Wednesday, 28 February 2007

A Big Day Out in Sydney looking at Social Software for Business

Tuesday was a busy day for me, getting out of the 'Gong early and up to Sydney where I started the day at Lotusphere Comes to You. The highlight of the morning was hearing and seeing a bit more about Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections:

  • Mike Handes gave a great overview of Lotus Quickr, who described is a more interesting than talking about cricket at BBQs (ok, the Aussies aren't doing to well at the moment...) and explained how the different Quickr connectors, templates and services will make it "open and flexible". On the face of it, Quickr is a big improvement on Quickplace but on the other hand some of the views felt very familiar. Personally I'd like to see more things (if they aren't already there) like support for simple Web 2.0 ideas such tag clouds and more complex Web 2.0 functionality like "widgets". And while you're waiting for Quickr to arrive on an intranet (or extranet) near you, Mike suggested we take a look at the free Blog and Wiki templates for Quickplace available from SNAPPS.
  • The Lotus Connections concept ("Profiles,Communities, Blogs, Bookmarks, Activities") was also compelling and really suggests to me that IBM Lotus really do get this space. But to be honest I just want to get my hands on it to see how well it lives up to buzz in practice!

Later in the day, in a complete change of gear, I spent a bit of time chatting with James Matheson from specialist wiki consultancy, Saikore. There were two particular interesting parts to our conversation that I want to comment on here:

  • Firstly, the good news is that James feels that Australia has finally reached a level of maturity where wikis are beginning to achieve more main stream adoption. I personally hope this is part of a wider trend I've been watching coming to fruition, which will see more organisations adopting everything from wikis through to IBM Connections.
  • Secondly, some great observations about the essence of what makes an enterprise wiki a wiki, versus the wiki-like functionality appearing from the big software vendors like IBM and Microsoft. Some keywords for me that describe this are simplicity, solving specific business problems and being non-document centric. What this says to me is that the success of wikis in the business is more than just providing an edit button on every page and, on further reflection, why I don't believe tools like Jotspot are really a wiki because they are just too complicated (that doesn't mean they are bad by the way, just something different).

James doesn't have a blog as such, but check out the news page on his Website. I also found out that James made some contributions to the Wikipatterns site.

Later in the day I caught up with some old friends at Ernst & Young to see how "KWeb" was looking these days, before heading over to help out at the NSW KM Forum's first meeting of the year.


Monday, 26 February 2007

Google vs Offline Web 2.0 Applications?

There is lots of buzz around the whole Google Apps thing at the moment, but an insightful observation from Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research:

"Google believes in a future where everything is connected all the time, and they're wiring up cities to help with it.  But this problem would be solved a lot faster if browsers ran apps, especially AJAX apps, offline. Then you could work on your gmail, your Google docs and spreadsheets, your calendar, in your browser. Offline browsing isn't new, but this is more complicated, because once you connected up again your apps would have to sync up -- the whole replication problem that Notes and Outlook take care of now. That's hard -- but not so hard that Google engineers can't figure it out, especially with some help from Firefox, Adobe, and others trying to weaken the Microsoft monopoly (see Rob Drury's post on this topic)."

This Mozilla Firefox offline applications thing is something I've been trying to get my head around too - we have a demo of sorts from Chris Double, showing Zimbra in offline mode, however incidentally there is an earlier example of this offline capability.

Considering the success of Web-based services and applications to date, I'm undecided at this stage about how important this is in the overall future of Web 2.0 - I mean:

  • If I wanted a fat client application connected to a server, I would still be using one;
  • Many of the benefits of social software come from providing simple access to common content that can be remixed, but offline mode is going to introduce the complexity of managing syncronisation conflicts in this shared data pool; and
  • It is built on the assumption of poor Internet access through a single device, rather than being always on, always connected through multiple channels.

I also think that I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of browser-based offline applications is that it smells like we are reinventing the wheel. Think about this: I'm not quite enough of a geek to read through all the specifications Chris Double points at in his post, but I did read enough of the DOM Storage spec to see this:

"DOM Storage is the name given to the set of storage-related features introduced in the Web Applications 1.0 specification. DOM Storage is designed to provide a larger, securer, and easier-to-use alternative to storing information in cookies. It is currently only available in Mozilla-based browsers, notably starting with Firefox 2." [Emphasis added]

So, at the moment we have offline capability being built around the functionality of a particular fat client application (even if you make sound good by calling the browser the OS)... hmm, this all sounds a bit like (dare I say), Lotus Notes.

