Wiki usability and Enterprise software sexyness

There’s an interesting debate going on, which is definitely worthwhile to follow. Arguments are exchanged whether, and if so how enterprise software can be as “sexy” as the all new web. Robert Scoble triggered it off (but somebody else called for it in the first place), got criticized and even flamed badly, others came to help, and so on. You know the game, see Techmeme for more. I am sure you will be enjoying the discussion in all branches and forks as much as I am.

While discussing UI, usability, user-friendliness and all is interesting (though putting lipstick on a pig really doesn’t help much) – well, even the endless arguments of “industrial-strength-software proponents” are entertaining in a way because we know better (this is dire stuff, and I ask myself if those guys ever worked with enterprise-style-software like R/3) – I want to chip in some observations from another perspective.

As a long-time enterprise software user, developer (yes, I was – years ago in my old life) and today enterprise 2.0 & enterprise social software consultant, I want to offer look at this from a position of wiki advocate (-evangelist, if you want).

Are enterprise wikis sexy? Most people don’t think so – but I think they get it wrong: Enterprise wikis are interesting not because of their advanced technology, their polished user interface or their neat mark-up language – in fact these are kind of disadvantages most of the time when we want corporate adoption to take off. Like when people doubt whether the wiki markup language will be accepted in their companies – they sure don’t deem wiki markup sexy. Yes, these are no shiny tools, they don’t offer eye candy, but they are well suited for doing their job.

The key is to start from business applications and needs – not tools. If the starting point is a specific business application like e.g. project management or business development support, users will judge the sexyness of the application in a different way – they will look for personal use and business value primarily.

Wikis soon gain “cool tools status” – just because they offer room for flexible emergent uses, coupled with great simplicity. In this light Dave Snowden opens a can of worms, which should attract more discussing, when he’s pointing to the inherent differences between complex social software and standard enterprise ware.

So yes, wikis can even be fun to use, and while sexyness is always a matter of taste, this is a good start and adds to the other wiki benefits like scalabity, connectivity and cost effectiveness that stand on their own anyway. This is no “fantasy land”, this is today, the 21st century and the changes will be great, and they won’t be about technology or tools:

Enterprise 2.0 is already upon us, providing us attractive, usable, reliable and secure applications. We just haven’t made the move to adopting it. But it’s happening now, with Generation M, mobile, multimedia, multitasking and here. Now.

Web 2.0 Expo Workshop: Dion Hinchcliffe on Rewriting the rules of the web

Dion Hinchcliffe was giving a high-energy workshop today at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin. Frank did his best in taking notes here and here, this was no easy task as Dion (which btw is a really amiably guy, met him yesterday at the Berlin geek dinner …) is a fast speaker, and he gave us a rough ride through web 2.0, warts ‘n all. In fact, Dion said that his talk is the condensed version of the material he’s using at the Web 2.0 university, i.e. his executive web 2.0 bootcamps (The Future of Online Business – Bootcamps).

He explained a wide range of stuff related to web 2.0, including technological backgrounds, agility, basic rules and characteristics, economic rules like Metcalfe’s law, success factors and ways to progress in this new competitive landscape.

Here are the essential 7 rules and observations that define this space:
– web as platform
– data as the ‘intel inside’
– end of software release cycle (but please, let us all replace the worn out beta by something along the lines of agility, adaptivity etc.)
– lightweight software and business models (see here my notes on Scott Hirschs Be like the Internet session this morning)
– software and many (increasingly portable and ubiquitiously connected) devices
– rich user experience (Ajax, RIA)
– collective intelligence

And the design patterns that rule:
– long tail
– users add value
– network effects by default (Metcalfe, Reed)
– some rights reserved
– perpetual beta (agility and adaptivity, please)
– cooperate, don’t control
– architecture of participation

Enterprise 2.0 wasn’t a real topic in itself, yet Dion handled a lot of stuff that is extremely important in the Enterprise: Usability, motivation, ease of use, and yes, network effects, especially the ways to enhance adoption. If you want more information on this part of the talk, get in touch.

