Our technical briefings team is hosting a special event in September; actually two of them in the US, one in Raleigh, North Carolina, and another in Austin Texas. It's a free event, and the idea is to get a lot of thought going on around the topic of putting Web 2.0 into action in the workplace, in a more general way, beyond just startups and special projects.
Here's the info on the event:
Join us for a special event to learn how you can start bringing Web 2.0 into your organization, or as we say, 'Take Web 2.0 to Work.' During this day-long technology event from IBM, you'll see demos of the hottest technologies and participate in interactive breakout sessions - a large part of the content will be driven by you and the other attendees as we go along! The day will be full of live demos and true attendee participation!
You can register for this no cost conference today at: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/offers/techbriefings/details/web20.html
Raleigh, NC (September 12, 2007)
Austin, TX (September 18, 2007)
During the day, you'll not only hear from IBM Execs like Rod Smith, IBM Software Group, VP of Emerging Technologies and David Barnes, Program Director, Emerging Internet Technologies, IBM Software Strategy based out of Austin, TX, but also rub shoulders with other developers in your community, IBM's key system architects, developers and researchers from our R&D labs and some of the lead developers that created Lotus Connections. There will be plenty of time to dive deep into several different topic areas in breakout sessions including:
Collaboration (Social Networking applied to the Enterprise)
Application Creation (join in the creation of mashups and wikis)
Information Technology (see new ways to unlock information using emerging technologies like "Many Eyes")
The day will be heavy with demos and conversation, not slideware. Please join us on our conference Wiki to give suggestions on what subjects you would like to see and hear about, prior to the event at: http://www-03.ibm.com/developerworks/wikis/display/web20work/
The day-long conference will close with a discussion focused on not only where we've been and where we're going, but also on what you can do to start bringing Web 2.0 into your organization.
I'll be presenting alongside several other folks to a marketing audience in a webinar 2pm ET on Wednesday July 11th
, on Web 2.0 and community building, hosted by eOne Group and the Multichannel Merchant web site. It should still be open for registration
up till the day.
Right after my last post, I noticed two different things which are pushing the envelope of network computing: Google Gears, and the Palm Foleo.Techcrunch's story
on Google Gears
describes it as the step that allows online webware to also work offline through a plug-in for your browser. Whether this actually solves that particular problem for a range of practical apps still remains to be seen but it's a piece that has been missing for a while.Crave has a story
on the recently demoed Palm Foleo
, a new device that is not a UMPC (by Microsoft's definition) that works almost entirely as a thin client ultraportable laptop, that does the bare essentials of a web browser based interface that connects through WiFi or Bluetooth (to use a cellphone as a modem). The instant-on feature rather than a boot-up process is sweet, something that UMPCs still miss out on.
After about 4-5 hours of sleep the previous night, I was still in reasonable shape to do my presentation at the 3rd Developer Relations Conference
hosted by Evans Data Corp. This is a gathering of the folks who run developer programs at different technology companies, with speakers from Sun, Nokia, BEA Systems, Eclipse, Motorola, Yahoo!, HP Software, Intel, Borland, AMD, and many more (and of course ourselves from IBM). It seems an anachronism to have an event where all these companies that are competing for many of the same developers to share knowledge but I think it opens minds and views all the same.
My presentation was Extending your developer network with Web 2.0 communities
, discussing what you need to know about communities to pick the right kind of Web 2.0 tools for yours. For all the organizations that may go headlong into setting up blogs, wikis, etc., and even multiple competing instances, without really understanding the communities they are trying to create, I hope this talk gives provides some food for thought. (The powerpoint works best in slideshow mode: F5).
I attended a few of the other sessions but the one I found refreshing was Chad Dickerson's talk about Hack Day at Yahoo! Chad's a Sr Director at Yahoo and responsible for organizing the internal Hack Days, and more importantly, the external Hack Day
last June. I had missed this event entirely (busy with my then-8-month pregnant wife). They essentially opened up the Yahoo campus to 400 developers from all over who agreed to come and spend 24 hours developing new projects and mashups using Yahoo's many APIs. The format was what intrigued me:
- Developers could come from anywhere but they had to agree to code, and not just be an observor
- The developers actually camped out on the Yahoo lawn and ate and slept there for a day or two--even people like David Filo stayed till the wee hours of the morning
- An unconference model where people signed up for any project that they thought of, led initially by talks about the APIs themselves
- Yahoo employees roamed around the developers and stayed with them through the night
- They had Beck give a performance there, which was quite appropriate considering he'd just appeared on the September 06 cover of Wired
- The Legal departments agreed to let the developers keep whatever rights to their own code (seems the right choice but hard to accept by legal teams sometimes)
- People could make whatever projects they wanted to work on, although at times, it raised some eyebrows
Now this is very obvious customer-led innovation. For all the executives and analysts that like to throw that term around, this model is the concept implemented in what I think is its truest form. I applaud Chad and the Yahoo team for doing the right thing and having the guts to put this together. Read more from the TechCrunch blog
soon after the event. Here's hoping to the same success again this year.
In the last post, I introduced the book The kids are alright
that talks about ethics, interests, and motivations of the gamer generation as it is starting to enter the workplace. The post was getting long so I left out this bit.
