Web roundup: Feb 19, 2008

February 20, 2008

What’s going on around the internet world??? News and analyses from best and well-regard sources such as TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, etc.

Read the round up at www.unitedBIT.com


New Capital Connections For Entrepreneurs: Person-to-Person Lending

February 17, 2008

Credit-market carnage makes it all the more important for small businesses to understand the full range of potential sources for capital. A growing alternative to traditional sources: person-to-person lending Web sites.

Read at www.unitedBIT.com


HR’s struggle with Web 2.0

February 15, 2008

They’re born at a seemingly nonstop pace: Web start-ups offering new ways for businesses to connect with people. Companies large and small are furiously developing MySpace pages and Facebook applications, and hoping that the masses will beat paths straight to their doors.Some companies have leveraged the parade of Internet hot shots to their advantage, and many are still trying to find a way. They understand the value of connecting with people as customers. But when it comes to using the Internet to connect with people as potential recruits, it’s a different story.

Read at www.unitedBIT.com


Is the Web 2.0 Bubble Set to Burst?

November 20, 2007

By Jim Rapoza

In recent months, an increasing number of technology analysts and pundits have started to sound the alarm that we are on the cusp of another technology bubble burst—in this case, the Web 2.0 bubble. If you expect me to disagree with these pundits, guess again. Of course another bubble burst is coming.

All of this talk about bubbles got me thinking about the classic cycles of busts. Because when you analyze past technology bubbles, you’ll always see the same progression from pure technology to pure marketing. By paying attention to this progression, you might even be able to tell when a bubble is getting too big for its own good and is likely to burst.

So how does one begin to build a technology bubble? At the beginning of a bubble, it’s all technology. This is the point of entry of the inventers. These are the people who have the idea of a new groundbreaking technology, such as e-commerce, social networking, PC software, whatever. At this end of the spectrum, the participants are brilliant technologically but have no marketing skills whatsoever. The only people who are paying attention to their breakthroughs are those with similar technological inclinations.

The next phase is where the innovative entrepreneurs come in. These players understand the technology but also have enough marketing skills and salesmanship to build products that people actually want, and they are able to start real buzz around a new technology.

This leads to the equilibrium point for technology and marketing. This is also the stage in a technology bubble where the biggest, best and most enduring solutions are created—whether it’s Microsoft, Amazon, Google or eBay.

Unfortunately, this is also the stage in which the people who are all marketing and no technology decide that it’s time to get in on the action. You know who these “entrepreneurs” are. These are the snake oil salesmen. The people who talk a good game and can convince anyone from venture capitalists to the press to the general public that they have the biggest, coolest, most important new thing out there.

So what if their product doesn’t do anything, or has no way to actually make money, or is a bad version of another product that’s already out there? These players are so good at marketing themselves and their products that they are able to generate irrational exuberance.

But all these people are really supplying is a bunch of hot air. And you know what happens to bubbles when they get too full of hot air.

Pop.

And so the bubble bursts, taking down the shameful hucksters who caused the burst (though also typically taking down a few legitimate companies that deserved better).

But the bubble burst isn’t always a bad thing. For the technologies involved, it can be a cleansing experience. With all the hype and hot air removed, the technology can settle down to doing its intended job. After all, despite the damage of the .com bust, e-commerce is doing just fine.

So keep an eye on your bubble cycles and know when to avoid the hot air. And, remember: Somewhere out there right now is a technology-savvy and marketing-weak inventor who is starting the first puffs for a whole new technology bubble.

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What is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software

November 15, 2007

by Tim O’Reilly

7 Principles of Web 2.0

  1. The Web As Platform
  2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
  3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
  4. End of the Software Release Cycle
  5. Lightweight Programming Models
  6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
  7. Rich User Experiences

Core Competencies of Web 2.0 Companies

In exploring the seven principles above, we’ve highlighted some of the principal features of Web 2.0. Each of the examples we’ve explored demonstrates one or more of those key principles, but may miss others. Let’s close, therefore, by summarizing what we believe to be the core competencies of Web 2.0 companies:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

The next time a company claims that it’s “Web 2.0,” test their features against the list above. The more points they score, the more they are worthy of the name. Remember, though, that excellence in one area may be more telling than some small steps in all seven.

