Social Tools for Business Use, conference notes (day 1)

I’m at the Unicom Social Tools for Business Use: Web 2.0 and the new participatory cultures conference today. Having paid the BT OpenZone tax, I’m liveblogging my (growing) notes on

  • Euan Semple
  • Lee Bryant
  • Phil Bradley
  • Darren Waters
  • Ian McNairn
  • and um, me.

after the bump…


First up, Euan Semple – What will “businesslike” mean when business isn’t like business any more?

Euan is an independent advisor, and the former head of knowledge management at the BBC. He gets it, and was a great way to kick off this conference. I was hoping he’d touch on BBC 2.0, but his insights into the history of the adoption and internal use of social tools within the BBC were fascinating.

Some random snippets…

  • “ERP is organisational concrete”
  • What went wrong with Knowledge Management?
  • Michael Wesch Web 2.0 video
  • On ‘keeping up’ (if you have to make choices, it’s better to have more info, and more timely and accurate info)
  • The radar (info comes to me, importance of search actually diminishes)
  • History of 7 July London bombings page on Wikipedia as a time lapse movie.
  • How can you trust bloggers? On first reading, you’d be mad to. Over time, you build a relationship and reputation develops.
  • Getting things done (BBC’s blogging policy created by bloggers on a wiki)
  • BBC’s blogging policy created using a wiki. Doing it using meetings would have taken forever and maybe never reached a result.
  • The wisdom of crowds
  • Small pieces loosely joined
  • ‘Edgelings ‘
  • Permeable Membrane (Law lags behind current realities. Best defence is to be a part of it)
  • Influence vs control
  • Drucker: “In a knowledge economy there are no such thing as conscripts – the are only volunteers – the trouble is we’ve only trained our managers to manage conscripts.”
  • All you need is love (fundamental human need to be connected)

Euan uses Twitter by the way. Another one. I’m still getting closer to signing up.

Q&A sessions.

  • Q: the thing that takes the time is creating the links. More people would be able to share expert info if the linking was done automatically.
    A: tech has a long way to to. Some tools to help already
    (My contribution: risky to automate, since that’s where the value is)
  • Q: how did you encourage people to get involved
    A: Not top down managed, but not laissez faire either. Viral. Spotting the potential aha moments. Collective social responsibility. Growing by advocacy and by example
  • Q: you created a new infrastructure for sharing knowledge. Why did you get made redundant?
    A: some people who still don’t like it. “If it’s big enough and useful for enough people the buggers will have a job turning it off”. I wanted to go. Blogs (MT based) are sitting under someone’s desk. It now runs itself.
  • Q: how do we stop ourselves becoming victims of our own success. We’re already swamped with wonderful material. How we stop ourselves being overwhelmed?
  • A: grow up and take responsibility. Ruthlessly decide what you spend time reading.

Lee Bryant, Headshift: Enterprise 2.0 – towards a social infrasctructure for collaboration and collective intelligence

Lee from Headshift presented on Enterprise 2.0.


  • We are wasting a lot of brainpower inside large organisations
  • But Gladwell’s Blink [ooh.. I did a microreview of that book] shows us we are intuitive
  • We need to feed our minds, not the machine
  • 90s enterprise IT systems using 50s management techniques
  • new generation of social tools is emerging, and systems get better (not worse) the more people use them.
  • Next stage: From participation to collective intelligence. Google. Wikipedia.
  • Collective Intelligence (great ideas, but terminology is NSFW (“Hundredth monkey” etc will get you laughed out of boardroom)
  • Multiplier effect on productivity.
  • Social reading, social writing and social filtering
  • Wide base of inputs, social filtering of what you’re reading, sharing and talking about
  • Concrete steps: exposure of feeds. expose everything. Attention paid to libraries of feeds.
  • Social search. Narrowing your search via your social network. What your friends think is interesting is often also interesting to you

Headshift already has an impressive client list, including the introduction of wiki-based intranets.

Some Q&A:

  • Q: Governance issues?
    A: People who do the work should have a stake. Adopt existing constraints.
  • Q: If good social tools improve the more people who use them, what about SMEs?
    information needs of microbusinesses are social as well as business. They need networking up together.
  • Q: Any evidence for cost saving?
    A: research in 6,000 person org with a billable time model. Pilots back it up, but will take another 2 years to prove the savings. Warren Bert uni of Chicago. Someone from audience mentioned research of Ron Burt
  • Q: Why do customers want these tools? What is business case?
    A: Many come because of hype. No one general business case, but each case will have a valid business case.
  • Q: Where will the extra time come from?
    A: Decide what not to do [this, by the way, is the the conversation of the day].