But either way, who ever wins out, are we just on the verge of replacing one monopoly with another?

Mashup News and the Difficulty Curve

No time to comment fully on this, but some good stories and articles about enterprise mashups:

  • Jackbe, who describe themselves as "a provider of Enterprise Web 2.0 software that combines Ajax and SOA with reliable, optimized Web connectivity to deliver Enterprise Mashups, Rich Enterprise Applications (REA) and next generation user-driven portals", have scored a great case study with the US Defense Intelligence Agency using its software. Reported in Computerworld.
  • Meanwhile, InfoWorld has a special report on enterprise mashups.
  • Finally, slow by steady E2.0 blogger Dion Hinchcliffe serves up a good analysis in two parts of the state of play by looking at the DIY space consisting of customisations, widgets and mashups.

Lots to read here, but I particularly like Hinchcliffe's take on the "Difficulty Curve":

This reminds me of some of the conversation I've had recently about mashups and "super users".

Honest Torrent

I blogged earlier in the month that Australian commercial TV is sticking its collective head in the sand about the disruption being generated by new social media technology. But I hear that Joost are busy signing up commercial content and now BitTorrent will be selling DRM protected TV shows and movies - from Wired:

"The BitTorrent Entertainment Network was set to launch Monday with films from Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate and episodes of TV shows such as '24' and 'Punk'd.'"

See, this could never happen in Australia. Whoops, forget that Internet thing is global ;-)

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Sunday, 25 February 2007

Software Patterns, the Old and the New

One of the reasons I started thinking about blog use cases yesterday was an indirect link between a piece by Michael Sampson and the Wikipatterns site that I noticed has got a few people excited.

Michael Sampson's point is to explain that outcome is more important than the tool, but that it can be affected not only by software functionality but also personal preferences towards a particular software tool:

"although the outcome quality of the coordinated effort may be similar for one technology vs. another, if you face the choice of turning the majority of people off by your choice of tooling .. that is, if there's a substantial difference between people's satisfaction with the process as influenced by tooling choices ... investigate different tools."  

In other words, if people hate product X, no matter how good it might be, then go with product Y or even Z because solution "elegance" isn't the same a business outcome. That's a good point.

Now this brings me to Wikipatterns:  There is nothing significantly new in the advice contained in Wikipatterns that we haven't already seen with issues around adopting earlier forms of collaborative software. But in the context of Michael Sampson's post, this doesn't change the value of Wikipatterns - its a very well executed site with clear explanations and guidance, all using the right jargon and addressing specific points of functionality in Wiki software.

So what's my point?

I want to reiterate that there is no wrong way of using collaborative and social media software tools, only a best fit with your objectives. And I don't care what you call it either. However it is a mistake to dismiss the experiences of the past because the language is different or the tools aren't as slick. For example, one of my favorite "pattern" resources has always been The who, what and why of knowledge mapping, which provides the following roles in making and using knowledge maps:

  • Map maker - creates the details and sets the usage pattern of the knowledge map
  • Map users - use maps in order to accomplish their tasks and to develop learning potential
  • Map innovators - alter existing maps through use, reuse and diffusion of innovation
  • Map champions - uphold the need for knowledge maps as providing a competitive advantage for the organisation

They sound like they could be very applicable to a Wiki, don't you think?

Similarly, we should not be afraid to draw on resources like Wikipatterns even if we don't think we are using a "Wiki" in the purest sense. These patterns are applicable in many other collaborative contexts.

But what I think is missing is that we do need to be clear about exactly what the new patterns really are, else the outcomes will be the same and it will leave some people wondering what the hype was all about.

Is Information Overload a Lifestyle Choice?

A new spin on information overload conversation, graduate university student Christine Wall is spending month experiencing life without any technology invented or widely available after 1950 as a research project. The media story on this experiment provides these interesting quotes:

"I literally feel I like I have 40 hours in a day. I realize how much time was sucked up with TV and ... the Internet and e-mail..."


"You can just see how addicted students are now [to email etc] and that they have the expectation things are going to be spoon-fed to them. ... Now, they feel like they can’t have a normal conversation. And by losing that skill, they become fearful of them. I feel like part of the reason to do this is we’re in this spiral that’s not good."

She is also blogging about her experiences, but is currently offline while she is living in 1950s mode.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Why we need knowledge management... the warm and fluffy version

I hadn't seen this when I blogged this earlier today:

Care of Luis Suarez and many others.

