Social Networking Services

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 Case Findings

This case is based on the organization Fondazione Bruno Kessler. For this chapter a paper that was presented at the 4 th and 5th UK Social Networks Conference written by M. Ferron, P. Massa and F. Odella is used as a case study description. The authors of the paper are employees at FBK and the paper is called Analyzing collaborative networks emerging in Enterprise 2.0: the Taolin Platform.

Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) is a research institute located in Italy. It has approxi-mately 400 employees. The research areas that FBK covers differ and include Information Technology, Materials and Microsystems, Italo-Germanic studies and Religious Sciences. FBK is also making research in the area of theoretical nuclear physics, networking and tele-communications and public policy effectiveness. As we can see the competences and the professional interests vary and FBK wants to take leverage on this. The employees are di-vided into around 35 research groups and there is almost no communication between the groups.

Goal of Taolin

Except from testing the applicability of Enterprise 2.0 tools within FBK, the goal of Taolin is clearly stated by the researchers working in FBK as: The goal of Taolin was to provide an internal platform for FBK employees acting as a central hub for all their daily job needs. The platform integrates internal services such as those for booking rooms for meetings or for check-ing personal timetables. One requirement for the platform was to make employees and their competences visible to other employees within the company. The aim of this was that the collaborations between people that posses the necessary skills and knowledge for a job to be done will be encour-aged. The mission of Taolin was communicated through the homepage where the users had to log in. The text is as follows: Welcome in! If you are a Champion, please enter your FBK username and password in the form below. If you are not a Champion, please read the rest of the page.

What is

It is an internal web platform whose goal is to increase the collaboration and knowledge sharing inside FBK.

Really? I would love to try it. What should I do?

At the moment, is under testing with a small number of Cham-pions, colleagues who volunteered in order to help us improve the application.

Ah ok, then I would really like to be a Champion!

We’re glad you do and thanks! 😉 If you would like to help us in testing the system, provide feedback and give suggestion about new features, please, do send an email to [email protected] saying you want to be a Champion! We will reply in few minutes.

Who is working on

Happy you asked! The answer is « the Sonet group », you can find info about the Sonet group on the project Web page.

The Initiation of Taolin Platform

Taolin is an open source Enterprise 2.0 platform that is deployed inside FBK. Nowadays the science is becoming more interdisciplinary, and the management is willing to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing between the groups. That is why FBK is considered as a really good test organization for the implementation and analysis of such Enterprise 2.0 tools. So an internal project, called Taolin, was started in April 2008. Its aim was to test the ap-plicability of Enterprise 2.0 tools within the organization. A review of the existing open source licensed tools was made by the developers. Their conclusion was that no one of the-se tools meets the FBK needs and the development team took a decision that they should start and build a Web Enterprise 2.0 application from scratch. Taolin has been released as open source, so other organizations can have an access to it and further develop it for their specific needs. One of the interviewees reveals how it all began: It was an effort to exploit web2.0 inside FBK in order to improve knowledge sharing, collaboration and make the workplace more pleasant and easy.

Development of Taolin

The chosen strategy for the development of Taolin was “always in beta”. This means that in April 2008 a working prototype with minimal functionality was released by the develop-ers. Since then the team of developers started working continuously and did incremental changes on the platform by adding new functionalities according to the received feedback by the employees and the people who were testing the tool. A screenshot follows where you can see the interface of Taolin.