To me the idea of SecondLife
was only a dream back in 1992, when text-based MMOGs were available. Even then, there were many MUDs, MOOs, etc. where players eventually got bored of playing the hack-n-slash life and switched more to socializing and creating. The lands I created in lpmud
using a derivative of the C programming language inside the game is a similar notion to Lindenscript
in SL now. Of course, with a text-basis, you did not have the sheer coolness of a 3D world. But that came back to bite me when I tried SL programming. While I can do the programming, I'm pretty lousy & slow with 3D graphics. That and my lack of time just made me give up (too easily I'm afraid).
My own scripting woes aside, it's the change from game-playing to game-making that made those programmable MUDs really fun. I don't want to say it's a bit of growing up but for me it was a switch from entertainment to using my skills. Not everyone wants to do that and even those who didn't want to play but still returned to the game to socialize points to the need for a different kind of environment: the same that SecondLife is suited for.
What's more, by taking the game aspect out of SL, it allows those of the non-gamer generation (per that book) to relate even better. My guess on what sold companies on getting involved in SL is not just the 3D factor, the programmability, the multi-user environment, etc., but because it is a transition environment between the two generations. Gamer-gen folks can work on this and still explain to their non-gamer gen bosses and seniors that it's okay because "It's not a game." That may sound silly, but the reality is that the non-gamer gens generally still consider games a waste of time, so anything that suggests that it is a game is most likely not worth the attention, and that the gamer employees are probably slacking off.
I bring this up because it is not limited to SL and the like, but even to other community & web 2.0 services. This same parallel exists in situation when a developer becomes an active member of a discussion forum, a chat, a wiki or are blogging . One common first assumption is that they are slacking off, rather than the reality that they may be building better relations than what you pay loads of money to communications, marketing and PR departments for, or even make the right connections to help them in their work.
Very often they are asked to justify themselves spending their time in such activities, in terms of some sort of results: solutions, work products, clientelle, etc. The difficulty lies in the fact that the benefits that they get from communities is building social capital
, which itself is an intangible and variable product. You'll find dozens of books that all talk about the value of social capital in business, but it is still hard to measure and compare. But then again some folks have figured out (somewhat) complex ways of determining other intangibles like productivity, loyalty, coolness, etc., so I think there is hope yet for some form of measure.
After all, if we are fixated on results-driven and measured processes for everything, we would definitely need a way to describe that. Enough for now, I'll gab about some ways of measuring this in other posts.
I listened to our pre-release version of the 40-minute podcast interview with Tim O'Reilly
, recorded by our editor Scott Laningham
recently. It starts out as a backgrounder for how O'Reilly & Associates
got started but moves quickly into the nature of participation, how the Internet and the web is the medium for new business, and the participatory nature of the net (what is now referred to as Web 2.0). Tim agrees with the other Tim
(Sir Tim Berners-Lee) that really the term web 2.0 only serves to clarify the aspect first initiated with the Internet: network effects.
It's available on dW Radio
and definitely worth listening to. I'll probably make it a supplementary piece for our MIS students to listen to for the class.
In the mix of the travel and other things, I'd almost forgotten about this dW podcast
interview I did earlier this month. Scott and I talk about the online communities course in this interview
We'll be upgrading the Managing online commuities course
next semester. The last I heard, the new course number will be MIS 424/524. This means that it will be a both undergrad (senior) & grad level course. Partially it is administrivia: grad students and professionals want to take it and can't do that as a 300-level (junior) course. Next semester, you don't have to be a degree-seeking student to register for this course, but yes, it is still local (rather than an online course) and a full semester long.
To go with that we will need to revise some of the cirriculum as well as add additional work appropriate for graduate level students. Unfortunately, I have not had much time to think about that and may not have it done before I leave on vacation in two weeks. I guess I get to take my laptop along and work a little over the holidays.
One of the regular assignments we have is analysis of news articles and papers on Web 2.0 and social projects and sites, and a presentation to the class. This semester has been more freeform to see what students will come across. For the grad level, I think we will need them to provide greater insight into the site they review: what is their business model/how do they make money or pay for it; how do they attract/retain visitors; how do they reward members; etc.
The final project also needs to start much earlier to give our students more time to complete the work. Apparently there was some confusion on what they were supposed to do. Also the selection of tools at their disposal were not sufficiently varied. We'll try and look for more tools per my previous note
We like the aspect of interfacing with high schools, but we may need to expand to more schools to have a larger user base. The complication is that each trip to the high school has some overhead involved for both parties; the high school computers have firewalls/filters for some sites which are relevant; they may not be adequately equipped for enough students; high school classes may have a lot of movement (people come in and out of class often). A better way would be to bus the high school students to a controlled environment like the Hoffman ecommerce lab
The local ABC affiliate in Tucson (KGUN9) came by on Monday and recorded our Managing Online Communities class
. Our students were presenting their final project concepts at Howenstine High school at the time, so you won't see me in it. The video shows some of the students presenting as well as the high school students participating. They interviewed one of the high school students, their teacher and the UAMIS teacher, Andrea Winkle, talking about the event.
It was a little chaotic from the students presentations' perspective: power was out for half the workstations and they were trying to fix it in the middle of class; the media crew and later the photographer (hired by the University) were all around; the high school Internet access blocked some of the sites that our students built their project on; and people just kept coming in and leaving for random reasons. Anyway, I still think it was successful but we may need to rethink the format a little and perhaps the tools our students can use.
