Web 2.0 Inside the Enterprise? Forrester, AIIM Weigh In

Forrester produced a well-covered report this week announcing that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion business by 2013. In my RSS feed of FriendFeed updates containing the term Enterprise 2.0, there were probably a couple hundred related to this report – Google Reader shares, bookmarks, Twitters, etc. Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a great post about the Forrester report, with dollar figures.

About a month ago, AIIM came out with its own report on the market for enterprise 2.0. It was a work produced in conjunction with the likes of Stowe Boyd and Andrew McAfee.

After reading both of these reports, it’s clear there is a common perspective out there, but some differences worth noting as well. It’s instructive to look at both.

Forrester: Projections Focus

Forrester is paid for its expertise and forecasting. Their reports are well-regarded in this regard. Based on surveys of over 2,200 companies, this report is a forecast of the dominant technologies of Enterprise 2.0. Grounded in the market, fueled by its analysts’ views.

Forrester’s report strongly cleaves the Enterprise world into internal facing and external facing uses.

AIIM: State of the Market Focus

AIIM’s goal seems to be more of an Enterprise 2.0 temperature check of companies today. Surveying 441 company representative, AIIM didn’t try to forecast the future so much as see where companies’ heads are today.

AIIM’s report addresses both internal and external uses, but generally blurs the discussion between the two.

No Unanimous View of Top Technologies

Forrester’s report considers seven different technologies for the Enterprise 2.0 space. AIIM’s report goes much deeper. AIIM’s respondents came up with a much larger set when asked the question, what technologies make up your definition of Enterprise 2.0? To compare the two analysts, I selected the top seven participant responses from the AIIM report. Here’s how Forrester and AIIM show the leading technologies of Enterprise 2.0:

Five technologies showed up consistently between the analyst reports:

  • Social networking
  • Wikis
  • RSS
  • Blogs
  • Mashups

It’s interesting to note the differences between the two reports. Forrester included podcasting as a leading area of spend for Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s report includes podcasting as well, but survey participants didn’t include it very often in their current definitions of an Enterprise 2.0 platform.

Forrester’s report did not include social bookmarking and tagging, but AIIM did. The Forrester omission probably says something about their view of the dollars to be spent on it.

Forrester included widgets, which is a nod to their strong focus on external uses of Enterprise 2.0. AIIM’s respondents like collaborative filtering, which is the basis for recommendation engines.

A Few Thoughts

Social networking comes in strong on both analyst reports. Forrester has spending here running away from all others by 2013. Call this the Facebook effect (MySpace didn’t seem to inspire the same trend to the enterprise). Generally, Facebook controls its “borders” and has a handle on everything that’s going on. Relationships, groups and activities all occur within the walled garden. Enterprises share a lot of these characteristics. Social networks will become the next generation intranet.

Also, note the disparity here. Companies are just coming to terms with the idea of social networks for employees, while the blogosphere seems to have left the mainstream social networks behind. Call that difference between the easy freedom of thinking and conversations, and the hard decisions of where to spend money and sweating your stock price.

Wikis come in surprisingly low on the Forrester side of things. I say that because some of the best known uses of Web 2.0 technologies inside companies are wikis. In fact, wikis are the #1 thing that respondents consider to be Enterprise 2.0 in the AIIM survey. Perhaps they have a lower cost, so that the same number of implementations will result in lower dollars spent.

RSS comes in strong for both reports. That is great to see! RSS holds so much potential. Just look at the growth of FriendFeed to see how RSS can create really new and interesting applications. RSS inside the enterprise will increase information awareness, and can be a basis for research and discovery the way FriendFeed is on the consumer web.

Blogs are ranked highly in both reports. Very nice to see. There’s still a mountain to climb before employees get comfortable with them. For companies that do have adoption of employee blogs, I expect there will be a boost in innovation.

Company blogs are interesting animals. The worst way to roll those out is treat blogs as glorified press release vehicles. That would be a waste of time. But what do you put on a blog that would be interesting? A couple of companies serve as examples. Google’s blog has a very conversational style of its products, general technology issues and other geeky stuff. Cafepress’s blog talks a lot about their products, which could be boring as hell. But Cafepress manages to relate products to larger issues, which makes it a bit more interesting.

