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.