Their final project requires them to create and build a concept for what their audience may want to use out of any combination of Web 2.0 tools they want. Some of our students are more technical than others so some actually wrote the software, while others used the service apps we had or on other sites. We can't show the projects until our students are done with it but I can describe some of them:
- a site that pulls in what local radio stations play in different locales around the country and have forums to discuss the regional differences and tastes
- an online social poll, where anyone in a small team can set up, answer, or even change the poll questions.
- a dual wiki/blog format for content offering different interaction means to the same data (and seeing which one is more popular)
I think next semester we need to pick out a selection of free resources they can build their project on. From the Web 2.0 Summit, I added to my list of such resources that let you build your own social network on their service: Ning.com
's ecosystems, ITtoolbox.com
I'll keep looking for more; we want to offer people a number of different options so they can work on innovative ideas. Again, this is not a programming class, and we don't expect that they'll build one of their own or modify these extensively, but you never know what will happen.
According to a recent New York Times article
, Tim Berners-Lee
is partnering with MIT
and the Univ of Southampton (UK) to launch their Web Science Research Initiative. I don't have much more information than that but it sounds like a graduate level research space into a more modern version of social networking analysis. The key people are Berners-Lee, Wendy Hall (head of School of Electronics and CS at U of Southampton), Nigel Shadbot (prof of AI, Univ of Southampton), and Daniel Weitzner (principal research scientist at MIT).
Quote from the release
Commenting on the new initiative, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of theWorld Wide Web and a founding director of WSRI, said, "As the webcelebrates its first decade of widespread use, we still knowsurprisingly little about how it evolved, and we have only scratchedthe surface of what could be realized with deeper scientificinvestigation into its design, operation and impact on society.
"The Web Science Research Initiative will allow researchers to take theweb seriously as an object of scientific inquiry, with the goal ofhelping to foster the web's growth and fulfill its great potential as apowerful tool for humanity."
I'm pretty sure the web is already an object of serious scientific and even commercial inquiry, but more effort is always a good thing. In comparison, our undergraduate UAMIS class
seems much less conceptual. I'm sure those ideas will eventually trickle down to us too. Social network analysis is a complex enough task, and not a simple topic; i.e., it'd need a full-blown semester to teach.
Wow, almost every hotel I looked around in SF is full for this Web 2.0 conference. Serves me right for pushing it till this week (although I just got confirmation from O'Reilly this week). Anyway, while I'm not at the booth, I'll probably go to a few sessions and need to figure out which ones would be the most interesting to attend. Unlike many other conferences, there are only a few which are multibooked; most of the sessions are sequential, which gives time to see everything (if you're free and so inclined, that is). Unfortunately, some of the session descriptions are so vague, I have no idea what they plan to talk about.
For example, take this workshop's description
As business software begins to learn from Web 2.0, a new class of enterprise software services is emerging: Enterprise 2.0. We will discuss how Enterprise 2.0 services can and should work, and how such software can leverage the behavior of users to become smarter and more useful the more people use it.
Seriously, that could mean just about anything.
Yahoo's web 2.0 strategy
may be a good one. Rod Smith from our Emerging Internet Technologies will be talking about what SOA has to do with Web 2.0
and that's relevant to my area too. Although, Don Tapscott has another session
at the same time too.
The Launchpad event should be interesting to see what startups are coming up with. And certainly all the "Conversations" with all the big names out there. So many to see... Makes me wonder how much time I'll actually be able to spend attending these.
Cyberspace, The Virtual World, The Matrix, Mainframe, ENCOM, etc. Now The Living Web.
For being part of a generation that has grown up with online games,books, stories and movies about virtual worlds and moving at the "speedof the Net", it seems like it is taking quite a bit of time to get tothe idea of having such a world in common use (and hopefully not adystopic vision like that in The Matrix). I get the feeling we arelooking so far ahead that we are not focusing on taking the stepsinvolved in getting there.
Most of the mainstream media (books & movies) still focus on the 3Dworld, because obviously it's cool to imagine an alternate reality thatyou can actually move around. Even games tend toward that directionbecause it is the environment that can more easily excite people. Theyall talk about having a persona that moves and interacts with thisworld and the other personas in it. In fact, in the Matrix, the worldis so real, it is the "real world" as we know it; it's only when youunderstand the actual world of the Matrix behind it that you can dointeresting things like defying gravity.
The truth is probably a little depressing. Most of the virtual worldthat we know as the Web is 2D; in fact, by just a guesstimate, I'd sayover 98% of all the info we have online is in text. I also think for along time to come, the virtual world will still be overwhelminglytext-based for decades to come. To get to that futuristic vision asportrayed in the media, a lot of work behind the scenes still needs tohappen.
Ten steps (not in order) to get to virtual worlds:
- Establish ubiquitous individual identities or online personas.
- Enable personas with actions they can do (e.g., create content, initiate contact/discover others, exchange information, etc.)
- Enable personas to categorize, aggregate, identify, mark or otherwise "control" the information around them (i.e. tagging)
- Define "homes" or bases where each persona exists and controls.
- Establish Reputations - enable rankings or ratings on personas, based on what others think of their interactions with them
- Allows personas to "move freely" across system boundaries, or export their personas or info about them
- Establish online economies (virtual valuation, and common exchange rates, around fixed not unlimited valuations)
- Establish domains and guidelines of how they operate (i.e., online "cities", and proper governance of these cities)
- Global accessiblity to the persona or personas you control, using any device
- Actual visualization of the personas, their homes and the domains they live in (yes 3D worlds)
These details are a little more mundane and most people would justprefer if someone else just created and provided it for them. In fact,I think there is already a trend towards this new kind of "hosting" ofonline personas, and not just Web pages. Even the idea of blogggingfits somewhere beyond a web home page but still before reaching acomplete persona.
