In a recent New York Times article, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz states “Work is not a social network.” Mr. Moskovitz derides companies that have copied the Facebook interface and tried to plop it onto to services for other industries. It would be easy to dismiss his observations because he’s up against well-founded start-ups like Yammer, but in some ways he’s right.
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook’s success has spawned a multimillion-dollar boom in social networking. There are networks for photo-sharers, for children and for workers inside companies. Yammer and Jive, for instance, promise to energize employees and increase their productivity by enabling fast information sharing.
Dustin Moskovitz thinks this is a bad idea that won’t fly. “The first time I looked at Yammer, I thought I was on Facebook,” he said. “Work is not a social network, with serendipitous communications and photo collections. Work is about managing tasks, and responding to things quickly.”
If you define social network as “…a place for serendipitous communications and photo collections,” then no, work is not a social network, and neither is school. But if we turn the issue on its head, and ask ourselves how do we socialize ideas and activities across the the varied and ever-shifting networks of people that is school, then maybe we end up in a different place.
““I spend a lot of time…setting a vision, and explaining why we do what we do.”
Who said this? A superintendent? Nope. One of Moskovitz’s partner. So while work may not be a social network. socializing values, purpose, and priorities across the network is a key task. In hyper-flat, distributed organizations like schools, it’s crucial.
“Businesses are in the midst of a retooling because of cloud computing, social media, mobility and lots of data,” said Tony Zingale, chief executive of Jive Software, the largest of the corporate social networks. “Groups are starting to make decisions, and information to them has to be filtered and personalized.”
Sounds a lot like what is going on in schools to me. Still, to be fair, copying Facebook and saying you are a software service for a business or a school is obviously the wrong idea. Learning from the ways Facebook gains adoption, though, is a good idea, and applying those concepts to empowering teams is a great idea, particularly in school systems where so many of those teams are ad hoc, under-resourced, and disconnected in nearly every possible way. If we define social network as a coordinating activity that helps define priorities and align action, then I’m in.
That’s what I think. What about you?