mm406: Boston, Day 2

MUDGE’s Musings

Quite a bit earlier in the day, as I summarize today’s sessions at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

Another interesting and useful day, with lots of new and or interesting information, and one really dazzling presentation. Overnight, my lap didn’t get any bigger, and still doesn’t accommodate my laptop computer. Sigh.

Once again, I have six pages of handwritten notes, and I went through two pens! We pick up where we left off yesterday.

4. Keynote: Rob Carter, FedEx

Mr. Carter, the CIO, was a very polished and graceful speaker. FedEx is one of the great innovative companies of the past 35 years, and we didn’t need Rob Carter to remind us. They invented the concept of overnight delivery of small packages, realized with a small fleet of Learjets flying out of their Memphis hub. And now look at them. Although Carter couldn’t help but show us an FAA model of recent overnight traffic at Memphis airport, together with the all too true admonition regarding staying at the airport hotel.

FedEx innovations have been just as paradigm shifting in the information area, as they were one of the first organizations to realize that their true product, not just their tools, was information. In that light, Carter showed us the first true Internet application, the 1994 page that let consumers and business track a shipment without telephoning. Lately, such marketing tools as the playful “Launch a Package,” a Facebook application, keeps the FedEx name and message in front of the next generation of shippers. His message: enterprise walls are coming down, to make way for customer connections.

5. From the Bottom-Up: Building the 21st Century Intelligence Community, Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, Central Intelligence Agency.

Yup, the CIA has gone all social media on us. The Intellipedia, built on Wikipedia but with some security enhancements, is the product for which both are the technical evangelists. They set the tone for the process-altering nature of their tool by displaying their presentation via Intellipedia pages, rather than the more usual PowerPoint.

Sharing and collaboration is the challenge, for an organization whose very pulse is secrecy. The Intellipedia, which maintains various levels of access, an improvement over (what some might characterize as the overly democratic nature of its model) Wikipedia, also provides tools such as del.icio.us type tagging, instant messaging and RSS feeds. All this in the service of the CIA’s persistent issue: dealing with mysteries and conflicting interpretations.

Social media in the enterprise is a cultural problem, not a technology problem. Burke and Dennehy have three prescriptions:

  1. Go for the broadest audience possible
  2. Think topically, not organizationally
  3. Replace existing business process (instead of email to 50 people, link to a blog)

Interesting observation I will have heard more than once: that the long-timers in the organization are often faster to adopt social media than “youngsters,” who join and are immediately mentored by middle-years old culture person.

Interesting advice for beginning a wiki: start with an acronym list. This gets people comfortable with editing in a wiki environment.

This was fascinating, considering the source. Speaking of which, their wiki publishes nothing without attribution — sounds like a good policy for an enterprise. Wonder if the software is available?

6. Working in the Cloud: How Cloud Computing is Reshaping Enterprise Technology: Rishi Chandra, Google Enterprise

After last night’s entire 2-hour presentation on cloud computing, I’m not sure why this session was necessary. In fact, not sure what place cloud computing as a topic has in an Enterprise 2.0 conference.

Chandra believes that the next 10 years of innovation in IT will take place in and via the cloud. And, as usual, consumer driven innovation will set the pace: Instant messaging, search, VOIP are examples of technology embraced by the enterprise that began in the consumer world. [Observation: this has been true since the first executive schlepped his IBM PC to the office so that he could work on Lotus 1-2-3 where the numbers were.] Social networking will simply follow the same pattern. He sees four trends of influence:

  1. The consumer market is Darwinian in nature — no filter by TRBs (technical review boards, found in IT organizations). The linkage between vendor and consumer is direct, and highly competitive.
  2. The rise of the power collaborator means that individual productivity will be replaced by group/team productivity. Cloud computing enables collaboration despite time, language, location and device differentials. Noted such innovations as real time chat with integrated translation. All due to open standards.
  3. Economics of IT are changing: scalability is an issue (YouTube: 10 hours of video are uploaded every minute; seven million photos are uploaded into Picasa [Google’s version of Flickr] daily). Scale drives unit costs to zero. Challenge to business: is your curve in that same direction? If not, Google offers a hosting solution for your data and application with no worries about scalability, reliability and availability.
  4. Barriers to adoption are falling away:
  • Connectivity (ubiquitous fast Internet connections)
  • User experience (consumers accustomed now to rich application in browser such as Gmail.
  • Reliability (expectations have changed: “Google cannot be down.”)
  • Off-line access
  • Security, which Google needs to prove to business. But, data carried on business laptops is truly insecure (2,000,000 stolen per year); 66% of thumbdrives are lost each year; 63% of those contain some business data.

While the cloud has arrived, Chandra admits that on premise software is not going away, but repeats that most interesting innovation will be in the cloud. There are lots of competitors in the space. Your new employees will be the cloud generation. Google needs to earn business’s trust.

7. State of the Industry: Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen, AIIM Market Intelligence

Survey (90-page report available) indicates that

  1. Age doesn’t matter (as much as you think). Boomers often more likely to embrace social media than millennials.
  2. Culture matters (more than you think). A knowledge management culture is more likely to adopt social networking.
  3. Slow market conditions frustrate early adoption.
  4. Strategy is hard to find.

This was an intriguing angle, because the first business conference I ever attended in my latest, IT incarnation, was a knowledge management conference, in Boston as it happens, eleven years ago. Haven’t heard much about KM lately; interesting that it surfaces in the context of social networking.

