IBM’s submission to the Dept of Homeland Security regarding Social Media and Privacy

For a while I’ve been wanting to put together a longer post detailing the full background behind IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and some our Social Computing experiences overall. While you can glean quite a bit about those topics by perusing some prior posts I’ve written and presentations I’ve given on related topics, unfortunately, I just haven’t gotten around to putting it all in one place.

However, I was recently involved in a small project that helped capture much of this content. Along with a few colleagues, I was asked by Harriet Pearson, IBM’s Chief Privacy Officer, to help put together a public submission to the Department of Homeland Security as part of their Privacy Workshops they hosted in Washington D.C. earlier this week. It was a great exercise to capture many of the lessons we’ve learned at IBM over the years about privacy, guidelines, boundaries and institutional opportunities in this space we now term social computing. The paper was selected for review at the workshop, so you can read the full submission here on the DHS site (warning, pdf).

There are a few parts I wanted to call out here regarding IBM’s experience in this area (I’ve added emphasis below):

As we all know, another major shift occurred early in this decade with the emergence of Web 2.0. These new capabilities were enormously empowering for individuals – facilitating not just global access to information, but the capacity for anyone to become a global publisher for free, in minutes. In addition, the distinction between “inside” and “outside” became far less exact or defensible. This holds enormous potential for enhancing collaborative relationships, but also raises significant issues with regard to security, privacy and governance

Based on our previous experience, IBM recognized the opportunity to tap into individuals’ use of social media as a way to flatten a geographically and organizationally dispersed employee population and to encourage more learning, collaboration and development – both inside the company and with external parties. Further, our research indicated that the personal interactions individuals have with IBM employees – online or face-to-face – have a more powerful influence on shaping the individual’s perception of IBM’s brand than any other form of communications, marketing or advertising.

With that in mind, in 2003 IBM was one of the first companies to provide employees access to social tools – blogs, social networks, wikis, video and podcast publishing — inside and outside the firewall.  We did so in order to encourage collaboration and provide greater outside exposure to IBM’s greatest asset – its employees.

In providing such unfettered access to Web 2.0 technologies, the company’s management – and IBMers themselves – were not blind to the need for appropriate governance and risk management in relation to how these tools are used.  In an effort to protect the IBM brand and employees themselves, in 2005 IBM became one of the first corporations to issue specific guidelines for employee behavior in social computing environments. Now called the IBM Social Computing Guidelines,  they were initiated and written in significant part by interested employees themselves, were created on an internal wiki, and continue to serve as the framework by which employee behavior is guided in these online social contexts.

By empowering all employees to participate and engage within the clear framework of the IBM Social Computing Guidelines, IBM and its employees have embraced social media in dramatic numbers. Following are a few examples of some of the tools most popular with IBMers: 

  • Internal blogs: 60,000 users, 17,000 different blogs
  • Internal wikis: 1 million page views per day
  • Employee-created podcasts and videos: more than 8.5 million downloads
  • Facebook: more than 70,000 employees
  • LinkedIn: more than 250,000 employees

We believe that IBM’s experience over the past 25 years has shown that, with the proper guidelines and instruction for employees, the use of Web 2.0 technologies by large organizations can be managed and an open, more collaborative and efficient environment developed.

The paper then goes on to describe some more prescriptive recommendations for how the government can engage – safely – in these spaces. But if I were to sum it all up in just a few sentences, we believe the businesses – and certainly governments – have much to gain from empowering their employees to engage in these environments. And by working with employees to establish clear – but fair – guidelines for behavior, organizations can do so without opening themselves up to unsatisfactory levels of risk.

Take a read through the paper and let us know what you think.


Twitter and the U.S. Open – Was I the first??

BethpageLogo Readers of this blog know two things about me. 1) I love food; and 2) I do social media “stuff” at IBM. They may not know that I also have the awesome job of doing communications around our sports sponsorships (I know, I know… pretty great gig). IBM sponsors only a handful of sports properties, but the ones they do are all top tier: The NFL, The Masters, all four tennis Grand Slams and the USGA, which administers the Men’s, Women’s and Junior and Senior U.S. Open Championships.

