The ‘why’ of mass collaboration

I’ve just got my copy of Wikinomics and am trying to fit reading this into a pretty hectic evening routine, so end result is I am a long way from being done.But having said that one of the things that my mind immediately leapt to was Why mass collaboration, web 2.0 whatever terminology you like is here in the first place.

All of the blogs i subscribe to describe the what of mass collaboration. This technology does this, company A bought company B. Some of the better ones describe the How, as in how it works and what that means.Might seem a little pedantic but sometimes the why is often very important. If you can understand the why, you can tap into it better. Now this might have already been covered, and I’ve not even made an attempt to find out if it has. But i was awake till all hours last night thinking this through and here are my two cents. 

Mass collaboration, like everything else is the result of more than one force. In my opinion it’s the result of these three.



Technology is kind of obvious, there are now a lot of people who have access to the internet, smart routing, DNS, and we as people have developed news feeds, shared coding banks, CAD programs, IM, myspace etc etc etc. All of this means that we CAN mass collaborate. It’s the foundation layer for mass collaboration. If you don’t think so turn off the power in you home and try it.

 The Second factor, need to connect, is i believe related. We are essentially social beings but due to our current societal structures we have become strangers to each other. We commonly don’t live in extended family groups anymore, we barely interact with our neighbours anymore and the people I would class as friends aren’t that many. Take my personal situation. I live in a city of 1.5 million people. Of all of them I would call maybe 10 friends, 4 of those good friends. I know a whole bunch more but I’d class them as mates. People i know, but not closely.  I do know my immediate neighbours. Not well and in a polite kind of way. When I lived in London in a shared building (3 flats in the one building) i knew the guy above me “David” and but not his room mate (“the coughing guy”).

You get the point, in today’s society we are essentially disconnected from each other.  I think this has created a latent need too connect. Look at the way forums and discussion boards went wild in the early 2000's. People love to talk too, and get information from other people. It’s also interesting to note how the anonymity of the net brings out the most extreme forms of human interaction. Flaming, overtly opinionated people, people who try to disrupt, or are deliberation provocative etc etc. Again i think this is manifestation of our society, possibly because we have to suppress it on a day to day basis.

The third factor is eco-friendly consumerism. Now i know consumerism has been around for a long time. But i think particularly since WW II the world at large has been fixated on things. Much of this is being driven but societal wealth increases but it must also be argued that it’s been fuelled by advertising and the corporate balance sheet. There are in my opinion lots of examples of governments and corporations doing things that aren’t for the greater good of the people. Cigarettes, petroleum, cosmetics, fast food, even Iraq.  Anyways, my point is that i think that people as a whole got tired of being told in an impersonal, dictatorial (it is one way after all) way what to buy, and do every minute. You gotta have this thing, your bum is to big, buy this burger, that cars isn't going to be fast enough. Television in its own right isn't interactive either. You might get entertained but at what cost?I think people got tired of the incessant pressure to buy bigger and better, the lack of input or even the lack of personalised appeal.

I also think deep down (like me) they aren’t comfortable with the state of the planet, they feel slightly guilty every-time they put out the rubbish because of the amount of stuff in the bin. They don't like what they see when the news shows the polar icecaps melting, or the Amazon having a drought!!!  I think they are tired of seeing governments, companies and organisations like the UN fail to do anything and they simply got to the point where they said ….


This is different from communism, especially they way it’s portrayed in the early chapters Wikinomics. I’m sure there are some fringe festival communist into this. But i think this is more about people saying it’s not ok anymore. I think they are saying we want to be involved. I think they are saying that the products companies are making aren’t quite right (why else would they tinker with them?). I think they are saying that profit at the expense of our future planet isn’t acceptable.

I’m not a sociologist, perhaps i’m wrong.  Maybe they cover it in Wikinomics.  This just lept out at me as being very important.

It should just work, shouldn’t it?

Today I went back to Yahoo Pipes to build my mashup of RSS feeds. There was a fair amount of noise about it last week so I thought I’d give it ago.

The key point in that sentence is that I went back . Actually this is the 3rd time. Now I kind of like the concept of aggregating like topics into one feed (incidentally doesn't it feel like RSS is now where email subscriptions were??). But the experience while simple and fairly intuitive (thanks to Phil Wainwrights how to guide ) just didn't work out.

The output module just didn't appear, and then there was the date format issue. The 3rd time the last 3 weeks (most recent articles) just don't appear.

So i'm wondering, is this just normal in a web 2.0 world? Should i just suck it up? My normal mode of operation is to try something, if it doesn't work out i just walk away. I expect it to work first time.

Given the collaborative work environment we are entering perhaps i shouldn't.  Yahoo did fix the date format issue overnite, that in itself is quite something, and would indicate that I should be more tolerant patient or lower my expections

What do all think?

The value challenge in the Telco world

More about Telco’s in the web 2.0 era, the British Ofcom has massively changed the market dynamic with its ruling about making it easier for customers to switch ISP.

