Reflecting on 2009

We are nearly at the end of the year, so time for some reflection on the past 12 months.

Just briefly, a few highlights from my year:

  • I started 2009 working on a government project and also ended the year on another government project, both addressing related topics I’m very passionate about – collaboration and Government 2.0.
  • I joined Headshift in March – I’ve been busy working on a range of consulting projects and have been involved with developing sites using social platforms like WordPress, Elgg and Confluence.
  • With some help, I unorganised a screening of the Us Now documentary in Sydney… it also turned out to be a fantastic opportunity to meet some great Twitter peeps in real life too!
  • I attended BarCamp Canberra, presented at 4 Public Spheres and ran a conversation cafe at the NSW KM Forum – all setting the scene for lots of activity around Government 2.0 here in Australia during the last 6 months.
  • I also helped to launch an industry cluster, for the IT community in the Illawarra region of Australia (where I live).
  • We finally organised an Enterprise 2.0 meetup in Sydney – hopefully this will grow in 2010.
You’ll notice there is quite a strong Government 2.0 and community flavour above. However, I had a quick look at my site stats this morning and its quite obvious that the most popular posts have an Enterprise 2.0 theme. My old blog (after nearly five years, I migrated from Blogger to Posterous in June this year) still receives quite a few hits, although with so much content it is a little harder to see a pattern.

The top post on this blog was 14 Reasons Why Enterprise 2.0 Projects Fail versus 4 Rules of Thumb, while the top 2009 post from my old blog was SharePoint and Enterprise 2.0 (if you enjoyed that post, see my IDM article cross posted on the HOZ blog – SharePoint or Wiki?).

There are also a lot of posts I still didn’t get time to make (including some things to say about #nocleanfeed, but all in good time), although I’ve enjoyed the dynamic of using Posterous for the most part – it has made it easier to post a mixture of event photos, bookmarks and longer post too. Twitter is great, but 140 characters just isn’t enough (Twitter + Posterous = a great combination btw).

Hopefully during January I might be able to touch on some of those topics, like:
  • The state of intranets and intranet management (a bit of a bug bear topic for me).
  • Dealing with ‘social’ in Enterprise 2.0.
  • Talking about not-SharePoint. And probably SharePoint too. 😉 
  • What is Government 2.0 and getting beyond this idea of ‘fixing’ the public service (e.g. Social Innovation Camp).
  • Digital inclusion and exclusion.
  • Dachis Group/Headshift’s Social Business Design approach.
  • MIKE 2.0 – something I haven’t written about at all, but its very much still on my radar.
  • Knowledge management – remember that?
Ok. That’s all folks. Have a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Taking Gov 2.0 beyond the iPhone-wielding, Twitter-tweeting community

In 2010, the Gov 2.0 community needs to think harder about how this movement will bridge economic disparity. Open data, open source, social media, transparency and collaboration are great, but look around the room at the people it serves and ask yourself, ‘how is this bridging the digital divide?’

I’m not saying Gov 2.0 isn’t accomplishing this on some scale. I’m saying there needs to be more of a conscious effort to do so. There needs to be consideration as to how this is catering to more than just the iPhone-wielding, Twitter-tweeting community, or we risk further alienating those who need government most.

An important point. Its something I’ve talked about back at the Public Spheres on Government 2.0 in Canberra and Sydney. However, its also important to remember that Government 2.0 doesn’t need to save the world – it just need to contribute to help saving lots of little bits of the world in ways that really count. Its one reason why Patient Opinion continues to be one of my favourite case studies for meaningful Government 2.0.

Craigslist and the User Unexperience

Earlier this year, Gary Wolf wrote a great article in Wired magazine about Craigslist, the world’s dominant classified ad site…

…Wolf writes that craigslist has “… a design straight from the earliest days of the Web, [where] miscellaneous posts compete for attention on page after page of blue links, undifferentiated by tags or ratings or even usernames…Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it…it scorns advertising, refuses investment, ignores design, and does not innovate.”

So how on Earth does cl maintain its ridiculous popularity and growth? Very simply, because it works. It lets users initiate and advance a transaction with an absolute minimum of time, expense, hassle, rules, or oversight. And many times, this is exactly what we want.

I missed Wolf’s article in Wired the first time around, so I’m glad to catch it via Andrew McAfee.

Craigslist is certainly interesting in the way the site scorns aesthetics and features, but remains hugely successful. It does make you wonder if visual design and other features are just a waste of time?

