IM planning for web20 – the cathedral and the garden

A colleague once told me that our old way of planning IT projects was like building a cathedral.  Planning and more planning,  construction according to solid architectural principles,  years and years of building and at the end of it all you find that no-one goes to church anymore…. or at least not in the same way.  

I have seen projects that have followed this model and  taken so long to implement that by the time theyre done the world has moved on.    I dont mean to completely reject this approach it is still fundamentally important for large projects where there are huge risks to control and dollars at stake,  but this is not web20.

Web20 is about small simple viral solutions (with no licensing costs) that can be deployed by pretty well anyone.  Rather than taking years, they can be rolled out  in hours or accessed online in minutes.  You could spend more time writing up a proposal to write a business case than you could installing and running a wiki or a blog tool.

Gartner calls them disruptive technologies,  not because they have more functions and features but because they are simpler technologies that  rely on social relationships.  In other words all the complexity and all the value comes out of the social interactions that emerge around these technologies and not out of the planning matrix.   You cannot plan for how a culture will emerge around these tools or where the community will take them.  All i can say from implementing web20 for the past two years is that I never could have anticipated how colleagues would use them,  it was their innovation,  their genius and not the plan that has moved these things forward. 

So lets look at another model.  Web20 planning is like gardening.   You prepare the ground,   you plant the seed, you put in place supports and you watch and weed and adjust as things  grow.   You might have to uproot and move and occasionally some things just wont work –  in which case they make it on to the compost heap to be reused.   But, every once in a while there is the ‘volunteer’ something completely unanticipated and rare that shows up out of  nowhere (am i going to far with the metaphor?).

Web20 needs to have planning but not the heavy handed traditional planning that is so basic to IT and IM thinking.  Regardless of whether you like the gardening metaphor web20 needs a planning model that recognizes its organic, ephemeral and fundamentally social nature.  

Gardening tips- making the metaphor practical

  1. Prepare the ground – identify those groups that are likely to be open to these new tools and work with them;   put in place broad guidelines and supports that keep things growing in the right direction, but,
  2. Plant quickly the season is short – the faster they are in the ground the faster they grow in optimal conditions
  3. Let them grow – stand back and let the culture emerge around the tools,  support where you can through training and barnraisings,  encourage social classification dont impose controlled vocab. 
  4. Weed and prune where necessary – have a small team of web 20 gardeners looking to consolidate duplicate content,  promote proper naming conventions encourage social classification. 
  5. Make sure the garden fits within the overall landscape.   recognize the information and knowledge created in web20 is valuable and needs to be integrated with traditional sources like document management systems, databases etc.  See Olivia dehavilland   and note google results include traditional docs but also wikis,  blogs video accessible through one interface.

That reminds me i have to go rake leaves off the flower beds 












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4 Responses to IM planning for web20 – the cathedral and the garden

  1. JeffB says:

    This is very good. I am reminded of the analogy of the cathedral and the market – which works very well to describe the Web 2.0 organizational balancing act too.

    • deepishthoughts says:

      Ya i think that is where my colleague got the analogy but dont think the marketplace works well for expressing the project planning idea. Who plans the marketplace? do you know the source for cathedral marketplace analogy?

      • Richard Smith says:

        The reference is to “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” by Eric Raymond. You can read the whole thing online, or buy it in a bookstore.

        In his book Microsoft is the Cathedral and Open Source Software is the Bazaar.

        Eric is a pioneer of open source and very outspoken. He also popularized (perhaps coined?) the notion that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow,” which underlies many of our arguments about crowdsourcing.


  2. Thomk says:

    Nice post, I am going to refer a few of my IM friends to it..

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