Here is how the SME Trade Information Marketplace (STIM) works.
An SME publishes a wiki and a weblog. What is different about both is the ease and immediacy of how they can be updated. Think of the wiki page as providing an outline of the SMEs business it is like an About Us page. It can provide links into the SMEs website.
Why need a separate page from the website? Because it is hard to update most websites! Even after nearly a decade of the Internet, the design elements which make up the website and permissions required make it difficult for an SME to update its website on its own. A wiki does away with traditional design and just focuses on the information. Its simplicity of updation and the addition of new pages makes it easily manageable, without the need for any intervention. Simplicity of design is what Google has pioneered, and what wikis can take further.
The weblog is akin to the Whats New page. This is where the SME can post new business developments, product releases, buying needs, links to relevant articles, commentaries on other developments (or blog posts). The weblog is like the SMEs periodic newsletter the difference is that it not emailed or distributed, only published. A weblog makes publishing very easy. Each post has a permalink and is therefore always accessible and can be linked without suffering from link rot.
Taken together with the wiki, the weblog now offers the SME a way to provide the necessary background as well as the recent updates about the business and perhaps the industry in general. What is disruptive, as we shall soon see, is the RSS feed produced by the blog and a ping sent out to a central server whenever the blog is updated.
In addition, an SMBmeta.xml file (as outlined by Dan Bricklin) offers meta information about the SME contact information, type of industry, and so on. It is a file that is machine readable and can be picked up and searched by special programs. Thus, it becomes possible to build up a searchable distributed directory of SMEs across multiple parameters with the information provided and kept updated by SMEs in their space.
Thus, the wiki, weblog and SMBmeta data provide the SME a self-publishing space. The SME is not required to post information on any central locations or directories. Write in your own space is the message to SMEs. And give them the tools to make the writing easy and instantaneous. And then let magic happen!
The RSS feed published by the SMEs contains the content in the blog posts. What is interesting about RSS is that it can be subscribed by anyone using an RSS aggregator. This means that whenever there is an update, the new item is made available to the subscriber without the publisher having to broadcast it. This publish-subscribe mechanism is at the heart of the STIM.
So, now the question is: how does an SME find out which feeds to subscribe to? There are multiple ways to do this: first are the strong ties – companies or people known whose feeds (or their company feeds) which can be subscribed to; second are the weak ties which emerge from the searches across the blog posts (and notifications based on these searches). For example, if I want to look for a knowledge management solution, then I can set up an alert for all new blog posts which have the phrase, or do a search on the older blog posts for relevant posts. Either way, the control is with the SME on which feeds are subscribed to. An additional way to find new SME feeds is via metablogs which can be created based on certain topics. For example, these blogs can be based on geography (within a certain area) or on a specific topic.
So, the solution is to get SMEs to start interacting via the STIM in an open, transparent way. By catering to their own self-interest, they can ensure that they all will be better off they have nothing to lose by participating. Over time, as the SMEs make money, they can now invest in technology. Hopefully, this cycle will help SMEs grow.
The interesting thing is that the STIM is not a trading market, it is only an information marketplace. There are no commissions payable on the business generated. What the STIM ensures is that SMEs get other SMEs in the value increases exponentially with every SME joining into the system. So, there is a viral marketing element embedded into this idea. The STIM is the intervention, a disruptive innovation, which can transform how SMEs buy and sell, and how they use technology.
Tomorrow: Information Access
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