We launched with a Water Cooler "the place for everything else" and still have it. If anything we have the opposite issue: overuse. Because Water Cooler is an Open group, its activity is very visible across the site, particularly in the Community Activity stream. As a result any hot topic can quickly go viral. When something is getting a lot of attention it will dominate the activity stream, and we get the appearance that no "real" work is getting done.
Polls are particularly a problem as we find users have a tough time with, or completely avoid, attempts at being neutral with their polls, so we can get polls that have a very clear bias. This can trigger an unusual amount and somewhat emotional responses. In reality it's a small percentage of activity, but the visibility is high.
We'd like to disable polls in our Water Cooler area rather than remove it. Overall WC is still a good place for laggards to get their feet wet (no pun intended) by participating in a "safe" discussion. And it's still a good place to keep those inevitable discussions re the Oscars and Favorite Super Bowl Commercials. Over time lessons learned here are applied to use in the business areas of Buzz.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for the input, Patrick. For sake of reference for anyone viewing this discussion, how long ago did you launch your community?
We launched to a pre-registered community (18k+) in Aug of 2011. Water
Cooler was very popular in the early stages, for about two months.
Hi, Ted. Here at the State of Oregon, we have a space called "Around the Water Cooler". We launched with this space, but put a disclaimer on it: "Share great ideas, something inspirational, whats going on or fun things you've done. Invite your co-worker. This is your place just to connect with other people working for or with state government. Just keep it work related and we'll keep this space open for ya. (that's very important!!!)" Things that are posted here of interest statewide, and give us a place to put the "everything else but still important/interesting" stuff.
My suggestion is to go ahead and creat the Water Cooler space, and link to it from the "All Company News" space. Also, it you have a disclaimer on it to set clear expectations, your users will most likely use it appropriately.
Sometimes it takes a bit for people to get comfortable with working in a new way. Now that you have drawn them in with something they feel comfortable with, you should be able to help them expand. It would be great if you could get some "upper level" folks in your organization to participate in the Water Cooler space to show the rest of your staff that it's okay to use the space, as long as they stay withing the expectations that have been set.
We went live with our instance of Jive in January. When we launched we did not include a water cooler space which resulted in our Getting Started with Jive community becoming the container for all non-work related content. In February we launched our "Around the Water Cooler" group to allow employees to discuss things that aren't work related. It has also become the "lobby" (see Gia Lyons 's blog on structure) for all non-work related groups.
There were three major benefits to starting a water cooler community.
- Many hesitant and skeptical employees started using our instance of Jive because of the non-work related discussions they could have (Golf league, book club, restaurant recommendations for traveling employees) and then saw the business value of Jive once they were comfortable with the platform. So the Water Cooler community has become a great way of increasing adoption and lessening the learning curve for employees who aren't comfortable or used to social business collaboration.
- Employees are building bridges and relationships across the country/world with others whom they may not have normally had exposure too. This is certainly fostering an environment that encourages employees to get to know each other beyond what they need-to-know to get a project done. In reading and monitoring their conversations, it is very clear that our Around the Water Cooler Community is creating new relationships and stronger teams because people can relate to one another better.
- While the Around the Water Cooler community is active and alive, the content generated there is less than 10% of all content created on our instance. - This is great for executives to see that Jive isn't being utilized to socialize; it's being used to collaborate around projects and communities that increase productivity throughout the company.
Who knew it could be so beneficial!
We don't have one specific place, but we have lots of groups that are watercooler type groups. Everything from people who love cheese, to people who bicycle to work. Then for the truly just want to chat type posts we're seeing more and more people using status updates.
We've got lots of individual interest groups, and those are encouraged. But we still have people who are posting things like, "Who's into Formula 1 racing?" in our space where we want people to have business conversations. So we were looking to see what would work for a more generic "Watercooler" type place that we can move those. Great that we are getting those people and the conversations span such a large cross-segment of the global population. Annoying that because I have to watch the place for "real" content that I get spammed with the other stuff.
So that is what Ted and I are trying to get a handle on:
- How to move it - what works for a "generic" watercooler, if it does.
- Whether to move it - if we do, does that mean less people will notice there is a place to put all company-wide business questions.
We did not do it at first and frankly, I think it has hampered adoption. New technology scares people and a purely personal motivation might drive them to get over that barrier.
Our reasons for not doing it were that management might think the tool was purely social. My opinion is that this "social" collaboration will lead to the work collaboration that management wants.
When you think about it, one of the goals of a collaboration platform is employee networking (i.e. personal connections), and if personal connections lead to better work quality & efficiency, why would we create any barrier to employee connections?
I am curious how big these communities are. We have about 10k users all over the world, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to post something in a Water Cooler with an audience that large, much less subscribe to it. But we do have lots of "water cooler" like areas that are focused on non-work interests or that cover our largest offices. This seems to work quite well for us and I don't think we've hampered adoption by not having a water cooler. I agree that status updates are a good way to enable that.
We have 3400 users - just launched in January.
We've got about 6500 users spread around the world. And there are people posting random questions that people from all over the world answer. Things like:
- Where are your originally from?
- What is your favorite movie of all time?
- What's your favorite 80s rock band?
- What was the first concert you ever went to?
- Who Likes Formula 1 racing?
Our issue: the space these things are being posted was intended to be for business discussions. Ted and I are tossing around breaking it out into a business-only space and a separate generic water cooler space. Wondering:
- Will that mean the business-only space will get less business posts since people are less likely to stumble across it?
- Will people be less likely to post to a space that is labeled as "social only"?
In other words, does separating them actually hurt usage rather than help it?
I would think about the question in terms of how it relates to what we do in the real world. If we were to prohibit conversations like these in the office, people would not build relationships, and engagement and collaboration would suffer. However, we do not encourage these kinds of questions in the middle of a meeting, and if someone started one, there would be social pressure to "move" it somewhere more appropriate. Why should your online space be any different?
As long as you provide a time and a place (i.e., a separate group or some special interest groups) for these activities, there should be no issue. These posts will appear in the same feed as the business content if you're looking at all activity, so the urge to engage in the platform overall should be the same.
That's my 2 cents, at least.
Yes we do! I think it has helped draw people into the community to practice and feel more comfortable in an online space.
There are over 80 discussions about topics such as:
- Learning a new language
- Question about Outlook & Webex
- iPad Humor
- a Poll about Jive functionality
- QR code discussion and
- Book Reviews
to name a few.
We launched about 2 years ago. We are just now getting ready to create a space for company News.
Just thinking about this now, good pros and cons here, thanks.