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Web 2.0: Buzzword, or Internet revolution?

November 14, 2007

By Jon Brodkin

Web 2.0 could be a meaningless marketing buzzword. Or it may represent a whole new paradigm for the Internet, one centered on user-generated content that could hasten the death of the newspaper industry.

There are lots of opinions about Web 2.0, and some of them – mostly of the pro-Web 2.0 variety – were on display Tuesday in a panel discussion during the annual meeting of the Mass Technology Leadership Council.

“Meet the new influencers,” said Paul Gillin, a writer and commentator on the tech industry and a former executive editor of Network World sister publication Computerworld.

Gillin relayed the well-known story of Vincent Ferrari, a 30-year-old blogger who recorded a phone call with a rude AOL customer service representative who repeatedly refused to grant Ferrari’s request – actually, at least 21 requests in five minutes – to cancel his service.

Ferrari’s blog crashed when 300,000 people tried to download the audio file last year, according to Gillin. He ended up in the New York Times and on the Today Show, where the clip was played for tens of millions of people, Gillin says. AOL fired the employee and sent Ferrari a written apology, but not before its reputation took a hit.

“Individuals and small groups of people have the ability to move markets that didn’t exist a few years ago,” Gillin said. “Fark.com is doing 40 million page views a day, which is more than the Chicago Tribune. It has the full-time equivalent of two employees. Craig Newmark of Craigslist.com is quietly killing the newspaper industry.”

Gillin predicted a rapid decline in the newspaper industry over the next two decades, saying the industry’s market model is unsustainable because it costs so much to deliver information. Markets will be smaller and more focused on particular audience segments because of Web 2.0, he predicted.

But what is Web 2.0?

“It’s never really been adequately defined,” said panel moderator John Landry, chairman and CTO at Adesso Systems in Boston. “It is, in many ways, a meaningless marketing buzzword.”

The significance of the term “Web 2.0” has been dismissed by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium.

In an IBM podcast interview last July, Berners-Lee was asked about the common explanation that Web 1.0 is about connecting computers and making information available, while Web 2.0 is about connecting people and facilitating new kinds of collaboration.

Berners-Lee replied, “Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.”

Tuesday’s panelists didn’t offer any new definitions of Web 2.0, but Landry said the basic concept is that everyone can participate, everyone can be a publisher.

According to Landry, if Web 1.0 is symbolized by Encyclopaedia Britannica and similar expert organizations, Web 2.0 is about Wikipedia, and content generated by users who may or may not know what they are talking about.

Landry said Web 2.0 is also seen in software as a service (SaaS), with its continual improvement of services replacing traditional product releases.

The City of Boston is getting in the Web 2.0 game too. Last June, the city hired Bill
Oates away from New York-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. As CIO at the hotel chain, Oates said his team created a site called the “lobby” where customers could talk about the hotels and ask questions. They also built a “loft” and hotel in Second Life, a three-dimensional online world built and owned by its “residents,” of which there are nearly 2.9 million worldwide.

Second Life , which has inspired parodies such as http://www.getafirstlife.com/, allows users to buy real estate and build assets, and has its own economy. Starwood Hotels used the site to reach a younger audience, and now the City of Boston is considering Second Life as well.

“Trust me, in the city we’re not spending a lot of time thinking about Second Life,” Oates said in yesterday’s panel discussion. “But we are thinking about it as a way to do community events and meetings.”

Second Life may also be a place where Boston could unveil a design for a new City Hall, Oates said.

