I took some time to think about this post before I committed fingers to keypad. Readers of this blog know I’ve been tracking the burgeoning market in what is now a popular meme called “Enterprise 2.0” for about a year– almost to the day in fact. First, let me say– the Enterprise 2.0 Conference was such an enormous success. It far surpassed my expectations, and I’m still reeling from the widespread coverage and insightful analysis coming out of the conference sessions. The bottom line is– the market I once referred to as a baby, is now indeed a strong, healthy child, growing stronger and bigger every day. I have nothing more intelligent, or more meaningful to add to the dialog that is out in the blogosphere or in the trade media on the various presentations, panels, and informal meetings that took place in Boston last week. I highly recommend you set some bots for “enterprise2conf” and catch everything that has been written from the conference and about the conference. I’ve been tagging several of the posts in my del.icio.us “Reading Room” list you can view on the lower right hand side of my blog.
At this juncture, at my one year anniversary of covering enterprise 2.0, I want to reflect personally on 1.) how the next generation web has changed me 2.) how I believe it is reshaping business and the global online village of “friends,” 3.) the collective responsibility we share by virtue of this powerful medium, and finally 4.) what to expect from those who are “left behind.” This is a long post and a bit of a departure from my typical posts, so I hope you’ll be forgiving and permit me to self-indulge. Don’t worry; it’s a once in a year thing.
Who wouldda thunk? Where I used to be opinionated and somewhat obnoxious in my 30s as a leading industry observer in the IT services tech sector– quoted hundreds and hundreds of times in every trade pub and major business publication of record, even made it onto TV as a talking head… the blogosphere has humbled me. With sheer humility, I’ve come to realize I am, well, not all that. Even though I participate in this market as a contributor, I feel badly that I take more than I give. The discussion, opinion, and worldwide classroom experience of the blogosphere has rendered me a full-time student for life. As I continue to learn, I hope to contribute more. One lesson I have learned in this experience, is there is no room for arrogance in the next generation web. There will always be someone more insightful, more interesting than you contributing to the worldwide repository of metadata on the web—even if you think you are all that. What’s different in this era is that voice could come from a corner shadow in a faraway place, and not from the pages of the Wall Street Journal or from the stage of a large industry event. What’s really different is the respect these voices command on impact as you read them in blog comments, see them on YouTube or hear them in podcasts. NoName gurus churning out genius. I celebrate them.
Yep. It’s a mashup. Business is mashing up with society at a fast and furious pace as social media networking and blogging continues to blur the lines between people and their professions. We’re learning more about who we are as well as what we do. Hierarchies are breaking down and the zeitgeist of this era is integrating our networks (social and physical) in ways we never before imagined possible. The spirit of trust, respect, and collaboration is propagating around the digital village emerging in different geographies, time zones, and in artificial environments such as online gaming where rules of engagement are being rewritten from the bottom up. My son, for instance, is a World of Warcraft Guild Master. He leads a guild of about 120, with members ranging from the age of 8 to about 35. He says he thinks the average player is about 16 years old. He knows this because he has told me he has spent time with each member individually as he helps them progress through their levels. At one point he had over 200 in his guild, but he parsed it down to about 100. I asked him, “Why would you do that?” He told me, “It’s not how many friends you have; it’s how many you trust.” We just celebrated my son’s birthday this past weekend. He turned 11 this year. He’s a fifth grader learning lessons in organizational psychology that took me decades of professional trial and error to hone.
Over 60 of my professional “friends” have joined me recently on Facebook. We use this word “friends” loosely, but Facebook sure humanizes us, and we act a lot more friendly. Because of an incredibly powerful post I read on Tara Hunt’s blog, I put up photos of my children on Facebook this week. That woman effected a change in my behavior. She touched my life and caused me to take a risk I might otherwise not have taken. Now, I don’t really know Tara. I’ve met her, but I wouldn’t say we’re friends, yet I admire her and thank her for impacting my life. There are many, many examples of ways I have interacted with my social networks and blogger comrades this year. All experiences have been positive, even ones where I had to learn a few hard lessons about digital village etiquette. I have come to know many of my online “friends” who I share tweets (Twitter) banter with, blog comments, and the occasional email. Some I have met in person; some not yet. Invariably, I feel relatively confident I will do business with all of them in some way, some day. Either directly or through an introduction I make through my clients or another part of my network.
