Lifehacker in The Wall Street Journal
Ted Savas Interview -- Part I

Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

WikinomicsThis book is extremely hot right now.  If you look on Amazon you'll see just how high it is soaring.  In fact, although it's not quite that high right now, earlier this week Wikinomics was ranked in the 30's of all books on Amazon.  Very impressive.

The subtitle of the book is "How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything", and the authors do a great job covering all the latest tools and topics (e.g., wikis, Flickr, YouTube, etc.)  As they see it, the four keys to success are openness, peering, sharing and acting globally.  They spend the almost 300 pages of this book showing how each of these keys apply to all the various tools and platforms for collaboration.

The book is loaded with case studies, but not in the traditional (boring) sense.  Rather, the authors do a nice job of weaving in examples of and interviews with collaboration pioneers from a variety of organizations.  Proctor & Gamble is a popular one throughout the book.  I didn't realize how much P&G does on this front till I read about it here; P&G obviously buys into the authors' suggestion that, "increasingly, you should assume the best people reside outside your corporate walls."

Here are a few other interesting excerpts I flagged while reading Wikinomics:

...any serious news organization today should also allow its community of readers to join in the editorial conversation.  The fact that all major media properties don't already offer a parallel front page edited by readers is troubling.

While the leaders fight over their "one size fits all" search engines, Alexa's Web services may lead to a customized suite of search solutions that have been developed for particular communities of interest.

Becoming a pervasive and continuously innovative presence means becoming a magnet for innovation that attracts lots of partners...

Our work may still largely define who we are, but employers no longer will.

They also devote coverage to how most publishers suffer from the good old Innovator's Dilemma, which is, of course, near and dear to my heart.  One of my goals is to help ensure this statement by the authors doesn't come true: "...new business models for open content will not come from traditional media establishments, but from companies such as Google, Yahoo and YouTube."

Finally, in the middle of chapter 7, "Platforms for Participation", the authors ask a very important question: "Should open-platform orchestrators compensate the people and organizations that add value to their platforms?"  Obviously many of these platforms are existing just fine without providing contributor compensation.  But, I firmly believe compensation models will have to be developed before collaboration will appeal to the masses.  (And yes, I realize many of these platforms already have large contributor bases today, but they still represent a very small percentage of the overall online population.)

Comments

Michael A. Banks

"increasingly, you should assume the best people reside outside your corporate walls." P&G was ahead of the curve on that a decade ago, as I learned when I did some consulting for them. (And I don't say that to imply that Im one of the "best people." Certain elements in the company got a handle on it early on--which is all I can say, as my NDA is still in force.)

Wikinomics was ranked in the 30's. "Don't argue with a man who buys ink buy the barrel" was once a popular saying, used to refer to writers who knew what they were talking about.

Your mention of the book being in the 30's inspires a more contemporary expression: "Don't argue with someone with a two-digit Amazon ranking."

--Mike (whose book only made the 300's, so you can argue with him)
http://www.michaelabanks.com

Michael A. Banks

But, I firmly believe compensation models will have to be developed before collaboration will appeal to the masses.

As observed in the 1980s with the online services, there are many people willing to add value without material compensation, wanting only attribution. Just as there are many people who would like to write books and short stories for free (but don't tell the publishers!)

Fortunately, publishers and others recognize that those who are paid add the best value (quality-wise), if not the most. And those who organize and deliver the value-added material are likewise adding value, and should be compensated.

The online services recognized this, and developed royalty systems so that people were compensated directly in proportion to the value of their contributions.

The value was easy to measure, as there were per-minute meters running on everything.

A contemporary compensation system would have to use some other measure.

There are lots of models, but multi-contributor compensation can get complicated fast. That's why I always preferred getting a flat fee when I wrote a book chapter, rather than waiting for a percentage of the editor's earnings, which were a percentage of the publisher's net, minus a reserve against returns, after sales had repaid the editor's advance, but only when the Moon was full, etc., etc.
--Mike
http://www.michaelabanks.com

Joe Wikert

Hi Mike. On the compensation item, I'm just thinking a model like Google's AdSense can be utilized to address the issue. Your photo, article, whatever is uploaded to a content site and viewed by some number of visitors. While they're viewing that photo/article/whatever, they're also exposed to the ads the content site owners are running. Based on click-thru's while your content is on screen, you receive some portion of the advertising proceeds. This wouldn't be hard to track and seems reasonably fair, or at least a good starting point. Right now, most of these content sites figure they're successful without paying contributors anything; they need to consider how large a leap they could take if they introduce a compensation model though.