In relation to wikis, Dion shared a lot of stories and experiences and explained the rationale behind their use, for more info get in touch as well. I need to get into Tim O’Reilly’s keynote early on …

Update: Oliver liveblogged from the session as well (german).

Be like the Internet

OK, now I am in my first workshop at the Web 2.0 Expo. Scott Hirsch, founder of Management Innovation Group (MIG) out of San Francisco is inviting people to think about innovation issues they are facing.

[…] getting honest about the real assets you bring to the table and finding ways to work with the network instead of fighting the changes it represents. This means explicitly changing the way you work and collaborate to set direction, scope opportunity, and build capabilities to rapidly assess business changes and react to them … or choose not to react.

Unfortunately I’ve been late to the show (thanks to Berlins public traffic system …), so I missed the introductory informations. I will try to get my hands on the slides, and provide the agenda and more then.

Scott introduced the audience to the changed business environment in the Web 2.0 era, some important points being

  • You don’t own your ideas
  • It is really easy to start a business (and you don’t want to own the infrastructure)

First part of the workshop: Bottom up Innovation – A personal guide to Disrupting the World

  • Characteristics of web 2.0 innovators (don’t overcommit to solutions, don’t overplan strategy, embrace many points of view and transparency, …)
  • Traits (humble, flexible, facilitative, persuasive, collaborative, passionate, persistent – but not defensive)
  • They create cultures to manage (uncertainty, openness, leadership, management, hiring, strategy, competition, marketing, business and product development, …)

Nice thought and metaphor: “Web 2.0 innovators look at their business like a poker game, not a chess game”

– you don’t have all the information you need
– you constantly get more information from the other players
– you have to pay to play and for information
– every round there’s a new round of cards
– business case is useless, you just look at options

Nice example of Web 2.0 innovators view of strategy (comparing friendster, MySpace and Facebook) along axes of openness/closedness and awareness (also hinting at openness for evolving complementing business ecosystems)

Jotspot and Google as examples for how Web 2.0 innovators look at business models

Web 2.0 innovators view of management (opportunity cost is the scarce resource, not people, time or money), comparing Yahoo (fear of false positives) and Google (fear of false negatives).

Web 2.0 innovators view themselves as facilitators rather than managers, and encourage smart divergence over quick convergence.

Continued after the break, in fact I have blogged notes on the second part of Scott Hirschs workshop over at my BMID-blog: Uncovering Strategies and Business Models

Coming up: Web 2.0 Expo Workshops and more …

Hey, Berlin is packed with interesting web 2.0 folks, and obviously most of the people from the BarCamp stay the extra days too. And while I really enjoy discussing and mingling, organized discussions in workshops have benefits too. So I’ve decided to spend my monday checking in ‘an out of a couple of workshops

Monday morning I will start off attending Stowes workshop on Building Social Applications

Despite the widespread adoption of social applications (social networking, file sharing, instant messaging, and blogs, to name only the most well-known) creating applications that foster social interaction is hard. It is altogether too easy to approach application development from an information management mindset and miss the greater social context: people interacting to accomplish personal aims, exploring their identity through social groups, and working in online marketplaces. It is these three contexts – personal, group, and market – that form three complementary and distinct tiers of social applications. Users may opt to use an application for very personal reasons – signing up for a web filing sharing service to transfer a file to a colleague – but they become consistent users, and invite others to use the application, because of the social dimension: how well does the application support the users’ needs for social integration?

Effective social applications bring people into the foreground by making the social dimension intuitive and natural, and integrating information flow into the social. Information architecture must take a back seat to social architecture.

This workshop explores the principles of successful social applications, and presents a Social Architecture approach to model new – or remodel existing – applications. Examples of well-designed and successful social applications – including Flickr,, Facebook, and – are explored in the search for general characteristics and recurring design motifs. A number of badly designed sites are contrasted with “well-socialized” alternatives.

The workshop includes two group activities to explore the application of the approach in small team settings.

