Socialtext – Enterprise wiki/blogging tools go open source

Socialtext is another enterprise level vendor of wikis/blogging tools that belongs on the same short list as Traction Software. Both have been serving the market for several years. Socialtext started from the wiki end of the spectrum. They have just made the strategic decision to open source their toolset.

Socialtext Open

Socialtext Open

I’m pleased to announce Socialtext Open, an Open Source distribution of our flagship wiki product. Available for immediate download on SourceForge, this is the first Commercial Open Source wiki and weblog offering on the market. It’s been a long time coming, this change in our business model, a way to strike a balance between freedom and profit motive.

Socialtext Open changes everything. Including the way we are going to communicate, with nothing to hide and sharing our Public Roadmap. While Open is still in Beta and we don’t know the full impact this release will have, my hope is it fulfills our goal of wikis everwhere and cultivates a broader developer community.

So, go get the code, and tell us what you think.

Traction Software – Enterprise Blogs and Wikis

A reminder from Bill Ives about the folks at Traction Software. They aren’t quite as visible in the general blogging market given their origins and focus on the enterprise market. Their tools, however, are robust and nicely bridge the fluid capabilities that make blogs and wikis such powerful tools for supporting knowledge work and the relevant management and security features that enterprises will generally require before deploying new tools and platforms.

If you are looking at enterprise blogging, Traction has to be on your short list. Regardless, if you are tracking issues of knowledge work in more general terms, you should definitely be monitoring their corporate blog.

Traction Software

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

Ross Mayfield points to an interesting post by Bob Sutton at Stanford. Ross nicely captures the essence of Bob’s post.

More important, for my selfish purposes, is learning that Sutton is blogging. Sutton is a Professor at Stanford’s Engineering School, the author of several recent, excellent, books on management and innovation and one of the vocal proponents of the design dimension of management in today’s knowledge-based organizational world. I’ve added his blog, Work Matters, to my subscriptions and commend it to you as well.

Strong Opinions, Weakly Held

Bob Sutton, who was an inspiration around the time we started Socialtext, is becoming one of my favorite bloggers. I’ve been sharing his posts like The Snowstorm Study in my internal blog and talking too much about the No Asshole Rule. But Strong Opinions, Weakly Held is an absolute gem:

…Perhaps the best description I

Knowledge management, reinvention, and innovation

Earlier this year I wrote a column for the Enterrpise Systems Journal on the linkage between knowledge management efforts and innovation. You can find the column at:

Get Better at Reinventing the Wheel

To succeed with knowledge management, organizations should focus on getting better at reinventing the wheel instead of avoiding it.

The rant that provoked this column was in response to the frequent justification of knowledge management efforts on the grounds that “we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” which I finally got tired of hearing. It’s one of those phrases that sounds like it means something useful until you actually take a look at it.

First, equating “knowledge” with “wheels” gets you on the wrong track by confusing knowledge with something vaguely product-like. I can’t think of many knowledge work processes where you could simply take a piece of finished work from elsewhere in the organization and drop it in place. At the very least, you need to understand the current situation and the available knowledge work “thing” well enough to come up with a way to adapt or apply the old thing in a new situation. Any attempt to sidestep that process is guaranteed to lead to trouble. Don’t encourage it by laziness in comparing knowledge work deliverables to wheels.

Second, if you are really doing knowledge work, then your customer, be it someone above you in the organizational food chain or a paying customer, is not interested in and will not pay for yesterday’s answer. You need to divine their unique perspective and explicitly connect your knowledge work deliverable to that unique situation. The value of having organized access to prior knowledge work deliverables lies in improving the quality and the speed of applying that knowledge as an input to the process at hand, not as a deliverable.

Balancing diligence and laziness

Some time back I came across the following quote in The 80/20 Principle : The Secret of Achieving More With Less by Richard Koch, which I’ve been pondering ever since for its implications for knowledge work and knowledge workers:

There are only four types of officer. First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm…Second, there are the hard- working, intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered. Third, there are the hard- working, stupid ones. These people are a menace and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody. Finally, there are the intelligent, lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office.

General Erich Von Manstein (1887-1973) on the German Officer Corps

You can also map this quote into the following matrix representation:

Diligence vs. Laziness

One implication certainly is that you want to keep the average IQ up in your organization (setting aside all the limits on accurately measuring or assessing something as complex as intelligence for the moment). My own theory is that it also suggests that you want to keep your organization relatively small to maintain some degree of control over that average IQ. You may also want to keep the distribution of IQ in your organization as tight as possible.

