Back to blogging. The Presidential campaign is now over, a few other commitments are completed, and I’m now free to end my unexpected vacation and continue my KM 2.0 and Knowledge Management series.
This entry will continue my discussion of presentations given at The Boston KM Forum on April 9, 2008. Ray Sims offered a very interesting and imaginative presentation entitled: “KM and Web 2.0 – A User’s Perspective,” covering four topics: 1) Web 2.0, 2) Knowledge Management, 3) three scenarios for bringing the two together, and 4) some closing thoughts. I’ll break my discussion of Ray’s presentation into a few posts because I think it reflects many of the existing problems people have in thinking about KM 2.0, Web 2.0, and Knowledge Management.
Ray’s approach to Web 2.0 is to explain “What “2.0” means to me . . . “ That’s done with a graphic; a “mind map” with the “2.0 meme” at the center and with links from the meme to six associated nodes or dimensions of the idea: a) My Networks, b) Emergent, c) Fast, d) It’s All About Me, e) Open, and f) Always On. These dimensions are then further broken down by associating them with other nodes or sub-dimensions. The resulting conceptual hierarchy is a clean one (perhaps too clean) since each sub-dimension is associated with only a single dimension.
Even though this mind map is supposed to illuminate what Ray means by Web 2.0, all of the sub-dimensions under a), b) c) and e) refer to social characteristics rather than to Web 2.0 software with the exception that the “perpetual beta” is one of the sub-dimensions of Emergent. However even this reference to software is not exclusive to Web 2.0. Further, while category f) includes the sub-dimensions Global, 24x7x365.25, Mobile Devices, Software As A Service (SAAS), and “virtual,” I don’t think any of these categories are associated closely enough with Web 2.0 to even begin to give one a clear idea of what it is.
The one category where Web 2.0 software associations are named is d) “It’s All About Me.” That category is associated with the following sub-categories: User Generated Content, Diversity, The Long Tail, Software Application Choice, Tags, Folksonomy, Personal Brand, Mass Career Customization, and Informal Self-directed Life-long Learning. Of these characteristics, only “tagging” and “folksonomy” seem to refer directly to Web 2.0 software tool capabilities. “User Generated Content” is associated with Web 2.0 software, but certainly not exclusively, since content management portals can also support user-generated content, and Web 3.0 tools will certainly also provide this sort of capability. Web 2.0 does involve “software application choice”; so this, too may be added to the very few characteristics actually associated with Web 2.0 software.
Ray’s next slide expands on the thinking presented in his mind map slide by offering a two column table contrasting “traditional” and “new world” profiles, the implication being that the “new world” characteristics are associated with a Web 2.0 profile.
Apart from Ray’s attempt to use only two profiles to describe organizations, a clear over-simplification, I also think that his profile characterizations associate social and IT characteristics in a way that is questionable from an empirical point of view. I recognize that these profiles are Ideal types; but nevertheless, to be useful, the “traditional” profile has to at least approximate the pre-Web 2.0 enterprise and the “new world” profile has to be one that it is at least possible to approximate in reality.
Whether highly differentiated 21st century organizations where “right-brain” functioning and “uncontrol” are dominant can exist is still arguable, depending, of course, on what one means by “control” and “uncontrol.” But given ownership structures of, and legal requirements for, formal organizations of all kinds, it seems highly doubtful that they can. In saying this, I don’t mean to deprecate the present trends toward networked organizations and trans-networked organizations, but I think real organizations can at most be mixes of Ray’s two profiles.
Apart from this problem, when we look at both slides together, we see that they seem to focus more on conceptualizing “2.0” as an idea, than they do on specifying what a Web 2.0 software configuration is. That is, it seems that Ray is more focused on conceptualizing an expansive view of Enterprise 2.0, even though he doesn’t use that term, than he is on putting forward a specification for Web 2.0 as a set of social computing tools. Having said that, the right hand-side of the table is better than the mind map at listing Web 2.0 software, including micro-blogging, blogging, wiki, tagging and folksonomy, and personal learning environments. But its specification is far from a representative list, and ignores mash-ups, a category that may yet prove to be the most important in the Web 2.0 lexicon, since it provides the ability to create and make use of composite applications that may support knowledge processing more broadly than the products of software vendors.
In sum, in considering Ray’s attempt to characterize Web 2.0, I think we see an over-reach, and one that is not uncommon. In previous reviews of writing on Web 2.0 we have also seen a tendency to define it by going beyond the tools themselves to social attributes that are “necessary” requirements of Web 2.0. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but it is necessary to keep the distinction between Web 2.0 tools and the associated characteristics of successful Web 2.0 separate, so that we do not define-in success, but make “success” the result of an empirical assessment of what happens when we introduce the software, rather than a mere logical consequence of our definition of Web 2.0.
To Be Continued