Phil Bradley – practical uses for Web 2.0 in a business environment

Phil is an internet consultant. Today, but his own admission, he was “talking to the choir”. The narrow patch of ground he covered, (lots of “what you can do is” and “here’s an example”) was…

  • What is Web 2.0? There are hundreds of definitions and every one is right and wrong. “I don’t care what you call it”
  • “Weblogs”
  • “RSS”
  • Feed readers (Bloglines)
  • “Start pages” (Pageflakes, Netvibes)
  • Bookmarking (, Digg, Raw Sugar, FURL, SPURL, SQUIDOO)
  • Search tools (Rollyo, Eureksta, Google and Yahoo search builders)
  • Communities (Zimbio)
  • Collaboration (Google docs, NumSum, Planzo, Jybe, MyWebDesktop, TaDaList, Conversate)
  • wikis
  • Instant Messaging
  • Collaboration
  • followed by a brief case study of how a semi-fictional company got involved with various online services.

So.. I learned

  • A few new sites and services I should investigate
  • He’s not a fan of Google. “Google is very bad at search.”
  • What’s on his blog.
  • Most people in the room already know about RSS feeds (at one point the chairman interrupted him to do a poll of the room to see who doesn’t get them)
  • He’s writing a book.

Darren Waters – We’re all virtual now – news, culture, politics and community in the networked world
Darren is tech editor at BBC News Interactive. He covered…

  • Audience decline at BBC
  • 16-24 year old online more than any other age group. Increasingly online, but
  • The metaverse
  • “they’re online, they make money and they have businesses.” – we’re a long way from that, it’s science fiction. Well.. I have some news for them later then.
  • Blogs (asked the audience about usage. Most read, many write, 3 or 4 think they’re overhyped waste of time.)
  • Blogs are a great resource to see what’s going on at the cutting edge.
  • …and more [rather embarrassingly I had to deal with a couple of urgent emails at this moment. I do hope Darren will share his slides so I can flesh out the rest of this presentation]

Some very slightly hostile questioning for Darren. Maybe it’s because they were enjoying lunch. Questions included…

  • Has the quality of journalism gone down at the BBC?
  • What’s the difference between a blog and an editorial?

Iain McNairn – an inside view on how IBM uses social networking to manage its own precious knowledge
Ian is using my Web 2.0 intro slides. I’m going to skip over these for my talk in a minute. :-)

  • Long tail
  • What is Web 2.0 (constant beta, participation)
  • People, places and things
  • Internal blogging: BlogCentral 26,000 blogs inside IBM. 24,000 bloggers. 64,000 posts. 4,000 active blogs.
  • External blogging: Ed Brill, Bob Sutor, Mary Beth Raven, Eightbar, and lots more
  • Freedom and acountability
  • Wikis (100,000 users internally)
  • Extending your network. How to get known (add value)
  • Tagging (Dogear is a bookmark tagging service, similar to
  • Sacha Chua‘s beautiful tag clouds
  • ‘Searching – tagging improves quality
  • Tagging not just pages, but employees. Fringe, the next-generation employee directory.
  • Tommy! Handy dashboard mashup which takes data from a variety of sources
  • IM “the ultimate social networking tool”
  • Feature overview of SameTime 7.5 (buddylist, location awareness, alerts, VoIP, …)
  • w3 media library (podcasts, videos etc)
  • Software TV (and use of YouTube)
  • RSS feeds. DeveloperWorks RSS feed builder
  • Make it easy for people to tag your content
  • Internal cache of RSS feeds to cut down traffic within large companies
  • Jams – WorldJam, ConsultantJam, ManagerJam, InnovationJam, etc 72 hours gives enough time for engaged worldwide discussion
  • Surveys and polls
  • Mashups
  • “Ventura”, known known as Lotus Connections. Profiles, communities, blogs, bookmarks and activities
  • Web 2.0 may require Management 2.0
  • Check out EPIC 2014


  • Q: how is the internal work affecting work for clients?
    A: internally, we know who you are. Taking it into an anonymous space probably doesn’t make sense. Social networking is affecting everything. Products need to be based on massively scaleable use.
  • Q: correlation between aquiring new customers and innovating?
    A: fundamentally linked. ThinkPlace allows people to divulge and collaborate on ideas. Innovation turns into products more rapidly.
  • Q: Can I get hold of the stuff you’ve talked about today?
    A: Most of it is now called Lotus Connections. Already available as beta.
  • Q: workers learning, learning as work. Was it planned?
    A: I wish. Things evolved through letting people fly.
  • Q: I get the sense of an open source environment and ecology within IBM?
    A: Lots of internal apps are built in exactly that way.
  • Q: How do you enfranchise the Japanese?
    A: In a certain place within IBM we recently had Japanese overtake English. We need to deploy online translation.
  • Q: Global culture is not always pro-sharing.
    A: not just location, but also generational. Imagine kudos and recognition for having lots of connections and tags. Building it into corporate culture takes time.
  • Q: Lightweight social tools vs heavyweight systems. Has the old completely gone out, to be replaces?
    A: They have to co-exist.spoke last.

Roo Reynolds – Web 2.0 and Virtual Worlds

I spoke last. Here’s roughly what I said.

3 replies on “Social Tools for Business Use, conference notes (day 1)”

  1. “Euan uses Twitter by the way. Another one. I’m still getting closer to signing up.”

    noooo – if you do it, I’m bound to try. And then I’ll be trapped!

    Interesting stuff so far. Sorry to miss it all. Following this, and all the blogs on the FOWA conference, makes me very jealous.

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