In the real world, Boston is pursuing a wireless initiative to give residents low-cost Internet access anywhere in the city, and using its Web site to let residents pay bills and connect them to various municipal services.

For Oates, sharing information and engaging Boston residents is the key to Web 2.0.

The panel also included Judith Hurwitz, co-author of Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies. Hurwitz talked about a connection between SOA and Web 2.0.

SOA is an approach to building IT systems that makes it easier to reuse applications for a variety of purposes across an enterprise. The ability to use Internet-based services inside an enterprise have led some to call Web 2.0 the “universal SOA.”
“We are now looking at Web 2.0 and service oriented architecture as a cultural revolution,” Hurwitz said.

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Silicon Valley Crash Course: 14 Startups

November 2, 2007

by John Foley

Dream Factory makes rich Internet apps for project management, presentations, document sharing, and other types of collaboration.

Ribbit develops software that integrates cell calls with Web-based Salesforce apps. It lets you, for example, attach a voice message from a sales prospect to a Salesforce “task” and store it for later playback.

Right90 provides a sales forecasting tool for manufacturing companies. The company, which had three customers a year ago, now has 17 (including electronics giant Sharp) since plugging into AppExchange.

StakeWare has an app that lets companies track their “social responsibility.” A dashboard provides views of company performance in areas such as the environment and human rights.

Vertical Response enables e-mail marketing campaigns using your Salesforce contact list. Because such e-mail blasts tend to be smaller and between known parties, more messages get opened (“open” rates can be as high as 30%) and fewer get blocked as spam.

Aggregate Knowledge, whose discovery software makes content or product recommendations to Web site visitors based on what like-minded people have done.

Agistix, a hosted logistics application that helps companies keep track of packages and freight through various channels.

Gydget, which provides a widget-building platform for entertainment companies and sports franchises, with potential application in other industries.

Mino Wireless, which cuts costs for BlackBerry users who place overseas calls by routing calls over VoIP and providing centralized administration for groups of users. (Mino won InformationWeek‘s first-ever startup competition in September.)

Rebit, maker of a foolproof PC backup appliance that works by simply plugging into a USB port. (Not to be confused with Ribbit, the Salesforce incubator company, both of which have a green frog as their logo.)

Ruckus Wireless, whose 802.11 access points extend wireless signals greater distances and around obstacles.

Stratavia, a developer of data center automation software.

Untangle, which offers no-cost network access and spam filtering software based on open source.

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Enterprise 2.0-Change Is On The Way

November 1, 2007

By Steve Wylie

There has been much talk recently about Web 2.0 tools, mostly in the consumer market with companies and products such as MySpace, Flickr, Wikipedia, and YouTube. In 2006, professor Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business School coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” to describe the principles of Web 2.0 in a business context, defining it as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.”

Professor McAfee established his six “SLATES” to describe the key attributes of Enterprise 2.0 technologies. SLATES stands for Search, something we’re all intimately familiar with; Links, which concludes that the most-linked-to information must therefore be the most relevant; Authoring, which fundamentally says everyone has something to contribute; Tags, which provide emergent categorization of content; Extensions, which use algorithms to find user patterns and make recommendations; and Signals, which alert users of new content and updates. My paraphrasing really doesn’t do McAfee’s SLATES justice but hopefully provides a basic understanding of his principles and insight into why social computing tools and technologies such as wikis, RSS, tagging, and presence will play an increasingly important role to the future enterprise.

Enterprise 2.0 tools are a direct response to a much-needed change in our business communication and productivity tools. Our Enterprise 1.0 systems are largely built around e-mail, a tool that was never intended for such demands. Certainly there are other business applications that have yielded mixed success, but I’ll pick on e-mail at the moment since it is the most widely used — or perhaps misused — business application, despite its many shortcomings.

