Monday, June 18, 2007

Web 2.0 and Grandma

Just been involved in IT a bit more than I usually. A usual topic of discussion these days among guys who keep abreast with technology is about Web2.0. People keep asking what it means to us and how our company (I don’t mean place where I work, but generally) can use Web 2.0. Web2.0 could be a larger discussion and simply put it is another milestone in Internet's evolution from a simple network of interlinked pages to whatever it is going to become in future, but what lots of us fail to understand, specially in IT companies, is that web 2.0 is also about a mind shift. It is democratization of information, more participation; everybody is welcome kind of thing. Ok may be not. That’s a separate discussion. But, essentially it is about tools which have reduced entry level barriers to internet and IT for those who know or care nothing about PHP, Java etc. I mean take blogging for example. Even grandma can blog and have her recipes shared on internet. How easy has it become really. And imagine what it can do (not blogging but open approach) industries which rely so heavily on knowledge and know hows of its people. Call centers, IT companies to name a few.

But try telling this to traditional thinking, control freaks at work who talk about knowledge management and take the management part bit more seriously than the knowledge they seek to manage. They would not understand. They seek to control knowledge as this is what gives them power they can wield. What does Web 2.0 means for enterprises where bosses communicate to employees through emails which are written by them and sent to their secretaries for forward to employees, as if they never heard of thing call mailing list!! Can any employee be open to approach his boss who communicates to him through email sent by his/her secretary! And anyway, email is so heavily misused. I mean how many times have you got important documents, newer versions of processes, templates, resumes, umpteen numbers of communication delivered through email! And then you would have scoured through your mail box to find them when needed. I have seen departments launching portals with fan fare, portals where all you find is some crap about what department does, as if nobody working there knew what it did anyway! And then there would be flurry of congratulation mails and some people would be happy and portal would be forgotten. It is ironical but most of IT companies which earn their bread and butter by claiming to have skills in solving their clients’s information management problems, can not manage their own information and knowledge which keeps getting scattered all around employee mail boxes and lost soon enough in cyber black hole. IT companies are slowest when it comes to adopting the technology they preach their customers. One can argue that it is about putting heads to job and for internal work that is a problem, problem of who is going to foot the bill. But I think it is more about poor leadership and lack of understanding that little investment in their own IT systems can give them huge benefits, even impacting their bottom line. And then it is also about making fewer managers and lessening barrier to information. How many companies have simple system where they can go and check what were new projects in what domain in what department when they were on bench and looking for suitable projects. This simple information would be locked in couple of guys heads and you need to chase them to get these million dollar information. It is about controlling information. That’s what power is about and unless that changes Web 2.0 is a nice topic for discussion among bunch of people who like to be addressed as architects and not engineers as if being engineer was a lesser thing to do.

But before we understand that or change ourselves, we need to get used to emails a bit more. I mean if you can type your email then surely you know how to send it too unless it makes you feel powerful and important. Web 2.0 till then can wait and grandmas can share some recipes even as some people in bar camps ponder over what humanity would become because of blogging. But that’s for later.

These are my personal views which I dreamt last night and have no connection with my profession.

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