SATCo and How Facebook Folds Time

I really, really, really didn’t want to like Facebook. And yet it’s got its friendly, azure claws in me and I find myself going back there nearly every day. And, of course, they recently opened up their API garage and invited all the other Web apps in (hey Flickr, get on that please).

Anyway, I recently discovered that there’s a FaceBook group for SATCo, the student theatre group at UVic. Among other things, current students are trying to gather a complete production history for the company. I was part of SATCo for a few years back in university, and because I’m a big geek, I still have a bunch of files from that era. As such, I was able to contribute two year’s worth of production titles and descriptions.

An Ad Hoc Engine for Folding Time

This got me thinking about Facebook, organizations and knowledge transfer. Facebook seems to be an ad hoc engine for folding time.

Imagine the advantages of providing an online community where past, present and future members of an organization (a university faculty, a non-profit group, a company and so forth) can gather and exchange information.

To stick with my theatre example, imagine enabling a high school student in Campbell River to talk to a current UVic student, and enabling an acting student to talk to a graduate who’s now a working actor.

Fleeting Relationships

This stuff happens in the real world, but it’s rare, formalized and time-consuming. I see far more potential for informal, low impact and possibly fleeting relationships to form on a site like Facebook. Mentor programs are great, but few professionals have the time to devote to them. Those same professionals probably have 10 minutes a week to answer a question about which specialities a nursing student should consider.

Non-profits have a hard time retaining staff. Facebook might be a way for current employees to contact past ones, eliminating the endless cycle of solving recurring problems (what do you do when the fax machine breaks? Do email marketing campaigns work?).

The same advantages apply for companies. Drawing connections to the past might help keep current employees. There might be a great marketing campaign from a decade ago that might just work wonders today. Somebody might finally be able to explain that smellin the lunch room fridge.

If you’ve haven’t done so, start (or join) a Facebook group for for your company, organization or institution. Fire up the Facebook time folding engine, and connect your past with your future.


  1. I wouldn’t hold your breath over a flickr app in Facebook. After being turned down for acquisition, I think Y! is uninterested in playing ball.

  2. I’ve been reading a fair bit of analysis on the implications of the Facebook API, but this piece is probably the best one for actually articulating WHY a university unit would want to engage this system and community. I’ve already recommended this post to people who work in student services at UBC, and will be shouting this out on my blog shortly. I suspect I will be citing the main points you make here for months to come.

  3. Great post Darren – and a topic that I am very interested in (as a cog in the machinery of a very large company). The ideas that you describe here for groups and organizations are very similar to the ideas behind what has been coined “Enterprise 2.0” – which is basically Web 2.0 behind a corporate firewall (I know, that’s a lot of buzzwords in one sentence. My apologies). There is so much knowledge and experience locked up in individual employees, yet it is almost impossible to get at because there is no way for other employees to discover who has what information. If someone can figure out a way to take the facebook model (and similar ideas to what you suggest here) and deploy it within a large, corporate environment, then that would be a huge improvement for both the employees and the company itself.

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