Wiki Mania, Or Must We Share and Share Alike? (Yes, We Must)


If you have spent any time with young children, you know one of the hardest things to teach them is the concept of sharing. "Mine" enters the human vocabulary awful early. It's that whole id and ego thing.

Flash forward a dozen or so years. Today's teenagers seem basically willing to share EVERYTHING. No element of their personal lives apparently is off limits. My young niece, much to my gratification and chagrin, includes little ole me in at least some of that sharing despite my obviously advanced age. And that's the spirit that has helped the Web 2.0 movement flourish.

You could say I've been thinking a whole lot about the collaboration concept lately, not just from the standpoint of how the solution provider channel participates in all this via our ChannelWeb redesign, but projecting ahead to how the CRN editorial staff could benefit from using Web 2.0 tools ourselves.

Take, for example, a service like Near-Time, a hosted wiki service that began to scale into commercial projects this month. Near-Time CEO Reid Conrad said Near-Time seeks to provide flexibility for smaller companies or enterprise departments that might not be able to invest in an entire wiki infrastructure (especially when it comes to development resources).

"You can create as many collaborative spaces as you want. It can be totally private, totally public or in between," Conrad said.

Even better, you can turn those wiki spaces on or off as necessary. Business-level pricing generally starts around $700 to $2,000 per year. I'm really not sure how this compares to all the open source wiki platforms out there. But the point is, this sort of service makes it easier.

Two recent business tomes, The Long Tail and Wikinomics contain all sorts of arguments as to why an anti-collaborative stance is dangerous to future corporate economic health. And the adoption of the behavior associated with wikis and Web 2.0 is happening as surely and as organically the MySpace movement.

Lo and behold, some data dropped into my inbox this morning that gave me some new context for the whole Web 2.0 discussion.

The research, which was part of a survey of 827 people conducted by security vendor Clearswift, suggests that close to 90 percent of the average "office worker" accesses at least one Web 2.0 site each week, with 63 percent going back to the sites at least once a day. (The company defines Web 2.0 apps as including wikis, blogs, forums/chat rooms, instant messaging and some apps with related collaborative functionality.)

About half of the people surveyed by Clearswift said they believe having access to apps like this from within their work environment is an entitlement. (The company's word, not mine.) Among the sites that were accessed most commonly were Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr as well as unspecified instant messaging applications and blogs, according to the study.

Clearswift's agenda in presenting this research is to open the eyes of businesses to the potential security risks this access poses. Those risks are twofold: inappropriate disclosure of corporate information and exposure to worms, viruses and social-engineering scams.

To that I say, get over it, or risk being left in the dust. Fact is, ad hoc communication is good for business. It will start to happen with or without the blessing of the boss (after all, how else can we possibly get everything done we're supposed to get done?) And it's up to companies to set policies to protect themselves from the most egregious risks without squelching grassroots sharing. Do you sense a new opportunity for solution providers? I sure do.

E-mail your ideas to hclancy@cmp.com. Also, if you're a fast-growing solution provider, apply now for the 2007 CRN Fast Growth 100 ranking. And, if you're an emerging, privately held tech product company seeking to make the channel a big part of your sales plan, submit your nomination for the CRN Emerging Tech 100. Both deadlines are coming around the end of April. SHARE your information now.