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Social Software Lessons Learned from Shoveling Snow

by Jeffrey Mann  |  January 8, 2010  |  5 Comments

Like many places in the northern hemisphere, it snowed here last night. So like many people, I started the day clearing the driveway and creating a path to the front door. This takes some time, and since it is imagefairly mindless activity, my brain wanders while doing it. I get lots of ideas when I am clearing snow or mowing the lawn.

The thing that particularly made me think this time was that while I was clearing, it was still snowing. A lot. Half of me felt like I was wasting my time since by lunchtime, it would all be covered again. But I could come up with several reasons while I was shoveling :

  • What is gone is gone. There was about 20 cm when I started shoveling. Clearing it now would make doing it later easier.
  • Even though we don’t need to get out now since I work from home, we might want to go out later.
  • Walking on unshoveled snow makes it hard to remove and eventually slippery ice.
  • If the driveway is relatively clear, the snowplow is somewhat less likely to throw a mass of wet, heavy snow onto the driveway when it goes by next time.

Indeed, Powerpoint has ruined me such that I think in bullet points even when away from a keyboard.

That got me thinking of other things that seem pointless, but actually are worthwhile doingto be done.

  • It is worthwhile to set up a scalable, manageable platform even if you suspect or even know that not many people will use it initially. Once the infrastructure is in place, you can concentrate on encouraging adoption. Reversing that order could cause problems.
  • Even though everyone hates formal content categorization systems, they are necessary. Even if you know that any hierarchy of categories set up will ultimately break down or need an overhaul, you have to start somewhere.
  • Participating in social media rather than a medium the corporation control invites negative comments. Too bad. You have to do it anyway, or risk something worse: irrelevance.
  • The quickly-changing technology market means that any product choice could be undermined at any time by a better product that comes along. But you can’t stay on the fence forever.

What examples do you have where something seems like a waste of time, but needs doing.

Update: I just cleared another 30 cm which fell by lunchtime. This could get old pretty quickly.

Category: collaboration  social-software  technology  vendors  

Tags: adoption  pointless  snow  social-media  tagging  

Jeffrey Mann
Research VP
20 years with Gartner and META Group
30 years IT industry

Jeffrey Mann is a Research VP at Gartner, covering cloud office, collaboration and social software.


Thoughts on Social Software Lessons Learned from Shoveling Snow


  1. Doug Laney says:

    Interesting thoughts Jeff. I’m still on the fence about categorization tho. It seems an artificial aid to search and analytics. With more intelligent search and analytics, doesn’t categorization approach irrelevancy?

    Regarding technology adoption, has anyone conceived a “when to pull the trigger” method based on technology price/function curve, adopter means/need, etc? E.g. My father-in-law already has his sights set on a 3D TV. To me, he’s wasted $ on early adoption (HD set, cameras) ….but I have much better products and much lower investment by waiting a year or two or three. There should be a method/formula for this based on various factors.

  2. […] to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients […]

  3. […] to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients […]

  4. Jeffrey Mann says:

    Hi Doug,
    Search is great for finding stuff, but not so great if you don’t know what you are looking for. Also, search and analytics play a big role in categorization. I don’t mean that you have to painstakingly start manually choosing categories. Setting up a system can lean heavily on automated categorization, but even then you have to think about the system. Without any guidance, auto-categorization will go just as wrong as manual efforts.
    I suppose the rule on adoption is “wait as long as you can possibly stand to do without it.” Next year’s TVs/cameras/laptops/phones/tablets/xray goggles will always be better than this year’s. So if you can stand to wait, do it. If that black box is making your heart race right now so that the idea of waiting makes you break out in a cold sweat, buy it.
    Just for reference, I bought my first flat screen TV about 6 months ago.

  5. […] to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann Andrea DiMaio Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients have a look at The […]



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