Why IT should listen to Palin

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Whatever your political preferences, Sarah Palin’s performance in the Vice Presidential debate can be seen as a blueprint for how IT must learn to respond to the social media wave. If you haven’t noticed, every single technology vendor large and small is now shoveling great amounts of verbiage (sic) about cloud computing, its virtues, its dangers, its (lack of) change from what has come before.

It’s the Hope message that Microsoft launched at the turn of the century with its Web Services initiative: the harnessing of XML as a unification of proprietary remote procedure calls and data streams under the eXtensible banner. Or it’s the Hope We Need for companies strangling on slow-moving ERP migrations and employee abuse of mobile devices and websites to lower productivity while leaking intellectual property across firewalls with abandon. Can social media help IT lock down the new Wild West of free range gunslingers, or is it too late to stop the virus of hierarchy flattening that the Net has spread?

If the campaign is moving toward a culture war as Obama continues to ride the financial crisis, then something similar may be about to occur in the corporate world. That’s why IT needs to look carefully at Sarah Palin’s strategy in the debate, where she simply dropped the pretense of playing ball and told Biden, the media, and most directly the 50 million viewers that she wasn’t going to worry about the format or the rules or what the event sought to project as its rationale, but rather talk directly without filtering to her audience.

It was an effective moment, particularly for an electorate starved for straight talk, and also for a candidate who had been having near-fatal problems with answering questions. But what it mirrors with the dialogue with IT is that she was saying what social media users are saying, namely, we’re gonna use this stuff no matter what you think about it. Palin, who up until that moment had largely succeeded by exceeding dismal expectations, suddenly connected with us no matter whether we think her woefully unprepared for the job or that she brings fresh blood to the process of transforming government.

Similarly, social media-enabled applications and frameworks immediately transform algorithmic text analysis by adding the weight of personal and/or affiliate reputation to the content being routed. This so-called “people” context makes possible much quicker decisions based on more efficient arbitrage of information. In a jury room, the power brokers quickly identify the several key players on both sides of the question, then make sure to give them enough screentime to represent their constituencies, then force a vote. The foreman is usually not the dominant player but rather a floor manager, given the signal when the votes are apparent for a decision.

This social graph mining can be extended via instant messaging without fear of interception over email, which provides an audit trail that implies consequences for either spreading information beyond a need to know basis or not keeping superiors or lateral peers appropriately in the loop. IM is perceived as “dangerous” from IT’s perspective, but strategic from a getting it done view often held by CEOs and consultants who encourage collaborative behavior.

Social media surfaces this conflict and creates the notion of a hybrid – quasi-public IM and activity streaming – that endows a class of messages with implicit power that neither email nor IM nor blogging alone have. By enabling realtime messages that can instantly convert to direct conversations with unanticipated endpoints, micromessages create a business value proposition that transcends the mandated reporting culture of SarbOx as well as endemic information hoarding.

Real work gets done in these conversations, and typically this work is being performed in the “open” because the participants realize (and have been given “permission” to work at this live level) that they have little to fear from competition because their access to participation trumps others who by definition have to react after the fact. Not only has the value moved on to the next set of conversations, but the product of this work is now being marketed to the audience most likely to buy it.

Remember that social graph data encapsulates affinity behavior, which is more likely to yield targets for accelerated business and idea transformation. Those still hanging back while waiting for trends to emerge are caught in a backwater, while the trends are busy being generated and validated by fast-moving microcommunities. So whatever you think of Palin, don’t confuse the power of the idea with the tactical messenger who brought it to the party. IT is ultimately there to serve the most efficient business process mandated by the company’s reason for existence. Palin showed executive competence, and a great deal more, whoever actually wrote the lines.

  • http://twitter.com/callingbull icebofh

    Whatcha talking about, Willis?

    Are you high?

    • http://ceejayoz.com/ ceejayoz

      Seconded.

    • Mitch Rosen

      He’s definitely high. Wtf does sarah palins shitty ass performance have to do with IT? Weird ass dude and weird ass posts.

  • http://twitter.com/callingbull icebofh

    Whatcha talking about, Willis?

    Are you high?

    • http://ceejayoz.com/ ceejayoz

      Seconded.

    • Mitch Rosen

      He’s definitely high. Wtf does sarah palins shitty ass performance have to do with IT? Weird ass dude and weird ass posts.

  • http://learnandteachonline.com Amyloo

    These ideas kind of follow on from your Gillmor Gang interview with the SocialText guy. Wouldn’t it be interesting to persuade a typical IT person to come on the Gang and be grilled about some of these things?

  • http://learnandteachonline.com Amyloo

    These ideas kind of follow on from your Gillmor Gang interview with the SocialText guy. Wouldn’t it be interesting to persuade a typical IT person to come on the Gang and be grilled about some of these things?

  • http://www.jeneane.net jeneane

    “straight talk?”

    oh god.

  • http://www.jeneane.net jeneane

    “straight talk?”

    oh god.

  • http://www.techcrunch.com michael arrington

    totally agree.

    by the way, tried to join gillmor gang today and you would not believe the shit i had to go through. I was on a phone that only had dial tone, not beep tone. so when you hit buttons it makes that clicking sound. impossible to navigate a phone tree. threw the phone against the wall. problem solved.