PS I know that not everyone is an IBM Lotus fan, but I think you just need to enjoy this one without thinking about it too much ;-)

This is important: Not all blogs are equal

Thinking about some of my recent posts and the comments I've received, I've been considering the question, "What is a blog?"

I don't mean what is a blog in terms of attributes such as programming language used or how the content appears on the screen. I think we have some well established definitions to deal with those particular questions even if we want to argue about some of the finer points.

What I'm trying to consider is how blogs are used. This is a quick brainstorm of high-level blog use cases (rather than a fully refined list) that I'm playing with right now:

  • Data and information broadcasting - using a blog as a channel to broadcast information, particularly into an RSS feed for easy consumption.
  • WCMS replacement - using a blog application as an alternative to a traditional Web Content Management System.
  • Journals - a blog that is designed purely for the purposing of recording information or ideas, with either no audience or a specific reader in mind. Blogs in an elearning context are sometimes used in this way.
  • Groupware 2.0 - think of the activity centred blogs, as described by people like Rod Boothby. These are almost a hybrid of all of other use cases.
  • One-To-Many blogging - the classic example of a one-to-many blog is the CEO blog. The purpose of a one-to-many blog is communication, but using the blog style so that the message is more authentic and trustworthy. If they are used for good, then full marks to those executives who reach out to their employees and customers in this way.
  • Social blogging - as opposed to one-to-many blogging, social blogging is many-to-many and at its best becomes a hyperlinked conversation. An importance difference between one-to-many and social blogging is that the conversation should take place as peers - this means there are no experts and people can disagree with each other, making great conditions for wisdom of the crowds.

I want to point out right now that these are all legitimate uses for blog software, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either misguided or trying to sell you something you don't want :-)

However, in the same way that there is no right way to use a blog, it is important note that a blog may morph between different types over time (many people who want to be social bloggers often start out as a different type); further in the blogosphere we find an ecosystem exists where blogs of one type utilise blogs of other types for content (also think about the 1% rule here).

The multipurpose nature of blogs makes them exciting, but if we want to evangelize blogging by organisations (either inside or outside the firewall) then I think we need to understand the nuances of these use cases and the impact they might have on the desired or expected outcome.

Why we need knowledge management...

One of the reasons at least why we need knowledge management... from the UK's Mail on Sunday newspaper (and care of O'Reilly Radar):

"There at the side of the road are the first signs in the country specifically warning them to ignore the satnav. Owing to a fault in the electronic information system, many drivers are sent through the Hampshire hamlet only to find the lane narrows to 6ft and they get stuck."

This isn't the first time we've seen this kind of problem. I'm sure there are thousands of stories like this out there. And I'm sure that the more we improve the information system, the more we will find information gaps that get people in trouble.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Social Software != Wisdom

Andrew Mitchell, via some comments, recently asked a whole series of questions about the use of social software (particularly RSS) within small-to-medium sized organisations (SMBs or SMEs).

I'm going to give my thoughts on Andrew's questions over a series of post (and in the meantime would welcome your comments and thoughts too), but the question I wanted to look at first was this:

"Within an organisation, how many people do you need to get the effects of Wisdom of Crowds, the Long Tail, etc? I don't think my company of around 250 staff would be enough."

I think it worth returning to conditions outlined in James Surowiecki's Wisdom of the Crowds for determining when a crowd can act smarter than an individual - they are:

  • Diversity;
  • Independence; and
  • Decentralisation.

If a crowd meets these conditions plus an appropriate aggregation mechanism exists that results in an action or decision, then you get the effect of the wisdom of the crowds.

Size isn't really a factor (obviously 1 or 2 people isn't a crowd!) but clearly the challenge for smaller organisation is effectively achieving all of the conditions outlined by Surowiecki. However, what smaller organisation probably need to think about is not being limited by the Enterprise 2.0 concept as "inside the firewall", but to connect the people they work with outside of their organisation directly into their internal knowledge network, perhaps using social software.

Of course if you can't or don't try to meet the conditions outlined above, it doesn't matter what software you use.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The slow death of Enterprise 2.0 on Wikipedia

Revisiting the Enterprise 2.0 (aka "Enterprise Social Software") entry in Wikipedia I noticed that, despite the HBS case study, the entry itself isn't actually getting any better.

The latest revision history has comments such as "hardly any content, no need to keep separate" and that the article shouldn't be "a link farm".

Unfortunately at the moment the article is less than 500 words (compared for example with the few thousand for KM) that hardly touch the sides of recent debate on this issue. The real shame here is that in Wikipedia is of course quite able to keep up with the debate, but clearly people have to be interested enough in the subject matter.