8. Elevating the Enterprise 2.0 Conversation: Ross Mayfield, CEO, etc., Socialtext.

Your typical silicon valley underdressed deep thinking presenter. He repeated the earlier point that the PC revolution was an example of bottom up influence for the business. File centric collaboration is the old paradigm, but there remains a clash between the regulatory compliance document control model vs. more free collaboration via social media. But, also repeating an earlier point: technology doesn’t matter. Social effects are not made from technology, they are made from people. His definition of Enterprise 2.0: free form social software adopted for the enterprise. Introduced a new product, based on a web based spreadsheet, developed with the participation of Dan Bricklin(!) — a social spreadsheet (including embedded wiki tools, for distributed multi-group collaboration) called SocialCalc to replace “email volleyball with Excel attachments.”

9. Enterprise2Open, spearheaded by Ross Mayfield, Socialtext

This was an interesting experiment in “unconference,” where people who desired to make a presentation (i.e., conference attendees, not exhibitors or presenters) had the opportunity to submit proposals for the 3-1/2-hour block in the afternoon, in “competition” with the more conventional sessions. Interesting, but the conventional sessions held more interest for yr (justifiably) humble svt so I left the unconference for the conference.

10. After Noah: Making Sense of the Flood (of information): Thomas Vander Wal, InfoCloud Solutions.

Okay, I’m impressed. As he found occasion to remind us, Thomas Vander Wal is the person who coined one of the most useful, if hurtful to the ears, terms of the Web 2.0 age: Folksonomy. Wikipedia says,:

Folksonomy (also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging) is the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content. In contrast to traditional subject indexing, metadata is generated not only by experts but also by creators and consumers of the content. Usually, freely chosen keywords are used instead of a controlled vocabulary.[1] Folksonomy is a portmanteau of the words folk and taxonomy, hence a folksonomy is a user generated taxonomy.

Folksonomies became popular on the Web around 2004 with social software applications such as social bookmarking or annotating photographs. Websites that support tagging and the principle of folksonomy are referred to in the context of Web 2.0 because participation is very easy and tagging data is used in new ways to find information. For example, tag clouds are frequently used to visualize the most used tags of a folksonomy. The term folksonomy is also used to denote only the set of tags that are created in social tagging.

Typically, folksonomies are Internet-based, although they are also used in other contexts. Folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easy to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to, its primary users. Two widely cited examples of websites using folksonomic tagging are Flickr and del.icio.us, although it has been suggested that Flickr is not a good example of folksonomy.[2]

His issue: information (in the form of web pages, photographs, etc.) is typically tagged; the tags are typically not as useful as they could be. Thus the flood of information that is not “findable” because of inadequate tagging.

Pretty interesting, if arcane. Bottom line: enterprise tagging tools have to be improved over the present standard, such as web based tools (i.e., del.icio.us) which have proven to be inadequate for enterprise use.

11. What Blogging Brings to Business, moderated by Jessica Lipnack with Bill Ives, Cesar Brea, Doug Cornelius and Patti Anklam.

All five panelists are busy and active bloggers; the overflow crowd (160+) in the conference room was filled (at least 20-30) with busy and active bloggers.

As my avocation, as faithful reader may have noticed, is blogging, and my vocation has taken me to the evaluation of tools to enable social media for the enterprise, this promised to be an interesting session. There was no presentation; just a free form conversation.

The reason people blog is as varied as their number. And the value to business will prove to be just as varied, and, I’m afraid, variable. One panelist treats blogging as his personal knowledge management system; another as an informal marketing channel. There was much consensus among panelists and audience alike that blogging, done right, is just good for business (in the marketing sense).

Some asked: isn’t it a time suck for corporate employees? Not if the corporation uses blogs to change business processes (replace email with blogs as a knowledge repository, a theme noted earlier in the day).

Blogs can assist knowledge transfer across the generations, as boomers need to be tapped of the institutional memory that can’t afford to be lost when they retire.

12. (last of the day, whew! but best!) Web Culture and the New Ethos of Work, Stowe Boyd, The/Messengers

As I am new to this field, I hope I can be forgiven for not having heard of Stowe Boyd before today. Apparently though, he is an often-quoted expert on this emerging phenomenon of social networking. He calls himself a “webthropologist,” and during his one-hour talk quoted Studs Terkel, Winston Churchill, Marshall McLuhan (who predicted a global network in 1964!), Buckminster Fuller, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford (“no laughing on the assembly line!”) and Warren Buffet. Quite a roller-coaster ride.

His theme: the nature of work, caused by the information revolution, is changing. It’s not about the number of servers in the world (an incredible, uncountable figure) but it’s what we’re doing.

For the western world, the Internet has become the “third space,” the place people go when not interacting with home/family, or at work. The third space used to be where people gathered, the bar, the corner store. Now, people gather electronically.

This will create a conflict when confronting business, as business is designed to resist change, to be intensely conservative. He notes that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (I’m a donor!) advises blogging anonymously if one is an employee of such a business, as personal expression, as exemplified by Internet activities such as blogging, is incompatible with business.

I’ve run out of steam, and still have a page of notes to go. Rest assured though that I was mightily impressed with Boyd’s observations, some of which were highly anthropological. We’ll try to backfill the high points that remain in our next post.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

MUDGE
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