  • http://www.techcrunch.com michael arrington

    totally agree.

    by the way, tried to join gillmor gang today and you would not believe the shit i had to go through. I was on a phone that only had dial tone, not beep tone. so when you hit buttons it makes that clicking sound. impossible to navigate a phone tree. threw the phone against the wall. problem solved.

  • Jack

    I’m impressed, Steve! In this latest of your attempts to combine analysis of political and technical events of the day, you almost succeeded in providing a balanced and insightful perspective (up until your very last sentence.)

    You just had to add that last little equivocation, alluding to Palin’s supposed need for a ghost writer, didn’t you? Given the format of the debate, it is doubtful that queries to the VP candidates could have been anticipated and pre-scripted, but somehow you could not let a post go by without casting doubt on the competency of the conservative participant.

    You might well have questioned the absence of veracity in the many ‘facts’ that Obiden uttered in his turns of pontification…but for some reason, you chose not to do so?

    Oh well…You still deserve kudos, for improvement over past propaganda.

    Jack

  • Jack

    I’m impressed, Steve! In this latest of your attempts to combine analysis of political and technical events of the day, you almost succeeded in providing a balanced and insightful perspective (up until your very last sentence.)

    You just had to add that last little equivocation, alluding to Palin’s supposed need for a ghost writer, didn’t you? Given the format of the debate, it is doubtful that queries to the VP candidates could have been anticipated and pre-scripted, but somehow you could not let a post go by without casting doubt on the competency of the conservative participant.

    You might well have questioned the absence of veracity in the many ‘facts’ that Obiden uttered in his turns of pontification…but for some reason, you chose not to do so?

    Oh well…You still deserve kudos, for improvement over past propaganda.

    Jack

  • st

    Good article – it’s a pity YOU don’t know how to spell ‘verbiage’.

  • st

    Good article – it’s a pity YOU don’t know how to spell ‘verbiage’.

  • http://www.vinull.com Michael C. Neel

    This “straight talk” is also the same tactic used when someone doesn’t understand the subject matter. It might sound good to someone who doesn’t know the actual problems, but to anyone clued in its seen as total BS. I would caution greatly any IT person from adopting this “Palin Speak” – if the company is hemoraging money you better be talking about stopping the bleeding and not jump topics to something that is not going to address the problems.

  • http://www.vinull.com Michael C. Neel

    This “straight talk” is also the same tactic used when someone doesn’t understand the subject matter. It might sound good to someone who doesn’t know the actual problems, but to anyone clued in its seen as total BS. I would caution greatly any IT person from adopting this “Palin Speak” – if the company is hemoraging money you better be talking about stopping the bleeding and not jump topics to something that is not going to address the problems.

  • MikeyJ.

    What a wonderful analogy: how many times have you all participated in meetings where IT’s stock response is NO – NO – and NO to the small stuff that the line of business is begging, but are always keen to tender their [IT] vote to those once in a decade projects tendered by the old boys at IBM, SAP or EDS (sic). Palin might not exactly be web 2 – but Gilmores view in my view is not such a long bow. Is SMS, IM or presence more is less likely to impact profit than a 5 yr SAP implementation? Perhaps another way – what is the benefit of IT’s perfectly normalised data structure to that random idea developed over a 5 minute IM. How different is this to a young Austrian patent clerk doing a little part time physics?

  • MikeyJ.

    What a wonderful analogy: how many times have you all participated in meetings where IT’s stock response is NO – NO – and NO to the small stuff that the line of business is begging, but are always keen to tender their [IT] vote to those once in a decade projects tendered by the old boys at IBM, SAP or EDS (sic). Palin might not exactly be web 2 – but Gilmores view in my view is not such a long bow. Is SMS, IM or presence more is less likely to impact profit than a 5 yr SAP implementation? Perhaps another way – what is the benefit of IT’s perfectly normalised data structure to that random idea developed over a 5 minute IM. How different is this to a young Austrian patent clerk doing a little part time physics?

  • http://blog.echovar.com/?p=545 echovar » Blog Archive » Permission To Go Live: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

    […] Steve Gillmor writes about the way the companies communicate, through official static planned releases of information or with live conversations through the Network. Real work gets done in these conversations, and typically this work is being performed in the “open” because the participants realize (and have been given “permission” to work at this live level) that they have little to fear from competition because their access to participation trumps others who by definition have to react after the fact. Not only has the value moved on to the next set of conversations, but the product of this work is now being marketed to the audience most likely to buy it. […]

  • http://blog.echovar.com/?p=545 echovar » Blog Archive » Permission To Go Live: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

    […] Steve Gillmor writes about the way the companies communicate, through official static planned releases of information or with live conversations through the Network. Real work gets done in these conversations, and typically this work is being performed in the “open” because the participants realize (and have been given “permission” to work at this live level) that they have little to fear from competition because their access to participation trumps others who by definition have to react after the fact. Not only has the value moved on to the next set of conversations, but the product of this work is now being marketed to the audience most likely to buy it. […]

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