The KM Chicago meeting this evening was a panel discussion, chaired by me, in which we played off the recent Time Magazine Person of the Year recognition that user-generated-content is king in this world of YouTubes and Flickrs and blogs and wikis. The session title was "How Knowledge Management is impacted by YOU, Time magazine's person of the year."
The three panelists (bios) each had a slightly different take on what web2.0 is all about.
- Barbara Iverson's take is that web2.0 "extends the ability for people to work together."
- David Elfving also made the link to collaboration, but in the sense that web2.0 is about "discovering the power of networks" and "making collaboration manifest" via those networks, so that the "network does something that is greater than the sum of its parts."
- Brian Sobolak focused on the technical aspects that make web2.0 possible: that the programming languages are making it easier to build and use applications for collaboration.
The format didn't allow for a demonstration of all the technologies, so the discussion was much more focused on what this all means for users and what it might mean for organizations.
I particularly liked the discussion as it leaned towards aspects of how organizations can start thinking about taking advantage of tools like blogs and wikis and some of the underlying technologies that make up the applications of web2.0. Just as with knowledge management, web2.0 tools don't attract users because they exist. How do you manufacture "emotional investment" in the work surrounding that makes use of these applications? (This could be asked of almost any project.) There has to be a reason to use them, along with the trust, interest, participation needed to make them usable. Particularly in the case of "the power of networks" view of web2.0: there needs to be a network of people participating.
There was a discussion of why it is frequently difficult for these collaboration efforts to gain traction. In the web2.0 world, there remain questions about the concept of ownership of content and the Western idea that someone must own the content, even if it is generated collaboratively. People are concerned with credit where they changing others' work. People like to be recognized for their contributions. This is a familiar discussions around wikis and other collaborative creation services. The thought is that the culture doesn't permit this level of collaboration. At the same time, one of the attendees reminded us that consulting companies fully expect their consultants to borrow heavily from previous work and NOT reinvent the wheel.
David Elfving provided an interesting categorization of web2.0 services / applications.
- Passive: Users don't do anything special, but their history and their data are used to help users, collectively. This is what we've been doing for a while, such as Amazon purchase suggestions, based on behavior of other users.
- Minimally active. Blogs, tagging. Users are generating content, possibly in response to other content, but they are primarily producing it themselves. Tags are for both personal and collective use. There isn't much in the way of back-and-forth "collaboration" with the data.
- Active (collaboration). Wikis and similar services that allow people to work on a web site and create together.
I'm not sure I completely agree with this characterization, but it is close. There may be more collaboration that happens behind the scenes in the "minimally active" category. Or one has to look at multiple locations to see the collaboration, such as exploring blog conversations for hints of community.
Elfving is doing PhD research on why people participate, specifically with wikis. He's had experience with his classmates, where one class made heavy use of a wiki while another didn't and there was significant overlap in the students between the two classes. What was it that made it be so helpful in one situation and be useless in another?
The other aspect of these tools and technologies from Brian Sobolak's perspective is that they will become part of the suite of technologies that are used in business. One question: at what point can we say that the enterprise has accepted web2.0? When SAP interfaces are built with Ruby on Rails or AJAX? When tagging is part-and-parcel of how people work with their content?