I've added some of my own content and others to help keep it fresh, but it really could do with more contributions. Otherwise, the content is so bad overall they might just as well have deleted it rather than this slow death.

One day workshop on organisational network analysis (ONA) from Optimice

Laurence Lock Lee, from Optimice, has let me know that they will be running a one day workshop on organisational network analysis (ONA) or if you prefer, SNA in Sydney on March 20th.

He explained that they are couching ONA, which is clearly an analytical technique, within a change management framework (they are still negotiating with their partners on this…so I can’t reveal details as yet).

They will be reviewing a selection of the 20+ ONA projects they have undertaken in a “lessons learned” manner, so no hiding here! There will also be a bit of hands on, where you get to do the fun bits in ONA... like playing around with the maps.

As a bonus the first 15 registrants will also get a free copy of Rob Cross and Andrew Parker’s book on “The Hidden Power of Social Networks”.

If you're a beginner in ONA or SNA, I highly recommend attending a course like this as while the technology of network mapping gets easier all the time, understanding the results is more of an art (on that note, check out my own Small World! (PDF, 89KB) article).

Monday, 19 February 2007

The Enterprise 2.0 Imperative

Care of Bill Ives, and published by WorkLight, a couple of IDC papers are available for download related to Enterprise 2.0, including one titled Getting Results by Empowering the Information Worker: What Web 2.0 Offers Beyond Blogs and Wikis (you need to register).

As Bill says, while he didn't learn anything new "that has not been discussed already by the enterprise 2.0 bloggers but the brief makes a nice executive summary written with conviction from a known source."

That makes up a little for the fact that while IDC are now warning that "those raised on the web will not tolerate the old ways and change will occur regardless of what the formal enterprise says", some of us have been watching that horizon for some time - check out the Intranet Imperative I wrote back in June 2005... I said then that:

"Of course while you can choose to ignore this imperative, be aware that technology has a habit of winning. You may find your users taking the path of least resistance (like returning to the dreaded network drive) or they will pick their own user-driven tools that will ensure they can get the job done."

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Breaking down silos

There has been a good bit of banter about Enterprise 2.0 going on between Andrew McAfee and Euan Semple that is worth following.

Most recently McAfee commented:

"what’s the real problem if some E2.0 environments are mutually inaccesible walled gardens?... The only honest answer is that we don’t really know yet, and maybe this kind of technology Balkanization will turn out to be no big deal within enterprises.  But I can think of two reasons why it might be a problem, or at least sub-optimal."

He then goes on to looks at impact of these walled gardens on emergence and what he calls, broadcast search.

This reminds me of a comment I made a while ago challenging the ease of implementing blogging, at a technology level, into a corporate environment. I have actually seen this happen in practice, where a blogging platform was introduced built using one technology that was completely inaccessible from the rest of the corporate IT environment, other than visiting the site with a Web-browser. I think it is still a big assumption from John Howard (not the Aussie Prime Minister!) who adds to the discussion that:

"Data no longer sits in a database hidden behind an opaque data access layer, it’s available as RSS and URLs, and can be linked too. To really make this stuff fly in an organisation you need an aggregation tool to close the loop."

Getting the aggregation tool in may be the stumbling block, rather than the individual social software applications.

The first step in creating a mash-up is...

Ok. I finally got the Teqlo public beta humming along. After registering again sans space in my username, I had only one more hurdle to cross - installing the Flash plugin into Portable Firefox. This almost had me stumped but a missing element on the Teqlo home page gave me a clue that I need one final piece before I could start to play.

Once you get in Teqlo, there isn't really a lot to see yet. As Rod Boothby has already explained that they "need more widgets", which they hope will emerge through 3rd party developers.

Now, my question is how easy it Teqlo to use?

  • Overall I didn't find it as intuitive as Yahoo! Pipes, which is another mashing tool I've been playing with - I was expecting Teqlo to be very drag and drop orientated, but instead it is more like select, select and drag.
  • At the moment you also have to have a good understanding of what widgets can interact with each other as there are (currently?) no visual clues about the potential relationships between each widget as you add them to the canvas.
  • I also get the feeling that writing a sophisticated application in Teqlo is going to be a bit like writing a sophisticated database in something like Microsoft Access or (dare I say it) Lotus Notes - the bit that often lets them down is the poor interface, i.e. it takes a bit of skill, time and effort to do it well.

