I just finished the first day of a training on Network Effectiveness for Packard Grantees facilitated by the good folks at Monitor Institute. I wanted to capture some reflections around my burning question:
How do you think about using social media effectively along the continuum of open/closed networks?
Most of my recent explorations have been focused around the effective use of social media for external communications. But many networks need a private place or password protected place to have conversations online. This need isn't about being 'scared of social media" but rather a need for a safe place online to have conversations around very sensitive topics to build trust and relationships.
Today, I had an opportunity to present and discuss "8 Principles for Effectively Using Social Media for External Communications." But the question still remains - where do you discuss issues or share learnings related to your Network's work that might be sensitive. Where and how do you think about privacy and security in this context?
Before we dive into that, let's talk about ant trails. Eugene Eric Kim used this metaphor to describe how social media presence (in open networks) is like an trail. Ants do two things: leave and follow trails and haul things. They basically leave a trail that says "I was here." That way others can find them and connect. He applied the metaphor to Twitter. Twitter is simply an ant trail. We can leave a pulse, it is simple and easy. It keeps the connections going.
Eugene said not to focus on the content. Leave a trail and emergence to happen.
In fact, Eugene was watching the ant trails from the training session - we used the hashtag #packfound.
What do ants do when fall comes? I'm not sure. But when autumn comes to the East Coast - there is a chill in the air in the evening. There's a slight breeze that causes the leaves on the trees to make a distinctive rustling sound. It makes me think of poet Robert Frost and the opening lines of his Mending Wall poem comes to mind:
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
What I'm talking about is the place where networks need to have conversations online - that are a sensitive in nature and access must be controlled because of physical safety. We've been calling this space where bounded networks share sensitive learning online. It's usually behind a pass-protected, secure area. There's good reasons for that.
How do you reconcile this in an age of transparency and open networks? It's clear where openness belongs in the context of an external communications strategy that embraces social media. And, it is also clear where the fence or password protection belongs when the conversations needs to be internal. But, where to put that fence when the boundary is unclear?
The benefits to being open, "naked as angels" as Esther Dyson might say. Innovation, creativity, momentum. But how do you think about where to draw that line? And, when does that line move or creep?
For this training, each participant was given a copy of the book Digital Habitats written by John Smith, Nancy White, and Etienne Wenger. During an 'open space" discussion on online tools for bounded networks, we used some of the frameworks to discuss this issue. We focused on how you manage security and privacy when that is essential to the conversation. Some quick learnings:
- There is a distinction between privacy and security. Security is mostly technical issue, privacy is human behavior. (I'm hoping Peter Campbell or Michele Murrain might write a blog post explaining security protocols for non-techies)
- User or community guidelines are important. Guidelines should be articulated to participants in community guidelines. (Information shared behind this password protected area should not be shared with the mainstream media.)
- If community guidelines are formally articulated, they need to be enforced.
- Modeling community norms can be incredibly valuable. (See Eugene Eric Kim's thoughts here and here)
- If there are toxic people behind the fence, there's an art to removing them.
It still leaves me with a question that Robert Frost raised in the Mending Wall about the placement of fences that could be applied to the placement of password protected areas online:
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him
I have no answers to this question, but I do have an extra copy of Digital Habitats to give away. Leave a comment!