I am sure regular readers of this (and my other blogs) won’t be surprised by the fact that I embrace Web 2.0 technologies and approaches. I am all for openness and sharing and I deplore hoarding of knowledge that can enrich a community if exposed. I am also very interested in both using Web 2.0 tools to help shape an organization and adopting web 2.0 philosophies to overcome traditional support challenges. One of my colleagues, Jason Heffner, dropped a link in my del.icio.us network recently that made me think harder about the way my organization has attempted to adopt both tools and philosophies born out of the Web 2.0 space. The article Jason sent me is a little light on depth, but does scratch the surface of something serious … that many existing people have an inherent fear associated with these tenants … that openness is not encouraged and sometimes ignored. The article, Facing Web 2.0 Fear in the Enterprise paints a picture that we all need to understand what is happening in this space and we really ought to embrace it because it is critical to communicate, collaboration is key and our future colleagues are growing up with it.
I feel lucky in that most of the people I work with or for find this sense of openness as important as I do. We focus a lot of energy on our Intranet, for example, trying to make it a place where staff can spend time collaborating and communicating in a quasi-open sense. I say quasi only because as an Intranet it is closed to our group. This has proven to be a solid practice ground for writing and sharing knowledge as many of the staff within ETS are now writing in public blogs. The content that is being shared certainly doesn’t appeal to all people at all times, but it is a move towards tearing down the walls around a knowledge-based group and exposing the intelligence that is contained within.
To me it is a very interesting swing … just as interesting to me is how my RSS reading has radically changed along with this move. Three or four months ago I was an avid NetNewsWire Pro user with hundreds of feeds coming in from all over the world. I had a decidedly global view on the content I was consuming — I am now a Google Reader user with only a hundred or so feeds, with close to half of the them being local. In other words, I am now spending my RSS time consuming content that is much closer to my community and guess what … I am better informed about what is happening down the hall, across campus, and in my communities (State College, University Park, an PSU all qualify).
These shifts are also accompanied by other thoughts … one is that email my be a part of the modern communication channel after all. I know that sounds crazy, but there are lots of people lamenting the state of email — too much email, too much spam, too little clarity, too many back and forth, etc … I am finding as my community gets more localized and better informed I can use email more efficiently to help point people to interesting activities happening within these communities. When I read something at a colleague’s blog, I can send a quick note to my team pointing them in that direction. I also tend now to post it in the Intranet and drop the links into those who are in my del.icio.us network. I guess what I am saying is that all of our modes of communication add up to the Web 2.0 philosophy of openness and sharing. Its not all tools.
Back to the article … in my view, Web 2.0 isn’t to be feared as a radical approach to communication. It is nothing more than an opportunity to engage in communication appropriately. Trust me, it is scary to make the jump from being a knowledge hoarding person to a knowledge sharing organization. It takes practice and it takes administrative patience. But if you can get enough people on the bus and you give them a safe place to practice eventually the walls around an organization will begin to come down. When that happens fear turns into opportunities that are much more easily capitalized on.
Was this a rambling train wreck? If you have thoughts on it, share them — it is the right thing to do.