So far Teqlo (or Yahoo! Pipes for that matter) hasn't convinced me that these tools will make everyone a programmer.

On the other hand, in the right hands Teqlo could well be the MS Access of Web 2.0 that puts Web-based application development into the hands of super users. In fact, a major benefit of the Teqlo approach could be, if they apply some kind of standards to 3rd party widget developers, is that it provides a safe Web 2.0 programming environment.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Spending on enterprise social software to rise by 5.9% during 2007

A colleague pointed out these encouraging results from a CIO Insight survey on IT spending in 2007:

  • Planned spending on social software ranked 20th in their list (last place), but the change in planned spending for that category reported was 5.9% and near the top of the range.
  • Its also interesting to note that information and knowledge management related categories all ranked in survey, except the "knowledge management software" category itself (17th) - however, I'm curious what the definition of KM software is (if not including collaboration, social software, portals, etc)?

PS Sorry about the title on this post, but I couldn't resist being dramatic with these damned statistics...

Friday, 16 February 2007

Looks like your Teqlo session has expired.

I read Rod Boothby's blog so when I heard that the drag and drop mashup service that he is part of, Teqlo, had launched a public beta I thought I'd give it a go.

Unfortunately, after signing up and a reset of my temporary password (ok, I get it, Teqlo is secure) I quickly got tired of getting no further than a message telling me my session has expired. For the record I known that Teqlo is in beta and I'm using the portable version of FireFox and that may have caused a problem, however I had no issues with getting into Yahoo! Pipes using it.

Teqlo does sound interesting and I hope I do get to try it out soon, but what I really hope to find out is if the experience of using it will change my opinion on super users as programmers. But that ease of use must start at the login page.

UPDATE: I received this from Scott MacFiggen at Teqlo. He explained that:

"We have some issues with accounts that contain usernames with spaces in them which would prevent you from using the Teqlo application. We have removed the ability to create usernames with spaces and since your account was affected I have deleted it. Please register again at to try out the Teqlo open beta."

I'll let you know how I get on...

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Missing in action

From The Age newspaper a few days ago:

"There are lots of journalists blogging, and geeks and others hoping to make some money from getting ads on their blogs. But I can't find a single decent Australian corporate blog. There may be some within corporate intranets, but none presented to the outside world."

I don't know... what's so magical about CEO's blogging? Why do we expect everyone to blog? Remember the 1% rule - so lets start with basics, are Aussie CEOs even reading other people's blogs?

Robert Scoble: Getting up early doesn't help

The ol'Scobleizer isn't one of my regular reads, but based on the title I thought this post might give me some useful advice on dealing with RSS overload - alas not:

"I got up early to read feeds and do email. I started at 5:45 a.m. and it’s now 7:26 a.m. and I still didn’t get through all my feeds."

Clearly, getting up early doesn't help - looks like we need to work smarter, not harder...

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

The original, and still the best: YourTime

It was nice to see a few comments in response to my last post about RSS and information overload:

  • RSS addict ;-) Luis Suarez provided us with tips for working effectively with RSS, including a recommendation to "Walk away, whenever you can, from e-mail."
  • Angus McDonald makes a nice distinction between "nice to have" (RSS) and "must read" (email).
  • And finally, Intel blogger Nathan Zeldes, notes that with RSS you "can skip posts or feeds and no one will know, no sender will be mad at you."

However, I actually want to focus on and make a special mention of Nathan Zeldes - after browsing his personal Web site and joining a few dots, I realised that he was behind what I feel has to be described as one of the leading practice initiatives to tackle email information overload in organisations. The program, called YourTime, that he helped to develop was profiled in Fast Company back in 2001 and I'm pleased to say to you can still find the materials available for download (while you are there, take the time to browse around the other material available from the ITshareNet site, which is another one of Zeldes' current projects).

To quote from the ITshareNet site, what YourTime is all about is this:

"It addresses behavior patterns, interpersonal interactions and technical skills in one complete drive, by working from the top down and implementing three steps at each hierarchical level in the target organization:
1. Awareness Training on predefined, organization-wide Management Expectations.
2. Group Discussions geared toward identifying bad e-mail habits and their solutions.
3. Skill Coaching, either through a human trainer or a Web-based training tool, in order to enhance users' proficiency in using e-mail clients.

This is a great example of really trying to help people in organisations to get on, not get by, with information technology - which is what this blog is ultimately all about (I hope).

Thanks, Nathan, for dropping by and sharing your ideas.

