Just got back from the annual 2500-strong CHI 2008 conference in Florence last week. A great piece of work presented by the IBM Collaborative User Experience (CUE) Research group reporting on the use of their Beehive social networking system (their intranet equivalent to Facebook). They thought they’d try to move from purely social media sharing a la Flickr, to promote more “knowledge sharing” by introducing a new widget called the “hive5”:

Users can create top-five lists, called “hive fives,” to share their thoughts on any topic they are passionate about. For example, they can add a “hive five” list that outlines their ideas about their project, and then invite their team members to “reuse” the list and voice their opinions. Hive fives cover a lot of territory, from clearly work-related subjects to the kinds of personal exchanges that might only happen among collocated team members at the water cooler. Hive fives are a light-weight way to share ideas and a great way to keep in touch with remote team members.

Werner Geyer, Casey Dugan, Joan DiMicco, David R. Millen, Beth Brownholtz, Michael Muller. (2008) Use and Reuse of Shared Lists as a Social Content Type. SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing system. Florence, Italy, April 5-10.

It turned out in fact that initially the hive5’s were used by people to… tell others more about themselves socially! But the more ‘serious’ kinds of lists also emerged. Beehive tracks and displays who has reused a list, providing a way to make a social connection through paying tribute to the originator of the idea, thus providing a measure of social reputation as well. A nice piece of research, and many other interesting papers by this group.

Food for thought as we develop our tools for managing and sharing personal “To Learn” lists…