Sunday, 25 June 2006

The Accountants View of Web 2.0

Written somewhere between Sydney and Singapore... posted in Singapore

A case of serendipity - I came across a copy of the May edition of In the Black, CPA Australia's magazine for accountants, that just happened to have a feature on Web 2.0; or as they put it "Make money out of the internet this time around".

It was interesting to read an accountants perspective on Web 2.0 - I even picked up a new concept, "inventory bubble". Basically what this means is that the some of the success of auction sites like eBay is effectively based on traders buying from other traders rather than actually selling something to the final consumer. The net result I suppose is a bit like a pyramid scheme?

However, despite this warning overall there is a suggestion - and thinking here about the classic Gartner S-shaped hype curve - that the this time around the basis of the Web 2.0 business models (or at least those people investing in them) are a lot more mature than we saw in 2000. There is also a point made that many of the viable or successful Internet business models have nothing to do with Web 2.0. So, the bottom line is just good common sense: forget the hype, is the fundamental business model sound?

PS Wollongong-based Nik Cubrilovic (See Omnidrive) also gets a mention.

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Waiting at Sydney

Currently waiting to board my flight to Singapore at Sydney Airport for the masterclass I’m running there on Monday and Tuesday.

Do you know what I hate most about flying… being offline! Actually, Singapore Airlines do now offer inflight wifi internet access, but its hardly priced for the masses (just yet). If it ever gets fast enough I wonder what it will do to the inflight entertainment?

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to come up with some good words to describe the third dimension of collaboration:

  • Hyper-Dialogue vs Dialogue?

  • Networked vs Linear?

  • Bounded (Closed) vs Unbounded (Open)?

  • Consensus Building vs Chaotic?

  • Crowds vs Groups/Teams

Hmm. Maybe I can come up with something better in the next eight hours or so I’m in the air.

PS If you’re attending my masterclass tomorrow, I’m very much looking forward to meeting you!

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Saturday, 24 June 2006

Mistrusting Skype users

Highlighting the ongoing tension between IT departments and Web 2.0 technologies being used inside the firewall, Chris Nerney on The Datamation IT Blog points to concerns reported about Skype from enterprise IT departments:

"...Skype hasn't had as much luck is in the corporate sector. One of the main reasons for this, according to an article on CNET, is inadequate username authentication for business customers. In other words, a lot of IT managers would like a better idea of who is connecting to their networks... CNET points out, IT managers are concerned that in-house users are unable to "authenticate the identity of the people they are communicating with." One authentication technique being considered by Skype is a "ring of trust," in which users are identified by a certification authority. That sounds like a hard sell to an IT manager running a large enterprise containing sensitive data.

On the otherhand an earlier article in CSO magazine, responding to a research reporting claiming to debunk the Skype hype, comments

"...there is any longer a mystery about [Skype's] risks, which have been well debated elsewhere. A number of companies have even started selling products that set out to stop the application from running at all."
So at the moment there is no middle group: either we block it or just run with it and stop worrying about the risks. Perhaps, as Nerney suggests at the end of his post, this is a golden oppourtunity for a Web 2.0 startup to solve the problem and keep everyone happy.

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Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Amazing ASIMO

A little off topic, but I have to say that Australian sci-tech TV show Beyond Tomorrow did a really good job tonight of explaining why Honda's ASIMO robot represents such an innovation. ASIMO has been developing over the last twenty years and the goal is that one day "ASIMO may serve as another set of eyes, ears, hands and legs for all kinds of people in need. Someday ASIMO might help with important tasks like assisting the elderly or a person confined to a bed or a wheelchair. ASIMO might also perform certain tasks that are dangerous to humans, such as fighting fires or cleaning up toxic spills."

Watching ASIMO in action, particulary walking and running, has to be seen to be believed!

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That ol'Time Shifting Argument?

I get Nick Carr's point and the complaint about Jon Udell showing people how to download an MP3 file version of an MP3 stream from a US public radio site, but isn't this just about time shifting (the same issue as recording free-to-air TV or radio) only more confusing for the consumer?

In this particular case we are given a choice between a free stream "anytime" or buy a copy so you can listen "anytime". The Website in question, for a US show called This American Life, also promotes the downloadable versions you can purchase as "high quality downloads" suggesting that its a different product anyway.