We have become addicted to e-mail in a sort of love-hate relationship. We check our e-mail obsessively yet dread the ceaseless flow of messages to our in-boxes and, of course, the endless spam. We struggle to find relevant information buried in an e-mail or question whether the right people are copied on a thread. E-mail is a closed communication medium that does a poor job of capturing and sharing knowledge, a key ingredient to success in any business and a key feature of Enterprise 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0 tools offer a chance to break our e-mail addiction and our reliance on other Enterprise 1.0 applications. These tools unlock new value in the form of transparent, contextual communication; ease of access to information; and more effective use of data trapped inside applications, on desktops, or embedded in e-mail attachments. They allow us to capture the knowledge and opinions trapped in the minds of our knowledge workers through simple participation. The early adopters of Enterprise 2.0 tools and concepts are finding them both powerful and liberating.

But with any new technology, user adoption is the key to success. This could not hold truer than with Enterprise 2.0 tools. Their ease of use certainly will help with user adoption, but there must still be a willingness to break a decades-old addiction to e-mail. There must also be a willingness to work more transparently and in more public forums with the use of wikis, tags, or blogs. For these reasons the shift to Enterprise 2.0 is as much about enabling the right business culture as it is about providing the right tools for users. The shift to Enterprise 2.0 will also happen organically, over time. As new generations enter the workforce, they will expect and demand a Web 2.0 experience from their business applications. This generation is more accustomed to IM and Facebook than to e-mail or restrictive business applications. They have embraced transparency, sharing information, and participating willingly in public, digital conversations.

All of this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. These changes are taking place often unbeknownst to IT and with little regard for company IT policies and controls. This presents an alarming reality for companies with potentially sensitive information or in heavily regulated environments. IT is faced with bringing some level of control and aligning Enterprise 2.0 with corporate policy while not stifling the benefits that Enterprise 2.0 tools can yield. Striking that delicate balance is a key ingredient to success with Enterprise 2.0 and is sure to be a subject for much continued discussion and debate.

But the role of IT can and should not just be reactionary, shoring up and adapting to changes already under way. IT is held more accountable to tangible business results than ever before. There is a real opportunity for IT to drive the Enterprise 2.0 agenda as a strategic advantage and with adherence to corporate policy. This will become easier as business-grade Web 2.0 tools continue to reach the market and best practices are established. New vendors are emerging in droves to address this need, providing all the functionality of Web 2.0 tools, but with the security, integration, and scalability required for commercial deployment. Existing software platforms and tools are also rising to meet these new demands, adding Web 2.0 features and functionality while providing a bridge from our familiar business-grade applications.

A race is ensuing that will include incumbent and startup vendors alike. If the consumer market for Web 2.0 tools is any indication, we are in store for some radical changes ahead, with new rules, new technology leaders, and most certainly new efficiencies and value from our business applications and knowledge workers than we’ve ever seen before. Brace yourself for the shift to Enterprise 2.0.

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The state of Enterprise 2.0

November 1, 2007

by Dion Hinchcliffe

Industry analysts, CIOs, and business leaders around the world are continuing to try to read the industry tea leaves in 2007 when it comes to the subject of Enterprise 2.0, the increasingly popular discussion of using Web 2.0 platforms in the workplace. The primary topic of interest? Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative. Investors and executives are just not going to make significant bets on Enterprise 2.0 in terms of resources and risk exposure without good information on the likely returns of implementation.

Up until recently, the lack of mature Enterprise 2.0 products, good case studies, and feedback from early experiences that successfully dealt with some of the challenges that these frequently disruptive and occasionally subversive tools introduced. This immature state of affairs was often holding back even corporate pilots of highly promising candidate Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as enterprise blogs, wikis, and even mashups.

However, increasing evidence abounds that Enterprise 2.0 adoption has begun in earnest with a typical example being Wells Fargo taking the plunge, having rolled out Enterprise 2.0 platforms to 160,000 workers. It has become clear that we’re moving out of the early pioneer phase to a broader acceptance phase. From the production side, a brand new analysis indicates that the business social software market will be nearly $1 billion strong this year and over $3.3 billion by 2011. In these and other ways, such as the growing collection of success stories, Enterprise 2.0 has arrived.

