Today has been fascintating.
It started off with Michael Schrage and a panel on Search Technology as the new frontier. Part of the panel was arguing that search was the principle core of any business - and Schrage, well you could just tell that he wasn't convinced and he certainly wasn't buying the argument that search was a purely technological issue which can be solved by a specific product.
This spilled over into Andrew Mcafee's impromptu session on enterprise 2.0.
Questions were raised about why should companies adopt web 2.0 like technologies and the issue of long adoption cycles. There are a couple of key points to note here.
First, there is a trend towards canonical sources of information and the appearance of curators, or editors as Tony Fish (AMF Ventures) calls them. The democratic web chooses its own curators but in order to be in the running you need to be providing information openly, honestly and with integrity (the ideas of P2P reputation and searching across such networks).
Now this causes a problem, if you don't become the canonical source of information about your company - someone else will. Once that happens it's going to be damned hard to replace them. In some cases wikipedia is becoming that source, in other cases it's bloggers and other sites. What the industry is waiting for is a method of bringing P2P reputation networks into the public domain and allowing searches based upon your interaction with that network.
This can only be a matter of months away; you see elements of this in technorati and when it happens, if you're not engaged you'll be cut out of the loop.
Imagine a world where you search for company ABC and the top, most relevant, most respected result is Blogger Jim. As the trend towards conversation being more important than product continues (i.e. our experience of ABC is created from all those moments or interactions with ABC), then it's a poor start when the first conversation begins with Jim, who doesn't even work for ABC.
So there really isn't much choice to adopting a more open method of providing information unless you want Jim to be your public voice.
Tony also raised some good points (following on from his session of mobile web 2.0 and his views on convergence and search) about whose data is it anyway. There has been a growing trend towards customers owning their digital footprint, which in reality belongs to them anyway (it's worth looking into open ID, Sxip and the whole identity issue).
It's probably an uncomfortable concept, in much the same way as open source was and the idea of opening up everything about a company (warts and all) probably doesn't fit well with some views of marketing and branding. However the market will decide how it wishes to search, how it wishes to engage and who it trusts. You can try to impose your own taxonomy on the web but you'll soon discover that such things are emergent and not prescribed and the best way of dealing with this is openess.
The second point was the importance of the web 2.0 term. What is really essential in my view is not so much what is in web 2.0 but what has been left out. It's a milestone, a way of describing these excluded terms as old hat, CODB, necessity to compete and dull.
A decade ago, having a company web site was really exciting ... now it's a norm. The same is true of many "strategic" IT initiatives from CRM, ERP, E-Commerce etc.
There is no strategic or differential value in these initiatives, except in the area of execution if everyone else executes them poorly (see Andrew McAfee's blog about such concepts).
Overall interesting day - there are some excellent speakers and good corridor chat, congratulations to Fast Forward '07 on that.
The lessons for me are that much of what was once considered important is no longer, and openess and being the canonical source are imperatives.
No more hiding away those corporate secrets.
I'd have got away with it, if it wasn't for those damned pesky kids .... welcome to the new world.