In addition, on the This American Life site they also say "Why you can't download our MP3 Files: Allowing download of those files would require us to PAY contributors for each download, as we do when we sell a CD or a show on Audible. Doing this would be an administrative nightmare, and we can't afford it."

So they themselves would rather stream because this way they don't have the administrative overhead of paying their contributors!

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Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Wallpaper - the future of digital music art?

Aside from issues of digital rights management, Charles Arthur in the Guardian newspaper writes about an issue I've often wondered about too - what happens to album cover art in a world of digital downloads? He asks "Whatever happened to those big 'gatefold' sleeves on double albums, where you had two feet of space to go mad? What about the photo booklet inserts that The Who used on Quadrophenia, telling a story to accompany the double album through dozens of wordless 11- by 11-inch black-and-white photos?"

I had assumed that perhaps, like books, people would still occasionally desire something tangible to represent their favourite artist (or author) and that they would live on as luxuries at least. But wandering across the MC Lars (aka Mr anthem of the MP3 generation, "Download this song") website the other day I noticed that album cover art of a sort still lives on in digital form - AIM buddy icons and mobilephone (cellphone) wallpaper. Not quite the same perhaps, but at least there are signs that art for the musical masses will live on.

I wonder what other innovations we will see in this area?

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The 3rd Dimension of Collaboration

I just had one of those strange moments - often rare when you reside in a distant part of the southern hemisphere - where I'm conversing indirectly with another blogger, in this case JP Rangaswami about my last post.

I wonder, is it time to expand our classic two dimensions of collaboration (synchronous and asynchronous) to include a third? I'm not sure what to call this new dimension, but two suitable computer geek terms to position its two extremes might be serial and parallel. The blogosphere at its best is when we are talking at the same time, but to each other at the same time...

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Eating the two-dot-zero elephant

I said I had more to say about the traditional and the new wave of Web 2.0 inspired collaboration technologies, but the more I think about it the more I feel trying to get a grip on the two-dot-zero landscape (you know - Web 2.0, Intranet 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0) is like trying to eat an elephant - you need to do it in small pieces.

Today, JP Rangaswami's post about Web browser standards within the enterprise provided a useful distraction in respect to one piece of that elephant. I added a comment that referred to a point referenced by Tim O'Reilly is his Web 2.0 explanation about the idea of "software written above the level of the single device". This is infact a quote from a short essay written in 2003 by ex-Microsoft developer, Dave Stutz. I note in his bio he mentions at the end that he has "always tried to highlight product development paths that lead beyond standalone PC software to the far larger opportunities that exist in networked software".

This is in part, whether Web 2.0 or Intranet 2.0, what the two-dot-zero world is all about. The problem then with proprietory software from this perspective is not about cost, but the barriers it creates in determining how, with what and when the end-users - or to quote Jon Udell, the "amateurs" - get to do useful and innovative things with it. And here is the risk with some of the enterprise-level wikis I see emerging, they too may eventually lock you into a single interface and this will ultimately limit participation and we'll be back where we started.

UPDATE: Read JP's follow up post - he is spot on where he describes a "plethora of sources, working within an ecosystem approach to standards, market-driven, market-maintained, community-enriched... With the right things done in terms of identity, permissioning, authentication."

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Sunday, 18 June 2006

c:>rename bill.gates ray.ozzie

Even outside of geekdom, such is the importance of the Microsoft empire that Bill Gate's planned transition (retirement?) next July even made it into the local paper (but not important enough to make it into their online edition, where its topped by Lack of train amenities loo-dicrous).

But what hasn't had so much attention in the traditional media is that But it has taken the traditional media a little bit longer to pick up on the other part of the annoucement, that "Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will immediately assume the title of chief software architect and begin working side by side with Gates on all technical architecture and product oversight responsibilities".

The Guardian speculates that, "Mr Ozzie's influence is expected to push Microsoft further into highly developed web applications and knowledge sharing programs, areas where Microsoft is feeling the pressure from such companies as Google.

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Saturday, 17 June 2006

When doesn't a wiki make good cents?

In response to a blog post by Bill Ives about IBM's Quickplace collaboration tool, Andrew Mitchell asked about the value of traditional enterprise collaboration tools when you consider that you can get "more bang for the buck" from the latest generation of enterprise wikis.

