31 December 2005

Web 2.0 Momentum and Update

Before large corporations and governments start to include web 2.0 technologies in their operations, they have to be convinced that web 2.0 stuff is no fad. Rich Karlgaard of the Forbes magazine has eloquently made the point that a key web 2.0 technology called "blogs" is no fad:
Blogging is not overhyped. You may be forgiven for thinking so, as no day goes by without a story on blogs. But blogs are no fad. They are cheap and easy to do. And blogs fulfill that deepest of human needs as defined by psychologist Abraham Maslow: self-actualization. People write blogs because they want to know themselves and want to be known by others and because they want their lives to count. When a communications medium is both riding the Moore's Law cost-capability curve and tapping into a deep need, it's no fad.
Understanding web 2.0 at a basic level only takes a few minutes if you start with this introduction.

If you know what web 2.0 is all about, you may wonder if executives have found blogging worthwhile, considering several advantages associated with blogging. You may want to know which Fortune 500 companies are blogging: see the list here and the context here, in an article recently posted by Ross Mayfield.

Now, turning to a fundamental question, as reported by Tom Davenport in his post Was Drucker Wrong?:
Are companies doing anything about this?
Tom offers a few reasons why companies are slow to adopt web 2.0 technologies, and these reasons equally apply to government. To his reasons (1 to 3), I would add a few (4 to 6):
  1. It’s hard.
  2. It takes a fair amount of up-front investment.
  3. Knowledge workers, like Greta Garbo, like to be left alone.
  4. Bureaucracy as an obstacle. Large corporations and governments have intricate processes to follow, subjecting the adoption of new technologies and tools to the willingness of many, many public servants, not all of them educated on web 2.0 and its potential. Adopting the technology and authorizing it for use is not the same as leveraging it. For example, the Canadian government has implemented a variety of RSS feeds, but these feeds are seldom updated, because a number of corresponding changes to governmental operations have not been made, in all likelihood due to diffused information leadership, covered next.
  5. Diffused Information Leadership. Because web 2.0 technologies represent new ways to convey, collaborate with and exploit information (see for example the following link collections on web 2.0, RSS, wikis, Ajax, Aggregators, Blogs, Syndication and Reviews), they literally cut across a significant portion of the Information Management ("IM") problem space. The vast majority of organizations do not have a single point of leadership for the entire problem space, as depicted in the latter link. This prevents a concerted and focused assessment of web 2.0 potential as a key business enabler for the organization. Until such time as Chief Information Officers (CIOs) truthfully own the entire IM problem space, as opposed to merely managing Information Technology, the adoption of web 2.0 technologies will remain slow and painful.
  6. Information Management Confusion. Lots of people get excited about Ajax, RSS, XML, Web 2.0, KM (Knowledge Management) and other buzz-acronyms. By contrast, Information Management ("IM") does not generate the same excitement and attention, probably because it is so pervasive and vast, especially when approached holistically. This is too bad, because IM, at its root, is (or should be) the key enabler to all knowledge-based organizations. IM does not benefit from standardized tools, methodologies and frameworks. IM does not benefit from a standardized body of knowledge, as project management benefits from the Project Management Body of Knowledge ("PMBOK"), for example. Short of a comprehensive IM discipline, organizations are left to their own ingenuity in tackling that huge IM problem space. Even if a comprehensive discipline and associated integrated IM frameworks were to be deployed, it would take time to assess how to best exploit web 2.0 technologies.
By way of conclusion and update, if you are interested on good reviews of web 2.0 software, Dion Hinchcliffe has updated his previous 2005 Review of Web 2.0 Software with this new post. He also provides a useful list of Web 2.0 explanations and definitions. I also liked Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without, by Michael Arrington.