Thursday, January 24, 2008

Motivation and trust

Web 2.0 applications live from the contributions of participating individuals. With respect to services that are considered as a private issue (e. g. writing one's own weblog or participating in writing Wikipedia articles), intrinsic motivation seems to be enough to ensure a regular usage. (Well, this blog is not quite a positive example for this hypothesis - but this may be more related to the fact that my time for coming up with new and interesting thoughts is rather limited. If I were only writing it as a personal diary, it might be different, but I don't think it would be too interesting for the general public). When talking about corporate usage of social software, extrinsic motivation does not really seem to result in employees making more use of the systems that are being offered to them as means to share their knowledge. Some more thoughts about motivation can be found here. Intrinsic motivation may be good, but then why should an employee be willing to post what they know to a public they do not know? I may be willing to share my expertise with people I like or trust (or both), but why go beyond? Why should social software change the current situation of sharing information in an enterprise where content management has not really helped?

With these (and other) questions in mind, addressing the observed situation of selective motivation, it may be helpful to install social software with the possibility to mutually define who should be able to read one's own contributions. This means that by default, the documents that a being written by an author are not visible by anyone else, but the author may invite others to join his personal network. As the network grows, it is likely that not everyone in the list of contacts should have the same visibility with regards to the author's contributions. This means that it will be necessary to introduce levels of privacy, e. g. on a scale between 1 and 5, which may be added to any contribution and any link between two users, which will result in the lists of contacts being segmented with regards to (mutual) trust.

I admit that these are only first thoughts without being further elaborated - but whereas the technical side does not really seem to be a big issue, the question remains how to convince the management to support such a personal information ecosystem. If I have some more thoughts about it, I may come back to this issue later ...

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