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Walkthrough Wednesdays

Quality Versus Quantity or Collaboration Contributions that Matter


There's a shift among organizations to drive the adoption of enterprise social software among their users. Enterprise Social Software is a key component of Enterprise 2.0, which brings together aspects of Web 2.0 technologies for greater collaboration capabilities.  At first, the concept of Enterprise Social Software doesn't seem different from what has always occurred on an organization's Intranet- information is gathered and posted to an internal set of webpages for all employees to view and become aware.  What has changed is the process of posting information and who manages the information that is posted.  It takes an institutionalized set of processes for posting information (development, submission, review, approval, posting) and makes it free-form so anybody can post anything for everybody to consume and it's immediately available.

The challenge is the reliance on participation for User Generated Content (UGC) that is both relevant and useful.  In a previous blog I talk about how The 80/20 Rule is Actually 90-9-1 for Online Communities and ways to increase participation among online communities.  Unfortunately, greater participation does not ensure greater value.  Value is in the quality of the contribution and one person can have one idea that completely revolutionizes the ways we work, live, play and learn.  The video by Clay Shirky presenting at a TED conference on institutions vs. collaboration provides excellent insights to a collaborative environment and how it's disruptive to an institution.

An interesting aspect of online communities is not only is the content user generated, but so is the perceived value of that content.  The same members that contribute content can vote and rate content throughout the community.  Trending metrics allow active content to bubble up to the top and be quickly found based on the needs of people coming into the community.  It changes the model for online collaboration from hub and spoke to one of peer-to-peer.  Sounds like chaos, but then again what disruptive technology or in this case process isn't?  Don't just encourage your employees to participate by providing content, but encourage them to participate by rating and commenting on content.  In other words, participation that allows the community to self-govern the quality of content and steer the direction of the community in a collaborative way that demonstrates business value.

Post a comment and let me know what you see in terms of the amount of participation your online communities receive and how the community perceives the level of quality for those contributions.


I understand the embedded video wasn't working on all browsers, I've updated with a youtube posting of the video.  Please let me know if there are any issues with this posting.  If you'd like to see the video on the TED site, visit and search for Clay Shirky.

Cisco Employee

Excellent post and reference to the TED video. I thought that your insight into valuing and quantifying the value of content was particularly important. Access to the right information at the right time coupled with the willingness to even learn and look for it are so key to successful adoption of the collaboration technologies as principle tools for solving problems..   

I'm particularly interested in differentiating distractive collaboration from disruptive.. in order to facilitate the right roadmap for disciplined..  Have you seen anything that couples and discusses these ideas effectively? 


I haven't and I think the reason has to do with perspective and culture.  When considering the number of people and their different roles that may be collaborating together on a single objective, you can imagine topics that may be right on target for some become distractions to others.  These distractions can become a barrier to effective collaboration in the areas of search and transfer.  Eventually, we'll get to the point where the distractive "noise" is filtered and relevant information will find you based on your "presence" in a collaboration stream.  Until then, I think it comes down to the ability for each person to manually process the information that's coming to them and act accordingly. 


Great post on such an important subject matter: quality. I think when we see any increase in technology there is a rush to produce more, and thus quality falls by the wayside. I haven't seen any TED videos for inspiration but do know that when active participation occurs and voices are heard and new ideas are put on the table and considered, that an improvement in quality and the way things get done, is a likely outcome. This may just seem like common sense to me, but in today's corporate world too often the best ideas are not even brought to the table. Too much corporate structure allows impediments to be placed in their way. It's finding the best process or channel for those ideas to reach the top is where we should be spending our efforts. The next greatest idea could be sitting just a cubicle away.


Very good point.  I hope the outcome of social software in the enterprise is to allow new ideas to be communicated in an open forum by anybody and others with different expertise and knowledge can add commentary in the same open forum.  Discussing different options and allowing the idea to grow into what could (and should) become a full business/project plan.  Some of the most popular inventions were created accidently through collaborative efforts (Post It Notes, Superglue, even the ice cream cone) among people that didn't work directly together.  When you look at these inventions they, accidental as they were, took years to come to fruition (except for the ice cream which was instant because of need) with the proper environment I expect innovation to grow as the seeding and sharing of ideas becomes instant with access to expertise across organizational and geographic boundaries. 

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