The big question for many of those on the fence now is: 1) Do we now have the right capabilities in terms of ready Enterprise 2.0 products? And 2) Do we generally understand how to apply them properly to obtain good returns on our investment in them? Knowing the answers to both questions will almost certainly tell us if we’re ready for mainstream adoption of adoption of Enterprise 2.0 any time soon.

Enterprise 2.0 redux

Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School famously introduced the term and concepts behind Enterprise 2.0 last year and it’s had a heady ride across the industry and in the press ever since. Initially defined by McAfee as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”, the broader global community has attempt to expand, reinvent, and co-opt Enterprise 2.0 with varying degrees of success. But the essential, core meaning has largely stayed the same: Social applications that are optional to use, free of unnecessary structure, highly egalitarian, and support many forms of data.

McAfee even coined a menmonic to make it easy for everyone to remember what appeared to be the key aspects of these social platforms. Called SLATES, it was an easy checklist to verify that the tools you were considering had the right essential ingredients. Under this initial definition Web 2.0 poster children blogs and wikis were identified as Enterprise 2.0 platforms (provided that they provided reasonable support for SLATES) as well as more sophisticated tools such as prediction markets and even vertical business applications like customer directed taxi cab dispatching were given as early examples of richer Enterprise 2.0 applications.

Examples platforms that failed to make the cut as Enterprise 2.0 because they didn’t have the qualities that were believed to be important for business business outcomes? These included most corporate intranets and portals, most groupware, as well as e-mail and “classic” instant messaging. Why? They either didn’t provide access to a voice for workers to communicate and collaborate with or they didn’t create results that were persistent and globally visible. In the end, Enterprise 2.0 takes most of the potent ideas of Web 2.0, user generated content, peer production, and moves them into the workplace.

Did the original articulation of Enterprise 2.0 have the right focus and point us in the best direction? And has the conception of it evolved from this vision to reflect that which we’ve learned along the way? Going back again to our two questions that will inform us as to the state of Enterprise 2.0; what have learned from our experiences with the early platforms and initial rollouts of Enterprise 2.0 and what does it teach us?

state of Enterprise 2.0 – Fall 2007

Here is what appears to be what we’ve learned about Enterprise 2.0 up to this point in time. There is of course no way to make this list complete though I believe it covers most of the big lessons. Also, entirely in the spirit of Enterprise 2.0 itself, I strongly encourage that you add anything that you think I’ve left out in TalkBack below or in a link from your own blog.

Lesson #1: Enterprise 2.0 is going to happen in your organization with you or without you. Enterprise 2.0 is now happening on its own in many organizations and it’s up to the business and IT to not so much take control but to enable it with things such as effective enterprise search and which helps prevent silos and duplicate, yet unsynchronized data from forming.

Lesson #2: Effective Enterprise 2.0 seems to involve more than just blogs and wikis. The discussion often starts with these simple freeform tools but should progress beyond this to other platforms that are better for specific situations such as enterprise mashups which enable for user-created Web applications what enterprise blogs and wikis for user-created content and structure. Predictive market products such as HP’s BRAIN platform and online innovation facilitators such as Innocentive are other potentially more sophisticated examples of Enterprise 2.0 platforms. Social bookmarking is also starting to gain speed in the enterprise as way of providing a rich information discovery mechanism internally.