Monday, 12 February 2007

100 people wanted, to lose 100MB of email in 6 weeks

Here is a good question - will RSS help us to deal with information overload any better than we've managed to achieve with email? I ask this question for a couple of reasons:

  • People are still interested in "learning" how to deal with email better - for a recent analysis of the situation, see Michael Sampson's series of posts on the topic that starts here;
  • Even if organisations never reach the heady heights of Enterprise 2.0, the fact is that RSS will continue to grow in importance as an information management tool.

With that in mind, as Stu Downes asks, are we "Sleepwalking to data overload?":

"We need to be ready for this. Sooner or later the vision of everyone having an enterprise blog may become a reality. That in itself is a massive shift of information, or rather a massive addition to information (email isn’t going away). We need to think about how our information workers can consume the data efficiently and effectively. Even if enterprises don’t start blogging internally the immense volume of data in RSS feeds makes them the most useful tool within an information workers arsenal right now."

(Reading this I can't help be think of the Luis Suarez's blog roll, which he recently reduced from 700 to 448, not including another 250 non-blog feeds! Luis, I don't know how you do it!!!)

So does RSS have any advantages over email or will it simply contribute to more information overload on top of the current problems many people still experience with email right now?

If we go back to my own take on email information overload, summarised in a short article I wrote in 2005 (PDF, 81KB), I concluded then that:

"There are no quick fixes for dealing with e-mail overload. Taking control of your own inbox is an important step, but people in organisations need to work together to tackle this growing problem. Only as a group can you deal with eliminating the source of the problem and develop workable protocols to help reduce the e-mail burden on each other. So stop looking for six tips for e-mail success and focus on taking the three steps toward mastering e-mail overload in your workplace."

I think the same lessons will apply to RSS, but there are new opportunities with this particular communication technology to help reduce information overload through a combination of more open communication styles, content filtering, and content mining (look at Yahoo! Pipes for the possibilities). In other words, RSS could be used as a group communication technology where email is essentially peer-to-peer. In fact, using RSS in combination with email rather than as a replacement may be the best way to reduce and control information overload on both fronts.

However, on its own RSS will in no way be a magic bullet - if applied badly in organisations, people should be prepared for more of the same. In the meantime I can't wait to see how the email productivity advisors with their quick fixes evolve into RSS experts...

There is no long tail inside the firewall... just yet

As the FASTForward blog and its conference participants move into reflection mode, one post that did grab my attention this morning is from Andrew McAfee who compares Enterprise 2.0 with Web 2.0 and highlights the importance of the network effect:

"Tim coined the term 'Web 2.0' [and he] is entirely correct about the importance of network effects and collective intelligence within Web 2.0, and therefore also within Enterprise 2.0.  Every Web and Enterprise 2.0 application I can think of gets better as more people use it."

However I disagree with McAfee when he says that the network effect isn't a "key differentiator between E2.0 techs and those previously available."

As I've hinted at in recent posts (such as what E2.0 isn't and the role of super users), its not just that Enterprise 2.0 gets better as more people use it but that the internal network is essential to getting it to work at all. Remove the network and all you have is a content management system where everyone gets editor access. The way I like to think of it is that Enterprise 2.0 lets us tap into the long tail of the organisation that is currently unavailable in traditional information systems.

To explain this further, here are some points I used in a presentation last year about Enterprise 2.0 to discuss the differences between traditional groupware and social software:

Traditional Groupware and Collaboration Software

  • Top down/inward out
  • Bounded networks (organisational, project, business relationship)
  • Enterprise software platforms with interoperability added
  • Proprietary user interfaces and formats, glued with email or "exporting" data

Social Software in the Enterprise

  • Heritage in consumer originated social software (and
    Web 2.0) on the Internet
  • Bottom up/outward in
  • Self-organising, emergent networks glued with XML over
    HTTP ("Small pieces, loosely joined" - David Weinberger)

As you can see in my comparison, the impact of the network and networkability (at a social and organisational level) is an important differentiator: my prediction is that organisations that try to become an Enterprise 2.0 will fail in that effort if they ignore the network as part of that vision.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Eureka! Mashable, but not as we know it

There is a lot of interest in Yahoo!'s new Pipes service, with some particularly good coverage from O'Reilly Radar (introduction, a bit about how it worksmore on how pipes are put together and other handy tips). What is Pipes? Well, as it sounds, its a kind of plumbing for RSS and other data feeds:

"Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line."