Mashups are in the lower end of the top 7 currently, although Forrester projects spend on mashup technology to be the second highest after social networks. Here’s where I think Enterprise 2.0 will lead Web 2.0: mashup adoption. There are so many existing “big iron” software systems inside companies, that rip-and-replace is an expensive undertaking when you want to add new functionality. Mashups extend the life of these systems. In the consumer web, we’re experimenting with mashups a la Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft Popfly. I’m not sure the average consumer is going to bother with those. However, the average IT professional very much wants to look at mashups.

Those are some general thoughts. What do you think about Enterprise 2.0?

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Twitter’s Downtime…Remember AOL’s Access Problems?

Twitter’s current issues may remind the older crowd of the issues that America Online faced in the late 1990s. AOL had been humming along in growth, and then they hit an inflection point. They changed their offering to a low-cost, flat-rate fee for Internet access. Eventually, so many people signed up and used AOL that many people couldn’t actually get online. As Wikipedia relates it:

Originally, AOL charged its users an hourly fee, but in 1996 this changed and a flat rate of $19.99 a month was charged. Within three years, AOL’s userbase grew to 10 million people. During this time, AOL connections would be flooded with users trying to get on, and many canceled their accounts due to constant busy signals (this was often joked “AOL” standing for “Always Off-Line”).

I remember the news stories, and threats of government investigations related to AOL’s inability to deliver the service they promised. Of course, we know how that tale ended. AOL emerged as a dominant player in its day, eventually acquiring Time Warner.

The service disruptions and the noise they created turned out to be signals about how important the service had become.

Twitter’s taking a lot of heat in the blogosphere right now. But I think TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington has it right today when he says:

I now need Twitter more than Twitter needs me.

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FriendFeed Tags Make Your Stuff Findable

A theme I come back to repeatedly here is that FriendFeed will be a terrific platform for research and discovery. In fact, for this purpose, FriendFeed gets better the more people use it. That’s a contrast from the information overload meme that has emerged, in which too many friend updates overwhelm people.

Another way to put it: “Research” FriendFeed versus “Friends’ Updates” FriendFeed.

A good point of comparison for Research FriendFeed is Google. Google is the first stop for most people when they want to find information on something.

A key difference between FriendFeed and Google is that Google indexes all the content on each page. A Google search will go deep into a web page’s content. FriendFeed has only limited information in each update:

  • Blog or article title (blog post, del.icio.us, Google Reader, Reddit, etc.)
  • 140-character message from Twitter
  • Name of the Flickr photo
  • Etc.

This puts a lot of pressure on the title of the article to well-represent its content. Many times it does. But more often than not, the article is richer in information than the title can convey. Also, contorting your writing – including the title – to maximize search effectiveness is just a bad move. Bad for writing, bad for reading, bad for authenticity.

These two dynamics – lack of full content, incomplete information in the title – call for innovation within the FriendFeed world.

Where will that innovation be? FriendFeed comments.

Comments are free-form, and easy to add. And they’re part of the FriendFeed search index. If a good conversation erupts around an activity feed, those comments can be helpful for searches. But the conversation may not hit the mark either. And the majority of updates do not have a rich conversation around them.

As the author of a blog post, you may want to take a more active role in whether your content shows up in searches on selected terms. May I suggest tagging as an answer here?

In a comment, simply type ‘tag:’, followed by any tags you’d normally use. Using the “tag” prefix lets everyone know that it’s not a conversational comment. It’s a metadata comment.

Here’s an example. I recently wrote a post called, “Innovation Requires Conversations, Gestation, Pruning“. The article can apply to any general environment where innovation occurs. However, the focus of the post is really on employees inside companies. Internal blogs can be powerful centers for incubating innovation.

The post has a strong Enterprise 2.0 theme. Yet the title of the post doesn’t tell you that. So I went into the comments section for the FriendFeed blog post update, and added this:

tag: enterprise 2.0

Sure enough, the post now shows up in a search for ‘enterprise 2.0’. It also showed up in my RSS feed of ‘enterprise 2.0′ updates from FriendFeed.

Not everyone will bother with tags, of course. But tags are mighty useful things. If you create content and want to make sure it’s findable, tags are a good strategy to make sure it’s “findable”.

And this idea extends to adding your own tags to others’ content. You could create your own tags to associate to content you like and want to track.

And tags help others understand the context of the content.

This post may be a bit early. But it is something to think about in a future where FriendFeed is the third leg of research: Google, Wikipedia, FriendFeed.

