Why Enterprises are sucker-punched by Web2.0

Would you like to buy the Brooklyn bridge?

I was reflecting on some internal conversations around blogs a couple of days ago, and it really struck home that Enterprises haven’t really “got” blogs as one example only. “What!” you cry. We have a blog, that our (insert marketing / managing director / team leader) regularly pontificates on things for us to read. But how many Enterprises that have blogs have a rich internal blogging culture that exists on the internet, of these how many of them are non-technology companies?The analogy for me is the plain old car. Which came first? The car of the petrol (gas) station? For cars to work, there is a rich eco-system (aside: is using the word eco-system and car in the same sentence an oxymoron). For cars to operate effectively and safely they need, to name just a few things:

  • Roads
  • Petrol (gas) stations
  • Standards (Road rules, safety standards etc.)
  • Maintenance

Each of these in turn is part of a richer eco-system that maintain and produce these. I don’t need to understand how roads are maintained, or how petrol is refined to know that I’m glad these things happen and I can reap the benefit.Which brings us to blogs. The first time user of a blog rapidly comes across these kinds of issues:

  • How do people find out about my new posts? Ahh, well you need RSS / ATOM feeds. Oh and you need to deploy these readers to all of your staff and train them in how to use them.
  • But how do I trust what this random person I don’t know has written? Oh, that’s easy, you need pingbacks, trackbacks and it really helps if you have a service like Technorati which provides an authoritative rating.
  • How can I find what I’m interested in amongst these hundreds of posts? Easy! Just implement a feed aggregator and subscribe to a collection of tags.
  • But no-one is writing anything! Ahh — you need a critical mass of 1000’s if not 100’000’s to be sure that your generating enough content for all these rich services to actually “trigger” in a meaningful way.
  • Do you want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

The Internet has evolved (and continues to evolve) a rich and mature set of integrated services and standards that are not easily transportable to the inside of the Corporate Firewall, particularly when people tend to look at only one part of the problem “I need a blog”, “I want a wiki” etc.This is why products like Lotus Connections, Jive and Sharepoint are important to Enterprises because while no individual component within them is as rich as a given tool in the OpenSource world, they help transplant an eco-system that works.The current situation is a bit like a sucker-punch for Enterprises that are trying to move in this area, failure to see the bigger picture makes it hard to drive the culture change which is needed to be transplanted along with the technology.