Tag Archives: ideas

Ubuntu Brainstorm – A business use of Web 2.0

Ubuntu, the user friendly Linux distribution, launched Ubuntu Brainstorm this week. Inspired by IdeaStorm from Dell, the Ubuntu community can now suggest ideas and vote online. Its goal is to have a better idea of what Ubuntu users would like to see in upcoming Ubuntu releases.

As a user you can add your ideas or vote for your preferred ones, add comments and see their implementation status. The best and most popular ideas quickly rise to the top and can be creamed off for inclusion in future releases.

Why is this such a big deal? Well technically it’s not, but this really shows how the use of web 2.0 technology and culture can change traditional processes. Any organisation could adopt the same approach for requirements gathering, general ideas, news items, voting on company issues etc. Just imagine how different it would be to gather project requirements in this fashion. You can still hold the workshops and user summits but you would enter every requirement online and leave the community to vote on the functionality important to them. Going forward this becomes a place for feature requests, ideas on new uses for the system, voting on new processes etc.

Designing a system like this doesn’t have to take months and be a bespoke development either. There are ways to leverage existing functionality in some blogs and wikis as well as SharePoint to achieve a rough and ready version.

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A Virtual World Meeting

Yesterday I took part in a meeting with approx 100 people from a multinational company. It was a regular meeting with regular outcomes but there was a twist. The meeting was held in a business equivalent of Second Life. 100 people from around the world immersed themselves in a virtual environment for 3 hours to chat, see presentations, hear from the ‘boss’ and to see how this technology could be leveraged to run large meetings/workshops.

Once inside the environment there was 15 mins of familiarisation by the waters edge before heading off to the main conference centre. The main presentations were shown in a large room with a podium in the middle. The presenter would walk over and control his PowerPoint presentation from there. Yes, PowerPoint in a virtual world….it doesn’t seem right for some reason. There were multiple screens where you could view the presentation, and if you stood on a blue circle you would see the presentation in full screen. As the presenters went through their slides they were talking over the teleconference (just like you would with WebEx etc). Attendees could ask questions via the chat panel at the bottom, whisper to each other or just sit back and watch/listen.

Overall I was impressed. Although it looked like a old video game, just seeing the other attendees move around and talk to each other made it feel like you were really there, all in one room. I even had someone whom I’ve never met, but worked with for a long time, rush over and wave at me before saying “it’s good to finally meet you!”

Elsewhere in the environment you could wander into break out rooms and watch videos that had been uploaded in advance.

Here are my conclusions from the virtual world meeting:

• people still rush over to the boss after a presentation to get his ear (seriously, it must be human nature)
• people feel more confident to speak up
• fooling around does happen but not like I thought and it was over with quickly
• someone needs to facilitate, it’s like any other meeting
• technical barriers were not really a problem (users on a whole got to grips with it very quickly)
• the likes of WebEx do the whole presentation thing a lot better
• the likes of WebEx lack the ability (at the moment) to make you feel like you are really with the other attendees
• drop the corny avatars (knights, princesses, cow boys etc) please – you just don’t need them in a business setting
• you do actually feel like you are in a real meeting with real people – something you don’t quite get in a telecon/videocon
• I can see companies really going for this kind of technology but not just yet

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More ways to launch Enterprise 2.0 at your company

My recent post ‘The use of handouts when launching a site seemed to grab the interest of a few people. Simon Goh is launching an intranet and was on the lookout for launch ideas. Here are a few more we’ve used in the past.

About a year and a half ago Simon and I launched an Enterprise 2.0 effort at a global healthcare company. We started off with grand visions of doing it all online and not printing a single flyer or advert. We were saving the planet at the same time you see. The plan was to use viral marketing techniques and distribute content via the existing intranet and email system. This included edgy graphics, wallpapers, podcasts, videocasts, invites to events, launching an enterprise 2.0 related site and blog and anything else we could think of.

However we soon realised we were missing a massive chunk of the workforce. Large swathes of people in many companies interact with technology only when they need to, and when they do they stick to what they know (in this case email and a few internal news sites served up in IE).

We just had to go offline. So here are some of the things we produced:

  • Business cards (similar to above) with teaser info on the front and more detailed info on the reverse. We handed these out wherever and whenever possible. People liked them and we still see them on desks, shelves and wedged in keyboards today
  • Neschens were printed and put on display in high traffic areas (as in photo). The neschens detailed Enterprise 2.0 events and pointed to online resources
  • Posters – quick and easy, although these ones were quite edgy. Different to most posters you see in large companies. i.e. not “Climb the highest peak of success” with a picture of a mountain….yuk!
  • Handouts – these were more like quick tips on the tools
  • Speakers – we managed to secure some great speakers to inspire people with the possibilities of web2.0 in the workplace
  • Lunch 2.0 type meet-ups – to discuss blogs, wikis, podcasting, anything really

Of course this is just the start. Once you have people interested you need to back it up with the tools, support, pilots, workshops, mentoring etc. I’ll save this for another day.