I responded in turn to Andrew's wiki 2x2 collaboration matrix (JPG, 14KB) that he included in his post by commenting:

"I get a little uncomfortable in trying to distinguish between “wikis” and tools such as Quickplace simply on face value. It really comes down to the functionality available and how it actually gets used in practice. Lock down a wiki tool and you end up with just a basic WCMS. In terms of your model, tools like eRoom and Quickplace can integrate presence and conferencing (same time, different place) but may have additional functionality... Also, you can give wiki-like access to users in these tools if you want, you just have to setup the space in the right way."

Andrew replied that wiki software still represents better value for money, even if they only give you 80% of what you need, so why would you bother?

Many organisations still pick traditional collaboration tools over the new wave of enterprise wiki software because they make their total cost of acquisition and ownership decisions from different perspectives, particularly when the pre-existing infrastructure and specific business requirements are taken into account. However, this is why I see a big difference between adopting wiki technology because they are cheap software tools versus using them as part of a strategic decision to move towards creating enterprise 2.0.

Also, as the we've seen in the Motorola example, it can sometimes be cheaper and quicker to use the wiki (and blogging) functionality in an existing platform (in their case, OpenText).

I have some more to say on this, but it will have to wait for another time. BTW In the meantime, I looked at the issue of enterprise wiki software in an IDM article last year, and I wrote a case study on Ernst & Young's use of Quickplace in this book.

And here is another question for another time - when does wiki software stop being a wiki? As we've seen in the past with knowledge management technologies, do we risk labeling every piece of software that provides an edit button a wiki or have we lost sight of the original quick, quick intention?

PS - And yes, this was Flock blogged!

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Is it time to Flock?

I've started to hear a bit of buzz form around a new Web 2.0 friendly browser, called Flock. Euan Semple made some positive noises, but Luis Suarez has a bit more detail on why he likes it and what it does. Their 0.7 beta release is currently available - Euan thinks the benefits of Flock outweigh any bugs you might find in this beta release.

As I started to read about what it does - for example integrate easy photo sharing, rss and blogging - I started to think, isn't this something you could just build a Firefox extension to do? Well, as I looked further I discovered that Flock is in fact built on the Mozilla's browser engine... it makes Flock even more interesting, because like the Mozilla suite it also supports the concept of extensions. So Flock has solid browser engine, is Web 2.0 friendly and lets you hack it with more extension. Yes, I'm already downloading it to try myself :-)

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Thursday, 15 June 2006

Mash and Play - New Tag Cloud

Like many blogs, the ChiefTech Blog is a mashup of different services built on top of the basic blogging engine - RSS feeds, email subscriptions, usage statistics, tags, etc.

I added a tag cloud back in October 2005, but recently it broke. That's life when you mashup - occasionally things will stop working. Luckily we can just mash and play... so I now have a new tag cloud (you'll need to scroll down the page to find it) mashed up from ZoomClouds.

Setup was very quick, easy and straight forward. The only downside of the new cloud is that it is built from my RSS feed which only includes recent posts, so please be patient.

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Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Scoble: I didn't do this for the audience

Enough people have been blogging and talking about Robert Scoble leaving Microsoft for a social software startup that it leaves little for me to add. However, I did enjoy this bit of reflection on his blog:

"Will I lose my audience? That's a question I've seen on the blogs. Yes. Huh? You will unsubscribe if I don't give you a payoff. For many of you Microsoft was that payoff. Yes, Microsoft is still an interesting company for many many people in the world. When I was at my mom's funeral, what did we end up talking about at lunch afterward? Microsoft. Everyone had an opinion about Microsoft. Everyone knew who it was. What it did... Over the next few months if I don't give you a payoff you'll leave. That'd be OK with me, I didn't do this for the audience."

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Thursday, 8 June 2006

The third attribute of intranet discussion forums

James Robertson (via his blog) provides some ideas on "it sounded like a good idea at the time" intranet discussion forums. He identifies "two critical success factors for intranet discussion forums: a clear purpose, and a common community."

