"Control Doesn't Scale"

February 21, 2008 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

David Weinberger has an incredible knack for putting information management issues into perspective, and always does so with just the right amount of humor and sarcasm (something I generally aim to achieve - but I imagine I fall short of a perfect Weinberger).

ImageHe's done it again in a speech about "The Information Mess and Why You Should Love it." Sandy Kemsley blogged her notes on the speech. She says:

He spoke about the power of digital disorder, and how we need to unlearn what we think that we know about the best ways to organize information.

He looked at how many projects, typically physical projects, require a much greater degree of control as they increase in size, but contrasts that with the web, which has growth only because of the lack of control. Control doesn’t scale.

Controlled information systems don't scale, but the web does. When it comes to "unstructured information" this is undoubtedly the case. (I put quotes around "unstructured information" because I mean to convey I don't believe in the term - all information has structure, especially written information which has LOADS of structure but generally doesn't grow as well as you would like on folder trees)

"Enterprise 1.0" approaches sought to consolidate and centralize information onto singular ECM or DM systems with one search box and what became lots of "need to know" (vs. "can know") silos (in the form of specifically permissioned files or collaborative workspaces) within the big centralized system.

"Enterprise 2.0" is not just about people posting pages, editing pages, and tagging, its about, as Greg Lloyd wrote in 2005, making your business work like the web. Continuing that thread with another entry from Greg, its also about Letting Hypertext out of its Box and, from my perspective, recognizing when Information Silos are a Problem.

Putting the Enterprise in Wiki and Blog Software requires both deploying tools that allow your users to build an intranet out of pages and links as well as creating an IT architecture mandate to allow for the digital disorder which Weinberger argues is the ultimate tool in creating order at scale.

"Control Doesn't Scale" Part II - Let Go to Grow

February 22, 2008 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

In yesterday's note Control Doesn't Scale, I talked about how Enterprise 2.0 relies on an Enterprise 2.0 architecture and approach in order to work more like the web. Reflecting on a speech by Andrew McAfee at FASTForward 08, Bill Ives puts the matter very nicely:

The irony of enterprise 2.0 is that you actually get more control because the free form nature of the tools allow the business people to decide on where structure occurs, not the people who make the software.Image

By giving up control of a system, you allow business people to build structure on an emergent basis rather than entirely pre-planning systems and, as a result, making them too rigid to be useable by knowledge workers.

Ives, like me, believes "total free form is not always what you want - often you need to start a wiki with some structure." As I note in the Yin and Yang of Enterprise 2.0 and Pros and Cons of Emergence, the right balance of initial structure and top-down encouragement are key to success.

Writing about the same speech, Sandy Kemsley captures this bullet point from McAfee:

Excellent gardeners exist to accelerate the emergence of structure, whether or not they contribute content.

So, in an uncontrolled wiki environment, where some users are born to tag and others not, its still important to provide some starting structure and to proactively build and manage that structure as the users of the sytem exert their own influence by publishing, editing and using (or not using) tags.

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