By making it easier to switch ISP’s they have effectively removed the last of the vertical integration plays from the Telco.

The impact, well potentially quite profound. The average ISP will now have to up its service levels or value because the cost of switching is small now. How this will coexist in an environment where free broadband is fast becoming the norm is still quite an exhilarating strategic challenge. That is to say the costs of doing business are going up while your margins are plummeting.

So what are the plays??

Well you could embrace SaaS and deliver value that way, ie have someone else build, deliver and own the VAS part of the strategy. Sounds reasonable, a definite possibility. Effectively increase your value to the end users without increasing your cost base.

I think you might see acquisition activity. Scale begets margins if you properly consolidate the backend. You could also have the added benefit of disgruntled customers shifting from one of your brands to another….

Others are going to build out the content play, sure the ISP component is free but all your favourite channels will be tied to the provider (BskyB), that’s good tie in.

How about just delivering plain old good service? Retention is a lot easier than acquisition after all. Whatever the outcome, its going to be interesting to watch.

The parallels are there for other Telco strategic dilemmas too. Mobile number portability, becoming an ICT provider, becoming a utility….

    Posted by Paul 

Telco’s role in web 2.0

One of the things i've been pondering on for a while is when is a good enough network connection not in fact good enough.?

This would seem to be incredibly important to  web services, SaaS or RIA’s because they are utterly dependant on the performance of its underlying network. (god how did the SaaS market ever forget the importance of the OSI model!!), Now in this instance the network just happens to be public, but its still fundamental.Now i know that incumbent Telco’s have been predicting (hoping?) that this webcentric model will fail quite simply because there is no Quality of Service on the underlying infrastructure supplying your critical business services.

They will be rubbing their hands together in glee, seeing their doomsday predictions of public network saturation nicely fulfilling their own value propositions for their private networking solutions.

That’s the really interesting thing about utility based services. You just take them for granted, gripe about how much you pay on a montly basis and EXPECT it to always work. That’s really important, because the only time you really notice what a utility does and how important it IS, is when they aren’t there  – blackouts, roadworks, water shortages…. you get the idea.   The other really interesting thing about utilities is that they make pretty damn good money, sure occasionally (less occasionally than incumbent telco’s) they get into regulatory hot water, but if you know what you are, keep your nose clean and aren’t too greedy, they do very well.

Now why is this important??? Well I think there's a new play on the cards in the Telco industry. Existing Telco’s could stop wasting their shareholder funds, divest their VAS business groups and optimise their provision of large pipes and make loads of cash.

Another play could be that the network infrastructure providers (Cisco, Juniper and Alcatel’s of the world) may have a long hard look at who their customers really are or could be. Currently these guys (for the most part) are quite a long way from the end users (lets call them businesses), disintermediated from their customers in fact. What if they decided to be those core network utility providers? Because in a lot of instances they are essentially doing the network provision and management already, they just need a billing engine (and lets face it, if you were a startup telco you’d have a much better opportunity to do this properly because you are just that, un-encumbered!!!)

What if they sold directly to the governments in the nations that they work within list this example? Then essentially you’ve got huge capacity on tap (wow another on-demand model), you get rid of the regulatory issues (the network is free) its all about the services.

Would this model provide us with the public networking experience and quality web services needs? I don’t know to be honest…what i do know is this. The current commercial model of existing Telco’s isn’t aligned to Steve’s vision and untill thats addressed the  reliability  of  web based services is  going to be questionable.

    Posted by Paul 

Realities and Perspectives

I recently had the opportunity to have a brief email conversation with Steve Borshe at Connecting the dots ( if you don't subscribe to his blog you should, its fantastic). Steve generously provided a bit of coaching to me about this site and blogging, and without going into detail, basically said that having a blog and showing thought leadership was almost mandatory. Its good advice for the netcentric, and I thank him for it.  Now Steve operates at the very leading edge of the web 2.0, and provides some really great  thinking about this new phenomenon. You can tell just by reading his blog that he is very passionate about his niche, and he knows his stuff.     But what struck me was the massive differences that exist in realities and perception. I truly believe that in Steve's world, blogs and social networking are table stakes.  In New Zealand its kind of different. You'd be very hard pressed to find a CEO blogging, we have people signing up for Myspace etc but its far from common for people to establish themselves as thought leaders via a blog. In otherwords, a different reality exists (now, at this point in time)  Then i took this perceptual change one step further. To  someone living in Dafur, access to the net isn't even on the radar. Probably getting the next meal is.  Ok, to the point (because this has been kind of whimsical), and there are two  1) One of the things i've always struggled with in doing what I do is the massive discrepancies of value that exists socially. At the end of the day what benefit do i (we out there) deliver that a doctor or teacher doesn't (and why aren't they paid accordingly)  2) As per my post about Digg changing its reward mechanism. Is whole web 2.0 phenomenon really about the nets value to the individuals being at different levels of Maslow's continuum  of needs ?{mosimage}