Principles for Group Dedicated Technologies and Services - the groupDNA Brief

I thought about publishing some ideas and concepts about "technologies, applications and services dedicated to groups and organisations" one by one. But it takes time to write and edit these things :-) Before this day ended, I wanted to publish something for groupDNA and I re-read the paper I wrote with the help of Andy back in spring 2008. We have come a long way, but the principles are just fine. I would and probably will re-phrase much of this paper and publish these thoughts on Anyway that's my plan for 2011, meanwhile enjoy this only slightly edited paper. Happy holidays :-)

here is the link to the Google Doc 


we are sequencing the DNA of groups
to develop better tools
the reference for group activities
anchoring group actions

We are a project with an agenda, creating services and tools aimed at informal, unstructured groups. Treating "groups" as entities and customers analogous to organisations (B2C) opens untapped markets with very interesting business opportunities, which we call B2G. Informal groups are everywhere, in our family life, sports and hobbies, friends, assocations and our professional life.
groupDNA projects include tickerTXT, groupmark / groupmarker, twitter groups, twittAIR, twittUP, twitter reference sharing, grouplets and groupDNA Open Twitter Authentication (OTAM) Method (for third party twitter developers)[this paragraph has been slightly edited Dec 2010, see footnote]
Most group activities are badly supported in our normal technology supported environments. The focus of IT-based solutions and services is on either the corporation or on the individual. Enterprise systems are designed top-down and are complex. Systems and applications for smaller companies tend to follow the structural approach and thereby inherent the same architectural deficiencies. These systems are inward-looking, functionally driven and by design formal and inflexible. These patterns can be rediscovered with social network services, which are similar data silos, albeit sexier and friendlier and more open.

The other extreme focus is on the user, the hardware design and the user-interface. The goal is to make the user interaction with the technology efficient, very little effort is spent on thinking what happens once the data is sent off to somewhere else. Many web-based widgets are aggregators designed to deliver to the user individually useful information services, such as location services, mapping etc.

This leaves an opportunity for services targeting groups. Most groups are informal, unstructured, though they might have different degrees of delegation. Members of groups have something in common, an interest, an event, an experience... the identity of the group, the reference. A design and process which supports the group as a whole is potentially enormous productivity gain for the individual.

Currently solutions are either "local" and technical/functional (forums, mailing lists, wikis...) or simply using standard communication technologies, such as voice, email, IM, SMS...
Developing frameworks, services and tools specifically designed with group in mind. The solutions should enable any group to create specific activities, which inherently include:
  • a group reference - which allows to identify groups across services, sites, platforms and systems 
  • the ability to fine tune the group principles - Basic tools for self-organising / management of the group (open, public, only members, only invitation, only specific sites, delegation) 
  • A group action reference: allows to match the group and the activity action 
  • The group footprint for the next action: Technical framework (Frame, widget window) - includes group reference, action reference and self-management tools, export / import, formats 
  • Update or status notifications: of the initiator and the members - on status change via RSS, push communication and twitter 
  • Prepackaged action samples: based on patterns of group activities- content/procedure samples or examples designed for frequently occurring group actions, such as coordinating / polling / data collection / resource management, transparency processes such as payment tracking. Can be customised, named and designed for every usage 
  • Combination of function and data: use for one particular activity once, delete or archive it after finishing (Preparing the 2008 annual summer meeting, organising the common purchase of the rare vintage air-filter, listing the wish-list for the AppleFriends "my next Mac", coordinating the common action for the flower friends, sharing the cars for the ski trip) 
  • Chameleon like infiltration: Variations of technology appearances (from rich AJAX/Flash to text based or image based app) - very low technology barrier

    Business Model
    B2G, business to groups is a new perspective to prospective services. Groups do not have a legal form, cannot act as legal body. Group investments are either distributed to it's members, delegated to a person or hidden, subsumed in other project costs, especially when those groups act in a professional environment. Sponsoring and gifts and non-deductible small donations are another source supporting group activities. Other costs occur as part of transaction and are considered normal or natural. B2G is pretty obvious, once the particularities are respected.
    B2G works with branded, customised grouplets [group widgets], transaction based revenues (from the individual members), corporate market (integrating/linking informal group activities into corporations, synchronizing to directory, backups), marketing co operations, specific group services for companies who want to engage in conversations with groups of customers (consulting, project deals, campaigns...). There are numerous parties associated with informal groups which have substantial commercial interests to use the power of informal groups.
    Where are we now [Spring 2008]

    • Proof of concept showcase 
    • To-do simplifying core system, specification of the core grouplet functionalities 
    • Research, technical papers and business plans 
    • Small dedicated team with startup experience and technical background. 

