Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...
Euan Semple was the guest speaker at our (not exactly) annual work conference, earlier this year, where he gave an excellent talk about his experiences with social computing at the BBC. Semple was the guy who introduced social computing to the BBC – initially mostly under the radar – consequently he's one of the best placed people to talk about the potential benefits to both companies and employees of embracing social computing (and more open knowledge management practices in general). At the end of his talk he, quite sensibly, had a little plug for his book: Organisations Don't Tweet, People Do.
The book is a series of 44 'thought essays' rather than a single work as such. Each essay is a variation on a number of themes. That companies, managers and employees shouldn't be scared of social computing; shouldn't fear the loss of control. That blogging, tweeting, just the act of writing down your thoughts provides both valuable business benefits and valuable personal benefits – as a form of self-expression, increasing your worth in both your current role and the next, forcing you to think about your actions and helping you to understand, and even shape, the world around you. That openness and honesty in your writing are the key to both success in social computing and not making (or recovering from) mistakes. That conversations between real people are more important than marketing and 'knowledge management'. That you can't easily have a strategy for something like social computing as it's still developing and changing too fast. And, that sometimes the inanity of the online can help cement the relationships. There is a subtext running through the book as well – many of these essays hint that they are also talking about changing the way you run the business in a social computing world rather than just how your current business should 'do' social computing.
Each essay is short, generally less than half-a-dozen pages each, engaging and well written; easily read during a visit to the executive bathroom (he says 'restroom' in the introduction, but I refuse). Unfortunately, while they are short, 44 is a lot of essays for a book on such a narrow topic. Many of the essays feel like different riffs on the same themes as previous ones. In part, maybe that's not such a bad thing: if we haven't grasped Euan's message yet, maybe he needs to repeat himself. But, as a reasonably seasoned Internetphile, I didn't feel I was getting as much out of the repetition as I had hoped. For somebody who is less experienced, or less convinced, about the benefits of social computing in a work context, it's probably a much more useful collection of writings and, hopefully, might change some hearts and minds.