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Warning: contains large quantites of consultantese
on January 14, 2007
Don Tapscott's book, Wikinomics, discussed many excellent and interesting high-level collaboration concepts but was somewhat of a disappointment because of Tapscott's "I invented the question mark" writing style. For example, Tapscott makes an attempt to label specialized networks, like Napster, as "Business Networks" and even proceeds to call them "b-webs":
"By 2000, when the music industry finally noticed it, the MP3 b-web had reached critical mass-tens of thousands of music files had become available for downloading over the Net-and Napster alone, record companies said, had cost them $300 million in lost sales."
You mean a "peer-to-peer music network?" As a management consultant by day, I even found myself rolling my eyes at some of Don's painful attempts to coin new jargon. I felt that Tapscott lost a lot of creditability by going down this path. The title alone, "Wikinomics", and the tagline, "How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything," should have given away that the consultantese was going to be thick.
Some sections of the book, like the "tagging" reference below, were just downright funny underlining that Tapscott doesn't have a very in-depth understanding of the technologies that are powering this collaboration phenomena. This suggests that Wikinomics was not edited by a broader audience:
"Tagging harnesses a technology called XML to allow users to affix descriptive labels or keyword to content (techies call it "metadata", or data about data). Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly aptly describes a tag as a public annotation-like a keyword or category name that you hang on a file, web page, or picture. When people tag content collaboratively, it creates a "folksonomy," essentially a bottom-up, organic taxonomy that organizes content on the web"
By definition, a tag does not harness XML. In fact, the two have nothing to do with each other. You could use XML to define a tag, but you could also use a database, file system metadata, or any other symbolic system to define a tag. Almost all web applications with tagging functionality store tagging data in a database system.
While this is a very small detail that Tapscott missed, this book is riddled with many of these small "misunderstandings" making me question the author's editorial process. Maybe if Tapscott had used a wiki to let others edit his transcript, a "techie" would have caught the error and corrected it ;)
Despite the nit-picky details, I would recommend the book to somebody who has never heard of a Wiki, blog, social network or of Web 2.0. It definitely gets the brain thinking about the exciting opportunities that lay ahead for both our professional and personal lives. Many interesting and innovative cases, including some new ways Proctor & Gamble is doing business outside of the traditional corporate hierarchy, are discussed in detail.
If you can stand the consultantese, have $25 laying around, and can find a couple hours to read, definitely pick up this book. If you don't have the time for the consultantese and want to understand what's really going on, pick up the Long Tail.