Exclusive: Techrigy Technology Evangelist Adam Steinberg

by JennSierra on July 6, 2007

in Facebook, government regulation, Jenn Sierra, LinkedIn, social media, wikis

FHK members and staff had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Steinberg, a “Technology Evangelist,” with Techrigy at this week’s Monday-night conference. FHK’s WikiTek, AJ, led the interview, and Adam shared his knowledge and opinions of using wikis as a social networking tool online and in the enterprise, of the future of social networking, and of Techrigy’s exciting new SM2 product, a risk-management tool for social media, which is set to launch at the end of July.

The interview, conducted in chat-room format, has been edited by FHK for length, and clarity.

Social Networking and the Enterprise

FHK: OK…let’s start out with the biggie. We’re looking at a huge boom in social networking for personal use, and to some extent for small businesses. What’s the state of social networking in the enterprise, both within the enterprise, and for reaching out beyond it?

Adam: Well, I think it’s definitely still early for social networking in the enterprise. We’ve been seeing some early adopters, namely the IBM’s of the world. “Social networking” was certainly a buzz word at the Enterprise 2.0 conference a few weeks ago.

FHK: IBM has been using internal e-mail for decades, and extended it to their customers a long time back.

Adam: But, I still think a few F1000 companies think of MySpace when it comes to social networking, so I still think it’s about 12-18 months from hitting mainstream in the enterprise. But we’re certainly seeing action outside the enterprise. It’s certainly growing fast. LinkedIn is huge, of course, and we’re seeing Facebook really becoming a professional network as students graduate from college and enter the work force.

FHK: Is LinkedIn used mostly for recruitment or for other purposes as well?

Adam: Yes, recruitment, but also finding old connections, as I’ve used it, as well as looking for potential startup partners.

FHK: Such as sharing expertise?

Adam: Exactly, and for recommendations as well…However, it’s fallen behind Facebook, and they’ve just announced they’ll open up their platform, similar to what Facebook just did.

FHK: Why do you suppose that is?

Adam: I’d say they just became stagnant. They owned a niche of professionals until very recently, but Facebook is just innovating twice as fast as anyone else. As younger Facebook users migrate to the workplace, they aren’t going to leave their network behind.

FHK: Do you notice a phenomenon of people networking in one venue, and then moving on, en masse, to the next thing that looks more exciting?

Adam: Sure, as better technologies and networks come along; there is usually a cycle of early adopters and then rapid acceptance, as long as the technology is worth switching. I don’t think you see too many people switching from MySpace to Facebook. I think you see many people, when deciding which network to join, picking Facebook instead of MySpace, now, whereas two years ago, MySpace was the leader

FHK: Our impression is that MySpace is more for the entertainment world, especially music, and fans of specific bands.

Adam: I think you are right, especially now. Previously, Facebook limited its users to college students. They opened it up to anyone last year, and now we see high school students joining Facebook instead of MySpace. It’s really quite phenomenal.

FHK: Well, yes…there’s a prestige factor for HS kids to join with their college soon-to-be peers.

Adam: Yes, that’s certainly part of it

FHK: Where do you see Wikis fitting into the social networking trends: particularly specialized wikis, other than the 900-pound gorilla, Wikipedia itself?

Adam: I think wikis are really going to be huge in the next twelve months. We’re going to see wikis take off just as blogs have, especially within the enterprise. When we first started indexing wikis on WikiTag, we’d search for random keywords reflecting hobbies of ours, and we’d be amazed at the wiki communities that popped up. These were strong communities, with strong knowledge bases around the most obscure topics, so it really seems like there is something for everyone in the wiki world.

FHK: Examples?

Adam: Well, one of the most memorable is Wookieepedia.

FHK: Star Wars in general, or just Chewbacca?

Adam: From what I recall, it’s the complete star wars universe, which isn’t the most obscure interest in the world, but it’s amazing to see the number of users, and how devoted they are to these communities. These communities have existed for years.

Techrigy’s SM2

FHK: What about wikis for software support, wikis for systems support in an organization, customer service wikis…less exciting, perhaps, but more practical (maybe).

Adam: Those are really taking off as well, and I think they’re equally exciting. Just at Techrigy, we’re using multiple wikis with a staff of about 12 people. We’re seeing IBM’s of the world with thousands of wikis.

FHK: What do you think of opening up the support wikis to the customer base, to allow customers and clients to contribute their knowledge?

Adam: Oh I think it’s outstanding. Practically every medium to large size company uses wikis, or wants to use wikis. Its a perfect way to communicate and collaborate with customers.

FHK: What are the steps for getting started with a wiki in the corporate world?

Adam: Well, there are really a number of different platforms. SharePoint really seems to be taking off; they have a nice platform. There are other strong players as well – Socialtext, TWiki.

FHK: What do you think about Wikispaces?

Adam: Wikispaces is a great option as well – in fact, I just spoke with a manager from SourceForge today, who mentioned that they’ve integrated Wikispaces. Honestly, there are many great options. The harder part, sometimes, is convincing management to let employees use wikis and social media.

FHK: What are their objections?