Don't get me wrong: in limited areas, most of these properties alreadyexist. In particualr I'm talking about online games and MMORPGs.However, they are limited in the sense that they create a separatefictitious world that you have to apply your context to. In otherwords, yes, it's make believe, which is also why it is fun. Also theyare limited in the sense they exist almost entirely within their owndomain. You don't see characters moving outside a game like Everquestand moving onto World of Warcraft; or even any reason or correlation todo so.
In terms of people and businesses however, the information is real (notartifically created to role-play) and pervasive across wherever you go.The good news is that some of these items are already starting tohappen, as you can see per what Newsweek describes as The Living Web.What's more, these personas are a limited thing. My belief is thatpeople in general do not want to have to maintain multiple personas,for the same reason, people do not really want to have to keep track ofmultiple email accounts.
So there you have it. There's much work to do in the middle to get to pervasive virtual worlds.
I came across two interested reads in the last two days well worth thetime. The first is the cover story on Newsweek magazine ("Putting the 'We' in Web"
) titled The New Wisdom of the Web.
Ittalks about the new trend on the Web towards user-generated content asa way to drive more interaction on the Web, and to let your users leadand drive your communities.
The other interesting article is in BusinessWeek (requires registration) Innovation: The View from the Top
,which is an interview with our own CEO, Sam Palmisano, on a recentsurvey about where the areas for innovation lie. Sam talks aboutbusiness-model innovation as the source to look for to gain acompetitive edge. In comparison in this day and age, many competitorscan catch up on product-level innovation.
Michelle Conlin's Businessweek article You are what you post
,talks about the troubles of growing up in the Net generation. With theadvent of search engines being so "efficient" that it can find any kindof information that is associated with your name, people are startingto find that others including their bosses, potential employers, orclients can find out all kinds of information from your past. Anythingthat you might post online can show up including embarrassing orprivate facts about yourself, even things others might saw about you,whether true or not. How can you possibly know what is harmful to yourcharacter or can be misunderstood by others, tomorrow or even ten yearsfrom now?
This is causing fear and panic amongst individuals, companies and PRagencies worldwide. The idea that you image is always at risk on thenet. In fact, the rule of thumb is usually to always assume that "ifyou post it, they will find it." To some that means, "don't use theInternet". However, the right reaction is not to stick your head in thesand and assume that it will simply go away. It is to be proactive.
Michelle actually points out an important fact that is missed by many:there are two "yous", the physical real-world you, and the online imageof you (or what others learn about you from info online). Because yourphysical person is always with you (duh!) it's usually possible to knowwhat's happening around it. However, it usually not possible to knoweverything going on around the online you. The Businessweek articlepoints to five ways to manage your online doppelganger, which aredefinitely helpful hints.
My thought on this line however, is that companies and people may eventually realize that the online you
isjust as important as person to maintain. The best way to do this is tohave an online tool to keep track of that you and what happens. What'smore, it becomes the basis of how others can communicate with theonline you. It's not only nice to have that tool but imperative, if youwant to have a proactive say around what the "online you" really does.Otherwise, you are at risk of leaving it in the hands of what anyoneelse may say about you.
In terms of philosophy (in the classical Greek sense), this is mind-bending in terms of what that persona is becoming: all that is online you is what others see around you
. You don't have strict control of it, but you can contribute to it.
Aside from a tool, the other idea this points to is that it's unlikelya single individual will be able to know what the best ways ofpresenting themselves is. It's a brand new online world, and most ofthe social rules are still being figured out. The best way is to havesomeone who watches and understands the behavior across the net toprovide advice on how to use the tools according to the properfunction, and more so, in the most effective manner. In the physicalworld, these people are often called image consultants, PR agencies,etc., although that's really the extreme end of a business that isgeared specifically to your own needs.
Another way to look at this is in terms of getting people to understandor even share your views. If you're interesting enough, you might evengain a fan club of your own (the goal of many bloggers). Yourreputation helps build an implicit or even an explicit community aroundwhat you are or what you're doing. I, for one, don't believe anyone cantruly force others to agree with them wholeheartedly; therefore toconvince others on your view, you need to be persuasive and use theright tools and right means of persuasion. Thus, you should take a lookat this from the perspective of how to develop this community aroundyou.
The root of all this is your reputation online and how others see it.Take charge of your online reputation because, whether you like it ornot, it has or eventually will have a direct impact on your future.
In summary, the online you is already being "created" on the Web bywhat you and what others post about you online. You should considertaking an active part of owning and operating this "online you", andhandle this from the perspective of trying to build a community aroundyou.
Continuing my thread on knowledge workers
, and how to get them to share their knowledge
indicates that knowledge workers value their knowledge skills, but often do not share it easily.
The former part indicates that knowledge workers are proud of the ideas and knowledge they produce, and of the fact that they were able to come up with it. They see value in them. Therefore, one idea to increase productivity of knowledge workers is to give visibility or accolade to their ideas.
Unfortunately, the latter part is oh so true: if a knowledge worker does not feel secure in their environment or community, they are unlikely to share it, especially if it means that by sharing that knowledge, they may even be helping someone else take over their job.
