Over coffee yesterday David Tebbutt was telling me of a social web initiative that had been successful but then gone backwards and he used the word entropy (gradual decline into disorder) to describe the cause. We got into conversation about how often social tools can make progress but then lose traction and I said I wasn't so sure that it was a decline into disorder that we were talking about. Disorder, or at least emergent order, is in the nature of social tools. I think the problem is more inertia (a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force). Social tools need some sort of external force, some source of energy, to keep them alive and moving. They don't just continue to grow under their own steam.
A comment from a friend still working at the BBC leads me to believe that talk.gateway, the bulletin board we put in there, is on its last legs. To be honest I am amazed that it is still going given the fact that, as I understand it, little attention has been paid to it since we left. It takes energy to keep things moving and alive otherwise they return to their previous state. It takes care and attention. Someone described me at the time of starting talk.gateway as an animateur, (someone who gets things animated) and I rather liked the description.
I worry when I see businesses investing loads of money in social platforms without considering the energy and commitment required to make their implementation successful. It will take lavish care and attention and dare I say it love. It is no mistake that the last chapter in my book is devoted to this old blog post about love in the workplace as it is the most important, and most often ignored, ingredient in making this stuff happen. If you are going to be successful with social in your business someone has to care. Someone has to invest enough passion and "love" to overcome the considerable forces of inertia that are inevitable, indeed cultivated, in our organisational lives.