Facebook as a Knowledge Sharing Platform

8 February, 2008

Like many work teams we have decided to see if Facebook can work as a platform for knowledge sharing. This is one of the first steps in our broader journey to create more social learning opportunities for our members. Hopefully it will provide an insight into the some of the challenges we will face when we attempt to roll these technologies out to our members. A month into our experiment I think it will.

I originally intended to write a full case study on this topic today but after giving the issue some further thought, I have decided to describe the situation and some of the challenges we are facing. I’ll leave the possible solutions for a couple of week’s time when I have got further into my reading and hopefully discussion.

I must flag before I go any further I am only a participant and observer in the project. Another team has been handling the planning and implementation, although if my interview goes well on Monday I will be involved soon :-).

The first step in establishing our platform was to create a private group and encourage everyone (approximately 15 people across 3 states) to create a profile.

The second stage was to try and drum up some interaction. A question inviting the team to suggest how we could make use of the group was posted and a couple of useful web links were posted on the group main page.

At this stage we got interest from those that were keen (myself and a couple of others), we added to the useful links, responded to the discussion and started some new discussions. The problem was not many others contributed.

The third stage was to introduce a weekly challenge. The manager responsible for the project asked everyone in the team to post one link they find very useful and describe why it is so great.

Here we started to get some action. Everyone in the team contributed at least one resource and described how it is useful to them. At this point I thought now it will happen; everyone will get involved and this will really take off. It hasn’t. A week later we’re back to the usual suspects.

That’s where we are at today. I’ll finish this post with a run down of some of the key challenges I think we are facing, then try and find solutions to those over the next 3.5 weeks.

Not mission critical

In its current state this project will not provide our team with any mission critical information. As a result they are not making the time to check the group or contribute to it.

Separate Goals

Our team consists of three separate groups, two that are focused on multimedia development, e-Learning and Social Learning and a third that is responsible for running the Library. I can post links to interesting podcasts about social networking all day but those in the library do not care, they want resources relating to them (which is reasonable… I don’t want to read about libraries! ☺).

Lack of Literacy

This is very common with these types projects, many of the team members have basic computer literacy; they have mastered Google, email and MS office but not too much more. I must admit sometimes I find it a bit difficult to figure out how to make things display in Facebook, for those that are not overly confident with the web it can be very intimidating.

Lack of Confidence

While on the topic of feeling intimidated, those that are not overly experienced are quite likely to feel very intimidated by what the experienced team members are posting. If you read my post from Wednesday would know I have been experiencing that same feeling of apprehension. It is very easy to think ‘how can I contribute something as good as that.’

Lack of value

This is probably a combination of the first two points but I think I am going to keep it separate for the moment. There is no clear value to logging in. There reason the team has at the moment is too contribute. I think we’ll need to come up with something more compelling than that.

That concludes my list of challenges, I might take the weekend to think them through and do some reading. Michelle Martin’s Blogging4Learning project may help me with a couple of these I’ll have to keep a close eye on how she is going. On Monday I’ll start discussing some of the broader issues in using social learning tools in a corporate environment.

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One Response to “Facebook as a Knowledge Sharing Platform”


  1. Great list, Mick! I can tell you that what you’re describing with Facebook is what I’ve experienced with Ning–you really have to provide people with a compelling reason to go visit the site. Sharing resources that aren’t mission-critical won’t be enough and I’m not even sure that Facebook is the right environment for doing this.

    What might help is if you guys think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. If right now it’s about knowledge sharing, then maybe you need to use something like a wiki and shared tags on del.icio.us or even setting up a Google or Yahoo group. I’d go back to the needs and then think about the tools that will best help you meet them.


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