Friday, 12 June 2009


Patterns between web 2.0 and web 1.0





Web
Originally uploaded by kurtxio

A very interesting blog post here from Andrew MacAfee, commented and elaborated on here by Jack Vinson.

From Jack and Andrew's blogs, here are some points of relevance to the flow of knowledge which I have picked out. Andrew proposes

1.0 Technology is used to generate or analyze information individually
2.0
Technology is used to share work and conclusions with others

1.0
Technology is used to transmit information privately to known people
2.0
Technology is used to broadcast information publicly to people both known and
unknown

1.0 Technology is used to ask questions and solicit information
and help from a small group of already-identified people
2.0 Technology is
used to ask questions and solicit information and help from people both known
and unknown

1.0 Online content is the end point of group-level work; it
is finished goods
2.0 Online content is the start of group-level work; it is
work in progress

1.0 Online content is generated by a few approved
sources
2.0 Online content is generated by many people

1.0 A person
finds new colleagues by asking around an looking through official directories
2.0 A person finds new colleagues by examining the online content they’ve
generated and assessing its quality

1.0 Technology is used to encode
previously-generated knowledge
2.0 Technology is used to create and diffuse
new knowledge

Jack adds

1.0: People find experts by asking their colleagues locally or
searching the company yellow pages.
2.0: People find experts through
discovery of what those experts have discussed online.

1.0: People
answer questions by asking people and then finding specific content buried in
the document management system.
2.0: People answer questions together by
posing questions of their colleagues locally and distributed across the network.

1.0: Experts are inside the company.
2.0: Experts are everywhere,
and people can find them.


I think that these are mostly great, and show the value of technology in supporting collaboration and knowledge-sharing through wide communities of people. However there are a couple that worry me.

I do a fair amount of work in large engineering companies, where the important interactions are mostly face to face, and face to face processes for knowledge sharing are widespread. I know of many experts who spread their expertise by working with teams - by coaching, by mentoring, by providing expert assistance or completing expert tasks. They are doers, rather than writers, and interact face to face rather than online. That is why the comparison below is, I think, misleading

1.0: People find experts by asking their colleagues locally or
searching the company yellow pages.
2.0: People find experts through
discovery of what those experts have discussed online.

I know several companies where, if you did this, you would find the talkers but not the doers. Online content is not always an accurate reflection of expertise. Remember that only 1 in 100 regularly contribute to wikis, for example, so looking at "wiki contributions" would find that 1% who like to write wikis, but not the 99% (though this balance will be redressed if "online contribution/publication" becomes part of the experts accountabilities). So I would rephrase this one to say

1.0: People find experts by asking their colleagues locally and using the white pages (phone book)
2.0: People find experts through asking the community of practice, and user-populated yellow pages


I shifted the reference to yellow pages - a self-populated yellow pages, with user generated content, IS web 2.0, and is a great way for individuals to create public profile.

Here's one that needs a bit of qualification

1.0 Online content is generated by a few approved
sources
2.0 Online content is generated by many people

In this case, it depends on the TYPE of online content. Let's imagine we are looking at online content in the form of practice guidance, to help people do their work. This comes in many types - it can be examples of work practices, it can be identified good practice, it can be the current best way that the community knows to do something, or it can be the mandated company approach. It could be "Have done", "Could do", "Should do" or "Must do". These levels of "knowledge" require different approvals, and different approval will be needed to move from level 1 though to level 4. The community can be the approved source for the "could do" and the "should do" but there will be a higher level of approval to move to the "must do" category. So you can have multiple source, and content created by many people, but the word "approval" may still apply. This is particularly true (at least until the law changes) for knowledge which has safety or legal implications, and where someone will be held accountable if wrong knowledge is applied.

And a third one that is fine, but needs a caveat
1.0: People answer questions by asking people and then finding
specific content buried* in the document management system.
2.0: People
answer questions together by posing questions of their colleagues locally and
distributed across the network.
*"Buried" sort of begs the question, surely?

Communities of practice are a great way to get questions answered, and it is really good to see how willing people are to answer questions and help their colleagues. What they get annoyed about, is answering the same question time and time again (or answering the "RTFM" questions). When this begins to happen, the community often gets together and builds an FAQ. So the knowledge gets codified, by the community, and is there as a port of call before you ask the community. So the comparison is more like

1.0: People answer questions by asking people they know or searching for
specific content in the document management system.
2.0: People answer
questions by asking their online community of practice, and through use of the
online community "knowledge base"
But that's just a few quibbles, and otherwise these two guys make a really good distinction between web 1.0 and web 2.0. And it's those disctinctions, I would say, that have been the hallmark of successful application of technology to KM since KM really took off, way before the term "web 2.0" was ever coined.

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