Tim OReilly’s Web 2.0 Report

    November 7, 2006

Tim O’Reilly, the tech media titan who gave Web 2.0 its name and defined many of its characteristics in a seminal paper called What is Web 2.0, is peddling a new report called Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices. The 101-page report was actually written by John Musser of Programmableweb.com, using O’Reilly’s original 5-page paper as the takeoff point.

At $375 for a downloadable pdf, the price is steep although a heck of a lot cheaper than attending O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference, which opens tomorrow in San Francisco.

There are lots of complaints about the price in the comments section on O’Reilly’s blog (one readers points out that 37signals sells its Getting Real book for $19). My quibble is not with the price. O’Reilly and Musser are obviously targeting enterprise business types (not freeloading geeks) who are curious about all this Web 2.0 buzz and are accustomed to paying much more money for reports from the tech consulting firms.

As my fellow Enterprise Irregular Jason Wood puts it:

    How does $375 for a paper even register on the ER (Egregious Radar) in a world when Aberdeen and the like can charge thousands to pontificate on things like SaaS in the Supply Chain (itself still a very early-stage premise) under the guise of established third party research?

My concern is whether it is possible to have developed “principles and best practices” for a movement that didn’t have a name two years ago. The answers depends on whether or not you believe Web 2.0 (or Enterprise 2.0) is mainly a natural evolution of internet technology or a fundamental revolution in the way workers in enterprises collaborate and interact with each other and the outside world. Evolution vs. revolution. Let it be or let it bleed?

Another Enterprise Irregular Dion Hinchcliffe, who knows more about the development of web technology than anybody alive and is able to explain it in terms that simple humans (like me) can understand, comes down squarely on the side of evolution:

    “If you accept that Web 2.0 is merely a distillation of the design patterns and business models of what actually worked when we look back these 10 years on the Internet, then I think you can make an argument that best practices do presently exist. ” (See Dion’s take on the new O’Reilly report here.)

If, on the other hand, you believe, as I do, that Enterprise 2.0 is about the unleashing of a new set of emergent, social interaction tools within enterprises with consequences that are still unknown and unpredictable, than O’Reilly’s “principles and best practices” are premature at best. The technology may be evolutionary but its impact on traditional management practices, organizational dynamics, and workplace culture will be revolutionary. Those are the best practices that organizations are going to need most.



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Jerry Bowles has more than 30 years of varied experience as a writer, editor, marketing consultant, corporate communications director and blogger. For the past 20 years, he has produced and written special supplements on new technologies for a number of magazines, including Forbes, Fortune and Newsweek.