Kent Larsen

They also devote coverage to how most publishers suffer from the good old Innovator's Dilemma..."new business models for open content will not come from traditional media establishments, but from companies such as Google, Yahoo and YouTube."

Joe, I'm afraid I have to agree with the Innovator's Dilemma on this one, as much as, like you, I wish it weren't true. The publishers and people I've met in my 20 years in the book industry don't seem ready or able, on the whole, to meet the challenges of new technology. And as I understand it, Christensen's argument in the Innovator's Dilemma is that the companies invested in old technologies have no way to maintain their dominance in the face of competent competitors invested in new technologies.

Fortunately, at least in my view, the decline of companies predicted by the Innovator's Dilemma doesn't necessarily mean the demise of the old technologies. Horses still exist as a means of transportation, we still use fireplaces, and I expect we will still use printed books and magazines for centuries, despite the convenience of new technologies for delivering the same content.

Michael A. Banks

... the decline of companies predicted by the Innovator's Dilemma doesn't necessarily mean the demise of the old technologies.

You got that right, Kent. I've wondered if predicting the demise of the old technologies is not so much prediction as it is wishful thinking on the part of the young turks. After all, with the old line gone, those embracing the new technologies would have a clear field with no competition.

Horses and fireplaces ... books and magazines. Yep, they'll be around for a while yet.

In fact, there is something to be said for the various sorts of inertia at work here. For example, the intertia of "I like doing it the old way," or the intertia of "the infrastructure already exists and everything works fine as it is." Not to mention the powerful intertia of "I have to do it this way because I can't afford the new way."
--Mike
http://www.michaelabanks.com

Michael A. Banks

Based on click-thru's while your content is on screen, you receive some portion of the advertising proceeds. This wouldn't be hard to track and seems reasonably fair, or at least a good starting point.

Hi, Joe. I don't see this as a fair measure of value for a piece of writing, though it looks good on paper. It's more of a measure of how good the host site and page are at drawing people of a certain demographic who may click the ads. It’s a gamble for the writer, and at first glance looks like another “let’s do it because it’s different and we can” business model.

If magazine readers had to buy something or look at a specific ad to show their approval of a given story, there would be few votes. And if writers had to wait to be paid until advertisers paid magazines based on whether their sales increased, those of us who depend on writing for our living would take our work somewhere else.

If online publishers want to pay writers by how many unique readers spent time with a writer's story or article, I'd be willing to at least try it.

My original reply to this talked about the value-added elements publishers bring to written works, one of those elements being risk. It also discussed the similarities (and differences) between paper magazines and publishing online, how the goal of each is to draw readers, and ways that online publishing might draw more readers. But it ran to four pages. Suffice to say that the embedded publishing culture doesn't require writers to assume extensive risk, while publishers do assume risks--for greater rewards. It works for most of us.
--Mike
http://www.michaelabanks.com

Joe Wikert

Hi Kent. I agree that most of these markets affected by the innovator's dilemma don't disappear, but I'd hate to think the book publishing business could find itself with the precipitous drop-off experienced by the passenger train industry when planes arrived or the horse-and-buggy industry when cars arrived. At least we should know enough to realize when one technology is replacing another, which is something participants in those other industries were completely blind to.

Mike, regarding your comment to me about the relative fairness of the advertising compensation model I'm suggesting...I still think what I'm advocating is a better solution than what we see in place today. It would show that the content aggregators/hosts are willing to share some of their revenue with the community and others who are doing much of the heavy lifting. Also, it could at least be a starting point. I'm sure it's far from a complete solution but it could be "square one".

Michael A. Banks

Joe, you're right; anything would be better than what we have today. Sorry if I came down too hard on the concept, which would be a step in the right direction.
--Mike
http://www.michaelabanks.com

Joe Wikert

Mike, I wasn't at all offended by what you said. Believe me when I say I would have told you in my reply if I thought you were over the top with your comments, but that wasn't the case at all.

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