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Friday, June 26, 2009

Enterprise 2.0 conference - the answer is not there

The Enterprise 2.0 conference is almost over, and the lesson from this year is that all this is still a work in progress. Lots of vendors selling similar things, a few of their customers to explain what has worked for them, and consultants trying to sort it out.

The premise of the conference (from what I have seen) was to ask vendors to submit case studies that could be presented to the world. And this is what you get: stories from vendors, through their customers, on the benefits of Web 2.0 technologies used within the enterprise. This is all nice and good, but not really enough to establish a solid model on how to make change happen. And clearly not enough to make a real difference. I have talked to several people who were at the conference 2 years ago or last year and expressed frustration that not much has changed.

And why is it not different? Because the real answers cannot come from an Enterprise 2.0 show, or a Web 2.0 show for that matter. Even though technology is what enabled change, and created the opportunity for the discussion we are having now, the real issue is societal, sociological and political before being technological. It is the issue of power, control and the relationship between an individual and the ecosystem at large. It is not software vendors or their customers who initiated the change, it is the Open Source community who demonstrated that it was possible to build very complex system from a very un-formal organization. And it is users who are now defining usage and processes that can then be formalized into products.

Enterprise 2.0 will be driven by users learning what works and what does not, driving a shift in how organizations are run, first on smaller projects and probably outside core business, and then slowly percolating into the Enterprise.

So I expect a lot more from the Participation Camp (Change the Rules) coming up at the end of this week in New York city. An Unconference driven by users to resolve issues related to the balance of powers. Hopefully a place where the current power structures are challenged through discussions, and where the lessons from existing successes can define how we can work tomorrow...

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My take-away from the Online Community Unconference

I was at the Online Community Unconference today (#OCU2009 on Twitter), and this is a first braindump after the event:

- the main concerns expressed by community managers there at the beginning of the event were: what metrics to measure the health of a community? how to get people to engage more? how to get quality content?

So it seems that a lot of people there were still in the learning phase when it comes to managing online communities.

- also of note, a very strong presence from the Yahoo team, looking for answers on how to manage herds of "passionate" (or did they say "angry"?) users when you are planning to shut down a service

From the sessions, it was clear to me that we are still in the very early days of the web as a communication platform:

- People are struggling with discussions that are scattered, the distribution of the content is easy and wide, but cannot really be controlled and it is not easy to track where the discussions are happening around that content once it has gone outside of its original published space.

- Individuals have mixed feelings about their online profiles, and how to fit their personal life next to their professional life.

- And finally it is not clear where all this is going as we have not gone through a complete cycle. There is still a lot of "new and exciting" effect on Twitter for example, along with user's fatigue for some of the early adopters.
One person mentioned how she twitted about renting a GM car this morning to go to the conference and got 2 tweets back: one from the rental agency and one from the GM product manager for that car. While it is a great story, how long can this last that the PM for the car can actually track you down to talk to you when you tweet?
So the value we see today may not be sustainable over time.

For me, I see 2 trends:

- on one side, people realize the value of the wide distribution of content, through the many services that we know: Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, etc... It allows access to info that would not be available otherwise, and it gives a voice to stakeholders that could not be heard before. They also realize that since there are many of these services, plus blogs, plus forums, we have to deal with a distributed network of people and content, and this is not going to stop anytime soon. We need technology (at the infrastructure level) to better manage these distributed networks.

- on the other side, information overload combined with the fact that there is only 24 hours in a day forces users to limit over time what they pay attention to. The key then is to find the lens you should use: group of key people you follow and interact with. So to manage better what we pay attention to, we have to move towards a closed network - closed as in: limited to people we trust, whether it is at the personal level or at the content level. We need technology (at the personal level this time) to better manage these closed networks (lenses).

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Why Google Wave will take a long time before it takes off (if it ever does)

So now we have seen the feedback of developers who got early access to the system, and we know it is real, they report that it is working just like shown during the demo. Great!

Now I hope I can be proven wrong but I see one big issue in this rollout, and it is the same issue I have seen with Google FriendConnect, which is an excellent concept but does not seem to be taking off as much as I would have hope too. And the issue is that they failed to provide developers with a real incentive.

Unlike with the iPhone, which comes with the iStore where developers have some hope that they can make money, and a few well advertised successes have proven that it is possible, where is the money in building Google Wave gadgets or extensions?

What we have now is a great technology, that will for sure be used by at least a few, but there is no way anybody can justify spending too much time integrating the technology. So it will be done on spare time, as a nice to have, or maybe by startups looking to ride that Wave of hype. But this is not how we are going to see massive adoption anytime soon.

Google makes money selling ads, but they have forgotten that the rest of the ecosystem does not, and developers still need to pay the rent at the end of the month. And while many developers do not make money in the Apple Store, at least we have seen it happen that you can win the lottery if you try.

I hope that we will see a Gadget store at some point, or some other real incentive for developers, as I am sure that it would make a difference in the adoption of Google Wave. And I would love to see Google Wave succeed...

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