Lesson #3: Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase. While a widely covered report from Forrester earlier this year clearly showed that CIOs would prefer to buy one single Enterprise 2.0 suite instead of cobbling together a combination of point solutions for blogging, wikis, RSS consumption, and social networking, the reality is that even the best Enterprise 2.0 suites will be missing key pieces for a long time. To get decent returns from Enterprise 2.0 implementations, organizations will require really good enterprise search, access to enterprise data from within Enterprise 2.0 tools, the ability to create mashups at a low level to the more sophisticated Enterprise 2.0-style products at a higher level. That’s not to say an Enterprise 2.0 suite such as SuiteTwo or Microsoft SharePoint can’t form the core of your Enterprise 2.0 strategy, but other products and integration work will be required to make it provide real business results in your local IT environment. This will include products that will make your Enterprise 2.0 suite support single sign-on, work in your portal environment, provide management and moderation controls, as well as integrate with your ECM and other traditional enterprise platforms.

In other words, by the time you’ve installed, configured, customized, and integrated all of the ingredients you’ve brought together, if you’ve lost sight of the specific reasons why Enterprise 2.0 is supposed to work better, your effort will have been in vain. I see this often when Enterprise 2.0 projects don’t provide, say, read access to RSS feed readers to workers or fail to make it easy to create a blog post or wiki page from the Intranet and a dozen other minor decisions made on top of the Enterprise 2.0 tools selected, yet contrary to their spirit and that will be significantly detrimental to the outcome. Best advice: Clearly understand the benefits of these news tools and ideas and then do your very best to ensure they aren’t negated.

Lesson #4: Most businesses still need to educate their workers on the techniques and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 and social media. Just like the previous generation of workers received computer literacy classes en masse and learned how to use business productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, and email, the same will be required for the current generation of workers and Enterprise 2.0. The hurdle is making sure that workers have a clear understanding of the specific techniques of how to apply Enterprise 2.0 tools to their daily work. Social media information formats such as project status wiki pages to departmental news blogs are still foreign to most workers today and proactive worker education will be required to make sure the investments in Enterprise 2.0 are being appropriately reaped.

Lesson #5: The benefits of Enterprise 2.0 can be dramatic, but only builds steadily over time. One major benefit of the open, globally visible information in Enterprise 2.0 platforms is that organizational retention of knowledge actually begins to accrue on a wide scale. But it’s a continuous, linear build-up and almost never a sudden and pronounced business benefit. Adoption and habits also take time to form and it’s quite typical to see 6 months go by before significant activity begins to take place in the Enterprise 2.0 platforms in an organization. Do not expect big immediate wins but carefully measure your rollouts and make sure their network effect is being established. Particularly if your tools aren’t following SLATES, and many platforms, such as SharePoint often don’t follow SLATES by default, then growth and uptake can require a great deal of work. But like compound interest, it doesn’t take forever to begin achieving respectable results on a regular basis and all the best rollouts we’ve seen have given their Enterprise 2.0 strategies the time and support to work organically.

Lesson #6: Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t seem to put older IT systems out of business. In fact, this seems to never have happened. In fact, instead of competition, enabling connections to existing IT systems can provide significant benefits and allowing reports, views, and documents to be hosted by or connected to Enterprise 2.0 tools and can help make sure that there isn’t another silo of content in the organization. Having a blog post on the budget for FY 07 with the actual current numbers being displayed in an HTML table live from an RSS feed from the budget system is an example of this. In this way, Enterprise 2.0 seems to work better when it lives in close contact with existing IT systems than in isolation. The biggest impact of this lesson is that these new tools are so different and generally support such different types of knowledge than usually captured, that impact to existing systems seems to be minimal. Interestingly, you might see a decrease in the use of e-mail or ECM when the conversations that formerly happened on those platforms make a more natural home in Enterprise 2.0 platforms.

Lesson #7: Your organization will begin to change in new ways because of Enterprise 2.0. Be ready. Beyond simple productivity gains, other sorts of more subtle returns often accrue around Enterprise 2.0. McAfee has recently noted that these types of tools tend to create many more links between workers and different groups in an organization and that these types of links tend to provide better benefits than the stronger, more frequent links between organizational entities and individual workers. For this reason and others, Enterprise 2.0 platforms seem to foster a new type of collaboration that exhibits more innovation, creativity, and cross pollination. And because these tools are generally so freeform, they will regularly be used in ways they were never originally intended. Blogs and wikis in particularly can be put to just about any use in terms of accumulating knowledge and collaborating over a network and increasing I’ve seen Enterprise 2.0 initiatives finding them being used in entirely unexpected ways. Enterprise 2.0 enables a rich canvas for workers to think about and construct their information landscape and anything is possible.

