Enetrprise Blogs and Wikis

InfoWorld writes in a special report:

Where do you find all the bits and pieces that comprise your business intelligence? Some of the more interesting snippets are probably trapped in thousands of e-mails languishing in cluttered inboxes or in archived instant messages that no one will ever bother to access again. And no doubt theres a lot of useful information stuck in stagnant documents or databases, moldering away on the intranet.

To qualify as intelligence, information must be both used and renewed. Good synapses fire fast and standard groupware can be too structured and rigid to support real-time, off-the-cuff data collection for workgroups or projects. Easy and informal, e-mail and IM remain the knowledge-sharing tools of choice for many employees. But after a message has been sent and read, it often drops into the network netherworld never to be seen or used again.

To facilitate the exchange of information and to establish customized, user-friendly data archives, companies such as Cisco, Disney, Hewlett-Packard, General Motors, IBM, Intel, Microsoft , Nokia, Novell, and Yahoo are turning to a new breed of collaboration tools: blogs and wikis. Each helps fill the gaps left by traditional groupware in a different way.

Blogs and wikis play opposite roles, says Martin Wattenberg, a researcher on the collaborative user experience team at IBM Watson Research Center. Blogs are based on an individual voice; a blog is sort of a personal broadcasting system. Wikis, because they give people the chance to edit each others words, are designed to blend many voices. Reading a blog is like listening to a diva sing, reading a wiki is like listening to a symphony.

RSS and Attention

Dare Obasanjo writes:

The attention problem is the problem that faces every power users of XML syndication clients such as RSS Bandit or Bloglines. It is so easy to subscribe to various feeds that eventually readers get overwhelmed by the flood of information hitting their aggregator’s inbox. Some have used the analogy “drinking from a firehose” to describe this phenomenon.

This problem affects me as well which is the impetus for a number of features in the most recent release of RSS Bandit such as newspaper views which allow one to view all the unread posts in a feed in single pane, adding more sortable columns such as author and comment count to the list view, and skim mode (‘mark all items as read on exiting a feed or category’). However the core assumption behind all these features is that the user is reading every entry.

Ideally a user should be able to tell a client, “Here are the sites I’m interested in, here are the topics I’m interested in, and now only show me stuff I’d find interesting or important”. This is the next frontier of features for RSS/ATOM aggregators.

Steve Gillmor writes: “What does matter is a pool of attention metadata owned by the users. This open cloud of reputational presence and authority can be mined by each group of constituents. Users can barter their attention in return for access to full content, membership priviliges, and incentives for strategic content. Vendors can build on top of that cloud of data with their own special saucethe newbie crowd of MyYahoo, the pacesetter early adopters of Diller/Ask/Bloglines, the social attention farm of RoJo, and Googles emerging Office service components orchestrated by the core GMail inforouter. And the media, which now includes publishers, analysts, researches, rating services, advertisers, sponsors, and underwriters, can use the data as a giant inference engine for leveraging the fat middle of the long tail.”

China Gaming Market

The China Stock Blog quotes from an IDC report:

* Government figures show that China’s online gaming market generated revenue of $298.7 million in 2004, up 34.7% over the previous year.
* Telecom operators, who provide Internet access services to game players, booked revenue of $1.8 billion from the online gaming business.
* Shanda Interactive (ticker: SNDA) claimed the #1 and #3 spots. Netease.com (ticker: NTES) saw three of its games in the top 10. Sina.com (ticker: SINA) also placed in the top 10.
* Cyber-products, goods only existing in online games such as armor and weapons, are becoming a new source of revenue. Approximately 20% of game players spent an average of $85 per capita last year buying cyber-products.

The Architecture of Intermediation

Jon Udell writes about del.icio.us and del.irio.us and suggests: “A lightweight intermediary ought to suffice. The popular style of intermediation may or may not wind up being WS-*, but something like it will be how we avert these kinds of conflicts and tailor services to our needs.”

Inside Yahoo News

Mark Glasers writes about Yahoo’s use of RSS:

“[Yahoo’s] integration of RSS into My Yahoo and Yahoo generally is so profound in terms of what it means for Yahoo,” said John Battelle, author of the upcoming book, “The Search” and founder of the Industry Standard magazine. “Yahoo News, in the Web 1.0 way, was supposed to be your RSS aggregator. Now, they still do Yahoo News, but they’ve given the reins over to users to do feeds that aren’t necessarily blessed by Yahoo.”

So now those feeds have spread from My Yahoo to a mobile service, a desktop ticker and to Yahoo News — probably the most appropriate place for them. Birkeland, the product manager for news at Yahoo, said that they have to perform a balancing act on giving people the content they want without giving them too much to handle.

“You could give people a lot of content, but we want to avoid what we call ‘firehosing’ people,” Birkeland said. “We don’t want to point the firehose at people and let them figure out what’s going on.” But he’s excited about giving people RSS feeds at Yahoo News, which “literally will allow your own choices to exist right in the middle of our front page.”

TECH TALK: When Things Go Wrong: My Failures

In my thirteen years as an entrepreneur, I have failed many times. I never set out to fail, and yet, failure happened. Each time I found it hard to accept that I had failed. It took many months to finally accept the inevitable. And even then, Id look at the positive side. Maintaining the status quo was much easier even though doing the same thing and hoping for different results is, as a friend put, the height of insanity. But then, didnt I say that we entrepreneurs are optimistic to the point of being, at times, unrealistic.

There are two failures Id like to talk about and analyse one from the distant past, and one from the present. The first one may have happened a decade ago, but it is still something quite fresh in my memory. It is not something I like to think about, though. The first failure happened in 1994. It was a business set-up after my return from the US. Even as my business partner and I had plenty of ideas on what to do, we could not make ends meet. We tried many things software products, services, consulting. But each action just mired us deeper into the red.

It took some time perhaps as long as a year for me to accept that the path that we were on was headed nowhere. I could not accept that a smart and intelligent person like me could fail. After all, until then, all that I had lost was one election in school! I hoped against hope that some miracle would happen. But this was the real world. As time went on, an analysis paralysis gripped me. I went into a loop of thinking and each day became a daze. I withdrew into a shell and into a world away from reality.

As time passed, it became clear that I had to accept the fact that I had failed and the current business I was in was no longer sustainable. This was hard. I could see two years of work evaporating. Sometimes, the status quo is easier to swallow than the unknown. In fact, it is the fear of the unknown that makes us on the trajectory we are on even though we realise that things have to change. For many of us, change is the hardest thing to do. Because we feel we were right in the first place. Changing track means accepting that we were wrong to begin with and thats a tough call to make.

I finally had to make the call after many months of agonising. The current business had to die. I would have to start afresh. It was one of the toughest moments in my life. Unlike a surgical operation which starts and ends quickly, business surgery is never easy. There is a legacy which needs to be managed customers, employees, commitments and relationships. And yet, a break needs to be made. Change needs to happen. And in difficult times, strange as it may sound, the decision to change can be the hardest. So it was for me. Because I like most entrepreneurs still believed in miracles.

Tomorrow: My Failures (continued)

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