    Next steps [2008 see footnote]

    Raise project funding for initial development alternatively raise seed capital planned to last 6 to 8 months.
    [2] :
    • Raise interest in groupDNA. 
      • Targeting: selected Twitterati with a lot of influence, key players (startup / innovation bloggers, influential technical "gurus"), awareness of key early stage investors in Europe with good transatlantic connections. Targeting real twitter users and engaging them in conversation. 
      • Winning partners for tickerTXT, people familiar/expert with economic issues and business challenges, people with tech or entrepreneurial background and close family ties to those regions, organisations supporting development of rural economies, local and regional organisations (cooperatives, market associations, professional associations, services such as telecoms, micro-finance, publishers...) 
    • Getting team together: mostly Berlin as the base, partly Oxford, 3 to max 5 developers, 1 or 2 business development / entrepreneurial specialists, deal makers, networkers, international background 
    • Launching apps fast and improving them incrementally.
    The twitter cases should be first, attractive and viral twitter services for groups. Twitter is on the way to mainstream attracting lots of attention, interested people willing to try services. Financially interesting because Twitter or a twitter-like communication service will have huge impact on company and customer relations, resulting in new services and reaching new audiences.

    GroupDNA is a startup with an agenda. The group reference will be our trademark feature, all developments should be in context of group services. (or be run as spin-off)

    Continuously discussing and improving the core assumptions and derived structural, functional and service applications for the groups.

    groupDNA soundbites...
    Wherever groups exist, interactions and dynamics occur, wherever those are poorly supported and serviced in an economic environment.

    Groups, Communities and organisations could quickly benefit from the combination of group dedicated services, technologies and techniques and [create] interesting commercial opportunities.
    We look at informal and unstructured groups as our customer.

    Today's ICT design is focusing on organisations (functional perpective such as company directories, ERP, CRM, Production, CAD / CAM, project management, ...) or on the individual user (interface, devices, ...) or on communication infrastructure (website, email, IM, SMS, voice). Web service solutions mostly replicate that approach as they are either function driven tools (forums, mailing lists, project support, widgets) or recreating a corporate environment by offering social networks, which are basically directories with an emphasis on communication. A groupDNA approach creates opportunities because it it less “functional” and more organical.

    Serving groups is currently accidental and partial, an afterthought, a quick fix. Group tools within social networks, "virtual" groups who's reference is the web, such as themed forums, Wikipedia.

    Because group have not been properly served, most business models are equally inadequate for group inept.
    A humerous and pretentious perspective
    Taking a line from the Wikipedia entry on the Human Genome Project allows to steal the famous project for our purpose. We don't want to trivialize the acclaimed project, but want to use the well known effort and the implications to explain what groupDNA may do. We took some humorous liberties with the wikipedia text thus being able to avoid repetitive use of adjectives like efficient, effective, viral and phrases like leverage, productivity gains, win-win...
    Compare the our version below with the original article of the Human Genom Project:

    groupDNA ;-) the goal of the Group Genie Project is to determine the sequence of productive chemistry, to identify the genius of group dynamics from both behavioural and functional standpoint and to unleash the creative energy to open up an infinite variety of systemic bottlenecks.

    The objective of the Group Genie Project is to understand the makeup of virtual groups considering them as quasi-living organisms, discover and test potential applications and exploit the most promising findings commercially.
    Our principle is that detailed knowledge of the power of the group genius will provide new avenues for advances in business and technology. Clear practical results of the project have emerged even before this work has properly started. For example, a number of projects, such as TickerTXT started working on easy ways to administer groupDNA applications that show a potential as treatment to a variety of challenges, including grassroot commodity markets, knowledge infection and ad-hoc proliferation in crisis situations, qualifying as potentially viral with possibly epidemic proportions.

    ©2008 groupDNA Moritz Schroeder, Andy Swarbrick

    [1]Initially groupDNA was thought to be a startup. Now we see it like an open concept about how to create  applications and services for groups and organisations.
    tickerTXT has won awards, checkout for more. Groupmark is still a concept, groupDNA twitter groups had been in the making, but was put on a shelf due to lack of time and money. Now Twitter Lists are offering part of the functionality we envisioned for our twitter groups service. Same fate for twittair and twittup. Twittup had been similar to meeting and location services which are now widely supported by 3rd party services for Twitter. OAuth hadn't been offered by Twitter then, though OTAM is still quite a simple and interesting idea for authentication purposes, not only for Twitter. It has been used even before we came up of the idea, but there still aren’t any standards.  Since 2008, various other concepts have been born out of groupDNA principles.
    [2]tickerTXT took over as the main project rather than as a part of groupDNA. tickerTXT won subsequently two awards in 2008, including Seedcamp Berlin.


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