Recently, I attended the Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) Attendee Party (thanks, Sean!) at the wonderful Boeing Museum of Flight, in Seattle, with my partner Dave Morehouse.
Our MissionFind, gather requirements for, and validate our social software plans for what we stiltingly and half-jokingly refer to as "Microsoft.community" with a subset of our target customers: Chinese- and Japanese-speaking MVPs; our most likely early adopters in China and Japan. I invited and we were graciously accompanied by my college buddy, Jumi, who hails from Tokyo, as well as a colleague from China, who is the Program Manager on our extended team, at Microsoft's Advanced Technology Center, in Beijing.
Our FindingsOne of the services we are planning to deploy (soon) as part of our integrated service offerings is a social bookmarking service, codenamed "Tagspace". Toward the end of the night, Jumi and I engaged in a colorful and informative conversation with three young Japanese MVPs, an exchange which later blossomed into a very hopeful theory.
Big in JapanI xclaim that Japanese culture--a culture in which building concrete group consensus with as little conflict as possible is profoundly important--inclines the Japanese to embrace and value the product of Social Bookmarking (aka, Tagging) on the Web more completely and permanently more than any other culture. This is a UNTESTED theory.
The Follow UpOn Monday night, I floated my nascent theory over dinner to my friend Jumi, Alex Barnett, and our visiting colleague from China. Jumi surmised that it is more likely that social bookmarking will become an intense but short-lived fad than a permanent fixture of Japanese society/culture. I am well aware of that "Fads are an integral part of Japanese culture" (Parker, 1997). Fads, like every Japanese school child suddenly having to have a robotic dog, seem to wash over Japanese society each year like the coming and going of a great, memetic tide. Unsatisfied with Jumi's initial response, I pressed her to speculate on the possibility that social bookmarking might someday become as institutional and engrained in the Japanese psyche and "economy" as baseball or the Yen. Jumi demured. Alex, if you're reading this and assuming you've had a chance to give my theory some thought, what is your opinion?
What do you think?If you are familiar with Japanese culture/society and social bookmarking (Joi Ito jumps to mind) or if you have information/research that would seem to affirm or contradict my theory that Tagging will be Big in Japan for longer than a typical Japanese fad cycle, please weigh in, by leaving a comment, below.