Tim O'Reilly is a bit more excited in his introduction:

"Yahoo!'s new Pipes service is a milestone in the history of the internet. It's a service that generalizes the idea of the mashup, providing a drag and drop editor that allows you to connect internet data sources, process them, and redirect the output."

I had a quick play with it today, by like Frank Gruber I had similar problems with response times and thoughts on usability:

"Though this product might seem simple to people within the web 2.0 industry or the blogosphere, I still feel it has a long way to go to make it easy and understandable to a mainstream user, like my mother, bless her heart. Furthermore, Pipes had a troublesome launch day as it experienced major performance issues which were highlighted by RSS-czar David Winer."

While we're on the subject of Pipes its also worth mentioning this introduction to IBM's QEDWiki video hosted on YouTube that is also worth checking out (if you can get past the "guy wearing a suit making lots of hand gestures and bullet points like no tomorrow" - guy happens to be IBM technology evangelist David Barnes). You can also try out QEDWiki online.

Overall, both Pipes and QEDWiki offer some glimpses into the user as programmer paradigm for Web 2.0 (and more importantly, Web 2.0 inside the enterprise - I make a subtle distinction from Enterprise 2.0 as that's more about social computing inside the firewall... yeah, I know but let's discuss that some other time).

However, at this stage I continue to think that these tools will be more appealing inside the firewall to the "super users" I've described before, than every day users.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

No Web 2.0, just Google 2.0

Have you noticed that Google have implemented a single sign on system - I can login into my gmail account and then access all the services I've ever logged into through my Google account - in my case:

Blogger Blogger
Docs and Spreadsheets Docs and Spreadsheets
Gmail Gmail
Personalized Homepage Personalized Homepage
Reader Reader
Talk Talk

From the account screen I also have the option to "Try something new" and log into or use another service. But, wait, there is more: You can view Microsoft Word attachments receive in gmail in Google Docs & Spreadsheets; or as I'm doing now publish a Google Doc into Blogger.

On the Google Docs integration with gmail, Read/WriteWeb comment:

"this new integration feature is another example of how the desktop and online worlds are being munged together by Google, right under Microsoft's nose and directly threatening MS Office"

I agree that this is very convenient - in fact just like having a self-contained, fully integrated desktop OS on the Web (aka Web OS). But if we take this thought further, as Google consolidates where does that leave the rest of the Web 2.0 world?

PS As might you might be able to tell, publishing form Google Docs to Blogger is hardly a kill app... no title, no tags, etc. Windows Live Writer 1 Google Docs 0 in this instance!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Still waters in Aussie TV land's little pond

The other day I had little rant about the death of TV, quoting Mr Bill Gate's prediction - however I concluded that:

"even Bill can't really know where sites like YouTube and new IPTV platforms like Joost are going to take us."

This is common theme from what I've observed about technology over the last ten years and looking indirectly at the past - i.e. it might not reach the hype, but life as we know it does end up changing.

So, it made me "giggle" a little to hear via Trevor Cooke that his wife, Julie Flynn who also just happens to be the head of an organisation representing Australia's commercial TV stations, also has "a fit of the giggles every year when Bill Gates turns up and says TV is dead."

Perhaps this is fair comment in Australia - I imagine that broadband and digital TV doesn't look like much of a threat to the status quo... I mean look at how much effort it takes to get a Tivo PVR up and running over here.

But meanwhile overseas:

  • Google's quieter cousin, Amazon, is launching a new service that will let Tivo users in the US download from their Unbox service. Now, that does look easy to use at the end of a long day at work.
  • In the UK, Aunty is running a survey about on-demand services that would offer seven-day TV catch-up over the Internet and cable, as well as simulcast TV over the Internet.

Nah, none of that could never happen here - could it? ;-)

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Web 2.0, the pace of change and the speed of thought

A bit like Wired's wiki experiment, you may have heard about Penguin Book's A Million Penguins - A wikinovel experiment:

"The buzz these days is all about the network, the small pieces loosely joined. About how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. About how working together and joining the dots serves the greater good and benefits our collective endeavors.

This is undoubtedly true in many fields. Software is rarely written in a vacuum and indeed the “open source” movement is built on the premise that collaboration is the only way to get bugs spotted and move forward. Scientific research, too, is more often than not a collaborative activity - and peer review is key to checking and honing the development of scientific ideas.

However, is the same true in artistic fields?"