So, to get to my point… in thinking about the intersection of social media and sports, I came to the dorky conclusion that I may have been the first ever person to tweet from a U.S. Open when I did so at the 108th U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines last year. Now, I’m not claiming to be the first to tweet about the U.S. Open. I’m saying I might be the first to tweet from the U.S. Open. If I’m correct, here’s the immortal tweet that is going to put me in the golf history books:

US Open Twitter 1

Profound stuff.

That was followed by a few other tweets during the course of the few days I was “working” at the event, including:

How do I come off thinking I’m the first to tweet from a U.S. Open? Well, consider the following:

  1. No fans are allowed mobile devices of any kind on the course. That eliminates almost everyone else.
  2. The only people allowed to have mobile devices are very select USGA employees, credentialed golf media and select USGA partner employees (i.e., me).

Since Twitter wasn’t even a gleam in Shaq’s massive eye in June ’08, I think I’m safe to assume none of the credentialed media at the Open were on Twitter. So while I might not be destined for the history books, I am going to claim my place in geek history.

(Oh, and for any of you who can prove that I wasn’t the first person to ever tweet from a U.S. Open… Shhhh… Keep it to yourselves. I need something to tell my mom so she can be proud of me)

* * *

So, on a very related note, tomorrow morning I’m heading back to the Open… this time to Bethpage Black for what is looking to be a complete washout. We’ve got some conversations lined up with media, so our turnout may be higher than expected since there might not be any on-course distractions to deal with. At least, that’s my silver lining to some wet, gray clouds.

Now, for all of you who can’t actually be at the course tomorrow (pity), here are some non-TV ways you can enjoy the U.S. Open this year, thanks to IBM and the USGA:

  • USOpen.com for real-time scoring, HD-quality live streaming video of the marquee groups on Thursday and Friday, live video of the 17th whole Saturday and Sunday, and lots fun things for golf geeks: videos, interactive games, history, etc.
  • iPhone. Twice a year I get iPhone envy. During the Masters, and now during the U.S. Open. The iPhone app is pretty awesome, with live streaming video, real time scores and player profiles.
  • Twitter. Thanks to Ashton and Oprah, there are plenty more folks than me to follow on Twitter for this year’s Open. Best bet is to follow the official Twitter account for the U.S. Open/USGA. USOpen.com has a nice page where you can get that feed plus links to some of the golf pros using Twitter.
  • Facebook addicts can pimp their profiles with a US Open Widget to add to their profile. (For anti-Facebook-ites you can use the widget on any profile/blog/web page).

That’s about it. Now we just need nature to cooperate and it ought to be an amazing Open.


My Twitter life, as a Wordle

I’ve always wanted to generate a tag cloud of ALL my public Twitter posts. The problem is that most services, like TweetStats, will only take a small subset of the most recent posts to analyze. With the help of a great friend, Sacha Chua, who helped me scrape all 2000+ Twitter posts over the past few years (using Python and Perl scripts… stuff I don’t understand), I was able to create a word cloud via Wordle of all my public tweets:

Wordle: Adam's public tweets

 

Frankly, I was surprised tacos weren’t more prominent in that tag cloud. I see this mostly as a function that my priorities are misaligned. (Mental note: more tacos, less work). But Sacha also helped me do some other analyses too. Perhaps the most interesting is the break down of how many times I respond to certain people. Here’s list of the top 21 people I speak to most on Twitter:

89 @junkstar
56 @aneel
49 @elsua
41 @derekbaker
31 @edbrill
28 @turbotodd
27 @timwasher
23 @stevemann
23 @Macker
21 @tiffitis
20 @Scobleizer
20 @kid2dog
18 @sachac
18 @roonoid
18 @monkchips
18 @jenokimoto
18 @briancroxall
16 @ragtag
16 @jowyang
15 @wonderwebby
15 @shelisrael

Personally, I feel like I’ve gradually begun to use Twitter less and less as it’s gotten more popular. Call it the inverse Ashton Kutcher effect. But the tag cloud and @ list at least give a window of where I’ve spent a lot of my time over the past few years, what I’ve been talking about and who I’ve been spending it with.

Oh, and my first ever tweet? Appropriate:

first tweet


PRSA Digital Impact presentation

Below is my presentation at the PRSA Digital Impact conference in New York City last week.

