Tagging behind the *firewall* - a case study
I've written about 'Enterprise Tagging' or 'tagging behind the firewall' before, but haven't come across any case study material in this area, until yesterday that is. In his latest post, Andrew McAfee has written up a short report on the intranet used at interactive agency Avenue A | Razorfish (AARF):
"What I found most interesting about the company was its own Intranet. To hear David, Ray, and Amy tell it, the company's traditional static Intranet -- the place where an employee would go to look up benefits information or peruse the latest press releases -- still exists, but has been marginalized by a suite of Enterprise 2.0 tools."
What content shows up?
"AARF has built interfaces to the bookmarking site del.icio.us, the photo sharing site Flickr, and Digg, a site where members vote on the importance of news stories. All three use tags, or something close.
AARF employees have learned to add the tag 'AARF' when they come across a web page (using del.icio.us), a photo (Flickr), or a news story (Digg) that they think will be of interest to their colleagues. Shortly after they add this tag, the bookmark (look at the top of the box), thumbnail of the photo (middle) or headline and description of the story (bottom) show up within the AARF E2.0 Intranet. So AARF has found a fast and low-overhead way to let its employees share Internet content with each other. It's also free; these interfaces with del.icio.us, Flickr, and Digg require no fees and no permissions. I find this simply brilliant."
Corporate Attention Data Needs to be Secure
A potential issue to point out here. Since employees are using the AARF tag to share content with other employees and they are doing so on public sites such as del.icio.us, I can also see what AARF employees are bookmarking and sharing with other AARF employees. Is that a good thing? We'll, it's good for me :-). But is that good for AARF? Look, here is a sample. From a cursory look at the AARF tagged bookmarks, I can tell:
- Someone is probably lobbying HR for Starbucks coffee machines at the office (I can't blame them...)
- Someone is studying Second Life's audience size, probably as an opportunity to either establish their own presence for the agency, or collating info so they can advise clients
- Someone is trying to figure out the ROI on blogging (rather you than me...)
- Someone is interested in mobile social software apps
Are they giving away company secrets? Lobbying for Starbucks coffee machines, er, probably not. Corporate Second Life plans for AARF? Maybe...
Whoever is responsible for this approach at AARF has probably considered the risks of making this kind of corporate attentional data potentially public (I hope). This level of corporate transparency might be a deliberate decision, but then again, it might not. Either way, companies need to be aware that if they are going to use public tools as a way of sharing content and data in this way, there is the potential to have their corporate attention data tapped into. Today, there is nothing to stop non-AARF employees and competitors subscribing to AARF tag feed and thereby tapping into a thread of AARF's collective thought processes.
(btw, before you point this out, I do realise there is a 'don't share' checkbox in del.icio.us, so it might be the case that what I can see on the AARF tagged content in del.icio.us might only be a subset of content that AARF employees have tagged, and what I'm seeing is what they and feel is OK for the likes of me to see. Even if this is the case and I were the person in change, I'd still be nervous - someone forgets to check a box and well, you get the picture.)
This IP / corporate privacy issue is the precisely the reason why I felt sometime ago that new commercial offerings would emerge to enable corporate tagging be done securely and behind the firewall. That's the 'firewall' bit of 'tagging behind the firewall' idea. (and that's why last year's Mind Camp session was called Del.icio.us Inside). This secure dimension would also allow to internal resources (URIs) to be bookmarked securely...Would you really want competitors to know that you've got a whitepaper written up on the next big thing for your company, with a url: "blah/why_we_will_invest_Xmillion_in_Y_in_2007.html?
Putting this implementation and security issue aside, I believe there is huge potential upside for using social bookmarking and tagging tools inside the firewall, if done right (and that means securely, amongst other things). The pioneering approach by AARF is giving us a glimpse into the future of intranets. I'll give McAfee the final word:
"It gives them 'the latest' about their work environment. And it does so in a bottom-up and egalitarian fashion. This page doesn't contain the latest information that the company's senior managers, or its IT staffers, think employees should know about; it contains the latest information that employees think employees should know about."
P.S. I'm going to bookmark this post 'AARF' on del.icio.us. This should guarantee that it'll appear on the AARF intranet ;-)
P.P.S. If you are at all interested in 'Enteprise 2.0', you really should subscribe to Andrew McAfee's blog. He's associate professor at Harvard who regularly posts on the topic of social software behind the firewall.