01 Dec Businesses are slow to adopt Web 2.0 concepts
Madison, Wis. – The notion of improving business processes with enterprise-centric Internet tools is hardly new, but one local expert believes the relatively slow pace of adoption means that reluctant business leaders need an education in “Web 2.0.”
Their need for a tutorial can hardly be attributed to a lack of information. Building on Internet expert Tim O’Reilly’s 2005 summary article, “What is Web 2.0?” bloggers like Dion Hinchcliffe, Rod Boothby, and John Hagel, have explored the business applications of Web 2.0 technologies from several perspectives.
Additionally, many platforms commonly understood to embody Web 2.0 themes – including Wikipedia, Flickr, eBay, and craigslist – constitute legitimate businesses, themselves.
But how many brick-and-mortar companies are utilizing technologies like podcasts, blogs, wikis, mashups, or folksonomies to improve day-to-day processes?
What’s an RSS feed?
According to Paul Gibler, “The Web Chef” and principal consultant for the Madison-based Internet consulting firm ConnectingDots, Web 2.0 technologies are penetrating companies at a very low rate because most business leaders have a meager understanding of the basic concepts.
In fact, according to data compiled by Wired Magazine and published in the Fortune 500 Blogging Wiki, less than 10 percent of the largest companies are using external blogs.
“I think the understanding, acceptance, and implementation of Web 2.0 technologies is still in its infancy,” Gibler said.
However, he added that although Web 2.0 tools have yet to take hold in the broadest sense, they are at the heart of a growing trend toward using blogs for internal communications. For other companies, Web 2.0 technologies are central to product development, as is the case with the Madison-based digital brand management firm NameProtect.
Gibler referenced an estimate from the Gartner Group indicating that half of all companies could use wikis internally by 2009. A wiki is a shared publishing technology that allows for collaborative authoring, and examples include JotSpot and Wikipedia.
Gibler also noted that several Wisconsin organizations already host blogs, including Johnson Controls, Miller Brewing Co., and SubZero.
Other Wisconsin companies are actively generating visibility for their products with blogs. Madison-based online shopping site Jellyfish used its blog to create some buzz during the release of its beta version. Another Madison company, musicnotes, recently announced in its InTune blog the sale of its two-millionth sheet music download.
An artful blog
Madison-based online art dealership The Guild hosts a blog called The Artful Life, which features the thoughts of founder Toni Sikes. She said the connections it has created for her business are a “wonder to behold.”
For instance, a $4,000 chair featured solely on her blog sold the day the link went live, she said. There was no need to place the item in a standard catalog.
“The idea of `artful’ truly resonates with people,” Sikes said, “and the blog gave us a more formal structure to personalize this brand through my voice, and get their feedback and interaction. And that has absolutely worked.”
Other blogs and Websites linking to The Artful Life have driven additional traffic to the site. Julie Kolka, The Guild’s director of public relations, cited a recent example in which the website San Francisco Apartment Therapy listed two of the Guild’s menorahs on its Top 10 list. That posting subsequently led the Boston Globe to feature one of the pieces in its newspaper.
Simply put, a blog “gives people another handle to grab on to you,” Sikes said.
Whereas most wikis have been developed for general consumer use, some are taking the concept to the commercial setting. A six-person team of software developers and consultants in Northern Virginia are among the innovators bringing Web 2.0 to the corporation. Drawing on experience with such organizations as Oracle Corp. and Artesia Technologies, they are working to popularize their version of the enterprise wiki.
“We’ve seen corporate communications break down,” said Chad Ganske, a spokesman for Brainkeeper, which is developing a wiki product designed to foster collaboration and preserve internal knowledge.
The wiki uses other tools resembling the consumer-based Wetpaint, PBwiki, and Wikidot, but relies on a business-oriented architecture akin to Socialtext or Confluence.
“We’ve added hierarchy to the unstructured wiki format,” Ganske said, adding that pages of data and attached documents are indexed, accessible through a content-based search engine, and subject to content locks before data is published.
The Brainkeeper wiki, which can support anywhere from five to 200 users per client, is collecting user feedback on its beta version and soon will be set for final release.
“We’re not really trying to be on the bleeding edge of Web 2.0,” Ganske said. “We want to make sure we sit back and incorporate technologies that make sense for our product, so we don’t just have Web 2.0 technologies just for the sake of having them.”
Podcast – A personal, on-demand broadcast, or a multimedia file distributed over the Internet for playback on mobile devices or personal computers.
Mashup – A website or web application that combines content from more than one source to make something new.
Folksonomy – An information retrieval methodology where users categorize web pages, links, and other information with labels called “tags.”
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