(By Giovanni Rodriguez)
“Nations develop from the ground up, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city. And the more prosperous these smaller units are, the more prosperous the nations themselves. My argument is that what’s good for Facebook groups is good for Facebook, too. You might find yourself walking out of the “house” a bit less frequently, but when you do you might have something more important to say. Or you might have something more important to do. There’s always that possibility: the tools inside groups migrating to the general stream.“
On Saturday, I found myself Skyping with someone several hundred miles south of me, asking how her Labor Day weekend was going. She was as busy as I was – we were in fact collaborating on a paper with three other people (two in Denmark, one in Finland) are our deadline was fast approaching. As I was exiting Skype and reentering our Facebook “secret group” (where we were collecting and commenting on most of our research) I told her I hoped that she would find “time to enjoy the weekend in a mode other than work.”
It was a joke, of course, but not because I was trapped by work again on a holiday weekend, but because I was actually enjoying the work. And while the virtual environment we found for this work for our small global team is only part of the story (the subject of the paper itself — the emergence of the new global peace market — is keeping us going) it’s an important part of the story. And that’s because our Facebook group has become not only an enjoyable environment for our collaboration, but a productive one as well.
Importance of context
For me, there are at least three things worth saying about Facebook groups. The first, is that I finding myself spending an increasingly large proportion of my time on Facebook not in the general stream but in private and secret groups (this is what Facebook calls them; the names of “secret” groups are only visible to members of those groups). Part of the reason: I have always felt more comfortable in the company of smaller groups, and the focus of most of my Facebook groups (client projects and research projects) keeps the numbers psychologically manageable. And Facebook groups, I believe, better imitate the way that people like to organize themselves. There was a time when we spent more time with friends and family. Both the intimacy and context of smaller groups – a topic, in fact, that my colleague Margarita Quihuis has been talking about in one of our Facebook groups — encourages people to participate on a deeper level, and — to paraphrase Señor Hemmingway — in a nicely designed (clean), well-lighted place.
Importance of mode
And it’s not just talk that’s happening at a deeper level. What’s happened with Facebook groups is that more and more they are beginning to resemble multi-feature collaboration platforms that you see in the enterprise collaboration market (think Jive, Chatter, and, more recently, tibbr). The upshot: you can actually get work done in these environments, partly because of the context (“this is a place of work”) but in large part also because groups provide some of the tools most critical to collaboration (file sharing, file storage, to name just a couple). The toolset is not complete. Nor are the tools “best in class” (except for photo sharing). But with these tools, groups can collaborate well enough – enough to make going there feel productive, an incentive that might keep you coming back.
Importance of emergence
Will groups steal time and real estate from the larger community, and will all this private productivity come at the expense of the general good? Will this accelerate the development of the filter bubble, the technology-powered complex of blinders that prevent us from knowing anything outside our small circles? I think not. If there is in fact a trend toward growth in private and secret groups, we should welcome it as yet another example of the virtual world embracing a best practice from the physical world. Nations develop from the ground up, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city. And the more prosperous these smaller units are, the more prosperous the nations themselves. My argument is that what’s good for Facebook groups is good for Facebook, too. You might find yourself walking out of the “house” a bit less frequently, but when you do you might have something more important to say. Or you might have something more important to do. There’s always that possibility: the tools inside groups migrating to the general stream. Until then, I am enjoying the private virtual life more these days, and thus appreciating my public outings more, too. In the end, it’s all about context. There’s a time and place for everything – even on holidays when one must work — and it’s nice that leaders in the virtual world are beginning to understand that.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”