Personally I think the apparently ‘retro’ user experience works for Craigslist because fundamentally we know what classified ads are and it underpins a process where the users are already motivated to use the system to achieve that end. Craigslist is as rough and ready as an advert stuck in a shop window because that is all it needs to be.

However, in another situation where users are not familiar with process or uncertain about why they want to use a system, then I’m not convinced the Craigslist approach would work so well.

Further more, aesthetics online – just like design and architecture in the urban environment – also help to define the online environment in many different ways above and beyond simply making functionality look pretty. The Web would be a pretty dull place if every site looked like Craigslist, don’t you agree?

BTW I have to admit that Craigslist isn’t the first place I would think of to listing a classified because I’ve always assumed it had a focus on the US market, but apparently they offer listings for places even obscure as Wollongong, Australia. Meanwhile Gumtree has a similarly basic design, but appears far more popular in my part of the world.

Intranets – the firewall is starting to look rather antiquated

If you work at a medium-to-large company, you probably spend more time on your company’s intranet site than on its external customer Website. Employees share content there that’s too sensitive and secret for outsiders to see.

But the internal/external wall is breaking down, as companies need to share more and more content with freelancers, external sales reps, business partners, and so many other people who can’t get inside the firewall but still need internal information.

Fortunately, today’s Web technology allows you to solve these dilemmas, and might even save you some money you’re spending on your intranet site.

I don’t have time to blog much about this particular point right now – I’m just saving this for future reference. However, I do think we are long overdue revisiting the meaning and differences between the related concepts of intranets, extranets and even the Web more generally so we can understand how certain long held assumptions might be hindering us.

The art of selling IT internally

The technology annual report
We wrote an article about this a few months ago in the form of a memo from the CTO to the CEO, laying out the concept of an annual report for technology. Click here. Since we published this, we have received valuable responses from technology leaders. The concept seems to resonate. One head of IT strategy in a leading electric utility said he was keen to implement this concept in his own.  “This makes perfect sense,” he said.  “Just like the annual report for the enterprise  communicates with investors and seeks to build enthusiasm in this community, we in IT need to build enthusiasm among all those involved in providing funding for IT. Establishing and sharing an IT balance sheet covering both tangible and intangible assets will raise awareness in our executive committee and provide a much better platform for the dialog around technology enablement.”

You mean you weren’t doing this already? Scary.

No wonder senior IT execs and even intranet managers have trouble selling the value of new concepts like Enterprise 2.0 – they aren’t even promoting internally the benefits of what they do now… (to busy benchmarking themselves perhaps?)

Google Goggles – Use pictures to search the web (and more)

When you think about it, this is a natural extension of search and augment reality techniques. Goggles is more than just landmarks and places – it can be used to find information about books, contact information, artwork, wine and logos from the images you scan.

Obviously I’m disappointed you don’t actually get to wear some kind of AR ‘goggles’ for this, but the contact lens HUD is still under development.

Meanwhile, those of us with iPhones will need to wait a little longer until we get to play with the Goggles too.

Realising Our Broadband Future – 10th-11th Dec

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will turbo-charge our digital economy and enable Australia to become a global leader in using the online world – the world of the 21st century. It will make possible new ways of delivering all essential services.

We need to start planning now for this new world to ensure we maximise the opportunities that the National Broadband Network will provide.

The Government is hosting the Realising Our Broadband Future forum to map the applications and business models that will thrive in Australia’s high speed broadband future.

The Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, will open the forum and a number of key speakers, including NBN Co. CEO, Mike Quigley and Jeff Cole, Director USC Annenberg School, will outline the potential of the NBN for Australia’s digital economy. The forum will be co-chaired by Dr Paul Twomey and participants will include leaders from all parts of Australia.

Participants will contribute to five discussion streams. Over two days, these streams will debate the possible new applications and business models that will emerge in an NBN-enabled world, conduct a reality check of where we are now, and map what needs to be done to take full advantage of our high-speed broadband enabled digital economy.

Forum participants and the general public can contribute to the discussion via twitter and collaboratively edit the map of our next steps. Plenary sessions of the forum will be webcast live, with audio streaming of other sessions.

Talking of the fact the government is already making attempts to engage online, the next big online engagement is the Realising Our Broadband Future forum later this week.

Unfortunately I’m still working on Taskforce Project 8 and won’t be able to attend, but I’ll be keep an eye on proceedings. Even if you can’t participate on the day (in person or online), you can still get involved by submitting and voting on ideas (although I think you’ll need a Google account since they are using Google Moderator).

The model for this event has been strongly influenced by Sen. Kate Lundy’s Public Sphere approach.