And if I get the chance, I will also try to get into this workshop by Scott Hirsch, founder of Management Innovation Group (MIG):

Be Like the Internet – Collaborative, Disruptive, Networked!

After five years of working with major telecoms and media companies to understand where to play and how to win in a business environment that seems to re-invent itself every few months, we’ve come to learn what separates the companies that succeed in the networked economy from those that have been left in its wake. The key to identifying the strategies and business models that withstand the next wave of disruptive hype requires getting honest about the real assets you bring to the table and finding ways to work with the network instead of fighting the changes it represents. This means explicitly changing the way you work and collaborate to set direction, scope opportunity, and build capabilities to rapidly assess business changes and react to them … or choose not to react. Whether you’re from a large corporation or a consultancy (or even a start-up still searching for a business model), this workshop will provide new frameworks and mindsets that you can immediately put to use to understand your opportunities in a web2.0 world.

Barcamp Berlin Tag 1 … Yahoo! Pipes session

OK then, I’m in for two more sessions, starting with Yahoo Pipes – Mashup Your Life and then at 6pm Drupal – Introduction & Concepts.

Yahoo! Pipes is a neat way for fast prototyping, and to pull together little applications, filters and stuff. One example is my little pipe “ frogpond RSS feed“, that cleans up the original RSS feed of this site, i.e. that excludes the links from the feed, and provides only my generic posts. I needed this for my BMID-sidebar, where I wanted to include the last ten frogpond-posts but had no need for these “standard for the day” posts. With pipes I managed to build this little helper in practically no time …

Some good information on pipes is here “Learn How to Build a Pipe in Just a Few Minutes“, and have a look at my pipes posts on the BMID-blog.

More upcoming events at Web 2.0 Expo …

Planning the next five days, here’s some more: There’s an evening session on “The Starfish and the Spider” at the newthinking store (10117 Berlin Mitte, Tucholskystraße 48) on Tuesday evening 7pm-9pm.

Warum sind Wikipedia, Craigslist und Skype so erfolgreich? Wieso versetzten Kazaa und Napster der Musikindustrie einen solchen Schlag?

Weil sie das freche Seestern-Prinzip nutzen, das auf Dezentralisierung, Vertrauen und Kommunikation unter Gleichen aufbaut. Mit ihrer Wandlungsfähigkeit setzen die flinken Seesterne die hierarchischen Spinnenorganisationen immer wieder Schachmatt – und verändern damit die Welt.

Rod is an interesting guy:

[…] Stanford-Absolvent und Unternehmer, der sein erstes Unternehmen CATS Software Inc. an die NASDAQ brachte und u.a. auch ein früher Investor bei eBay war. Er engagiert sich für Umweltthemen und soziale Belange und half etwa bei der Gründung des Silicon Valley Social Venture Funds und des Environmental Markets Network. Zur Zeit verfolgt Rod mit der Firma die Entwicklung von Wikis als open-source enterprise software.

Some reviews of his book, via newthinking store and my bookmarks:

Handelsblatt (german)
Welt (german)
Firstmedia (german)

Some english reviews: David Robertson and Harold Jarche, and here are some distilled book notes at the Socialtext Open Wiki – i.e. “main content of the book, but without the stories and examples”.

Die strategische Bedeutung von Wikis für Unternehmen …

… ist Thema einer Veranstaltung der deutschen Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V. am 16. Oktober in Ulm: Wiki Wirtschaft – Die strategische Bedeutung von Wikis für Unternehmen:

Aus der Ankündigung:

[…] Wiki Wirtschaft will zeigen, dass es sich um eine Veränderung in der Kommunikation, ein strategisches Modell handelt und wie Unternehmen davon profitieren können.

Wer mich an diesem Abend in Ulm, um Ulm oder um Ulm herum treffen möchte – hier oder hier kann man mich erreichen.

Update: Via Cedric gesehen: Der Referent Alexander Kornegger führt auch ein Blog. Ich hoffe ja nicht, dass das ein reines Spezialistentreffen sein wird, sondern würde mich besonders über Wiki-Neugierige (oder sogar Wiki-Skeptiker) freuen!