I've only had a quick look at the book itself, which if ever completed satisfactorily still looks like it has a long way to go. However far more interesting to me the commentary about the experience going on in the A Million Penguin's blog - in a recent post they explain some of the problems they face:

"Well, this is all quite overwhelming, isn’t it? What a response so far - contributions from all over the world flooding in at a vast rate, almost 100 edits an hour! But this inevitably leads to some problems - keeping up with what is happening on the wikinovel is a challenge too far and, looking at the discussions, it seems that some of you are frustrated with this aspect of the experiment.
We’ve also had periodic bouts of vandalism which are valiantly being tackled by you and also by the students at De Montfort who are circling the wagons and attempting to repel all attacks as fast as they come in.

Jon too is struggling as by the time he has read the novel and written his report, something completely different has appeared on the screen."

It really brings into perspective the ideas about the evolution of Web-powered collective intelligence, presented in books like Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson - I have to say, I don't think the vision was that every human on the planet was supposed to be editing the same page all at the same time! :-) Still, A Million Penguins, is an interesting experiment.

Monday, 5 February 2007

NSW KM Forum in 2007

Just to let you know, I'm the incoming chair of the New South Wales Knowledge Management Forum for 2007. One of our new initiatives this year is a plan to close down our existing wiki-based Website and we've created a brand new blog here.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Not Upgradable: What Enterprise 2.0 isn't

In the search for case studies of Enterprise 2.0 in practice I've seen examples of organisations blogging or using wikis put forward. However, in my grey area test I try to look beyond the simple application of information technology in the form "blogs" and "wikis" for actual evidence of the existence of social interaction, hyperlinked conversations and community. This is important because - as I emphasised at my presentation in Canberra last year - if Enterprise 2.0 is going to work, we need to tap into the long-tail inside the organisation.

Another way of looking at this grey area is to consider the difference between the "Wisdom" and "Dumbness" of the Crowds as outlined on the Creating Passionate Users blog:

"True wisdom isn't captured from a crowd.

At least not when the crowd is acting as a single entity. Clearly there IS wisdom in the many as long as you don't "poison" the crowd by forcing them to agree (voting doesn't mean agreeing). According to Surowiecki [author of Wisdom of the Crowds], even just sharing too much of your own specialized knowledge with others in the group is enough to taint the wisdom and dumb-down the group.

It's the sharp edges, gaps, and differences in individual knowledge that make the wisdom of crowds work, yet the trendy (and misinterpreted) vision of Web 2.0 is just the opposite--get us all collborating and communicating and conversing all together as one big happy collborating, communicating, conversing thing until our individual differences become superficial."

Euan Semple also makes a similar point in this comment to a post on the Wirearchy blog:

"It is one of the challenges of doing social computing in organisations that you need a big enough crowd for it to work. It is easy for the culture to shrug it off when it is a small group of early adopters but when it gets to the scale we achieved at the BBC it is harder to ignore.
The crowd also works better the more diverse it is. The checks and balances that underly the principle rely on diversity and if you have spent all your time discouraging dissent and homogenizing your workforce you'll get the same old results. The real gold dust is in difference, dissent and debate. Surfacing things you didn't know, dealing with the things you'd rather not and connecting people you've kept apart.

This reminds me of an old knowledge management joke about communities of practice and experts: You can't have a community of practice of one. So, what (from a technology perspective) Enterprise 2.0 isn't:

  • Just installing open-source blogging, wiki, RSS and tagging software because its cheaper than other commercial collaborative or content management systems;
  • Having the CEO write the only internal blog, even if they do it with "authentic voice";
  • The IT department install a wiki to assist them with better managing their own help materials, but they won't let anyone else in the organisation contribute to it or even install their own ("it's against company IT policy"); or
  • Using Web 2.0 software to create RSS feeds that just link people to traditional read-only content.

In summary - it is more than creating a read/write intranet, it has to be networked in a way that lets us tap into the internal wisdom of the crowds. On its own, all the open-source social software software in the world will not upgrade your organisation to Enterprise 2.0.

Web 2.0: The Movie

This great little short video, titled "Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us", explains the difference between traditional content (including "Web 1.0") and Web 2.0. Thank you to Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University, for putting it together.

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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Bill Gates says TV is dead within five years

A little off my usual topics of interest, but feeling frustrated by commercial tv program scheduling tonight the predictions of Bill Gates at Davos are ringing in my ears at the moment:

"I'm stunned how people aren't seeing that with TV, in five years from now, people will laugh at what we’ve had"

And even Bill can't really know where sites like YouTube and new IPTV platforms like Joost are going to take us.

Of course people like Ross Dawson have been ringing the alarm bells for a while now, so those of you in TV land please don't say you weren't warned...

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