We started with Martin giving a synopsis of the first 70 pages of the new Wikinomics book, how collaboration is growing and affecting enterprises and society, and the concept of "peer production". At some point we interrupted him with so many questions and comments that the "lecture" got off track and we ended up sharing our various questions and ideas. It was clear everyone there was from a very different background, each of us had an agenda of something to discuss, and we all are interested in the "high level" picture of society and organizations rather than just talking about comparing which software works best.
I liken it to a kitchen party where you are meeting all these cool new people but you know you have at least one interest in common and you have to figure out what else you have in common or can learn from each other. There was someone talking about business communications, someone talking about monetary systems, and someone else talking about mathematical theory. There was another special librarian there (a systems librarian in the healthcare industry) so we compared some notes on a few library-related things.
Then, someone (Paul, I think it was) pulled out his newly acquired Wii and plugged it in to the bar's big screen TV projector. That shifted the dynamic and, as people took turns trying out playing with the Wii, the rest of us broke into groups of 2 or 3 and started comparing notes on a number of issues. As people cycled through the Wii game, the little groups reconfigured.
The meeting was supposed to end about 9:30. It was a Tuesday night, and I left at 11:00 pm and things were continuing with a few people still there talking!
Some of the things I learned from our discussions:
- You can use a wiki as a metaphor for a lot of different things.
- Wikis are most useful when coming to a definitive answer, and not so useful for open-ended questions that cannot be resolved.
- Wikis act as a "negotiation" tool allowing people to work together until they come to an agreed document or vision.
- Flickr might conceptually be considered a type of wiki. If that is the case, I would suggest that Second Life is a form of a wiki as well (albeit a graphical one).
- Wikis are good for converging ideas; blogs are good for diverging ideas.
- All forms of electronic communications have served to flatten organizations.
- The larger, more established the organization, the longer it is going to take to "turn the boat around" and have it change to a collaborative model rather than the command and control model.
- The type of editing interface an application has can influence the writing style of a person. If you don't want to encourage a long list of bullet points, don't include a bullet point option.
I recommend, if you are interested in looking at the big picture of collaboration in enterprises or in society, this group might be of interest to you. I hope to see these people again at the next meeting.