Im an optimist in this area, and with the rise of open source and a more open worldwide environment (especially in our industry), we may be able to trust others enough to break down this barrier.
Take a look at this earlier post on a sort of universal meme about communities
. This suggests that to get towards innovative ideas, you need to progress your community of people from the earliest stages of first getting them to interact to create a level of understanding and familiarity between the people in the organization. With a level of understanding you then have a platform that allows people to build trust between the community-members, and with that trust, some can explore and experiment on ideas and thereby develop a greater entrepreneurial spirit. Finally, once you get that level of mentality, you can finally succeed in innovation through your community.
Obviously, with Davenports statement, the sharing of knowledge lies in the very first few stages. If you cant get people to trust each other--even in a contained environment--you wont get knowledge sharing in action.
If you have a strongly-connected employee base, you have developed that level of trust or at least a level of understanding amongst the people in your organization. You still need to encourage others to experiment, as in our Think Fridays in IBM. For a small organization it is easier to distribute new ideas, but to achieve knowledge sharing of those ideas in anything beyond a few hundred people, you really need to consider a common tool to collect, rank, sort and share all those ideas.
That kind of tool is exactly what we have in IBM right now in the form of our ThinkPlace
tool and system. The IBM Innovation team offers this tool whereby any of the 300,000+ people in IBM could share their ideas; these ideas are then sorted or ranked by popularity (by software and also by hand). Not only does this do great justice to enabling knowledge workers in our organization but it is also leading a lot of our own innovation, not just for new product ideas, but also for company-internal improvement.
In its simplest form, it is a sort of open discussion group with many threads that anyone can start up around their idea. This is more than a 21st century version of the old "Suggestions Box" found in many companies yesteryear which was a closed box only viewed and analyzed and action taken on by management.
Thinkplace is a more open process whereby your peers can look over the ideas and weigh in on its merits, rather than someone in management dealing out commandments. In fact, it is also a way for employees in other divisions to mine this idea database for things that might relate to their work. The managers from the Innovation team, in this respect do exactly as their titles suggest: they manage the flow of this output in useful channels to find the best ideas.
We have ThinkPlace in operation already, but now consider the next step towards integrating community.
As I mentioned in a previous post
, you can use your blog to implement free-thinking time (e.g., Think Fridays in IBM), since many bloggers use this tool to share their ideas and knowledge. This certainly provides a useful business case to retaining and supporting knowledge workers.
Now consider how to export some of those ideas from your own blog into a community tool like ThinkPlace. Each blog post which is specifically is an idea should probably be tagged and then "pushed" (through software preferrably, or via manual copy) to the ideas database.
The reason to do this is because blogs are part of the new Web 2.0 mentality of a model of participation
. In other words, people who are bloggers are starting to embrace a more open and willing stance on sharing their knowledge.
An experienced blogger is used to the idea of posting to their blog on a regular basis. All we are talking about here is categorizing particular posts and make it easier to export that into a public space like the ThinkPlace tool. This reduces the tool-usage time to transfer knowledge into a tool where that can be considered by a wider audience. In fact, for bloggers thats also a good thing: more exposure to your ideas on your blog, and possibly even showing some real outcome of your ideas.
Thus, the knowledge workers can create their ideas and contribute for a mass audience to consider and analyze; the organization behind that audience can create an idea pool
that is self-defining and self-directed to produce new innovations; and both the members and the organization can benefit from discovering and implementing these innovations.
For the knowledge worker, this suggests not only building a regular practice for participating in communities but also offers a reward mechanism in seeing some of their ideas appreciated and maybe even implemented by the overall organization.
So, unless you think you dont really need innovation out of your organization, this suggests a useful business case for different kinds of community tools, for the growth of the organization as well as the happiness of your knowledge workers. And, oh by the way, in doing this, youve just created a knowledge sharing and capturing process.
We just ended our weeklong meeting with the infrastructure, applications and design teams of our developerWorks. We have them once or twice a year bringing all the members of our distributed organization into a single physical location to talk about their projects, brainstorm, and engage each other in coordinating efforts.
This is our own internal community of developers and designers that help maintain and improve the extensive network of sites that is developerWorks, supporting over 5 million members, dozens of acclaimed topics, and many sites for other countries (locales). We call this collective "Scott McAllister's team" refering to the multiple teams and managers that report up to Scott. The event is our own Geek Week.
We have a whole other team of folks who do the great work behind creating our content on the many sites. That team is meeting at the end of February.
For my part, I talked extensively about our planned Community strategy, and the involvement of these teams. The plan is a holistic look at the evolution of communities, predicting what the next stage of evolution is, what that means to us in terms of future opportunities, what we should build, and even the next stages of what we could do.
Needless to say, Web 2.0 played a large part, but rather than in bits and pieces, I mapped out the overall solution that brings Web 2.0 to our whole site. I'd like to tell you the plan, but it's a secret. ;)
I can say that I get a number of people coming up to me and saying they really liked the presentation (gives me warm fuzzies :), some also wanted to know how they could get involved.
What I should say is that I had to consider what projects and experiments we were already considering and how it might relate to this plan. There are many smart people in our organization and many ways to interpret ideas. My strategy (behind the strategy) is to consider the many ideas and see if we can make good use of it in the overall plan. I like to be inclusive wherever possible.
