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Enterprise Web 2.0 (an oxymoron?)

I’ve heard lots of discussion about web 2.0 lately in business circles. I’ve also had debates about putting user generated content (UGC) on corporate web sites. What makes me stop and think is the gap between web 2.0 as a bottom up democratic and slightly anarchic use of technology (dialogue) and the desire by corporations to control messages from the top down (monologue).

The questions for which I don’t know the answer are:

  • What does a corporation do if the UGC includes things they don’t like? Does the company moderate the content? If yes, then how do the users perceive that act – can they continue to trust? Like the recent Digg saga – users need to see congruence between the site’s meaning and its content. Web 2.0 is really about a dialogue, rather than the monologues that businesses are used to.
  • Is it possible to moderate content in a UGC context in a way that keeps the site meaningful to the user community?
  • Is business ready for their stakeholder communities to tell how they really feel and is business ready to hear it?
  • How can issues regarding UGC material copyright and digital rights be managed? YouTube is interesting to observe regarding this issue.
  • Can business actually manage the community input? What drives the UGC forums is lots of time invested by interested participants who are not paid, in business they will likely have to pay someone to undertake that same role to get similar results – it will be interesting to see if businesses are willing to make this investment.
  • How are we going to make money out of web 2.0? (This is my favourite question.)
  • Also by the time business people even know that web 2.0 exists is it nearly over? Are the people moving on to the next thing already?

I really love what web 2.0 has done in making the net open to greater participation by non-technical people, and how it has enhanced communication and enabled the development of communities of practice. The whole open source movement has flourished in this environment, and this has led to exciting developments like blogs, wikis, AJAX, and more recently Google Gears. And, while the technology can definitely be used by business to great effect, I’m not sure how the human side will go given the differing cultural imperatives between businesses and user communities.