London Wiki Wednesdays rebooted!

Last Wednesday evening, 3rd March, London Wiki Wednesdays got rebooted for 2010 and beyond, with a varied selection of great 5 minute presentations and me doing MC duty as usual.  We were hosted by Alek Lotoczko and our friends at NYK.  Actually, it felt like the old days.   As you can see from our wiki, there  was a bit of a hiatus between November 2008 and October 2009 and then to this month, excluding several informal meetings down the pub.  The key issue has been the time and energy it takes to get venues and sponsors (anyone interested, please see me afterwards).  However, we've decided to get things moving with a full meeting every two months (on the first Wednesday of the month) with informal meetings in between.  

During my intro the group agreed to broaden the topic out from just wiki related projects, to  wiki plus all things enterprise 2.0 - social media tools applied to business.  We will, however, retain our London Wiki Wednesday branding, rather than changing to 2.0 Tuesdays or some such.  Somewhere in the handovers I also mentioned the 2.0 Adoption Council and 2.0 Adoption Community.   On the night I suggested that they currently have a US and large company bias, but Susan Scrupski set me straight - about a third of the registered members are from Europe (and the UK), but in terms of active conversations and contribution she suggests it's closer to half the activity.  In any case I hope we can encourage more European companies to join and share their adoption experiences.       

Harry Wood discussed Crisis Commons - a wiki community for citizen volunteers, crisis response organizations, international humanitarian relief agencies, non-profits and the private sector to help them mobilize for disasters like Haiti or Chile.  Apparently it's a bit of a mess with out of date information, and a case study in how wikis can evolve badly.  Harry explained some of the gardening and rationalization he has been doing to organize the project lists and move to a page per project.  

Alek  Lotoczko spoke briefly to welcome us, and mention that he is trying to get a Confluence users  community going.

Ben Gardner of Pfizer showed us a project they have put together with Semantic MediaWiki to handle drug patents for the company.  The conventional approach would be for IT to build some sort Oracle DB, develop a UI, and do all the normal development, probably spending of the order of $50k.  Instead they used the wiki interface the company is familiar with, and semantic extensions to create a table driven approach that only took a week of a developer's time.  The solutions covers many therapeutic areas, with a page per patent.  Each patent has a series or properties, allowing you to create "ask queries", and RDF and XML feeds.  The data comes from a commercial database, which somebody edits and curates to produce an Excel file, which is then loaded to create the tables and pages.  Their users can subscribe to pages via RSS with Newsgator.  There are legal issues over some of the data, but they've disabled edit for those pages, whilst still allowing  comments in a discussion page.  Lars Ploughman commented that this hybrid approach of structured and unstructured data is becoming more common.  

Andrew Berridge, also of Pfizer, then showed some of the technical details and the level of scripting code in the "ask queries".  He explained how they use pipeline pilot to parse the data and transform it to Excel, then run a macro and something called Pywikipediabot to scan and replace and clean up the data.  

Simon Revell continued the Pfizer LWW takeover, but this time discussed making SharePoint more social.  He highlighted how the product has been presented by some as a  category killer which will  do it all, when the reality is far from that.  He likened what can happen using it unchecked, to the way Tokyo city has sprawled out of control.  He suggested it has OK document management, a terrible wiki, the blog isn't very good, and it can tend towards a wall of lists.  However, Pfizer have created successful global communities of practice with the forums.  They've put in a web part list to make it more friendly, but the biggest success has been using OneNote for collaborative authoring and information sharing.  There was a general discussion about how excellent OneNote is, and how Pfizer got great access to the Microsoft developers - 9 of their top 10 requests were fixed in OneNote 2007 SP2 - very impressive.   One of Simon's key messages was from "Field of Dreams" - don't assume that  "if you build it they will come".  One of the ways they fostered adoption was to  get the community to build their blogging policy in the wiki.  

Mike Thompson of Headshift explained how they are working on a study for the EU on the impact of enterprise 2.0.  The report will look at the market, available software and services, and how  companies are using them.  From a longer survey of projects, they will select 8 companies for in depth research and a 1-2000 word case study each.  They are collecting information in a  Mindtouch wiki at eu.headshift.com and there is a blog at enterprise20eu.wordpress.com.

Lars Ploughman of Headshift showed how a Law firm called Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP has embraced blogging and moved away from the standard, boring website .  This is a 200 person firm with 90 lawyers of whom 45 are now blogging.  They've been live for 2 months with a Wordpress based site, which has a prominent tag cloud of content on the home page, and 250 blog posts so far.  

Paul Driscoll talked about Google's Sidewiki.  If you use the Google toolbar, anyone can leave a comment, discussion, or annotate pages of any site.  There is also an Apache standard but that hasn't got much support.  There was quite some heated discussion about how useful this facility was, although some likened it to enabling graffiti on any website.  The key issue here is control of your own site pages.  The web already has review sites, or allows for anyone to start a blog or a forum on a topic or a product they have issues with.  Do we need to allow people to annotate pages directly?  Some good CMS products allow commenting on any page already, and then the content can be properly moderated to avoid abuse or bad language.   

Benjamin Ellis explained all about his wiki approach the SocialOptic Milestone Planner.  He went back to his first wiki experiences in 2001 and the value they can bring in capturing conversational data.  People are crazy busy.  Most project systems focus on tasks and dependencies.  His product shifts the emphasis from activities to outcomes, from task to milestones - a set of things or aspirations you can achieve.  The product is structured like a wiki page, but turned sideways with a  timeline across the top.  You can add and assign a milestone, invite in new users by email, or use colour codes to track progress or status.  Anyone can go and edit or change it, but full history of the changes and conversations is kept, like  a wiki, and you can easily see the community around each project.   Benjamin's product aims to make it easier to manage Barely Repeatable Processes - I need to get him talking with Sig.  Sig's approach is the opposite.  They have in common that "no business plan survives contact with the market".  Instead of  the outcomes, Sig has a product that starts at the beginning, and focuses on the process one decision or activity at a time, with the emphasis  on value creation.  If  I do get them talking it could be quite explosive.    

Clive Darr (who works for moo.com) showed his Java page and website, which uses WikkaWiki, a project from Surrey University, which also links in with the Freemind mind mapping software.  He touched on using ImageJ product, a US government project which he said is simpler than Gimp, and referenced his blog at  OSDE.info.

As a last item I asked what topics we might set up for a discussion at the next meeting, maybe with a guest speaker.  The suggestions were:
  • The relationship between enterprise 2.0 and narrative story telling
  • Wikis and task list
  • And someone volunteered to talk about Google Wave and wikis
It was a great crowd with some great questions and discussions.  You can see who attended, and more of what happenedLondon Wiki Wednesdays are back on track.

Update: Extra photos courtesy Benjamin Ellis - see set on Flickr