That's actually much harder than it seems. For one, while we have a such a structure, we are not a strongly hierarchical organization (i.e., siloed) and have many cross-teams across the functional teams. This is not an unusual situation for many companies these days. One person may have different roles in several teams, so part of the time I'm trying to consider which role I'm talking to. We are also distributed across at least six different states in the US (not including the international teams), that makes it hard to just get appropriate time with people.
It's events like this week that greatly reinforce the "wholeness" of the team, as well as help spread ideas. It is a great offline community that most of our readers never hear about. It's when people connect that innovations--small or large--happen.
Cnet's article on Small is beautiful for Web 2.0 start-ups
gives attention to the growing sentiment that the application development process needs to become more lightweight.
This is something that can go in several directions:
- The increased use of collaborative methods to develop solutions (as opposed to applications)
- A move away from complex design and development projects towards simpler models (a more top-down approach)
- The use of small simpler applications combined to build more complex applications. (a more bottom-up or mixed/service-oriented approach)
While Jason Fried of 37Signals believes the idea of enterprise software is "dead", it's more likely a space that small projects just don't play in. Also there may be a great many more small projects going compared to large projects but it's difficult to argue either way that a number of small projects equals one large project or vice-versa. (Obviously, I'm not defining what "small" and "large" means; think of those as what they mean to you)
On the other hand, small projects may be a difficult idea for some organizations to handle, especially when they are focused on going for large ones. It's a matter of overhead; With each small project, the relative size of the overhead for running the project may seem a lot higher than the overhead of a large project.
However, the techniques needed to operate a large project many not be the same as the ones needed for small ones.
The real winner is the one who figures out what kind of project management techniques are most appropriate for any given project, anticipating its complexity and size. Of course, if you could see the future and know how much work was involved right away, it'd be a simple trick.
The Economist issue from last week has an 18-page in depth section on how people and organizations are evolving in the face of globalization, online Web 2.0 technologies, and changing ideas on organizing teams. This is one of the best articles I have seen on the subject (even better than Friedman's "The World is Flat")
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One trend that sci-fi authors, role playing games, movies and multiuser environments have talked about for decades, is finally becoming more and more real.
Examine these parallel trends:
A. Dungeons & dragons / Role playing (non-computer) characters
-> text MUD games players
-> MMORPGs (e.g. Ultima Online, Everquest, World of Warcraft)
-> Non-RPG-based environments (The Sims Online, Second Life)
-> Military Tactical/Strategic representations
-> Telemetry and Remote Imaging
-> Battlefied information systems
-> Robotic military (Remote guided aircraft/UAV, bomb-detection robots, etc.)
C. Heroic Mythology (Greek myth, Viking sagas, Chinese myth)
-> People with secret super-hero identities (Batman, Daredevil, Spiderman)
-> Robotic personas (Voltron, Gundam & Macross series)
-> Virtual worlds (Tron, The Matrix trilogy)
D. User accounts
-> Web home pages
-> individual blogs
-> Group content/documents (wikis, forums, chats, etc.)
-> Spaces (combining Web pages, blogs, other Web 2.0 services)
-> Online personas
While different in form and utility, what it is pointing to is a change in how we perceive our identities in the rise of the online/alternate world.
Call them what you like, your blog, your avatar, your character, your robot, your role in the Matrix... It all points to having a separate identity for yourself in an environment other than the one you live in right now.
I tend to see this as a continuing trend where we will see more and more of ourselves participating in the online world on a regular basis.
However, I also think that people will start making distinctions. Most of us have different faces even in a typical day: there's a similar but distinct persona of you at home, at work, at school, with your family, with your friends, with the government, etc.
They are all you, just different aspects of you. With the online world, it's easier to make those different aspects, or even create new ones based on the online environment.
This comes back to developers in a real way. There is probably a "developer" identity that you put on (some of the time, or even much of the time for others).
What that developer identity needs is a environment of its own. In fact, traditionally we have that too:
> assembly language
-> programming languages
-> compilers & other developer tools
-> integrated development environments
-> online searching
-> online code repositories and exchanges
-> online group projects and identities
The X here is where it all comes together into an online space that is yours and that you have your developer avatar participate in, and that can interact in an online community or virtual world with many other developers.
In this virtual world, we're not talking about a game of fighting other developers (aka WoW style), but in a real sense of getting involved in projects, learning new ideas or meeting new people who are working on things you are interested in. It gives the setting for participating.
Once someone builds that participation environment, you as a developer can suddenly see or be exposed to the many opportunities that lie ahead. This opportunity can translate into dollars and jobs in the real world.
The rise of Web 2.0 brings a new level of collaboration into the mindsets of the audience. Ideas which were previously taboo, are now actually being considered.
For example, the value of a book is traditionally considered to be in having access to the content of the book itself. For book publishers, this model means: get one or more authors, work on a book, then print and publish the thing, and distribute to bookstores where customers can buy them.
Usually, the ability a person has to examine the contents of the book is usually limited in time (enough time to read some of the book in a store), in content (having access to some portion of the content they can review), or based on the opinion of others.
While not the first, Robert Scoble
helped change views while working on his book as a blog
, by giving people access to its content while it is being developed online.
This idea is close to my heart and went into the reasoning behind why we needed the developerWorks Books series
, and why I helped to start that as part of IBM Press. Somewhere in the following I think is the future of how books can be developed in something that benefits most parties.
It's similar to, although not exactly the same, as "open sourcing" the book since the philosophy of open source does not preclude selling the product. However, if you have access to the contents of the book for free, why would you buy it.
