The diagram above is from an article headlined “The Life Cycle of a Blog Post, From Servers to Spiders to Suits — to You” which appeared in Wired about a year ago. Go read the original, the diagram is interactive and instructive.
Why instructive? After all, doesn’t everyone in the blogosphere know about ping servers, search engines, aggregators, ad servers, data miners, ad servers and text scrapers? What’s so instructive about spam blogs? And surely everybody knows about social bookmarking, about linking, and about making comments?
The instructiveness for me comes in the word I left out. Corporations. Enterprises.
In the 21st Century, the web is two-way; as Doc Searls often says, it’s writeable. So, if we take these ideas into the enterprise, build enterprise applications around the web, what are the analogies? Should there be any analogies? Should enterprises be using exactly the same tools as their customers? Why not?
These are the things I’ve been thinking about for a while. Why it makes sense to have a Facebook for the Enterprise without actually competing with Facebook, in fact actually collaborating with them. Why a form of Twitter should be used in the enterprise. What the enterprise equivalent of YouTube is, what the enterprise equivalent of Flickr is. Why all this matters.
You see, I no longer think the diagram (or the article, for that matter) is about blogs. It’s about information. As a result of the writeable web, information has become more liquid, it flows better. Static information required snapshots, and that’s what we’ve been doing for 30 years (or maybe more). Learning about snapshots.
The snapshot analogy led to a plethora of sins, to the way we designed databases, to the way we “inserted”, “amended” and “deleted” data. As we tried to force the snapshots to move around between systems, we hit DRM version 1. Enterprise Application Integration. Otherwise known as paying to bury our data, paying to dig it out again, and then, just in case we haven’t had enough, paying to move it around. And we could do so many wonderfully silly things as a result. Hire armies of people to write code to synchronise things, then hire more armies of people to write code to reconcile the data. Sometimes we missed out the “writing code” bit and just hired the reconcilers direct.
And the platform vendors prospered. And the database guys prospered. The storage guys prospered. The EAI guys prospered. The code writers prospered. The reconcilers prospered. Everyone prospered.
Except the customer.
The writeable web changes all that. Now, very time a knowledge worker does something, we can classify it as search, syndication, fulfilment or conversation. We’re going to look deeply into all this, and we’re going to find……find what? That knowledge workers spend most of their time in conversation. They use search and syndication to augment the conversations, they use fulfilment to execute every now and then, but they spend most of their time in conversation. Within the enterprise, and beyond the enterprise. With their colleagues. With their trading partners. With their customers. With everyone.
So we’re going to see some things change in the enterprise. Conversation is going to be captured and archived and retrieved and enhanced and allowed to flow. We’re going to use blogs and wikis and twitter and IM and audio and video, we may even have tiny pockets of e-mail and fax and (dare I mention it) telex. Every conversational action will hit an enterprise ping server, populate search engines, aggregators, data miners and online media and even text scrapers. [An aside: The single biggest creator of spam is the corporation.] Every conversational action will have the capability to be bookmarked, linked to, commented upon, ranked, rated, added to, enhanced.
I can even visualise a time when Microsoft and Google and Amazon will have to pay corporations for the right to “serve ads” to their staff and customers. Every time I fire up a Microsoft program they are advertising to me. In the enterprise. At the enterprise’s expense. So maybe we’re going to see brand-free applications in the enterprise, or large sums of money paid to corporations for the right to advertise on the desktop. This could be one of the unintended consequences of consumerisation.
The boundary of the enterprise will continue to grow more and more porous, as enterprises work out that bringing customers into the enterprise is a GOOD THING. Suddenly, we will start seeing these ping servers and search engines and aggregators and data miners shared in communities, shared between participants in the community. The extended enterprise will grow and morph until it becomes a market.
And we’re going to have to ask ourselves what a firewall means in all this, what privacy and confidentiality mean in all this. Because they’re changing. As the enterprise boundary shifts, the “perimeter” concept also shifts, and starts becoming “personal”. It’s already happening.
Just musing. More later. What do you think?