Enterprise attitude beyond this point

I find that VoIP, hypermedia, and open source have similar characteristics and objectives: they are all based on a decentralized network of users, sport an advanced form of modular flexibility, and they all are disruptive technologies that obsolesce the middleman monopolies – the telcos, the mainstream media, and the software corps, respectively.

So it didn’t suprise me very much for VON Canada 2004 to have a panel titled, “Blogging, Wikis and Twikis in the Enterprise”. Unfortunately, it also didn’t surprise me to see only nine attendees in the room, myself included.

Half of them did not know what blogs or wikis were, so Ronald Gruia of Frost & Sullivan started off with definitions. He defined blogs as periodic posts typically ordered in reverse chronology. He defined wikis as webpages where any one user can freely create and edit content at will. He defined a “twiki” as a wiki with revision support. (I called him out on this one, pointing out that any wiki system worth it’s mettle has content control. He admitted that in his haste in creating the presentation, he may have made an error. Twiki is just the brand name for yet another kind of wiki – albeit a pretty robust one.)

In identifying areas of disruption:

  • news dessimination and user comments = blogs?
  • whiteboard collaboration apps = wikis?

IP telephony involves OPEX savings in order to drive higher revenues per employee. Blogs and wikis can do the same, by driving higher enterprise collaboration. [Ronald Gruia writes: “IP telephony sales pitch is changing from OPEX savings to higher productivity. Lower OPEX does not necessarily drive up employee productivity. But the apps will.”]For example, Wikipedia, an online wiki started in 2001, now boasts more words than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Every article was written voluntarily by someone on the Internet, and the content is typically high in quality.

James Thompson, CommPartners and moderator of the wiki VoIP-Info.org, cites the real reason why blogs and wikis are the next big thing: they have an extremely low barrier to participate. You only have to type your words in, and the document engines do the rest: HTMLizing, timestamping, and archiving.

And yet, I see companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on large, unwieldly CMSs with pretentious interfaces and daunting access restrictions. Employees fumble with Outlook, sluggishly sifting through hundreds of emails and sharing enormous 50MB PowerPoints.

Meanwhile, teenagers and university students use lightweight blogging and wiki systems, available as free and open source software downloads, and share their minds with the entire world.

2 thoughts on “Enterprise attitude beyond this point

  1. Actually, my response to your question re. the differences between a Wiki and a TWiki was that I had not played with too many Wikis (except for an early version of a Wiki which I cannot now remember – something simple that represents to Wikis what MovableType for blogs, instead of a more sophisticated system like Tucows’ Blogware). That particular one did NOT have revision support. I later found TWiki and used that – but if you go to http://www.twiki.org, you will find that the language is pretty clear, at least on the topic of change logs:

    “TWiki … is … powerful” said Jon Udell, a BYTE.com editor. “Among other things, TWiki eases one of the concerns about classic Wiki, which is that the radically egalitarian “edit this page” scheme leaves no change log. TWiki includes powerful revision support. Every change leaves a footprint, and you can follow these easily and effectively.”

    So in fact, I should have been more specific and mentioned change logs. Of course Wikis allow “content control”, but not too many out there allow you to have the full capabilities of TWiki. Actually, James and Ross both agreed that there is some Wiki software out there that leaves something to be desired in that category. It is not surprising that the enterprises I mentioned during the talk (Motorola, Disney, SAP, etc.), by the way, are using TWiki.

    Another clarification: what I said during the talk was that the IP telephony sales pitch is changing from OPEX savings to higher productivity (i.e. revenues per employee). Lower OPEX does not necessarily drive up employee productivity. But the apps will.

    On a separate note altogether: have you seen Bill Gates’ speech at Microsoft’s 2004 CEO Summit? He raised the awareness of blogging to a lot of important people… I have added a quick note about that on my blog.

  2. Thank you for speaking at VON. I did very much enjoy it! You were the first guys I’ve met to see that blogging has a place in the enterprise.

    I would argue that MovableType is just as capable as Blogware, if not more so, especially since it’s extensible. TWiki is a very good product, however it’s not in a class of its own – it’s still a wiki.

    I have read Gate’s speech. Since Ballmer and himself do not have blogs, I can’t help but feel less than jazzed about his proclamation. I’m afraid MS will try their “embrace, extend, extinguish” strategy on blogging, RSS, and XML-RPC.

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