This puts traditional print publishers in a dilemma. Their business is based on selling the product, not giving it away online and hope someone still buys a copy.
To me, both ways seem a little extreme.
Developing a book takes a lot of time and effort and in some topics, by the time you finish writing, a lot may have changed. My guess is that most authors want not only the noteriety but hopefully would also like to get paid from the knowledge they put down. Call me a capitalist, but giving away a year or two of my life to write a book that may become outdated deserves some reward beyond the satisfaction that you've tried to impart some wisdom to the world.
In the fast changing online world, it makes a lot of sense to do some grass-roots promotion of the book by talking about the subject or showing people some of what you have been working on. This is in hopes that later, when you are done writing and editing, people will want to buy the finished product.
Therefore, I think there's a use-case somewhere in between. I say a use-case because I think this is something people will want to do online.
E.g., provide a group of authors with a tool for them to put together a document (say a Wiki), that they can all edit. Develop the outline, and start fleshing out some of the chapters and sections. Then introduce processes between the authors and an editor where they can bring in the editorial process. Then give access to a select audience or even a wide audience to some of the content so you can get some feedback and peer review. Finally, give access to the content and some knowledge about what others think of the book in progress to the book marketing group so they know what it is about and how its doing.
Thus, this package is a specific use-case for book development that involves an online tool for document development, perhaps another tool for discussion, access control to select or public audiences to portions of the content that you choose, ways to measure opinions and traffic to the publicly available/reviewable sections, and then finally a way to transfer the developed content into a format suitable for publishing/printing/distribution.
It involves giving away part of the book for free so that you get a drumbeat going as well as some feedback on coverage. In exchange, you get a better understanding of how the market may receive the work before it is even complete.
The step beyond is where it gets real interesting.
There's no real end to the book, if people are really interested. You could continue working on developing the content, adding new material, and exposing new material to others. You continue to build on a book without having to build a huge business case for a new book or a new edition, unless there really needs to be one.
Paul Dreyfus from our team is helping to make the dW series of books become real and there should be some interesting news coming out this year.
This idea above is so far just my own brainstorming. I doubt it is unique and probably already in force somewhere. It requires the expertise, experience and cooperation of a book publisher, an online publisher, and authors daring enough to try it out. From a Web 2.0 perspective, I think it makes for an interesting approach to team and even community driven content, and brings remixing to a whole new level (between print and online media).
Paper is undeniably one of the most lasting technologies the world has ever known. Even now, in the digital age, companies have considered going back to "paper disks" because the medium actually can store data for much longer than magnetic media (50 yrs as opposed to 5-10 yrs). Now imagine what would have happened if more people learned how to use paper to record knowledge, and if that became more prevalent centuries before it became "mainstream".
In reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat
, I came across a factoid which I thought was interesting (pg 182). There are about 1.5 billion new workers entering the labor force as a result of the flattening of the world and the entrance of new players to the game of globalization (i.e., BRICK countries = Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea, etc.)
His idea of the three convergences include: convergence into a new playing field (because of the rise of technology), convergence of new players (as above), and new processes (to enable a globalized economy).
The impact of the new technologies not just for data delivery (the net) and content sharing (the Web), but also for collaboration and workflow (the Web 2.0) cannot be understated in this regard.
In other words, to play in a new globalized field, you will need to consider not just what resources are available locally but also remotely in other areas you haven't thought of.
To technology companies, this means that there is a need to closely examine how the collaboration, interaction and workflow tools required for a global environment needs to function. And it's not just the tools, but the ways on how to use them, the human processes and guidelines for interaction, and the pitfalls and traps to avoid.
Inevitably, there will be many different (often competing) technologies and products that will arise to fill this need. Friedman paraphrasing economic historian Paul A. David, there is a historical basis in a lag between the release of these innovations and the rise of proper processes for using these technologies.
For developers, the lesson to learn here is how to take advantage of these tools, understand in context which tools are more useful for their own needs, and encouraging others to adopt the tool.
Printing, for example, was develop many centuries ago in China; however, it was limited, even restricted, in use. If it was more open, I daresay that the world might have been even more technologically advanced that it is now. The same goes for Web 2.0 technologies.
Web 2.0: learn it, use it, and find your global advantage.
Tim O'Reilly's paper
on "What is Web 2.0?" brought to mind the issues of individual scale that many companies don't quite get.
Tim's description of why Google's AdSense works because it allows individuals to easily slap an ad onto their sites rather than the more complicated process of DoubleClick that requires formal contracts and agreements, gives one example of the power of mass of individuals.
The blogosphere's population of many individuals talking about different topics, rather than large PR teams in organizations, are starting to make a greater difference; ie. another example
The ability to remix applications, content and data in Web 2.0 for your own personal use
gives yet another example.
The common ideas across all of these that I can see are:
- individuals (as opposed to whole companies/organizations) matter in Web 2.0
- the ability to work on things on a small or even personal scale (as opposed building applications for whole organizations) also matter
- the organizations that are built to focus on large customers rather than individuals may be missing out on Web 2.0.
My point is that to take a stance on Web 2.0 you have to think about empowering the individual not just big business partners, and large customers.
This is the ever ellusive "SMB" market (small-medium business) that more big companies are starting to take notice of. But this SMB goes even smaller down the scale to individual customers. I'd even call it the "SSB" (super-small business).
Now the question of whether this is something that works only for the mass/retail customer rather than organizations as a whole is still something everyone is trying to understand.