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The use of handouts when launching a site

Using a few traditional communication and advertising methods can be extremely effective when launching a new site or service.

I recently pre-launched a site for a medical research organisation to collaborate and organise their activities. The site introduces the users to many new concepts such as blogging, commenting, file sharing and most importantly a shift away from a reliance on email.

I thought it was important to introduce them to the site gradually and not overwhelm them with a massive feature list. So I decided to produce a series of tri-fold handouts (as above) to give out both in person and in the mail. As soon as I produced the first one, folded it and had it in my hand, I realised you just can’t beat something visual and tangible like this. That’s why magazines and books won’t die out anytime soon. I’m backing this up with some online material, but I just don’t think you can beat handouts. This is especially true when you are working with an audience new to online collaboration.

Your Corporate How-to Wiki


Have you seen WikiHow?  It’s a customized MediaWiki implementation tagged as ‘The How-to Manual That You Can Edit’.  I love it for the following reasons:

  • It has a very clean and neat interface
  • Recent how-to articles are shown on the left
  • A featured article takes prime position on the front page
  • Submitting an article is very nice.  You are given pre defined set of fields and the ability to add extra fields.  This ensures all how-to’s are uniform and in a familiar format.
  • When creating a new how-to it auto suggests existing content before letting you submit your own unique how-to

So what’s the deal with the corporate how-to wiki?

Well I’ve been working on a corporate wiki implementation with Andy Roberts (whom I got to know through LinkedIn, proving the service is indeed useful) and have been looking for inspiration on how to get the best from the software. 

The WikiHow version of MediaWiki has inspired me on a number of fronts.

  • A corporate how-to wiki (dedicated or part of another) would be a valuable tool
  • The clean interface really draws me in
  • The featured article with image works really well.  Producing this can be part of the wiki gardener role.
  • The article creation template keeps all how-to’s simple and readable.

So what would go in this corporate how-to wiki?

  • how to book a hire car
  • how to book travel
  • how to claim expenses
  • how to submit a ‘xyz’ report
  • how to request IT resource
  • ho to hire
  • etc, etc,

This would work especially well in a large company. 

Do you have any sort of ‘how-to’ in your company?

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Time Gentlemen Please – Update Your Profiles

It’s been an interesting week. I’ve been thinking about what a Facebook for the corporation will look like and what it might contain. Some companies already have places for their employees to maintain a profile highlighting their role, function, ambitions, interests, strengths etc. Other companies are looking at how they might best provide somewhere for employees to kick start some internal social networking.

So if you do have somewhere for these profiles, how to you encourage people to utilize them? You’d hope that most people would see the benefit and fill them in, maintain them and leverage them on the basis of making new connections and finding new opportunities. However it’s clear there will be a need for some kind of mandate or guidelines about keeping a current profile. Most people will be fine with this, but some may start to weigh up the pro’s and cons of keeping a) their internal profile current, or b) keeping their external profile current.

So where do you invest the time? Your LinkedIn profile, Facebook Profile, or the one at the your place of employment? You can see there might be a conflict in keeping key ‘common’ information up to date.

In steps OpenSocial, see my last post. Savvy and brave developers/implementers of enterprise profile/social networking applications can potentially use the OpenSocial API’s to allow users to syndicate in key information from their external profiles. This would kick start any new profile, allow the user to maintain one profile and syndicate the content to the other(s). I say potentially as I’m not clear on exactly how all this will pan out and whether a developer could create a standalone behnid the firewall app using the API’s. Anyone know?

Personally I’d like to have the ability to expose my work history and description fields from LinkedIn into my corporate (behind the firewall) profile. I’d see instant benefit from doing this and I wouldn’t have to make a choice of keeping one up to date over the other.

There are of course some things to think about such as confidentiality and security concerns, but I think there is definite merit in syndicating chosen external social networking information into your corporate profile.

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Digg your questions to management

I saw this on Euan Semple’s blog.  It’s a system where you submit questions via video to the video sharing site of your choice, give it a certain tag and it then appears on another site where users can vote your question up or down.  The top ten get answered by presidential candidates.

So imagine a similar system in a large company where you submit your questions for the CEO/management.  People vote, and once a month the management answer the top 5-10 questions.  Something makes me think it would be a hit with the workforce but not so much with the management.

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