5 Lessons for Enterprise 2.0 Success from Digg, Reddit and Slashdot

By John Brunswick posted 10-02-2010 11:19


Are we missing one of the most important parts of Web 2.0 in our enterprises?  The public web's innovative creations are often evaluated for inclusion into the Enterprise web from a technical and conceptual standpoint standpoint, but rarely from a best practices or lessons learned standpoint.

Social news sites may at first glance seem like social gimmicks, they serve as valuable examples of why, how and what people deal with online around unstructured content in communities.  They highlight trends in social behavior around many initiatives that organizations are undertaking with Enterprise 2.0.  Let's examine how their experiences can shape the success of our enterprise community initiatives.

In order to understand the importance of various tips based on their experiences, let's review their respective histories.

Slashdot - 1997
The concept of public online community, based around user submitted news and articles, was first popularized by Slashdot.  Submissions approved by Slashdot moderators provided a quality source of information and a platform for people to share their insight and build their reputation through online dialogue and contribution of interesting articles and news items.  Slashdot serves a cohesive user base with interests around technology and science.
Digg - 2004
Digg ushered in a hipper approach to delivering user submitted news and items of interest to their readership in real time.  At Digg's onset it also focused on items of interest in the niche field of technology, but unlike Slashdot submissions were not approved by editors - they were upvoted by community members (Slashdot is Going out of Style in 2006).  Over time Digg extended its reach to cover a broad range of topics, no longer focusing exclusively on technology.  In Aug of 2009 Digg added advertisements that were shown inline with user submitted content.
Reddit - 2005
Reddit is the "new" kid of the block of social news sites.  Digg, once poised to conquer the world of user submitted items of interest, is hemorrhaging readers after a recent site redesign and reworking of the algorithms to level the upvoting capability of a core group of power users who previously had been able to dominate the ranking of various submissions (Digg Redesign Tanks: Traffic Down 26%).  Reddit provides user generated categories (called "subreddits"), community moderation, recognition via "karma" and trophies and exudes a community focused theme. 
Slashdot, Digg and Reddit all provide valuable lessons that can be transferred to enable success within enterprise communities.  How can we take advantage of these in the enterprise?
Enterprise 2.0 Success Lessons from Social News Sites
  1. Maintain Quality Content - Regardless of the quality of information on the public web, the sheer size makes it incredibly cumbersome to locate important, high quality, items of interest.  Social news technologies have done an excellent job addressing this.  Our Enterprise 2.0 deployments can often suffer from similar overload, clouding search results and frustrating users trying to locate content.  In order to combat an overload of irrelevant or stale content provide users an ability to
    1. Rate Content - Social news sites have been innovative around pushing top quality content from users to users (Digg and Reddit provide excellent examples of this).  In our enterprise, browsing search results weighted around density of search terms can only help to locate occurrences of the keywords, without consideration for the quality of the actual content.  Rating information, applied by end users, can help people to quickly locate quality items within their search results.
    2. Rating Filters - Slashdot pioneered a "reading level" viewing preference that would only show a user comments on an article that was above a certain rating threshold.  This allow users interested in a particular topic to quickly review related social activity.
    3. Retire Content - Somewhat enterprise specific, retiring content is one of the best ways to ensure users can locate and leverage content.  Social news sites implicitly retire content, as new items take precedent over prior ones.
    4. Tag & Categorize - Rating can help to make sense of search results, but to allow users to quickly and intelligently make sense of large collections of information, creation of Folksonomies allows users to create an organic structure on top of the unstructured information.  This structure can be used to quickly browse and locate information across your enterprise.
  2. Develop a Strategy around Content Relevance - As areas of Enterprise 2.0 platforms have become commoditized, personalization is an avenue for organizations to provide significant returns to their internal and external users on their existing platform investments.
    1. Leverage Enterprise Profiles - Unlike the public web, the enterprise immediately understands a user's role, peers, geography and other relevant information to enable targeted content delivery to the user.  Digg provides extensive categorization, but Reddit has taken things a steps further, letting users create their own "subreddits", providing tailored browsing experiences for their users.  In our enterprise we should provide users initial views of content based on categories associated with their roles (news, sales collateral, knowledge base articles, etc).
    2. Allow User Preferences - Modern Enterprise 2.0 platforms allow users to store various preferences.  These preferences should be leveraged to allow a user to tailor various categories of content that will be delivered to them, outside of ones that are mandated for their roles
  3. Support Respect and Reputation - Although very loosely correlated to content, reputation and respect have been some of the most important factors around the longevity and behavior of social news communities.  Reputation and respect implicitly support content quality, especially in regard to the level of discourse that takes place within them.  How does this translate to the enterprise?
    1. Leverage Experts - In our enterprise, like social news sites, users enjoy gaining recognition for their expertise.  Reddit offers expert opinions in an "Ask Me Anything" category, where users can submit questions and engage in dialogue with experts in a wide range of fields.  In our own Enterprise 2.0 efforts we should examine ways to tap into and scale expertise.
    2. Provide Kudos - To support ongoing contribution of expertise into the community, some form of Kudos should exist, allowing members of the community to showcase contributions that they have made to the community.  Reddit provides a comprehensive system of "trophies" to support this, allowing users with expertise, quality comments and quality references to gain highlight this recognition.
  4. Be Brief - Slashdot's listing of content items is comprehensive and detailed, Digg provides titles and brief descriptions and Reddit provides just a title.  As the volume of information around us has increased and communications have become abbreviated, our attention spans have adjusted accordingly.  In a enterprise it is not possible to keep up with everything taking place, but access to information can be streamlined.
    1. Just the Gist - When showing the latest forum posts, company news, blog posts and documents in our enterprise, keep details of the actual content to the bare minimum.  Technologists tend to become enamored with information and relations around content, placing extraneous information into views that should act only as brief summaries.  All of that information can be made available once a user chooses to select more detail around that specific content item.
  5. Mandate Community Moderation - Reddit is able to maintain arguably higher fresh content than Digg, due to their community moderation approach vs Digg's community upvote / downvote management approach for content items.  Seemingly obvious, community moderation cannot be valued enough to create quality source of enterprise information.  Unfortunately people often expect technology to miraculously solve information management and quality issues.  All of the social news examples highlighted here have seen success due to their communities, but at the time of this post, Reddit and Slashdot seem to have the most potential for longevity due to their community moderation capabilities.
    1. Require a "moderator" for Enterprise 2.0 Projects - As business users approach shared IT services to launch new collaborative projects their request should include a nominated moderator for their activities.  Just as algorithms cannot maintain enterprise 2.0 activities, neither can an IT department that has no subject matter expertise on a particular topic at hand.  Without a moderator the business is essentially asking to throw a dinner party at IT's house and not clean up afterward.

#Socialnews #enterprise2.0 #socialmedia #web2.0 #governance