Scenario: a developer in an organization is looking for a particular item (content, data, or service), and finds it on the net somewhere to help complete their job task. Is that worth it to a supplier when the cost of offering that item
may not be very high? That is, what would make companies consider selling millions tiny widgets at $0.10 rather than one big widget to one customer for $10M?
The classic argument why some companies don't focus on mass sales at an almost retail level is the cost of offering that product is usually quite high, leaving low margins.
That would be perfectly true for a physical item that requires proper warehousing, distribution, retailing, sales tracking, mass advertising, etc.
Now consider pure-online products that can be delivered over the network. Are all those costs still true? Is there still this barrier of high cost overheads to produce something of the sort?
Companies geared to sell expensive goods to large customers may be so locked into their sales model that offering small scale services to many individuals just doesn't seem very appetizing.
That's a substantial mental hurdle for some organizations to overcome in Web 2.0.
PS: If you're thinking that going down to the SSB scale just sounds crazy, think again about the successes of Google, eBay and Amazon, and not just for retail customers but for their business partners, and their whole community of users.
I wanted to point out that "use cases" are different than technology implementations in Web 2.0. I've mentioned this before but I really think people need to see the difference between the two points.
An "online diary" is a use case. Lot's of people have them. Before the rise of blog implementations we called them personal home pages. The actual technology evolved over time. There are now videoblogs, photoblogs, etc. but whatever the technology, they are still online diaries.
On the work-level, a "documentation development tool" can be implemented in a great many ways. It could even be implemented in separate application tools (e.g., a forum + a wiki, a workflow app + email + content management system, etc.) There are also many variations of this documentation development tool depending upon the needs. But across all of them the use cases have some common basis.
The idea is to figure out the common/base use cases that are useful and that can be replicated on a common basis such that it can be reused by many. That's where the real challenge lies. Technology after all will always come and go.
For that same reason, I consider the Web 2.0 as a superset of all these use-cases that everyone is so interested in. It is also why "Web 2.0 != blogging", "Web 2.0 != wikis", or any one specific technology. It is the sum of all the ways we interact with the Web under the new common aspects/principles of Web 2.0 (see end of this post
The Web 2.0 entry on Wikipedia
gives a snapshot of the many different technologies and topics that exist around it. Take a look at the image they provide: From Wikipedia, 2006
The Wikipedia entry focuses more on the technologies behind Web 2.0 although it does give some description of the social impact behind it.
I consider this the difference between looking at the invention of the automobile itself versus what automobile-based transportation has done for the world. E.g., inside and outside a car there are many technological innovations: engine, transmission, electrical controls, ergonomics, safety structure, comfort systems, the highway system, etc.
But the impact of this mode of transportation is much wider: the trucking/containerization/delivery industry, suburbization of society, learning to drive (a right of passage of life for many teenagers), leisure travel, car racing, commuting and even telecommuting, etc. are things that have risen from exploding gas within a metal box to turn gears and push carts.
For that same reason, you can certainly be fascinated by the wonders of cars (I certainly spend many hours watching Speed Channel and reading car magazines), but the real impact of having the automobile is so much more.
I see this same difference in Web 2.0 technologies and the value of Web 2.0 itself.
I'm asked to explain what the Web 2.0 question often enough these days. There are plenty of things that have been put under this umbrella but rather than technologies it is the idea behind it that's most significant.
First of all what's "Web 1.0"?
This generally refers to the state of what the Web was primarily used for: a (mostly) consume-only service to access information. Even with all the many applications surfaced through the Web, the majority of the Web is still site for reading, gathering, and consuming information. The number of consumers is much greater than the number of producers.
To make the distinction, the thought behind "Web 2.0" is to instead make "producers" out of the majority of the users of the Web. Now, users not only visit the Web to gain information but also can contribute to the wealth of information that's out there.
It's a democratization of the Web if you will, allowing people not just to express their thoughts on their work, their lives, their emotions, etc. It is not just creating new written content, but contributing by taking existing data and "remixing" them to produce new content. It is also building application services that can work on data or app services that others produce.
Thus in the new world of "Web 2.0", people become producers of original and remixed data, content, and services.
There are quite a few books coming out around the topic of Web 2.0 and by leading literary minds like Dan Gilmor
, and Thomas L Friedman
. The topic is related to a number of ideas that can raise a lot of controversy including: freedom of expression, ownership of material produced, the right to use information and services of others, legal liability, and even globalization.
Web 2.0 existed from the very beginning of the Web itself, at least in concept. You could create home pages from very early on and even HTTP had rudimentary means to PUT and POST data. However, it was not until the rise of newer technologies that put it into the hands of the masses, and acknowledged significant impact on real-world issues that it really hit the mainstream.
With such a hotbed of activity, its no wonder that everyone wants to know more about how it applies to what they do:
- producers want to learn how to use the various technologies in this.
- developers want to know how to build variations or new ideas around this.
- marketers want to know how to take advantage of the populations that arise from this.
- companies want to know how to handle this in terms of their PR/communications channels, legal staff, and just how to react to any of this.
As with any "gold rush", everyone is out to claim their stake in this. For some this rush is about new software. For others its about making yourself heard (and famous). For yet others, its about connecting with others of like mind.
Some common aspects I've observed:
- user-produced content and services
- interactive and collaborative environments
- standards-based access to application services
- the ability to remix content, data and services from sources across the net
- the rise of user-driven communities