Tags, social networks, and email

When the novelty wears off, though, I think that tagging will have altered the information landscape in a fundamental way.
Of course, the twin enablers of this phenomenon -- open sharing and large scale -- don't normally apply in the enterprise. How tagging will fare on intranets, where smaller groups are further subdivided into security zones, remains to be seen.

My guess is that e-mail will play an important role. Mining corporate e-mail to identify groups who are collaborating -- or should be -- is getting to be a big deal. Tagging can improve that process.

Because e-mail remains the dominant tool for ad hoc collaboration across corporate borders, I expect tags will help there, too. In Gmail, I "label" (in other words, tag) conversational threads for easy reference. If you and I are working on Project X and either of us has tagged a thread accordingly, shouldn't we share the benefits of that tag -- in any e-mail program? Soon, I hope, we will. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]

Although I've heard little discussion on this point, Gmail is an implicit social network that could be made explicit by flipping some bits. And pooling of tagged conversations among collaborators is just the tip of the iceberg. Recently, Tim O'Reilly blogged about how we already have much of the social networking we need:

My communication applications reflect my real social network. They just need to be instrumented. When is a vendor of email or phone or address book products going to figure this out? Watch who I communicate with, how often, and in what patterns, and give me tools for managing my network better based on that analysis. [O'Reilly Radar: My Real Social Network]
Several of the vendors I mentioned in The Social Enterprise are already working on this stuff. For them it's a bit of a challenge to do the necessary traffic analysis; for Gmail it'd be a cakewalk. It's true that Gmail's privacy statement is silent about traffic analysis. But clearly it already keeps track of your contacts. Would you be surprised if one day Gmail offered to visualize the traffic patterns within your network of contacts, or to perform social network analysis to the extent that you and your trusted contacts choose to permit? If that happened would you be offended or delighted? Both, probably.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/07/21.html#a1273