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New Kid on the Shortened URL Block: is.gd

Quick post. I’m seeing more long URLs shorted with the service is.gd. I, like most people, use tinyurl.com to shorten URLs. It’s great. But if you’re posting a URL on Twitter, those extra few characters in a TinyURL eat into your 140-character limit.

is.gd goes even further. Here’s an example comparing the two services:

Blog post: FriendFeed RSS Is a Fantastic Discovery Tool

Full URL: https://bhc3.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/friendfeed-rss-is-a-fantastic-discovery-tool/

  • 82 characters

TinyURL: http://tinyurl.com/6qhk4n

  • 25 characters

is.gd: http://is.gd/7oc

  • 16 characters

So there’s a pick-up of 9 characters via is.gd. Can be quite valuable on Twitter, eh?

It doesn’t have a toolbar button, which makes converting URLs really easy with TinyURL. That’d be a nice addition.`

For a nice read on several different URL shorteners, check out Carlo Maglinao’s post on TechBays.

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Social Media Overload: Be Smart About It!

Complaints about social media information overload remind me of alcoholics griping about all the drinks they’re being served. It’s not the bartender! It’s you!

For instance, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld writes today about information overload. The post got a lot of play. And it’s instructive that Erick’s post was an outcome of using the desktop client Twhirl to manage all his Twitter and FriendFeed updates. Apparently Twhirl and AlertThingy are in some sort of desktop feed arms race (Sarah Perez coverage, RWW). Yup – you can always be “plugged in”.

So what’s the answer for information overload? Here’s what I’m doing for FriendFeed.

Prudently Add FriendFeed Subscriptions

I’m still adding people to my FriendFeed subscriptions. It’s still early, and I’m enjoying the flow of updates. Before I add a subscription, I take a look at each person’s activity streams. If the streams look like something I’d like to follow, I subscribe. If not, I hold off. Pretty basic, unoriginal policy eh? Yet it does cut back on the stuff you don’t want.

Strategy: subscribe to that which will interest you to reduce the noise factor

Serendipity

There aren’t enough hours in the day to constantly monitor the flow of activity through FriendFeed. I’ve got a day job plus kids that keep me plenty busy. So I check in on FriendFeed only occasionally.

This means I’m missing plenty of updates. But I do enjoy what I can see. I call this serendipity. The discovery of information at a given moment in time. That’s still a pretty good experience with FriendFeed.

Strategy: embrace serendipity, recognize you can’t possibly consume all updates

Focus on a Few Specific People

When I do have time, I will look at the activity stream for specific people to whom I subscribe. I’ll go to their profile and catch up on things I missed. I couldn’t possibly do this for everyone I follow, but I can do it for a few.

Strategy: closely follow the updates of only a few select people

Create an RSS Feed for Updates Matching Your Interests

FriendFeed is a fantastic research and discovery application. With a bit of a hack, you can create RSS feeds of FriendFeed updates that match pre-selected search criteria. For instance, I follow FriendFeed activity streams with the term “enterprise 2.0”.

This way, I stay on top of updates that interest me without having to monitor everything. And RSS is persistent, centralized, and easily viewable.

Strategy: use RSS to follow updates on topics of interest to you

Careful with AlertThingy and Twhirl

Installing AlertThingy or Twhirl as desktop clients makes FriendFeed streams constantly visible. If you’re already suffering from information overload, this is the equivalent of an alcoholic strapping on a CamelBak filled with bourbon. Access is just a sip away.

These apps remind me of the Bloomberg machines used by equity traders. Traders need to be constantly on top of the news. Missing key information by just one minute can cost them big dollars as the market moves quickly.

Are activity streams that important? No – unless you’re one of the big-time professional bloggers who needs to break, or react to, a story quickly. Otherwise they’re just too distracting and contribute to the information overload. As Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins of Mashable writes (about Twitter, but also applies to FriendFeed), That’s Why It’s Called Work. If They Called It Twitter, They Wouldn’t Pay You.

Strategy: don’t install or at least occasionally turn off AlertThingy or Twhirl

That’s what I’m doing. What are your strategies for managing the social media information deluge?

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Scoble the Twittering Machine

TechCrunch post:

Even Robert Scoble, the biggest Twitter whore on the planet who follows 21,000 people and receives one Tweet per second, can’t deal with it anymore.

