Just back from Amsterdam where I had the chance to speak at the Next Web conference on the topic, "Communicating in the Relationship Economy". A big thanks to the guys in white suits for the opportunity and the chance to meet and schmooze with the Amsterdam start-up universe.
As I put together my thoughts last week, I noticed a lot of talk on the meaning and impact behind the social software tools we are embracing. Liz Strauss discussed whether we now have two webs: information and relationships? JP chimed in and over in another section of blogland Ken, Ayelet and others were discussing the "realness" of these relationships.
I think all these discussions are fascinating, but in the end, Tomato: Tomatoe. We don't think about HOW we exchange information with our mailman or if this relationship is REAL or how deep. It just IS. The same can [sort of] be said about the online world. The difference [a very big difference] being speed, geography and quantity.
David Weinberger called it Continuous Partial Friendship. I've referred to it as Continuous Partial Community [thank you Linda]. I think Lisa Reichelt captures it best with Ambient Intimacy. This phrase does away with the inevitable question - how can we maintain all these 'friendships' and 'communities'?- by not referring to these words at all.
We do not yet have the language to describe the nature of these relationships, so we use the same metaphors from the real world. Same thing we did with good ole Web 1.0 by referring to links on sites as "web pages" - they aren't pages any more than someone I link to on a social network is the same as a friend from kindergarten. When we get bogged down in semantics we miss the point: It doesn't matter! They are connections and we never know how or when they will come into play.
I found an old post by Chris Locke that referred to this as Relationship Bricolage. I like that. A bricoleur is someone who uses objects in new and unintended ways and I think that is exactly how we are currently connecting and communicating online.
I have been thinking a lot about HOW we behave in this new hyper-connected universe and the skills we need. I call it WEAVING - where the medium is the relationship. We weave a tapestry of connectedness. We weave between networks, blogs, IM, Skype etc. We currently have too many tools and log-ins and communities to deal with - but I have faith that this will indeed work itself out. The Facebook API is just the first recognition of our new weaving behavior.
In the context of business, companies will need to start learning how to weave in order to be successful in a hyper-connected universe. Whether they are in marketing, product development, operations or customer service, if they are not weaving they will get left behind. This is a skill that will be required across the organization - whether they are community managers, evangelists, product managers or operations.
Here's my preso from the show. No real notes (I use examples ad-hoc), but hopefully you will get the idea.
Note: My original idea to talk about Weaving as it applies across networks and the realtionship of company and customer came from conversations with Valdis Krebs and the work he and his team are doing for organizations. Check out Network Weaving blog for more.