On Friday, I attended the BlogOn 2004 conference that was held at the Haas Business School on the UC Berkeley campus.
The morning started with a session titled “Defining Social Media“ which was moderated by Ross Mayfield of SocialText. The panel had some insights that I found interesting. One idea was whether social software is a product, or a feature of other products. In the HR space, it seems that blogs and wikis could be an addition to the portal which enhances corporate communications.
Another idea was that the load of media from digital cameras will fuel a need for blogs as people look to fulfill a need to express themselves with their new media.
Reid Hoffman (CEO of LinkedIn):
- “Any large company, if they’re not searching the blogs for what people are saying about their products and organizations, are fools. If you don’t have some kind of blogging strategy — much less response — you need to think about that.“
- “Brand value and trust will evolve completely. Individuals will become brands.“
The second session was titled the “The Dark Side of Social Media“. Danah Boyd was the moderator and was philosophical about this subject by thinking of the “Dark Side“ as being like the Dark Side of the Moon or “that which light has not yet been shed upon“. We should be vigilant and watch for the abuses possible in blogs and wikis. Another concept of the dark side was the fear of corporations who may feel that they are losing control of their corporate message. Here are some tidbits about how corporations should deal with social media:
- watch and learn – fear shows deeper corporate problems – lack of transparency and flexibility
- evolve what you’re doing – Tickle vs LinkedIn – different users, different functions
- copyright is dead, long live copyright – copyright to protect creators and encourage distribution
- fan fiction – variations on Harry Potter stories by youngsters
- corporations start with a deficit of credibility – social media helps build credibility
The final morning session was titled “Business Transparency“. It included a demo of the Microsoft Channel9 site by Jeff Sands and Robert Scoble. It is a forum that includes blogs and wikis and is a mechanism for Microsoft to provide corporate transparency to it’s clients. Channel 9 is the channel used on airplanes for passengers to hear what the pilots are up to; hence the site name. Another form of transparency for the passengers. The second half of the session was about SixApart’s customer relations nightmare that was eventually resolved by the use of blogs (which they market as Movable Type).
The afternoon sessions were about the business of social media and included the tried and true models of user subscriptions vs advertising. There was some discussion about the technologies of RSS news feeds and filtered content, but these discussions seemed to drift into standards issues.
The final closing session was titled “Who’s Investing in Social Media?”. It was a panel of investors who talked about what they find interesting in the social media business. While most of them seemed to say that the social media firms were already in place, there was a ray of hope in an idea that would bring focused information from my friends on a local basis. Some examples were allconsuming.net and weatherbug.com. They also said there was too much money chasing too few companies.