My Twitter web page a few minutes ago:

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Social Media: Lighter Beats Heavier Every Time

www.waystupid.com

Interesting tweet from Stanislav Shalunov regarding SocialThing:

Asking for my passwords makes SocialThing sound like a phisher. Won’t use for now. http://tinyurl.com/4dquxn

His tweet expressed something that I’ve been noticing for some time. I am gravitating more and more to the “lighter” interaction social media apps.

What is “lighter”? It’s the flick of a wrist. Enter text + submit. One-click subscriptions. Here are three comparisons, including the controversial one of aggregator comments versus direct blog comments.

Twitter vs Facebook

Facebook is heavy. To build out your network, you have to:

  • Invite others
  • Request a connection and wait for the response

These processes make a lot of sense for what Facebook is about – true relationships. When your friend invite shows up in the other person’s inbox, what’s their reaction? That’s the key to maintaining the integrity of true relationships there. I have turned down friend requests there from complete strangers. It’s why I’m comfortable blogging about my kids there but less so elsewhere.

And it inhibits using Facebook for me.

Twitter’s model makes social network set-up a breeze. Find someone you’re interested in, click “follow”. Done. But Twitter does support Facebook-like controls:

  • You can block specific individuals
  • You can set your updates to be private, only available to those you approve

Most people just leave their subscriptions wide open on Twitter. Which is great for the user experience. I have made connections on Twitter that I would never have made on Facebook.

The other thing that’s easier – communications. I’m a voyeur a Twitter, jumping in when I want. I just use the @sign to respond to someone, or the occasional direct message . Facebook’s status updates post to the newsfeed and a few are shown on your home page. But those aren’t really conversations. To talk with someone, you use the Facebook message system. Again, that’s really cool – you don’t need to remember email addresses. But it also is heavier.

No surprise Twitter’s been growing like a weed.

FriendFeed vs SocialThing

FriendFeed and SocialThing have a lot in common in that they show the activity streams of friends across different services. But there are key differences, which are well summarized by Mark Krynsky at the Lifestream Blog.

Creating your network: FriendFeed has the lightweight Twitter model. Find someone, subscribe. Done. SocialThing imports the friends you’ve made on each of the services. This is also light. But you can’t add new users directly inside SocialThing. You’ve got to go to the individual service, add the friend and then SocialThing is updated. This is heavier than FriendFeed.

Importing your services: FriendFeed asks for your login ID for a service (Twitter ID, Flickr ID, del.icio.us ID, etc.). enter it. Done. Your updates start flowing. SocialThing wants your ID and password. This enables SocialThing to send updates back down to each service. But as Stanislav expressed above, getting passwords is heavy.

Interaction on the originating services: SocialThing lets you respond to a friend directly back on the originating service, like Twitter. FriendFeed is adding this capability for Twitter, and perhaps others. But if you want to comment directly on the originating service, for the most part you have to leave FriendFeed and go to that service. Socialthing’s support for direct comments is the lighter experience.

It’s still early. But FriendFeed has the edge in the “lightness wins” battle right now.

Friendfeed Comments vs Blog Comments

Man, do I really want to write this? Well, here goes. Comments on FriendFeed are a lot lighter than those on blogs. Which means it’s an easier experience.

Blog comments have these qualities:

  • You want to be pithy in your comment. The blog post addressed a weighty topic, and you want to comment in keeping with that.
  • You enter your name, email and website each time
  • You might encounter a captcha
  • The blogger may hold comments in reserve until they’re reviewed
  • If you mess up, you can’t change your comment

Meanwhile, on FriendFeed, comments have these qualities:

  • You can comment pithily
  • You can write more of a meta-comment about the post
  • You can talk with others via comments
  • You can click ‘Like’ to provide a quick, simple comment about the blog post
  • Comments are easy. Click Comment. Enter text. Click Post. Done.
  • You can edit or delete your comments

This doesn’t mean commenting on blogs isn’t worthwhile or valuable. Reaching out to the writer is an important part of the participatory ethos of blogging. Your comment also breaks the ice on a post, making it easier for others to join in.

But there’s no denying the lightness of comments on FriendFeed. Expect their volume to increase.

I’ll predict that FriendFeed comments are those that bloggers never would have gotten on their blogs in the first place.

So the lightness of FriendFeed comments won’t steal from bloggers’ on-site comments. They’ll add to them. And that’s a good thing for the conversation.

What do you think?

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