Three years ago, I received a review copy of Groundswell, the book about “social technologies” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I was very impressed by it, as my review post shows.
I see from Charlene’s blog that a paperback edition is now available. There are a couple of new chapters. One is about “social maturity”, on which Josh posted recently.
The other new chapter is on Twitter, which has grown to be as big as a (fail) whale in the three years since the Groundswell hardback. In some ways, the addition of a chapter on a particular tool goes against a strength of the book. To quote myself: “the authors resist the temptation to provide a lot of detail about specific tools… the tools will change.”
Perhaps the addition of a Twitter chapter is an implicit prediction that Twitter is here to stay, at least for a few years. If so, then the absence of a chapter on Facebook is interesting…
I’ve long thought of the web as being about two things: content and connection. According to research by Forrester, connection is growing, while content creation is flat. I find this rather sad, since the ease of publishing is one of the things I like about the web.
There are posts at GigaOm and at Mashable, each of which provides a table showing that the percentage of web users considered Creators has dropped a little over the past year in both the USA and the EU. Neither post links to a post or page at Forrester. It seems strange that there isn’t a post at the Groundswell blog, since Groundswell seems to have provided the framework for the research.
Update, the following morning: there is now a post at Groundswell.
I should write something resembling a review of Groundswell, since I have a review copy. I’ve already given it 5 starts at Goodreads. Why?
The book is incredibly well crafted. Many times I found myself applauding decisions made by the authors and the rest of the team (editors, etc.). For example, although the book is to a large extent about how to succeed amidst the groundswell, there are failure stories as well as success stories. There are just enough to provide balance and to avoid too rosy a picture, but no more than that.
Another decision the authors made, and made very well, concerns the discussion of specific social technologies. Although technologies such as blogs and social networks are fundamental to the groundswell, the authors resist the temptation to provide a lot of detail about specific tools. They are right to do so, because the tools will change, while the basic groundswell of people using the social tools to hand at the moment will continue.
If there is one thing not to my taste about the book, it’s that it is so thoroughly crafted that I sometimes wished for rough edges to provide some texture. To illustrate this, I’ll follow in the footsteps of those who have placed Groundswell in a tradition going back through Naked Conversations to The Cluetrain Manifesto. (One such is Conversations co-author Shel.)
Cluetrain is wildly uneven. It’s like an album on which the central track is an all-time classic, but some of the other tracks serve best as warnings of the effects of drug use. Conversations is an excellent early mapping of Blogistan, complete with travel guide for businessfolk. (Perhaps I am biased toward it, since I provided feedback on the chapters as Shel blogged early drafts.)
Like Conversations, Groundswell is rich with case studies. However, Groundswell also includes more numbers. It also provides a more specific framework for action than does either of its forerunners. That POST framework is illustrated by my previous post. You might also want to see my Groundswell mindmap post.
So this is the third of three posts I probably wouldn’t have written were it not for getting a review copy. I like to think I’ve more than justified the publisher’s investment in my copy.
I have a review copy of Groundswell. The publisher, Harvard Business Press, sent a copy each to 100 bloggers (and I believe that their generous stock of blogger review copies is gone now).
Sending out blogger review copies provides an example of Groundswell thinking. So let’s use it to illustrate the POST framework developed in the book (and illustrated in the Groundswell mindmap I did yesterday).
- People. The first question is who? Groundswell describes people in terms of their position on a ladder of social technology use. On the top rung are Creators of content. Bloggers are on this rung. (While the target audience of Groundswell includes many who don’t create web content, this example is about those who do. If you want a summary of the other rungs, there’s a short presentation giving more detail about the ladder.)
- Objective. Having recognized the existence of these bloggers, HBP considered its objective. There are five main objectives; each gets its own chapter, as you can see from the book’s table of contents. We’re concerned here with energizing: helping your customers sell to each other. Selling here doesn’t mean hard-sell shouting. It means telling each other about the book, in this case via blog posts.
- Strategy. How to achieve the objective? Send the books out! Strategy is a rather misleading term, implying a grander action that putting 100 books in the mail. More generally, I don’t think that strategy is the best word for this third step. I’d prefer action or tactics, but that would mess up the acronym (POST), and this is the kind of book that needs an acronym.
- Technology. This is the most obvious aspect of the groundswell. HBP in giving away books to people like me is using a specific social technology: blogging. It’s also using some very old technologies: paper, and delivery to a building. In some ways it seems strange to use such old technology, rather than to offer us a download. I’m not complaining or criticizing: I probably wouldn’t have “read” Groundswell in any new fangled digital format.
There seems to be something missing from this example. The chapter on energizing includes an example of return on energizing activity, and there are other examples of return on groundswell activity elsewhere in the book. I don’t see evidence that HBP are tracking the blog posts and other web content generated as a result of energizing bloggers with free books. So it doesn’t appear that they are calculating return on their investment in blogger review copies.
I may be speaking prematurely. It may be that we the freebie-blessed bloggers are about to get an email asking us for links to content that has been energized from us. Then there might be a page at the Groundswell web site linking out to all that content, and presenting it as an example of energizing the groundswell. I think it’s a good example.
Here’s a mindmap of the book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. To be precise, here’s an image generated from the mindmap. You can click on it to see a larger image.
I recommend going to the map itself, which includes includes richer content such as notes and links. To create and host the map, I used MindMeister. I also tried Bubbl.us and Gliffy, having consulted Mashable’s mindmapping tools post.
The thing that tipped me toward Mindmeiester was the ease of adding icons. I’ve used them to emphasize the POST framework, and to link steps in the framework to chapters of the book. I was at first thinking of using lines to connect each of the four steps to corresponding chapters, but I realized that would turn the map into a mess of crossed lines. While that would have been a faithful representation of my mind, it wouldn’t have much help to you, the user.
By the way, I looked only at mindmapping tools that were web-based and free, or freemium. After choosing MindMeister, I continued to discover features I liked: offline access via Gears; OpenID; ease of undoing silly things; and the people behind it seem to be based in Vienna and Munich, two cities in which I had a lot of fun when I was based in Europe.
This is version 1 of my Groundswell mindmap. (I don’t claim to be the first to do a Groundswell mindmap; I believe that distinction belongs to Kaspar.) If you have suggestions for improvements, or any other comments, please go ahead and leave them here.
Good news: Charlene Li notes that video highlights from Forrester’s Consumer Forum are available online.
Bad news: “Note that you need to use Internet Explorer to use the navigation and see the slides.” Perhaps there is a certain logic to that. It may well be that Firefox users already know all about what Charlene calls “The Groundswell.”
Bottom line: you can still see and hear the video of Charlene and the other speakers, even if you can’t see the slides, with Firefox (and, I presume, pretty much any other browser).