Conclusion

It’s still quite useful to read Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0. Almost exactly a year later, all the advice still rings true despite what we’ve learned in the interim. Nevertheless, we’re just now beginning down the road of Enterprise 2.0 and an enormous amount has yet to be learned. The increasing pervasiveness of the tools and knowledge of Enterprise 2.0 will continue to have a growing impact on our businesses for better and worse. Success stories will continue to emerge as well as the first major issues such as information spills, IP theft, and other potential problems when so much critical business information is made so much more leveragable. How to access the benefits while minimizing the risks will continue to be a major topc in the Enterprise 2.0 community.

In the meantime, I’d like to try an experiment and extend the SLATES mnemonic a bit. My biggest issue in using it in its present form to communicate Enterprise 2.0 is that it doesn’t itself capture the social, emergent, and freeform aspects that we know are so essential and so I’ve added these. I know SLATES is supposed to be capability based but it also needs to convey the intended outcomes clearly, and social capability in particular is missing. Thus, I’ve used an anagram generator to create another (hopefully) pithy mnemonic, FLATNESSES, which itself captures yet another important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, its egalitarian nature. FLATNESSES is depicted in the diagram below containing these three key aspects added to SLATES as well as a fourth which I discuss below. I hope you find this a useful conception to discuss the vital elements of Enterprise 2.0 in your efforts and would love your feedback.

Finally, I’ve also added one more capability to the new mnemonic, network-oriented, to reflect that all these aspect of Enterprise 2.0 must apply not only to applications that are fundamentally delivered over a network but that their content be fully Web-oriented, addressable, and reusable. The atomization and portability of information, such as what RSS has enabled, has been vital to the successful growth of communities like the blogosphere and one vital point about Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 that many organizations don’t yet fully understand: Our enterprises are NOT the Web. And to get the full benefits of the Web 2.0 era, we must begin adapting our organizations and their information and IT resources (with suitable enterprise context) to this network-oriented model that has worked so for us globally on the Internet these last 15 years.

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Significant workplace inroads for Enterprise 2.0?

November 1, 2007

By Dion Hinchcliffe

According to a random poll I recently conducted on Facebook, just over a quarter of 300 respondents — 27% of them in all — answered in the affirmative that they are provided with an easy way at work to post on a blog or put information on a wiki. I often ask this same question to gatherings of people whenever I get the chance these days and have been getting roughly the same answer for the last few months. Businesses are apparently starting to take Web 2.0 for a more serious spin.

A year ago, accessibility to blogs and wikis in the workplace was less than half this number in my informal sampling. The growth trend seems clear and appears to be increasing. So while this data might be fairly unscientific, I suspect the number is pretty accurate, and social media, aka Enterprise 2.0, is finally making some measurable inroads in the workplace despite a few open concerns about these mediums.

Facebook as a measure of social media in the general workplace?

Of course, Facebook users in general are probably more digitally literate than the average population, will look for blogs and wikis on the local Intranet to use, and thus some say they may be more likely to gravitate to workplaces and jobs that would provide an environment with familiar tools. However, one odd breakdown in the demographics of the poll is that the youngest group, 18-24 year-olds, reported the least access to social media. Perhaps it’s because this group also includes a great deal of students or that entry level workers don’t have as much computer access as workers farther up in the hierarchy.

Poll respondents were also pretty sure when they weren’t being provided with these tools with only 21% reporting that they didn’t know if they were being offered them. A whopping 52%, just over half, said that they had no social media tools offered to them in a way they could access.

