Social Networking for Business

The Year It All Changes - 2010

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Designer of the ACS Green ICT Course

Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Australian National University
For the 2009 International Young ICT Professionals Conference, Sydney, 3 to 4 September 2009

Running your company, or the country, using social networking software and a mobile phone

Social networking web sites, such as Facebook are popular for keeping in touch with friends. But the same technology can be applied to promoting a young ICT professional's career and in the workplace to help run a business. Business orientated social networking systems will be demonstrated, along with the software used for this by the ACS in its education courses. The application of the this technology on a smartphone will also be demonstrated.

See how to:

  1. Use social networking to promote your career
  2. Implement social networking software in your workplace
  3. Run a business, or a nation, from your phone
  4. Benefit from free open source software

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington is an independent IT consultant and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. He has been an expert witness in several court cases involving computer issues. After a career in IT policy with the federal government, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy in Australia.

Tom teaches the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics at the ANU. He designed the Australian Computer Society's Green ICT Strategies course and is currently designing a ANU Masters course in sustainable computing strategies.

Tom is a past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Social networking to promote your career

Learn to use online discussion forums

Become a coach to foster discussion, not just presenting your view.

See: Computer Professional Education using Mentored and Collaborative Online Learning, David Lindley, IJCIM Special Issues on e-learning, Vol.15 No. SP4, November, 2007.

The ACS use the Australian developed Moodle open source Learning Management System. This is used to provide forums for students to discuss what they are learning, not just receive content prepared by teachers. This also teaches students how to use the same online collaboration techniques in the workplace.

You don't need to enroll in a course to learn these techniques (but it helps). You can practice using public, private and business online forums in the workplace. Don't just present your point of view: become a coach: foster discussion by others.

The techniques of using mentored collaborative online learning for computer professional education were developed for the ACS by David Lindley.

Social networking and IM

"Twitter is a bit like the trailer for a movie, the chat you have with a friend while you queue for popcorn ... But blogs are still the film, the main feature."

Gabriel McGrath, quoted in Will Facebook kill blogging?, Katie Cincotta, FairFax Digital, 25 June 2009

Write on the web: mobile compatible, with built in slides. Then invite colleagues to comment via Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and mailing lists.

See: "How to Read and Write E-mail Messages", from the book Net Traveller by Tom Worthington, ACS, 1999

The organizers of this event asked me to help promote it online. So I drafted my talk as a web page, in a mobile compatible format with built in slides. Then I invited colleagues to comment via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and mailing lists.

For the instant message invitations just a brief description and link to the document is sufficient. For email, just a couple of paragraphs and a web link. There is no need to send a PDF document.

Social networking software for the workplace

ACS introducing Mahara for courses:

  1. NZ Government open source web application
  2. ePortfolio for students to display their course or RPL work
  3. Social networking for education and business (
  4. Reducing meetings an CO2 emissions

The ACS is introducing the Mahara open source ePortfolio and social networking web application developed by the New Zealand government. It allows students to create a portfolio of their work to demonstrate they have met the learning objectives through the course or by recognition of prior learning.

The social networking features to allow users to interact with each other for tutorials and projects. In addition to using this to learn in the course, it will be a valuable skill to apply in the workplace. The students can learn how to use these techniques in a businesslike way, to achieve organizational goals.

Apart from increasing learning and business efficiency, ePortfolios and social networking can be sued to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Workers will be able to identify human resources for their projects via ePortfolios and arrange the work using social networking. A current commercial example of this is Organisations can use applications such as Mahara to create their own internal equivalent sites.

Run a business on your phone, or a war

Exercise KANGAROO 95 took place in an area of over 4 million km square, across the Top End of Australia from July to the end of August 1995 and involved over 17,000 Australian Defence Force troops, and visiting units from the USA, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, the UK and Indonesia.

Reports and photographs were transmitted from the exercise area using stand-alone portable satellite communications terminals, capable of 64kbps.

As manager of the Defence home page, I received the reports at Defence headquarters in Canberra and up-loaded, them to a publicly accessible Internet server at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

For the first week of the exercise I was officially on holiday, but maintained the K95 home page remotely using a pocket 2400 pbs modem and lap top PC from Mallacoota, Victoria.

In later exercises, such as Tandem Thrust 97 made more use of the Internet for the operations. However, the level of technology used in these exercises is similar to that now available in a 3G smart phone for about $1,000.

E-mail, the web and instant messaging can be used for business and government from a smart phone with a little forethought. Check your business web pages are mobile compatible. Make sure you put the important business information in a simple, clear, easy to read format. Don't use software and technology you don't really need.

Web 2.0 Thinking Needed

The processing power and network bandwidth of the laptop and desktop computers used for exercise KANGAROO 95 in 1995 is comparable with what is available from 3G smart phones in 2009. However, the use of these devices is being held up by poor web design.

Web pages design in 1995 were text rich, with small images and limited layouts. These designs are compatible with today's smart phones. Later more complex web page designs lost this compatibility, due to their complex designs and increased file sizes.

Also web based services need to be designed as services, not as marketing brochures. CSS features supported in modern web browsers allow for web 2.0 features, but organisations need to accept that their staff and their clients will want to be involved in decision making. Effort therefore need to be put into clear, detailed, information rich web sites.

Mobile Thinking

Thinking about interaction with via a mobile device can help you think about how and what to communicate. The limitations in screen size and keyboard access force you to focus on the most important information first.

Some impediments to the use of the technology can be easily removed. As an example, in 2008 the Department of Finance and Deregulation issued a report on "Consulting with Government – online". This was a well reasoned exploration of the issues. However, the report was only issued as large, hard to read online PDF and RTF files.

The Online Consultation Guidelines from the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) are reasonably accessible and mobile friendly. The home page achieves a 80/100 score on the W3C mobileOK Checker. However, discussion of the document is still hampered by a Commonwealth Copyright Notice.

The Commonwealth Copyright notice used for web pages is essentially unchanged from the Department of Defence web copyright notice developed in 1995. The Australian Government should adopt the Australian Creative Commons Licence, or similar, to allow the free discussion of issues. Similarly, companies should check the licences they impose on information distributed. If you want your product details out there being discussed, don't make it hard.

Benefit from free open source software

Public Sphere #2 – Government 2.0: Policy and Practice

A good example of what to do is Senator Kate Lundy's Public Sphere #2 – Government 2.0: Policy and Practice. This was a blended online and in-person event, using open source software, blogging, instant messaging and open access to discuss complex policy issues.

The Year It All Changes - 2010

Design communcation for a smart phone:

For several years I have been teaching my web design students at the ANU to design for a credit card or business card sized smart phone screen. 2010 will be the Tipping Point where this becomes the normal format for business communication. This will change the way business is done as much as the mobile phone, web SMS and email have.

Business and credit cards are limited by the size of the human hand. The screen on a hand held device has the same limitation and is converging on the same size. The iPhone popularized this screen size and other makers are releasing similar smart phones. The price of these devices will drop rapidly during 2010 making them widely available for business.

In portrait mode a iPhone has a Column Width of a newspaper and can display about three paragraphs of text (three column inches, 75 words or 450 characters). Web page designers will therefore need to work to fit meaningful information within this space. Business people will also need to be able to communicate a meaningful message in this space.

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2009 (Version 1.2, 6 May 2009) Tom Worthington

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