User Interface of Taolin

The interface of Taolin has two main regions, one is user and social region, and other is widgets region which located on the center as can be seen in Figure: 1. .As described in the case study: The central region of the interface consists of a personal dashboard custom-izable by adding micro- applications called widgets. Each widget offers a different service that can be provided as a view over internal services or re-positories (e.g. access to papers repository) or as a communication service (e.g. web chat) or as an external resource (e.g. Google search). Widgets are the way in which the mashup concept is implemented in Taolin. A widget can be added, removed or even moved around the platform simply dragging and dropping it in the desired place. As it can be seen the interface is quite customizable with the widgets of one’s choice. As one of the interviewee said: I think the platform is nice in a sense that the interface is quite simple; it is highly customizable thanks to the widgets, so you basically can choose what to have in the interface. An essential part of the user and social region is the possibility for users to see each other’s profiles, which is also one of the main goals of this SNS. These profiles contain infor-mation about users’ competencies, skills and areas of interests. As one of the interviewee said: There are some useful features let’s say like the search, so you can for exam-ple search the profiles of the other persons, so you can look for a person which has similar hobbies or research interest as yours, searching by a key word basically. You can also check new comments, so you can have a list of the new people coming, so you can see how people change in your organiza-tion and there is also a possibility to post and read the announcement made by some other users like announcement for looking for selling a car or stuff like that. A Chat function is available in Taolin. Chatting is a really significant feature enabling com-munication between the users. This is also one of the most used features in Taolin. Anoth-er essential feature in Taolin is webcam canteen to see the queue in the canteen. This fea-ture helps employees to make a decision upon when to go for lunch or coffee. As men-tioned by one of the interviewee: The functionalities most used are see photo of colleagues (we are around 400 in FBK), check the queue for the canteen (there is a web camera that can be accessed only through Taolin) and some people use the internal chat. This is confirmed by other interviewee as: …one of the main use that we do is to check the length of the queue in the canteen, there is an application there on which you can see the webcam of the queue in the canteen and it gives you an information whether it is ap-propriate let’s say to go to lunch at that time or to delay it.

Implementation of Taolin in FBK

Having in mind the always in beta nature of the development, it was decided that the usage of the ongoing platform will be restricted to a limited number of users called champions. The champions were involved in the creation process of the tool and they knew that the platform was always in beta, meaning it is not finished. As mentioned in case study: First champions were chosen for their strategic position within the working environment or for their propensity to use and try new Web technologies. Moreover, champions were asked by developers to send bug reports and especially to provide any kind of suggestions so that developers could consider them for integration in the platform. The choice to deploy always in beta and to introduce Taolin in FBK to an increasing number of champions is also motivated by the fact that Enterprise 2.0 should emerge from users and real requirements and not imposed top-down from the top management level. Practically, this means initially in June 2008 the first two champions were enabled to login and had access to the platform and this number has been growing ever since and, at June 2009, it now counts more than 120 employees, out of around 400 working for FBK) With the time the project become known in FBK and employees started to ask to become champions, the main reason was curiosity. Later on the developers gave the opportunity of champions to invite employees that were not using the system yet. So the recruitment pro-cess changed to voluntary bases. As described in the case study: The platform instance deployed within FBK is accessible with a web browser at the address The served web page contains a form where users can enter their usual FBK login and passwords: champions have their logins enabled and are able to enter and use the platform, while non-champions receive as response a web page explaining the purposes of the platform and giving the opportunity of asking to be included as champions. The developers from FBK have measured the activities viewing profiles and chat messag-ing of the champions that belong to a group and compared if the champions tend to view more profiles of people outside their group or of members of their group, same was done with the chat messages. The analysis of the activities was restricted to a two months period from April to May 2009. Groups included in the analysis were consisting from 4 or more .

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Research Question
1.4 Purpose
1.5 Delimitation
1.6 Interested Parties
1.7 Disposition
2 Methodology
2.1 Research Approach and Strategy
2.2 Data Collection
2.3 Secondary Data
2.4 Primary Data
2.5 Selection of Respondents
2.6 Data Analysis
2.7 Design of Research
2.8 Trustworthiness of Research
3 Frame of Reference
3.1 Social Networking
3.2 Social Networking Services
3.3 Knowledge Sharing in Organizations
3.4 Knowledge Management and Knowledge Management System
3.5 Knowledge Sharing with Social Network Services (SNS)
4 Case Findings
4.1 Fondazione Bruno Kessler
4.2 Goal of Taolin
4.3 The Initiation of Taolin Platform
4.4 Development of Taolin
4.5 User Interface of Taolin
4.6 Implementation of Taolin in FBK
4.7 Usage of Taolin Tool
4.8 Effects of Taolin Tool in FBK
4.9 Ceasing Development of Taolin
5 Discussion
5.1 Failure Factors of Taolin
5.2 Interpretation of Questionnaire Results
5.3 Model for Developing and Implementing a SNS for KS
6 Conclusions
6.1 Shortcomings
6.2 Relevance to Informatics
6.3 Future Research

Social Networking Services: A Case Study in the Failure to Facilitate Knowledge Sharing in Organizations

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