Adam: Well, if hundreds or thousands of employees are using wikis or blogs, how do managers keep track of who is saying what in terms of the corporate image, correctness of information about company products and services, etc.? There are a lot of risks associated with letting thousands of people communicate, especially if the wiki is public and open to customers.

FHK: There are security issues to think about, too.

Adam: Sure, but beyond that: liabilities, defamation, Sarbanes-Oxley, the list goes on. It’s really email to the next level. That’s probably been the biggest obstacle to adoption, not so much technical, but just on an overall compliance level.

FHK: And that’s what your new product is designed to remedy?

Adam: Yes, SM2 is a risk management tool for social media.

FHK: What about the issue of how to get started…I don’t mean choice of platform, but of how to structure the project, how to structure the Wiki itself in terms of what to cover. Does your product address those issues as well…allowing the management to set the theme?

Adam: SM2 helps management know who’s using social media, what they’re saying, and if they are creating liabilities. It’s really a tool to help management become comfortable with these media, because people are going to use them whether management gives the okay or not. If the CEO says no, the employees will just blog from home.

FHK: Are there tools for validating information that is put into the wiki?

Adam: We actually don’t address this, as we aren’t part of the wiki or blogging package. We’re more of a monitoring layer on top of the content. I think that would be setup on the IT level, in accordance with company policy, etc., although we can do some monitoring to verify this.

FHK: What kind of reports does your software generate?

Adam: SM2 will provide real-time notifications of compliance violations. For instance, if you wanted to know anytime someone posted a SSN, or anytime someone used a curse word on the company wikis, or anytime someone blogging from home started bad-mouthing the company. There are an infinite number of rules that an organization can create within SM2, which does come loaded with a base set of policies.

FHK: What about making sure that valid customer complaints are being addressed?

Adam: Hmm, that’s an interesting angle we haven’t really thought about; we’ve been more concerned with compliance and risk-management, but that’s an interesting angle.

FHK: SM2…it covers more than Wikis then?

Adam: Yes, it does blogs, as well. Blogs are probably the bigger risk, especially away from the work place.

FHK: What you’re talking about, with the blogs, sounds more like organizational reputation management.

Adam: Yes, that’s almost exactly it. We do a few other things with compliance, namely record retention, but I think you hit the nail on the head.

FHK: What would you like our community to know about your SM2 product, Adam?

Adam: Really, we’re just hoping to help speed up the adoption process of these social media by addressing some of the concerns organizations have with these media…Not the right to control what people are saying, but to know what people are saying.

FHK: Would your software be helpful for political campaigns, activist groups, and the like?

Adam: Absolutely. How does a campaign manager know what people are saying in the blogosphere, particularly staffers?

FHK: Right now, they’re using Google Alerts, or something similar. Some of the liberal candidates have had embarrassing experiences with blogging misbehavior on the part of their staffers.

Adam: I was just thinking of that…SM2 would have been helpful in that situation.

FHK: What about chat room behavior that may be traced back to individuals?

Adam: SM2 doesn’t address that directly; I think there are other IM compliance packages that do address this behavior. IM is another huge risk for organizations.

What to do with Wikis

FHK: Adam, back to your experience in working with Wikis, Do you have suggestions for making wikis more searchable online?

Adam: Use WikiTag!

FHK: We have signed up for WikiTag, but tell us more about it for the benefit of our readers.

Adam: Well, WikiTag actually started out as just a side project, but we’ve seen a real need for it. We’re hoping to work with all of the wiki farms and start indexing their content, allowing users to tag those wikis, obviously, to make them more searchable. That combination of indexing and tagging would be a nice start. As I mentioned, there are so many small gems out there in the wiki community, that we really need a way for people to be able to find these wikis and connect with others.

FHK: How does a wiki organizer go about using WikiTag to tag their wiki?

Adam: Just go to http://www.wikitag.us/. Click o the “share a wiki” link, and then register your wiki. You can tag it with keywords describing that wiki as well; then, anyone will be able to search and find your wiki. If your wiki has already been registered, you can add additional keyword tags by doing the same process.

FHK: Do you tag specific pages within the wiki?

Adam: Right now, the technology doesn’t limit that, but we’re encouraging people to just tag the landing pages of each wiki so that people have a nice directory of wikis, and we don’t get overrun with thousands of redundant pages.

FHK: Do you think your policy management software could be applied by the Pentagon for milblogging-control purposes?

Adam: I definitely think so. It’s a perfect application for SM2, and it’s a shame that the military doesn’t allow our soldiers to communicate from abroad via social media. Certainly, there are security concerns, but hopefully a policy can be created that will address those, and maybe SM2 will even play a role.

FHK: Are you talking about potentially using the technology for security/surveillance?

Adam: Well, more for monitoring information flow.

Contacting Adam, and Techrigy

FHK: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know, Adam?

Adam: For those that might want to implement social media, particularly in an organization, I encourage you to head over to http://www.techrigy.com/ and check out our white papers – we have a nice library of information there about social media. I’ll also be glad to help anyone anyway I can – feel free to contact me at adam@techrigy.com

Also posted on the Ft. Hard Knox Blog.

Follow-up: Post on Adam’s new blog, Techrigy

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