Better a dead intranet, than dead trees

If your intranet can be printed off and distributed as a booklet to staff every 6 months then you’re not making the most of it.

I’m slightly disappointed that this sort of thing is still happening today, but I’m not surprised. However, this is what happens when you treat the intranet as an electronic book.

Meanwhile, over on the ReadWriteWeb Enterprise blog they are getting excited about Forrester getting excited about collaboration. However this is all part of the same story – the only difference is that sometimes we talk about ‘intranets’, other times ‘collaboration’ and occasionally ‘information management’ or ‘document management’.

I’d like to start a Campaign for Real Intranets – like CAMRA, but without the beer. Any takers? We could have badges and everything. Alternatively, if you prefer the status quo, perhaps a Campaign for Dead Intranets instead? IMHO Better a dead intranet, than dead trees.

Danah Boyd on Streams of Content, Limited Attention

I doubt this cultural shift will be paid for by better advertising models. Advertising is based on capturing attention, typically by interrupting the broadcast message or by being inserted into the content itself. Trying to reach information flow is not about being interrupted. Advertising does work when it’s part of the flow itself. Ads are great when they provide a desirable answer to a search query or when they appear at the moment of purchase. But when the information being shared is social in nature, advertising is fundamentally a disruption.

Figuring out how to monetize sociality is a problem. And not one new to the Internet. Think about how we monetize sociality in physical spaces. Typically, it involves second-order consumption of calories. Venues provide a space for social interaction to occur and we are expected to consume to pay rent. Restaurants, bars, cafes… they all survive on this model. But we have yet to find the digital equivalent of alcohol.

Danah Boyd’s actual presentation at the Web2.0 Expo of this talk didn’t go down very well*, however her unedited crib notes are well worth reading.

*We’ve discussed the value of conference twittering before on this blog and this certainly is an example of when the back channel doesn’t work to anyone’s benefit. It is particularly disappointing where a presenter walks away feeling like she did. If you aren’t prepared to say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it online.

NSW Government looking for new approaches for acquiring enterprise software

NSW Government, through the NSW Government Chief Information Office (GCIO) and NSW Procurement (NSWP), is issuing this Request for Information (RFI) to the ICT Industry seeking options for alternative delivery and acquisition models for the provision of software solutions that meets Government’s needs and objectives.

The New South Wales Government is keen to investigate all potential alternatives to acquiring and using common enterprise software applications and solutions, across a broad spectrum of categories, for Government Agencies.

Vendors and their partners, both small and large, are encouraged to respond to this Request for Information with their products and solutions based on the categories described in the document under “current thinking”, outlining how their offerings interoperate with other solutions and how the use of their solutions can better meet the Government’s objectives.

This is an opportunity for the ICT industry to provide innovative solutions to be used as input for a potential second stage, more formal approach, to the market for a range of options by which Agencies can procure software products, solutions and/or related services to meet their front line service objectives, in the most cost effective way.

Industry is encouraged to respond to this RFI to ensure their views are considered in the development of future procurement strategies, including vendors able to offer open source solutions or Software as a Service

Unfortunately, unless you are registered on the NSW eTendering system you won’t be able to access further information about this Request for Information (RFI). However, this RFI is more interesting than it might look – on the face of it, the NSW Government is saying we are open to new (and more cost effective) ways of acquiring enterprise software. I wonder if Google will be responding, as the NSW Government is already a client?

However, it would be great to see the NSW GCIO office also look at the process of how they go about acquiring software, and not just look at the basis on which the software is provided because the RFI process is still likely to limit who responds. Also, one of the powerful features (and influence) of the open source movement is that it has allowed organisations to try before they buy rather than the poker game like approach taken by government IT procurement processes.

Measuring Enterprise 2.0

You might think from recent posts that I don’t believe in measurement, particularly when it comes to measuring enterprise social computing projects. In fact, I do believe in measurement but also believe that measurement should be treated in a (organisationally-speaking) political context.


I’ve also noticed a quantum-like quality to cause-and-effect in organisational measurement – the helicopter view reported to the board often appears to bare little resemblance to the experience of staff on the ground. I don’t actually think there is anything quantum about the enterprise – its just that ‘organisations’ are complex systems. This simply makes it difficult to measure in absolute hard numbers anything that impacts on that system, unless you are prepared to invest in longitudinal and solidly scientific research methods.


