Social networking in the workplace

* More on social networking's place in the workplace

In the last newsletter, we discussed the impact of widespread use of social networking in the workplace. This time, we'd like to take the discussion further with some additional examples.

The underlying questions is how does one distinguish “work” traffic from “personal” traffic, and, indeed, where does one draw the line. In a recent paper, “Distinguishing Business Use of the Network from Recreational Use”, NetScout looks at a number of examples from streaming audio to software-as-a-service (SaaS) to peer-to-peer (P2P) applications. In each case, NetScout points out examples where there is legitimate business use of these applications, as well inappropriate personal use.

But the entire issue can’t even be boiled down to a specific service. Let’s consider Facebook as an example. When we were preparing the annual archives of the Future-Net conference for Webtorials, we noted that the folks at Future-Net have added a Facebook discussion for continuing conversation after the conference. This is an excellent example of using a tool that was developed for use outside the business market and making an excellent use for it within the business. (We will note that perhaps users of such a service might want to create dual identities – one for business/professional use and a separate one for personal networking.)

The bottom line is that extremely useful collaboration tools, with Skype being a classic example, are often developed for use outside the business arena, and, in fact, are initially viewed as rogue applications. However, in the proper context, these tools can provide a level of business functionality that exceeds commercially available applications, while doing so with an extreme cost-benefit.

So the conundrum continues to exist. How do you determine what tools are, and what tools are not, appropriate for the network? After all, not many years ago we were asking this exact same question about the appropriate use of instant messaging.

Let us know what you’re thinking, and we’ll pass along the responses.

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