Social networking in oil and gas

Microsoft evangelist Zain Naboulsi advocates blogs, Twitter, Wikis and ‘hybrid’ tools for oil vertical.

Around 80 attended the SPE Sponsored ‘Social Networking in Oil and Gas’ lunchtime session in Houston to hear from Microsoft ‘social’ evangelist, Zain Naboulsi. Naboulsi’s talk was more about what social networking might bring to oil and gas than an account of how oil co execs Twitter each other or buff up their Facebook pages. The idea is that social networking is set to address some of the key issues in oil and gas like the big crew change/talent gap and to help with the data problem by helping ‘turn data into knowledge.’ The premise is the youth of today is different from the 40 yrs+ ‘as they have always been online.’ Industry needs to open up to these users of social tools like blogs, wikis, forums and ‘multimedia.’

Naboulsi straw polled the audience asking ‘Who has their own blog?’ About five raised their hands. Blogs can be divided into personal or corporate. The latter can have different scope—for a team or the whole company. Companies have to decide on blogging guidelines. Microsoft for example is ‘very open’ although bloggers must sign an NDA. SharePoint can be used for blogging—although Naboulsi admitted that this was not ‘superb.’ More likely a dedicated blogging application will be used. In a blog, information stays there permanently, whereas in a ‘micro-blog,’ the best example is Twitter, it is only visible for a limited time. Twitter and other instant messaging software, make for ‘real time information sharing’ of short text messages. Companies can also monitor Twitter channels for competitive intelligence.

A Wiki represents the ‘democratization’ of information providing a ‘persistent’ knowledge resource that can dynamically change. Anybody can work on a Wiki and miraculously, it is not total chaos! It takes around six months for a Wiki to build momentum. Naboulsi cited Scholarpedia and Congresspedia as examples of note*.

In the Q&A, Naboulsi was asked about the ‘rumor mill’ aspects of blogs and Wikis. He responded that this was a question of corporate culture and requires a degree of ‘pain and compromise.’ Clear guidelines need to be established and respected. But ultimately, the success of social networking is the proof of the pudding.

One route to Wiki development is to have a young intern sitting in with an older executive person—matching a technophile with a knowledge worker. More formal social networking is achieved with a Forum—usually on a specialized topic.

Finally hybrid social networking tools such as the popular LinkedIn offer aggregating portals of social networking technologies—providing a considerable time saving. Naboulsi finished with a pointer to his own oeuvre at where there are ten secrets to successful social networking.

* Naboulsi might have mentioned the API Petroleum Industry Data Dictionary Wiki on

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