The worst examples of this are systems that promise employee self-service but simply shift the transaction burden from a cost centre (where it is measurable) to the individual (where it is not measurable).


For example, if you are trying to justify the value of an intranet then time saved should be a great metric. However, it depends on how you value employee time and the actual impact on the organisation of time wasted searching for information. In many cases, this waste is invisible – people just end up working harder to make up for deficient systems. 

So, if measurement is important what should we measure?


Wrong question. More on this another time.

Initial Thoughts on the 2009 Intranet Innovation Awards

The Tube is IDEO’s intranet, a stylised, innovative online space designed purely around IDEO employees.

Every employee has a personal page that’s linked dynamically to their location, projects, project team members, skills, personal blogs and more. It’s a perfect intranet, directory, skill finder, blogging platform and social network, all wrapped up into one, seamless user experience.

Alex kindly shared a review copy of Step Two’s 2009 Intranet Innovation Awards report with me. We’ve been talking on and off about it in advance of its publication and he assured me I would be very interested in some of the winners this year. Its a long report (nearly 200 pages) so I haven’t had a chance read it in full! However, some highlights for me so far:

  • IDEO’s ‘The Tube’ people-centred intranet.
  • Sabre Town – an in-house-developed internal social networking site.
  • NYK News Room – while it could look better, this is a good example of using an enterprise wiki (in this case Confluence) as a platform to develop a solution.

Sabre Town in particular offers a great success story because their social networking site has apparently reported “Demonstrable saving of up to $500,000 in 2008 alone”. So much for the Enterprise 2.0 doubters? Well, yes and no – these appear to be savings achieved through reduced wastage or significant time saving. Of course, unless you implement something like Sabre Town you aren’t going to know what you are missing out on until you do.

While I don’t think they were particularly strong winners, it was interesting to see the inclusion of companies that were looking beyond the browser screen and integrating toolbar gadgets and SMS as part of their intranet solution. These are all good signs, although I’m hopefully of more innovation in this space in coming years.

I’ll try to post up some more thoughts about these examples in the next week or so. In the meantime, Step Two are publishing more excepts, further insights and screenshots on their blog – or just buy the full report for yourself.

Not everyone can “go for a walk, go to the pub”

Not everyone can “go for a walk, go to the pub”. Second Life and the internet in general are very real ways that people with disabilities communicate and socialise. The internet is full of “real people” to socialise with.

As someone with disabilities who has been housebound, online communication is a lifeline. You might mock that and think that those experiences are somehow “less” than going to the pub (!) but I can assure you that they are every bit as rewarding as “real life” interactions. For people who cannot have visitors or cannot sustain communication with others for whatever reason, online gives them the opportunity to do so within their own time and energy.

Socialising online is not automatically “anti-social”, in fact in my experience it is quite the opposite. I have trouble “waking up” because of my disability but I can assure you I am using all the chances I can in this life.

The comment above was in response to some rather condescending online responses to reports about Telstra’s decision to shut down their Second Life presence and stop providing unmetered access. I can’t really fault this as a commercial decision by Telstra, however that has nothing to do with the value that environments like Second Life clearly gives some people (even if a minority). This in my opinion is a positive story about technology and accessibility – just like the Queensland government’s experiments with Second Life for a youth forum in 2008.

In any case, the research shows that online interaction has nothing to do with being anti-social.

Pattern-Based Strategies for Government 2.0

Government 2.0 has seven main characteristics:

  • It is citizen-driven.
  • It is employee-centric.
  • It keeps evolving.
  • It is transformational.
  • It requires a blend of planning and nurturing.
  • It needs Pattern-Based Strategy capabilities.
  • It calls for a new management style.

Without access to the research note, its a little hard to know exactly what Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio means by this list of characteristics – particularly her his point about ‘Pattern-Based Strategy capabilities’.

However, its interesting to note that we have also proposed a pattern-based approach for one of the Government 2.0 Taskforce projects we (Headshift) are currently working on.

In the Toolkit Blueprint we talk about two types of patterns:

  • Software deployment patterns – for the technology used for online engagement; and
  • User experience patterns (although we’ve focused on some principles in the first instance, because we could write a book to cover all the possible UX patterns involved!) that are applied to that software to promote participation.

To us, a pattern-based approach makes a lot of sense as a way of dealing with the complexities of applying Web 2.0 tools to online engagement. I wonder if this is similar to what Gartner means too?