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7/24/2006
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Which Web 2.0 Technology Will Succeed On Intranets?

Which web 2.0 technology has the highest chance of broad success on intranets: blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, or something else?

To me, the answer is easy.

It's RSS. Why? Because I am able to do new things I was not able to do before and some of my existing tasks are now done quicker.  I think this is an important point to consider when developing an intranet strategy. My first priority as an office worker is not making a corporation more productive (although it is important, especially if I want to continue receiving a paycheck). My first priority with these tools is making ME more productive.

If you answered "blogging," I might agree with you. However, the incredible growth in blogging  is not due to how easy it is to write a blog (although, that is significant). Rather, it is how easy it is to read blog content. And, so, we are back to RSS.

I might also agree with those who said that "wikis" will succeed on intranets. However, wikis are not recognizable to most corporate workers yet. Personally, I hope that changes, because wikis offer opportunities for new paradigms in document collaboration. But my colleague, Terry Barash, recently made this point (in a fantastic session on collaborative work methods  at CTC in June): Try walking up to a colleague and ask: "Would you like to see my wiki?" and see if you don't find yourself talking with HR.

RSS (or Atom, or whatever -- lightweight syndication is what I'm referring to) is so compelling because it is already making many of us more productive. Without RSS how could we possibly keep up with the conversations going on in the blogosphere? Not only do I subscribe to the feeds from my favorites bloggers, I use feeds from Technorati and PubSub, often finding new ideas that I might have missed. It is tempting to use RSS to deliver all the information I need but given our woefully simplistic RSS aggregators I have to exercise discretion so I don't get overrun. And, in many cases Webcal is a better form of syndication.

But I think the success of RSS gives us a hint as to where the intranet should evolve. That is, focus on the individual and the rest will follow. Allow the corporate worker to get the information they need, when they need it, and in a form they can manage.

So I am heartened by the development of things like IBM's Dynamic Workplace  or the characterization of SharePoint as Microsoft's "workplace platform". I also like the concept of the "Collaboration Client" as described by  Steven Tedjamulia and the collaboration "super client" as described by Michael Sampson. But I am not holding my breath waiting for the uber collaboration client. Microsoft owns the enterprise desktop and I cannot see them moving beyond Outlook as the chosen rich collaboration client. (Besides, everything you do should fit neatly into an inbox, calendar, list of contacts, and to-do list, right?)

In the midst of the proliferation of the "2.0"s (Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Intranet 2.0, and probably some others I missed) you might want to read Work 2.0 from Bill Jensen.  The book was published in 2002, and the technologies referenced may not be the latest or hippest, but the concepts are forceful and more relevant than ever.  In particular, the discussion around two of the rules outlined in the book: "Build My Work My Way" and "Deliver Peer-to-Peer Value" does a good job explaining why the new workplace is important.

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