As you will notice, the front half is similar to what I presented in Berlin last month. However, the context is quite different. While Berlin was focused on a very technorati crowd, this was specifically amongst communications colleagues from mostly private enterprises. A much more familiar crowd of sorts.

This presentation really is a culmination of my public speaking for the past six months – all in the context of IBM’s continued six-year transformation down the path of social media. I’ll spare the details as you can read much of it in my other presentations on Slideshare, but I do want to focus on one slide in particular here, slide #10, “IBM’s Underlying Foundations.” Basically, what has enabled success for us in social media thus far? These three things:

  1. IBM’s values. This really has two parts to it. One of our core values is trust in the employee. This is imperative as we try and encourage every employee to engage in social media. But the experiences in how we created our values is every bit as important as the outcome themselves. Back in 2003, IBM set out to define what we stand for as a company. Rather than having it be created by a few folks at CHQ, we decided to put the task to every IBMer. So we launched ValuesJam in 2003, a massive three-day online brainstorm for all employees. Fine right?

    Well, not at first. As soon as the Jam it went live, many employees found a place where they could vent their frustrations. And for the next eight hours, it was overwhelmingly negative. To the point where we were getting calls to pull the plug. We decided to see what happened if we let it run it’s course. And what happened? The conversation organically shifted from being overwhelmingly negative to being overwhelmingly positive. All without any moderation or prodding from the top. It was an eye opener that if we let employees do their thing, in the end, we’ll all gain from it. That experience gave us as a company more confidence that we could give open, free access to employees both internally and externally, which has informed everything we do in the social media context. And perhaps the most important benefit is that employees view the company’s progressive stance on social media as a public example of the values in action. A reinforcing circle, of sorts.

  2. IBM Social Computing Guidelines. I’ve talked a lot about these in the past. But basically, the guidelines provide the framework in which IBMers feel comfortable participating in social media. It gives protection to both the employee and the employer. And it gives formal endorsement from the corporation that employees are not only allowed but also explicitly encouraged to participate in these spaces to advance their day jobs. What’s the one thing that has contributed to the success of these guidelines? That they were written by the community themselves, not Communications, Legal or HR. That’s allowed for an accurate sense of community ownership which results in a wonderfully self regulating community.
  3. The Authentic Enterprise. This is a brilliant document (full disclosure, my boss’ boss, Jon Iwata, helped write it on behalf of the Arthur Page Society) and one that should be a mandatory read for any communications or marketing professional. It summarizes the role of communications in the current business environment. The gist is simply that we are moving from a period of mass communications one of masses of communicators. That has profound implications for us in communications. The whole traditional model of communications (slide #9 in my presentation above) is being turned on it’s side.

And, of course, the rest of my presentation focused on the simple fact that we simply don’t have the luxury any longer to experiment for experimentations’ sake. Instead, we need to extract tangible value from social media. If not, why are we doing it in the first place?

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are seeing this play out in your organization or enterprise. Everyone company’s story is slightly different. I’m all ears.


Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social media)

While I don’t have too much time to recap the presentation in Berlin, I did want to share the slides here below. There are three distinct parts of the presentation, which, without context probably feel quite disjointed. So please read below for a little bit of context.

In short, here’s the main point: too often social media is taken on as a stand alone experiment devoid of a proper value statement and not rooted in the business model or organizational mission. And just as I said in a prior presentation that social media in conflict with corporate culture is doomed to failure, so too is any social media project without regard to what business you are actually in.

Which is why I think we are at a point where experimentation for the sake of experimentation is over. Given the economic conditions in which we find ourselves, any project proposed without absolutely clear value attached to it is not only unlikely to get off the ground, but also irresponsible for us as employees to even propose. Hence, the experiment is over.

Now, that said, I firmly believe social media that DOES have an articulated, well grounded value objective has a lot of opportunity. There is an appetite for doing things differently. But work needs to be done to show how it will advance the business’ or organization’s core mission.

Which leads me to the center of the presentation, which is focused on an IBM case study. More than two years ago we embarked on a massive crowdsourcing experiment called InnovationJam. (at the time, it was the third such “Jam” we’d done).  The intent was to address a problem we’d been having of bringing to market some of the great technologies our researchers work on in the labs. Basically, how do we find practical business application for the great R&D work in the labs.

