Recently the company I work for decided to block LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking website that has been available for a while now. Presumably they did this in response to the new add-in for Microsoft Outlook that allows for integration with LinkedIn. After questioning the Internet blocking policies with the gatekeepers in Germany a few times, I have given up on trying to understand them. The usual response is that it must be blocked for a reason, though no one knows who makes those decisions or why. Our policies sometimes appear to be based upon avoidance of new technologies rather than exploitation of them.
Social networking is such a powerful tool for sharing information that it should be exploited by the corporate world for sharing corporate information inside and between different teams. It amazes me at how effective Facebook has been at connecting people. I have been reintroduced to people that I have nearly forgot about. This seems like it could be a valuable feature in a a large global corporation.
But, unfortunatly, large corporations like mine tend to see social networking as another online productivity black hole. Many large companies besides mine block social networking sites out of the fear that their employees will waste their days away chatting with friends. And this fear inhibits them from seeing the potential.
Instead of using modern consumer technologies, some large companies favor time-tested tools such as emails and message boards, the digital analogs of typed mail and cork boards. These technologies simply digitized older analog processes, so they are easy for businessmen to understand. But, I believe that future (or current leading edge) technologies will bring their own efficiencies to the table, efficiencies that would impossible outside of the digital world. The mysterious nature of these new technologies, the fact that there is no existing "real-world" equivalent, will hinder the business people's understanding of them and thus retard their implementation.
To help get around some of these problems and get social networking established in corporate culture I have envisioned a social networking site, similar to Facebook, that not only adds people to networks but also restricts them to their network. So, when an individual logs into this social networking site using his corporate email address he is only presented with things relevant to his corporation. The interface should allow the users to quickly add a variety of content, like Tumblr. It should allow for following other people, like Twitter. It should also be linked with Outlook, like LinkedIn. And, it should have a powerful search facility.
I know that even with the domain restriction corporations would shy away from it. Many corporate types have a fear of their corporate data being stored on the cloud. The businessmen are not sure that they can trust these companies to safeguard their data. Which is odd to me, because they have come to extensively trust other companies with their data. If Microsoft was interested in stealing a companies data they could, in theory send out an update to Windows that allows them to do so. Or, a security flaw in Windows could expose the company's data to outsides. So, in my mind, the difference between a vendor who provides software to manage data internally and a vendor who provides external data management is negligible.
I know that these transformation will happen, I am just not sure when or how. I only hope to generate some ideas that could ease the transition, and domain restricted social networking is one such idea.