New Web 2.0 tools: Beyond the basics

Read about how to use advanced web 2.0 tools, including mashups and application-centric wikis, in Web 2.0 for the enterprise.

Reshaping Your Business with Web 2.0
Chapter 9: Putting Web 2.0 to Use in the Enterprise: Higher Value from Greater Participation

Enterprise Web 2.0 book
This chapter from Reshaping Your Business with Web 2.0 explains what Web 2.0 means for the enterprise, including options for Web 2.0 applications and Web 2.0 guidelines and goals to set for your business. Learn about how to use advanced web 2.0 tools, including mashups and application-centric wikis, in Web 2.0 for the enterprise.

Table of contents:

Web 2.0 users, community and participation in the enterprise
Enterprise search and links for Web 2.0
Enterprise Web 2.0 blogs, wikis and content management
Tips for Web 2.0 success and setting Web 2.0 goals in the enterprise
New Web 2.0 tools: Beyond the basics

Beyond the Basics

When considering advanced Web 2.0 tools, be sure that they integrate within the existing environment. Wikis, blogs, and to a lesser extent social networks can be rolled out without much interference—from a strict tool-centric perspective—with existing legacy applications such as e-mail. Ideally, single-sign-on schemes and integration with preexisting search infrastructures can help smooth any barrier to adoption. There are many creative ways to start meshing legacy and new systems. Granted, Ross Mayfield, chairman of startup SocialText, a leading provider of enterprise wiki solutions, is far from unbiased in his embrace of wikis, but here's how he deals with e-mail overload (see References for source information): When he leaves for a vacation, instead of sending the customary automated response listing a few emergency contacts and reassuring senders that their messages were received and will be read, he asks senders to post their questions to his "away" page on the company wiki! Conversations continue while he's away, and he also contributes to reinforcing the mental shift from e-mail-centric to wiki-centric conversations.

The productivity tools of choice for nondevelopers in the enterprise, until now, have been e-mail and Microsoft Excel. So migrating as many e-mail conversations as possible onto a blog or wiki medium represents a great step toward a collaborative ecosystem. In particular, wikis interact well with e-mail and news readers to signal recent updates and allow users to subscribe to specific topic areas, or tags. Of course, there's more to Web 2.0 than blogs, wikis, and social networks. But an incremental approach that leverages those well-known services to reap benefits both internally and with customer and partner communities allows for the culture of participation to grow and develop in the organization with little technical learning curve involved.

More on this book
This chapter is excerpted from the book, Reshaping Your Business with Web 2.0, authored by Vince Casarez, Billy Cripe, Jean Sini and Philipp Weckerle, published by McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, September, 2008. ISBN 0071600787.
What's next? How can you take users even further, by empowering them beyond Excel and breaking free of e-mail? That's where mashups and application-centric wikis come into play. JotSpot, acquired in 2006 by Google, offered its enterprise customers a powerful development metaphor under the guise of a wiki. In addition to WYSIWYG and concurrent page editing, JotSpot's environment supported advanced features such as embedding spreadsheets, calendar, forms, galleries, or forums. In early 2008, Google relaunched the product as Google Sites, which integrates with Google's word processor, spreadsheets, and calendar. What distinguishes these services from a regular wiki, or from a developer-centric approach, is that they make it possible for users to harness powerful application models without any programming skills in a natively collaborative setting.

To open the architecture further to mashups, companies need to start microchunking their content and exposing APIs to the applications from which they want their employees to build. This eventually will lead to a model in which application and data fragments are dynamically chained together to achieve the desired functionality. It implies an adequate infrastructure that is flexible enough to adapt on demand to the needs, in terms of storage, processing power, and networking, of contributors piping the applications together. This translates into setting up a computing grid as a commodity, either within the corporation or, if possible given the potential data-sensitivity issues, by leveraging outside grids such as Amazon's EC2, S3, and SimpleDB. Finally, heterogeneous applications can also integrate software as a service (SaaS) components from outside vendors.

Ultimately, through this incremental approach, we can achieve a collectively intelligent organization that is read-write in nature, that supports emergent structure, with powerful discovery fueled by explicit and implicit signals and mediated by search. As participation reaches critical mass, network effects kick in, making the organization smarter with each new user.

Download the chapter " Putting Web 2.0 to Use in the Enterprise: Higher Value from Greater Participation " in PDF form.

This was first published in December 2008

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