The Online Information 2006 conference in London attracted hundreds of people working in content management and knowledge management from traditional sectors, yet the most popular track was Social Software. Old meets new. The interesting part is: old wants new.
Despite this social stuff being popular, there was a distinct concern about it working in traditional organizations. “Most of what people put on a wiki isn’t inaccurate, you know.”, “How do we police these blogs?”, “You are glossing over the problems of these technologies.” … were a few of the reactions.
When Ben Edwards who runs IBM’s New Media Communications group in Armonk, New York headquarters said, during his panel discussion, that most employees use common sense, nothing was more credible. Afterall, IBM has over 300K employees. Ben continually referred to IBM’s legacy and bureaucracy, but also vividly painted a picture of a company that stands for giving employees freedom and assuming employees are intelligent until proven otherwise. Huzzah. If you don’t know the historical values of IBM, this should come as no surprise. There is a principled heart inside the Giant.
This traditional school ‘fear of flying’ was rather pervasive with many conference attendees. On one hand some of these worries like “the inaccuracy of wikipedia” are scary and a bit ignorant. Let’s remember that wikis in companies are private things and about doing work. When an employee creates a page on a wiki that documents some solution she has devised, why are we worrying about accuracy? She is doing the same work she might do in an email, or in a presentation to her boss, or in a phone call to a customer. The wiki has nothing to do with accuracy. It’s a tool for letting others collaborate with her and better the solution.
On the other hand, these fears are real and unless we really grasp them, we will fail in spreading the power of social software. Linda Stoddart from the United Nations told me you cold not bring any of this stuff to the Secretary General and be credible. Yet the next day, Linda presented and said the wiki word. Huzzah. I must email Linda and let her know the United Nations is already using Confluence. ☺