Should Knowledge Workers have E2.0 Ratings, Part 2

I received a wealth of insightful comments in response to my earlier post on Enterprise 2.0 ratings for knowledge workers. I thought I’d use some of them to continue discussing the topic, starting with the very basic question of whether measuring E2.0 participation is a good idea at all. A few commenters felt that it was not, and that the very act of measurement would pollute or drain enthusiasm from exactly the activities E2.0 enthusiasts are trying to encourage.

From Kevin Gamble:  I have no doubt that some organizations will attempt to quantify participation… As soon as you try to quantify it, however, you will kill the goose… This would be something akin to paying people to contribute to a KM system. You’ll get nothing but garbage.

From Bryan Labutta: As far as a rating system is concerned, I would be hesitant to implement one around Enterprise 2.0 because I would not want to stifle an individual’s willingness to contribute. As I mentioned above, I feel like the biggest benefits to Enterprise 2.0 should come when employees realize the benefits on their own and contribute at will. If a regular contributor sees that their personal feedback rating is very low will that reduce the amount of time they spend editing wikis and writing blog posts?

From Fenton Travers: E2.0 is about embracing the good, and not being afraid of the ‘bad’.  A rating, that your boss is going to look at and beat you up about is pretty pointless management activity.  Please GET IT GANG, E2.0 is not for the bosses it’s for you!

From Lim Boon Chuan: IMHO no, it is hard to quantify tradition work and services, till no there isn’t really a good measure of the current not to mention Enterprise 2.0 which is much more abstract.  Measurement can help gauge the level of effectiveness of an enterprise.  I qualify it by adding “accurate measurement”.  To date I do not see any accurate barometers or quantitative tools to measure Enterprise 2.0 performances.  Inaccurate measurements are worse than accurate measurements as it will bring uncertainty, frustrations and distrust which will work against the organization… It is certainly useful to be able to quantify some aspects of Enterprise 2.0.  But until we do have sufficiently accurate tools, lets not even try it.

From Samuel: But doesn’t KM research show KPI’s hurt knowledge sharing? Would measuring E2.0 contribution do the same? Furthermore there have been some interesting experiments trying to measure social media ROI. But it’s still hard to do this objectively. Will the comparison between my e2.0 contribution and that of my colleague be fair? Can’t we ‘just’ ask for stories and try to quantify them? Ask employees to tell managers how the tools helped them or others become more productive.

I imagine, though, that making E2.0 measurements and ratings visible, might instead do a couple positive things:

* Encourage friendly competition. Lots of people are fiercely proud of their PageRanks, TopCoder ratings, number of Wikipedia edits, etc. and work to keep them high only to preserve bragging rights. Slashdot, in fact, had to replace their numeric karma scores with text labels because people paid too much attention to the scores, treating them "like some sort of video game."
* Make people strive to improve their scores. I know I’ve been inordinately proud of my Technorati ranking, even though it has no direct bearing on my professional success. The desire to maintain it has definitely driven me to keep blogging regularly.

And I don’t really see how measuring an activity and publicizing the results will massivley discourage the activity in question. I imagine that some people will likely be turned off by the measuring and stop contributing, but are these people the majority or the minority of the population at large? Or of members of an online community? Of coworkers within an enterprise? My intuition and (admittedly not vast) experience tell me otherwise. They tell me that the simple act of publicly measuring E2.0 contributions will increase participation, not decrease it. A couple commenters seemed to share this view:

From Atul Rai:  I do quite agree with you that participation in social computing cannot be reduced to one number, but as you said, this could be treated as a set of numbers … some folks would be good at edits, others at authoring … In addition, this is making the entire idea of social computing what it should be … fun!

From (my former student) Alex Bain: I think a scoreboard can be extremely motivational. I remember the Cambrian House founder mentioning in your class that the virtual currency they created for their community lead to a surge in contribution…  I’ve also seen a scoring system work within a company. I know the designers that work at Zurb, and they boil down their contribution to their company’s blog to a single number, and keep track of who’s winning: http://www.zurb.com/article/88/team-motivation-for-us-its-just-a-game [they say this has lead to both more and better work]

Later posts will consider what will happen if an organization moves beyond simply measuring contribution and takes more active steps to encourage it, such as putting direct incentives in place. I wanted to start the discussion, though, by positing that public measurement of individuals’ E2.0 activities will, absent any direct incentives, encourage and increase participation and contributions, rather than decreasing them. Do you agree?  What else do you think?  Leave a comment, please, and let us know.