Hewlett-Packard will be rolling out a social network for IT professionals called 48Upper. The new product ostensibly provides IT workers with a central site for troubleshooting. There will be query-based technology libraries and the ability to mark information shared by users as public or for internal circulation only.
While the product is not yet ready for beta testing, its existence does raise a few questions about the utility of vendor-specific social networks in IT.
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What does this do that listservs, blogs and bulletin boards do not? IT pros already aggregate in well-established sites. In order for a social networking platform to take off, it's going to have to offer something other Web-based watering holes do not.
What problem does this solve, or what need does this identify and fill? The 48Upper manifesto says:
We declare a revolution. The Social Collaborative IT Management Revolution (So-Cool-IT -- we still like abbreviations). There are four core pillars to the revolution: Simple, Social, Open, Fun.
By supporting the four characteristics of the SoCool-IT revolution, we submit that the job satisfaction of the IT professional will increase. This increase in satisfaction will increase employee morale. A happier employee is a more productive employee.
If taken at face value, 48Upper aims to solve the problem of disgruntled and underperforming workers. A well-documented source of dissatisfaction among IT workers is an increased workload with little to no corresponding rise in pay. However, it is entirely possible that a secondary source is simply not having a cool, fun watering hole of their own.
Is this a ploy to get around the social media restrictions some companies put in place? When research firms estimate that productivity drops once people have access to Facebook, it's easy to associate "social media" with "goofing around." But it might be hard to justify banning a social network meant explicitly for work.
How will it meet enterprise-specific needs? Two frequently deployed workplace tools -- intranets and collaboration portals -- are already ubiquitous among enterprises. These tools should, in theory, provide the same kind of reference library, information sharing, and workflow transparency that 48Upper is aiming for.
There's no doubt that IT and the enterprise can capitalize on strengths among the different social media platforms -- for example, Facebook's ability to filter information by groups or Twitter's brief and timely bursts of information to a wide audience. It will be interesting to see if HP manages to bring the strengths of Farmville's Ground Zero to a server farm.
This article, "Coming soon: 48Upper, a social network just for IT pros," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.