bring people together. It will never replace prior technologies, but will certainly add fuel to the communication fire.

I find the culture associated with "Social Networking Sites" today to be very shallow. The sites are geared toward making everything public, which reduces the intimacy needed for strong trusting relationships.

I'll eventually make my own posts about relationships I've formed online (via e-mail) which are centered around subject matters completely unrelated to IT. I am certainly part of a "social network" there which could care less about what is commonly referred to as social networking or web2.0. There is a very high trust, a very strong bond, and a great relationship between many people in this online network. There have been numerous physical meetings which serve to strenghten the network. That's where the real trust is built in my view.

My bold "will never replace prior technologies" statement is based on observations that some people are comfortable with older technologies and if those technologies do all that is required there's no need for change. Examples: neighbor who plows with a mule, our 1949 8N Ford tractor, and my social network based exclusively in e-mail. Obviously "never" is relative, since people will eventually die off who love the old tech, but 60 years in IT world might as well be eternity.

Mitch Owen said...

Greg, Ann, and Kevin,

Thanks for the posts and your thoughts..all good discussion points. I especially like the paradox where by most web 2.0 technologies reduce intimacy and yet we know intimacy is a natural part of trust building. Wikipedia is a great example.. can a fully open collaborative environment work for individuals who need intimacy to share?