The laziness/diligence dimension is the more interesting of the two in the context of knowledge work organizations. Common organizational practice is biased in favor of diligence, while laziness doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Granted, the appearance of blogs such as Slacker Manager is a hopeful sign, as is the recent spate of activity and commentary around the importance of innovation and creative thinking for knowledge based organizations. But our Puritan/Calvinist heritage still dominates reward and evaluation systems. Regardless of the actual importance of thought and reflection to long-term organizational success, you are better off looking busy than looking like you are thinking. Even organizations that exist to promote reflective thought (e.g., universities, research institutes, think tanks) fall into the trap of encouraging diligence at the expense of reflection/laziness.

I don’t yet have a fully workable solution to the problem of carving out sufficient and appropriate time for thinking and reflection. More often than not, it gets relegated to plane-time, travel-time, and after-hours time; essentially bypassing the organizational problem. I’ve found that mind-mapping, either by hand on on the computer, is one form of thinking that can be done in public without triggering unwanted negative perceptions.  Setting aside time to maintain some form of journal (whether in the form of a blog or more private diary) is another thinking/reflecting discipline that is both productive and not immediately threatening to the activity police.

Here are some questions I think are worth exploring in this context.

  1. What alternate terms than diligence and laziness could we use to better frame the issue?
  2. How important is it to carve out times and places to engage in visible laziness within organizations?
  3. Is this a problem that needs to be solved at the organizational level? For which types of organization?
  4. What barriers to innovation, if any, does a bias toward diligence create?

Any takers?

 

Go to the head of the distribution by explaining the tail

The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More

Rating: 5 out of 5

Author: Chris Anderson

Year: 2006

Publisher: Hyperion

ISBN: 1401302378

The book length version of The Long Tail has now been published. Based on Chris Anderson’s seminal Wired article, the book expands and elaborates on the article’s thesis that one consequence of network economics is to reset the balance in markets between hits and the rest of the distribution. Anderson also began a blog on the Long Tail as he conducted his research, which has become its own resource on the topic for those interested in it.

In most markets, sales/popularity follows a power curve with a tiny handful of items, “the hits,” garnering attention and sales. In physical markets, hits dominate and drive management attention and thinking. In markets that bypass the barriers of the physical, such as Amazon or iTunes, the dominance of hits shrinks. Sales from the tail of the distribution, in aggregate, come to rival sales from the head.

Where the initial Wired article identifies and labels the phenomenon, the book strives to work out the implications. While I think it occasionally oversteps the evidence, on balance it succeeds in opening up the concept and its consequences. I confess I was dubious, although unsurprised, to see Anderson take his long tail lens to Wikipedia. Yet, in the end, his analysis did shed substantive new light on a phenomenon that is more often used as poster child or whipping boy depending on the writer’s agenda.

If you have products, services, or ideas that would benefit from finding their market, the Long Tail is a concept you had best understand and The Long Tail is your best starting point. I’m sure it will end up in the head of the sales distribution to Anderson’s well-earned benefit. Be smart and make the effort to actually read it and think through its application to your circumstances so that you might benefit as well. 

 

Tags: network-economics strategy

A compelling argument for organic business growth

Let My People Go Surfing : The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

Rating: 4 out of 5

Author: Yvon Chouinard

Year: 2005

Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The

ISBN: 1594200726

I got this book as a Christmas present from my brother-in-law. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise and that would have been unfortunate because this turned out to be among the best books I read last year. Chouinard was the founder of Patagonia and this book is a very readable and thought-provoking combination of memoir and reflection on business leadership and strategy.

Chouinard and Patagonia start with product quality and excellence and stay there instead of following the more typical path of trying to trade off excellence and growth. If you suspect, as I do, that we are likely to see a shift toward smaller and more nimble organizations, then you will want to put this on your reading list.

Tags: strategy

Universal plug adapter for foreign travel

I wish this item had hit Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools site a couple of weeks sooner, since we just got back from 10 days in France. Although I didn’t lose any adapters on this trip, it looks as though my collection will fall victim to better design.

APC Universal Plug Adapter

APC_adapter_web.jpg

If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you’ve taken or bought a plug converter. If you’ve traveled much at all, you’ve probably purchased a set of these things in a lovely (and huge) travel case. Equally likely is that you’ve either forgotten one or two or lost them somewhere along the road, forcing you to purchase spares that don’t fit in the original case.

For this reason, I got tired of a bag of random adapters and went looking for a universal one. I found two or three of them and they all had one thing in common; they were the size of a baseball (I’m obsessive about size and weight when I travel). So when I stumbled across this adapter by APC, I fell in love. It’s small (1x2x4 inches), it’s packable, it has all the adapters I need, and it works. If you travel overseas and you’re sick of a computer bag that weighs more than your luggage, you have to have this.

— Keith Smith

APC Universal Plug Adapter
$16
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by APC [Cool Tools]