CTC 2005: Monday (part 2)

Clay Shirky headed a panel on social software tools such as weblogs, wikis and traditional internet “conversations” When discussing the use of these tools in the enterprise, som interesting distinctions were made between them:

  • Internet conversations use the “interjection” as their common unit
  • Weblogs use the “post” as their common unit
  • Wikis use the “page” as their common unit

Conversations are linear, with forks, and there’s no overall control of the conversation. In weblogs, the author controls the conversation, and the tone is authorial. In wikis, individual egos are diluted in favour of an editorial tone where content and consensus are king.

The key to using these tools is simplicity: the bar to entry for weblogs and wikis is set low, with a good choice of simple, inexpensive tools. Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield and Shirky both grimaced when talk turned to Sharepoint (who can blame them) and “enterprise software” in general. The message is that enterprise software is often something that is “imposed” from the top-down on workers. To this end you don’t have end-user buy-in, and the apps themselves are often unwieldy / long-winded in terms of implementation. Contrast this with the strength of wikis and weblogs: their inherent simplicity, plus the fact that users like ’em! I thought this linked in nicely with the “paradox of power” discussed earlier in the day.

Shirky is a big proponent of end users defining what gets used, that they continue to “bring in” these tools as and when they find them (and a use for them). This is all well and good, and broadly I am in agreement with the point of view, but it assumes that the legal departments (compliance, risk, IT security) will let this happen, and that your end-users are switched-on enough to do this.

Comments on this post are now closed.


I’m a software architect / developer / general IT wrangler specialising in web, mobile web and middleware using things like node.js, Java, C#, PHP, HTML5 and more.

Best described as a simpleton, but kindly. You can read more here.