time.com/time/magazine/0,9263,7601061225,00.htmlTuesday I attended Web 2.0 Expo (thanks to Vineet Jain of Egnyte for the ticket). This conference/tradeshow focuses on applications and underlying technologies supporting the collaborative web. A bit of background: Web 1.0 describes static web pages and content provided formally. Web 2.0 is the moniker for user-generated content. The 2006 Time magazine cover for their Person of the Year issue was a mirror. Based on the influence of YouTube, flickr, blogging, and wikis, Time pointed to the contributors involved in this revolution – the mirror showed that we are all recipients of their 2006 award.

My brief time at the conference stimulated several ideas for posts. Eventually, I hope to these posts into a larger presentation on innovation and mass collaboration.

The folks from Socialtext provided a wonderful informal presentation on workflow and blogs, wikis, and blikis. SocialText is a major platform for Web 2.0 activities. Liz Henry, Luke Closs, and Kirsten Jones spoke from their experience as readers, authors, and platform designers. They have a subtle view of how the different formats of blogs, wikis, blikis, and future forms can work in concert to provide knowledge and information flow. As a basic example, Socialtext employees are distributed around the world. Individuals use daily blog posts to keep their colleagues informed of their activities, questions, and ideas. They described wikis as being generally used to present more idea centric information. Key for me was that they acknowledge that the norms being developed about how people interact with these different formats may get in the way of effective use.

In their experience, people may be reluctant to edit someone else’s words – the whole point of a wiki. Commenting on a blog post, on the other hand, may be something that people are more willing to do. The team from Socialtext is taking on the issue from the technology platform side. Luke has written a tool called Blikistan, which enables designers to create sites with aspects of both blogs and wikis, depending on the behaviors they want to support. The team noted that blogs and wikis could be thought of as simply different views of the same content. This is a more flexible view than others more grounded in specific philosophies of “wikidom” (see Chris Dent on "Is that a wiki?").

Another example was that while the technology of the wiki (its key feature being editability) may be exactly what is needed for a given site, the site owners may want the site to appear static. I interpreted this as static being a proxy for professionalism.

These examples highlight what Karl Weick was talking about when he said that there is a technology in head as well as the one on the floor. The technology has certain capabilities that serve as a foundation for understanding (e.g., triggers for sensemaking), but the technology can be “abused” (I believe that was Luke’s term) into doing something it wasn’t originally intended to do – if that’s how the users want to use it. This isn’t good or bad, but we need to acknowledge the joint constitution of the technology and the team’s use.

To gain full innovation value of these collaborative tools we need to make some effort. Innovation teams can use blogs, wikis, blikis, whatever, to document their work, collaborate on projects, and engage a broad audience in the development of their ideas. However, these attempts are likely to be orphaned if explicit effort isn’t made to guide the team’s use. That said, there should also be explicit effort around the on-going evaluation of the team’s methods and opportunities for redesign. The technology may change, the goals of the team may change. What is static is the need to explicitly negotiate the interplay between the technology and team’s processes.


During the Socialtext presentation there was a discussion of having tags added automatically to enable actions like tracking of posts related to a specific project – see my prior post on the issues of active versus passive input of content -- automatic tagging falls into the green zone of passive input.

The Socialtext presentation was part of Web2.0Open. This self-organizing portion of the conference was a highlight for me. Conference organizers set aside space (the open areas around the meeting rooms in this case) and provided the opportunity for presenters to lay claim to a space and time. The audience found interesting sessions by looking at emerging wikis, blogs, and a bulletin board with sticky notes showing the evolving schedule. This approach is related to barcamps and seems to be a great trend in conferences and tradeshows.