I'd like to add a third, but I can't take credit for the idea - Cliff Figallo in the ultra practical book, Hosting Web Communities, has a brilliant model that describes online forums using the following attributes:

  • Interactivity

  • Focus (or "clear purpose")

  • Cohesion (or "common community")

The additional attribute, Interactivity, is particularly useful because it can help to put the success or failure of a community into perspective. If we expect high levels of interactivity, clear purpose and common community as James explains them are definitely a critical factor. However, a community can still be successful in Figallo's model even with low interactivity - we either see that as a starting point for moving towards greater interactivity or build our forum approach around those attributes of a particular community.

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Success with social software: Critical mass, not the tools

Ever since I started talking about there being a grey area of difference between social software and other types of groupware, collaboration and other information management tools I've been convinced that its not just about the software but how we choose to use them. Luis Suarez, in his elsua blog, puts forward similar idea but adds that the difference now is the critical mass behind them:

"the key message towards the successful adoption of both wikis and weblogs, amongst other social software available out there, is not the tools themselves, although there have been huge improvements about usability, scalability and accessibility all along, but more the people themselves. That critical mass of knowledge workers that I have talked about in the past and which are the main responsible parties of this hyped social media tools all along... It is that same critical mass the one that is helping push the adoption of those tools because they themselves are acting as technical facilitators as well in the acceptance of such technologies amongst the non-tech savvy folks out there so that the initial technical barriers can be overcome and people get a chance to share what they know and collaborate with others."

Yes, I agree - IT innovation is an important factor in the successful adoption of KM and other collaborative technologies, something I discussed in my 2004 case study (PDF) on Ernst & Young with reference to the following paper:

Nambisan W, Agarwal R & Tanniru M, 1999, 'Organizational mechanisms for enhancing user innovation in information technology', MIS Quarterly, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 365-395.

Well worth a look if you can get hold of it.

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Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Liked the article? Then visit the workshop...

If you enjoyed my last IDM article, you might be interested to know that at the moment I'm preparing to run a repeat of my successful (and apparently popular) masterclass on Enabling Knowledge Management with Technology in Singapore at the end of the month. Contact the Ark Group for more information.

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Tuesday, 6 June 2006

The quiet approach to enterprise social software

A three hour road trip from Wollongong to Newcastle yesterday gave me a chance to listen to Dan Bricklin's interview with Toby Redshaw from Motorola.

Redshaw emphasises that Motorola's experience with implementing enterprise social software was a bottom up effort. Using the capabilities in their existing OpenText deployment, they "quietly launched wikis and blogs" last May. Since then take up of the new tools has followed a tipping point pattern and now 5%-10 of 60,000 Motorola's employees actively contribute content.

Sounds too easy? Well, that's Redshaw's point - implementing wikis and blogs at Motorola was very easy. Unfortunately while this is a good story the only clue we have to that success is that wikis and blogs are easy to use, but I'm left wondering if there isn't more to it?

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Saturday, 3 June 2006

More wiki case studies

Talking of KM and IT, the new Melbourne KMLF group's blog has a great short case study on the use of wiki (and forum) technologies to support collaboration in an Australian government organisation. They have encouraged and supported bottom-up take up of their technologies. They also believe "Sandpits are both necessary and fun additions" that allow people to explore how and why they might use a paticular tool. I find their approach very much reflects my own experiences with using IT to support KM (have a look at my own 2004 case study on Ernst & Young's approach to supporting collaboration).

Meanwhile, Bill Ives tells us about how Novell has been using Wiki technology inside the firewall for collaborating on projects, sharing information across the enterprise and even facilitating event planning and management. Ives observes "I think, in some ways. wikis are even more effective behind the enterprise firewall as security is much less an issue and generally the trusted environment where wikis work best is in place." Ives also points us to podcast on Motorola's experiences with wikis and blogs (sounds good, but I haven't listened to it yet).

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Knowledge Management and IT

"The demise of knowledge management has been predicted by many, but while we may be uncomfortable with what has to be one of the most poorly defined management concepts, the fact is that the 'knowledge' problem in organisations will not go away."

My recent feature article on KM in Image and Data Manager (IDM) magazine is now available to download from my articles archive or you can currently read it online over at the IDM site.

In this article I provide a brief history of KM, myth bust the Data > Information > Knowledge paradigm and provide a couple of simple frameworks to help you start analysing how information technology can really be used to enable KM.

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