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Blogs > Office Jotter

From the archive - "The Social Web"
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 27th December 2010
Copyright Office Futures © 2010

While looking through some old Office Jotter files for a half-remembered quotation, I came across this item from nearly six years ago.

It’s a good example of how trends in computing simultaneously move rapidly and slowly, depending on who and where you are. The content probably looks deeply old fashioned to anyone professionally involved in social networking, yet there are many business organizations that even today don’t use many of the tools listed. Some still don’t use any.

I have made two changes to the text. The first is to cut down the amount of material quoted from the Wired Magazine article. It was unnecessarily long. The other is to remove a reference to a since-expunged article from Jotspot (which is now Google Sites). I’ve also updated any misfiring links (but left Delicious as it was rendered at the time).

Groove is now SharePoint Workspace, a mere add-on to Microsoft Office. Like its originator, Ray Ozzie, it never fitted with the prevailing Office-SharePoint-Exchange worldview at Microsoft. Amazon’s A9 survives but as an internal search tool for e-commerce Web sites.

The Social Web

Wired News — Demo: Tools for Interactive Web
13 February 2005

[Snip] A new crop of tools aims to help turn the web — be it on the public internet or a company network — into much more than a collection of documents one visits like a museum: Look, but don’t touch. The idea is to make it easy to quickly post and remove stuff from digital bulletin boards where the online communities of the future will gather to catch up and trade ideas, images and work.

There’s a debate to be had over the relevance of such innovations to the running of the corporate systems function. This goes back beyond the start of the World Wide Web to the launch of the IBM PC. Many’s the DP manager, as they were then called, who pooh-poohed the idea that such puny devices would ever find a use in his organization.

Mental fuses would have blown if, twenty-odd years ago, you had suggested that office workers would carry these machines around as a matter of course — and that these devices would be small, light and powerful enough for this to be unremarkable. If you had gone on to say that these portable machines would communicate from coffee shops, airport lounges and the like, over airwaves, the men in white coats would have been summoned.

More recently we have seen a few Web-based tools recognised as useful to commercial organizations as well as to individuals. Instant messaging services, for instance, are gradually being adopted. Similarly, voice over IP (VoIP) is attracting the attention of communications managers. Webcams are now run of the mill.

A few days ago, I blogged this news item on the business uses of RSS. How many large companies do you know — other than online publishers and other media firms — that are putting RSS to use?

There many other new interpersonal tools that are causing excitement in online communities but which are seen as irrelevant corporately. How many will turn out to be today’s equivalent to the IBM PC, I wonder? It’s no coincidence, for example, that large suppliers such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Hewlett Packard have recently bought small companies offering such personal computing services as blogging, photo sharing and ‘desktop’ search. (I wish someone would launch a tool that searches real desktops — I’m forever mislaying scraps of paper on which I’ve jotted important information.)

Here is a random list of hot (or cool) interpersonal and group technologies. See how many you recognise and understand. Then see how many your IS manager knows (assuming you’re not that person).

  • Wikis (see Wikipedia on the topic)
  • blogs (as in Office Jotter)
  • URL sharing (see del.icio.us)
  • auto-categorized content (see technorati )
  • social software (groupware, in other words, such as Groove. See here for a recent mention)
  • podcasting (see Wikipedia again)
  • syndicated search results (see A9).

When you (and he or she) have worked out what all these things do, you might then like to envisage ways in which other functions within your organization could use them. How might they variously help the marketing, manufacturing and customer support teams, for example?

You can be certain that some managers in these functions will have used at least one of these tools or have a child or brother-in-law who enthuses over them. And these people will all be willing spreaders of the idea of putting them to use corporately.

This is the other important point that DP managers in the ’80s failed to grasp about the rise of the PC — whether using them at home or work, every PC user was an influencer of their organization’s IT purchasing decisions. And so is every cellphone user today. It’s just a very small, radio-equipped PC, after all.

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