InnovationJam2006 copy

So, with that in mind, we opened up a 72-hour online brainstorm to all employees, clients, business partners, academics and even employee family members to explore possible applications for the research projects being worked on in our labs. I’ll spare the details, but 150,000 participants and 46,000 ideas later, we arrived on 10 unique business ideas. Around those business ideas we created mini business units, each funded at $10 million. (see slides 12-15 for details).

The result of that exercise has been pretty dramatic. If you follow IBM at all (and even if you don’t) you’ve probably heard about our Smarter Planet agenda (see more about that on the Smarter Planet blog and on ibm.com). The gist is, the major systems that make the world work – financial, health, food, traffic, energy, etc. – are all largely broken and in need of being fixed. And the solutions to those problems have a big technology underpinning.

What does this have to do with Smarter Planet? Well, take a look at slide #15. The ideas that came out of InnovationJam 2006 form the core of Smarter Planet. In short, without InnovationJam, I’m not sure we’d have Smarter Planet. And Smarter Planet is IBM’s overall corporate strategy. Pretty impressive proof point to the potential value of Social Media. But, going back to my original premise, it was rooted in a core problem we had, with a value statement at the back end.

Now, the third part of the presentation is on Smart Cities, which is very exciting, and following the presentation elicited some very pointed, but useful questions and conversations. But I’ll share more of that later on the Smarter Planet blog.


Some more musings on corporate culture and social media

My prior post here has spurred some interesting conversations. Following Jeremiah Owyang’s post, I got a very practical comment from Beth Kanter asking the following:

I’m curious about your points about how to balance top-down mandates and completely grassroots adoption strategies? What works do you think? And, do you have a case study or step-by-step or some tips?

I was about to respond in the comments thread, but figured this warranted a new (albeit quick) post. Balancing top-down mandates and grassroots adoption can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.  Finding the intersection of corporate mandates and employee value can be summed up in one sentence:

Will it (social media project “X”) help employees do the job you are paying them to do more easily?

Companies employ people so they can help them accomplish certain objectives. Employees are paid to help the company reach those stated objective. So there’s inherent alignment of objectives and incentives. Social media should reflect that. If it can help employees do what their companies are paying them to do more easily, you’ve got a home run. Companies should focus on finding the tools that accomplish that.

But there’s a big catch. The employees have to be the ones to determine what makes them more efficient. A few folks in the CIOs office, HR or corporate communications, really aren’t the best arbiters of which tools employees feel will help them do their jobs.

Likewise, if a company’s motivation to adopt social media tools revolves solely around saving money, it’s likely to be met with a dull thud of non-participation. Employees aren’t interested in saving the company money. They are interested in doing their jobs so they can be paid, go home and enjoy their lives.

So, when a company follows that model – listening to employees on what they think will make them more effective at what they are being paid to do, and then enabling them accordingly – it’s a win-win.

All resulting in more time for employees to waste time on Facebook. (did I just say that?)


The Impact of Corporate Culture on Social Media (IBM’s Case Study)

My presentation from the Social Networking Conference in Miami yesterday:

 

I’ll be brief in this synopsis, since you can peruse through the slides yourself. But here’s the main point: That culture is, in my view, the most overlooked, underestimated factor determining whether social media succeeds or fails in a company. And when corporate culture and social media are pitted against each other, social media will always fail. Always.

Too often, people from company “A” will recognize great success that company “B” is having by doing XYZ with social media. So, logically, they decide to do the same at company A. But the results are dramatically different. Why? Because they didn’t account for the corporate culture variable which is inevitably different between the two companies.

This is also why it is so hard for any third-party vendor to really play a meaningful role in helping a company transform itself to be more collaborative and embrace these technologies. They don’t have that deep understanding of a corporation’s culture.

Now, all that said, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a lot to influence culture to be more open, more collaborative and more receptive to social media. In fact, I believe that there is a lot that can be done to intentionally create a culture for collaboration. That’s really the heart of the IBM case study in the slides above.

So, to repeat the punchline of the presentation, any company’s use of social media needs to start with 1) the company’s core business model (what are you in the business of doing and with whom?) and 2) corporate culture. And when #2 is an impediment, take the long approach and find ways to stretch the culture to create a more collaborative environment.