The poll question was also carefully posed to uncover if tools were being “brought in the back door” by workers using the hundreds of free social media platforms out in the Web with their browser at work, or if the workplace itself was providing enterprise blogs and wikis. In my opinion, this makes the 27% “yes” number almost surprisingly high. But, while some respondents may not have parsed the question clearly, the trend is strong enough to stand on it’s own:

Blogs and wikis may finally be seeing fairly widespread “business approved” adoption in the workplace.

Getting good business outcomes from social media while managing downside

While blogs and wikis continue to show the potential to greatly improve collaboration, create higher levels of knowledge retention, and generate more reusable business information over time, it’s also probable that in attempts to access the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 platforms, these new platforms will incur some issues that IT departments and the business will have to deal with, particularly if these platforms are exposed outside the organization.

What are the business benefits and issues of social media? The diagram above depicts the world of traditional software and native PC applications with expanding access to the “2.0″ generation of new software models and platforms. Here’s a more detailed run down of the pros and cons that will have to be balanced in most organizations when deciding on providing access to these types of social media tools to their workers.

Notes: Social media is just one important aspect of Enterprise 2.0, but the one most likely to see near-term, widespread adoption. Also, the diagram above clearly shows the social media is a new aspect to the enterprise and will more likely to enhance existing IT systems over time rather than replace them outrighte with the possible exception of enterprise content management.

Reported social media in the workplace benefits:

  • More ad hoc collaboration between employees who can find each other’s work and team together.
  • More globally persistent, discoverable business information is made available over time.
  • Social media tends to capture more institutional knowledge that’s reusable.
  • A deep hyperlink infrastructure begins to form, built by continuously by workers using social media. tools to forge links, making business information more discoverable.
  • Tagging and other emergent organization methods allow business information to be organized and cross-referenced from every point of view.
  • More efficient access to information as more business information becomes available internally and externally via syndication.
  • Potentially higher levels of innovation and productivity as more previously unavailable enterprise thinking is available to be accessed, repurposed, and built on top of.
  • Increased efficiency in conversations: social media scales up to mostly resource and time friendly conversations among thousands of asynchronous participants, yet excludes those uninterested in them, unlike e-mail distribution lists and conference calls.

Reported social media in the workplace issues:

  • Productivity: Users employing social media tools for non-productive purposes such as socializing.
  • Security: Information that should be under tight control appearing on publicly via social media, either accidentally or intentionally.
  • Control: The level of control over what appears on an organization’s Intranet will decrease with the rise in use of social media, for better or worse. Also note that unlike e-mail, control of social media can be more successfully retroactive.
  • Outcomes: Ensuring that social media tools are generated pre-defined, specific goals is difficult when the the extremely freeform platforms of social media can be used for everything from managing projects to tracking a department’s fantasy football game.
  • Another silo: Right now social media is primarily a consumer-side invention, like many aspects of Web 2.0. Consequently, most enterprise blogs and wikis don’t have good access to feeds of enterprise data and this can encourage cut-and-paste publishing of information from traditional enterprise IT systems into social media, creating another silo of data.
  • Trust: How can the usefulness of the content in social media platforms be trusted. The Web has partially solved this with techniques such as inbound link counting, but reputation and voting systems are starting to appear, often as plug-ins such as the highly capable new comment and reputation add-on release from Intense Debate, for social media tools. Despite this, until the tools become mature, trust will likely continue to be an issue for many uses of social media in the workplace.
  • Not-enterprise ready. I’ve talked plenty about the enterprise context for blogs and wikis last year. The good news, many of these issues are starting to be addressed in the latest crop of Enterprise 2.0/social media offerings.

I’ll continue to run this poll on a periodic basis going forward and see what we can learn about the adoption of social media in the workplace. In the meantime, please share your stories about blogs and wikis at work in Talkbalk below.

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