Don’t be a John Mayer
Why is John Mayer waiting for the world to change?
Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change
With millions and millions blogging (70M+), social networking (160M+), sharing, collaborating, mashing up, feeding, linking, tagging, texting, Twittering, and online gaming… we do have the means to, well, change the world now. Our world, anyway. The online world. I recently looked up the stats and it seems about only 15% of the worldwide population is online, but it’s a good start. It covers 100% the wealthiest countries dominating the globe. No need to wait for John Mayer’s generation to rule the population. So, what is your issue? Is it the environment? Is it a political issue? Is it race/religion/sex? Is it a rights issue? Is it a local issue to your community? The power to influence others is at your fingertips. I’d urge you to use the tools you’re learning in the workforce to do some good for society—to change your world. We’re all passionate about something in our private lives. Use your emergent, user power in the online world for good. Make a difference. It doesn’t even matter if we all disagree with each other and ignite passions for opposing sides—activism is a healthy gift you give yourself first, and then share with others.
The Digital Rapture
In the wink of an eye, the “get-its” got it and the resistors didn’t. It was a little scary this year for me. The old schoolers wanted to cling to their power base regardless of where that power emanated from. The range of dissent covered enterprise application vendors, high-priced gurus, consultants who catered to the IT department, traditional IT analysts and editors, old school research houses and publishers, and sometimes even users who just didn’t want to bother to learn something new and really weren’t even protecting a power base. But as the light bulbs went off around me, and I witnessed the viral adoption of how liberating web 2.0, emergent, user-driven collaboration took off in the communities where I participated and in the blogosphere… it was exhilarating. I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the “movement” and have referred to the adoption of web 2.0 in the enterprise in terms of a “revolution.” I’ve even taken Andy McAfee on myself in this regard (yikes!). Now he’s poking me on Facebook. It’s been an amazingly great year. I rejoice with every startup success, and I don’t sweat the case studies. I know they’re coming. Some breakout business model will be borne on a wiki and stand to reinvent some industry because an enlightened executive gave free rein to a smart team of design engineers or product managers, and they collaborated freely—uploading documents, designs, video—sharing ideas around the world until they got it right. It’s only a matter of time. The energy that comes with this digital addiction is infectious. You can’t stop yourself from innovating.
For those who are “left behind,” I imagine there will be gnashing of teeth when all data on the planet finally transcends up into the cloud in the final days. Not because they’ll miss the data, they’ll miss the community. We may be a reckless, rumpled and disorderly group, but we share a common vision about information—its ownership and the right to access it. More importantly, we’re all connected in the blogosphere. This post is more like a column or a speech than a traditional blog post (and if you’re still with me, you’re a trooper). You’ll notice it has very few links or references. It’s a bad example of a blog post, actually. Those who have resisted embracing the web 2.0 gestalt are disconnected from this vast interconnected community. Further, they’re not even connected to each other, save for email and maybe instant messaging. Not even a close comparison to what we’re talking about with social media and web 2.0.
I’ll end my year-end harangue with this: blog. I know it’s short for weblog. But what an unattractive word. I know I’ve seen this mentioned before, but I need to reiterate it. Blog has an onomatopoeia quality to it like the sound an upset stomach might make. Or maybe it’s a really unattractive verb: “blogging” which might be what I look like on the treadmill in the morning. Fits somewhere between plodding and blobbing?
I think the new word for blog should be bond. When we are blogging, we are bonding. We are stitching together the fabric of a new digital society with many voices. The next generation internet has become an always-on lecture hall and playground where those of us who wish to engage in the dialog can participate and thoroughly enjoy the community we built and continue to build.
Thanks for listening. We will now return to our normally scheduled programming.
Up Next? That long-awaited Vyew review.