From developmental stages to mainstream technology
Companies around the world have already begun to experience the power of third-party Web sites (e.g. www.hellopeter.com) and any self-respecting marketing department commits staff to monitoring them. But that’s not enough anymore. Clients want to be involved and interact, not just comment and complain. In today’s Connection Economy, where information is being democratised, and stakeholders and clients alike are demanding more interaction and transparency, the use of a new range of HyperNetworking technologies is becoming imperative. Lets put some of the most important of these new business tools under the microscope.

Possibility = Opportunity
Deep in the darkest corners of the digital universe there can be found scores of anti-social Uber-Geeks glued to super-computers with broadband internet connections. These unique beings make it their mission in life to develop new technologies, mutate existing technologies, combine old technologies and wait for something to take off. Now and again something does. We’ve seen email, instant messaging, VoIP, SMS and others become mainstream, billion-dollar industries. With a migration into our current Connection Economy, a new set of technologies is appearing. They fall under the ‚HyperNetworking‛ umbrella, and cater specifically for the ever-increasing needs of the new economy. They are blurring old boundaries, breaking rules, opening new channels and presenting us with previously unheard of possibilities. In the Connection Economy, possibility = opportunity. As we watch these technologies move from developmental stages to mainstream, it makes business sense to keep abreast of these trends.
Blogs
Enter the blog. With a name like a 1950’s B-grade horror flick monster, it’s hard to take blogs seriously. Consider this though � in March of this year, Technorati (the blog equivalent of Google), was tracking 7.8-million blogs worldwide. By August, that number had almost doubled to 14.2-million blogs. Currently, approximately 100,000 new blogs are created daily. Impressive numbers � but what exactly is a blog? In its simplest form, a blog is a series of thematic posts (articles) published to the web by a blogger (author) or team of bloggers, either for internal or external (public) reading and conversation.
Static-content Web sites are becoming redundant � the old ‚Web master‛ model is frustrating and limiting. Blogs intrigue because they encourage interaction. They build relationships. They facilitate connections. They’ve given the man on the street a voice that can be heard around the globe.
According to Fortune magazine’s recent lead story, ‚Freewheeling bloggers can boost your product—or destroy it. Either way, they’ve become a force business can’t afford to ignore‌‛. Some companies have cottoned on quickly: Bob Lutz, CEO of General Motors, uses his Fast Lane blog ( www.fastlane.gmblogs.com) to interact with readers (who are either prospective or existing customers) over developments at GM. He recently posted an entry, together with a video clip, documenting the delivery of the first Pontiac Solstice, GM’s new up-market roadster, to its owners.
Microsoft is hailing blogging as the next big thing, with Bill Gates going on record saying that the new medium has given his monolithic enterprise an accessible human face. The industry giant is even going so far as encouraging its employees to blog (see www.blogs.msdn.com). In fact, most Fortune 500 corporations have jumped on the blogwagon – Sun Microsystems, Google, Boeing, Time Warner, Wells Fargo, Disney, Motorola, Kimberly-Clark, Toys R Us, Nike, Pepsi, Shell, Starbucks and the New York Times being some examples. Blogging is on the up in South Africa, with the M-Web and Mail & Guardian Web sites offering blog facilities to members. The fact is, regardless of whether you choose to blog or not, anticipate that someone will soon be blogging about you.
Wiki’s
There are other technologies increasingly being utilised for successful virtual networking and collaboration. Wiki’s are probably the most important of these and are also Web sites. However, they are differentiated from traditional sites by the fact that their content is entirely open-source. With a wiki users can add content, as on an Internet forum, but it in addition to this, it allows anyone to edit the existing material.
The best example of a wiki in action is Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), an online encyclopedia that is written and maintained by, well, anybody who feels like it. You may be inclined to question its integrity, and why such a democratic forum doesn’t descend into chaos, but Wikipedia speaks for itself. It’s a well-researched, well-written, and highly regarded source of information. If I make an incorrect or inappropriate change to an entry in the eyes of the majority, it can be rolled back to the way it was before â€? no harm done. Thousands of people voluntarily contribute to and police the site (or at least those areas in which they have expertise), fact-checking and editing as necessary, so the quality of the content remains extremely high. Companies and teams use wiki’s as tools for document collaboration, research and development, and as idea repositories.
RSS
These new channels are producing immense quantities of valuable and reliable information. It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping track of one’s favourite news sites, blogs, and wiki updates. Enter RSS, or Real Simple Syndication.
RSS is a technology, now employed by most forward thinking news sites and blogs, which allows readers to get updated content sent directly to their computers for easy reference and reading. The only requirement is a piece of software – an RSS reader – installed on a computer system (there are hundreds of free versions available online), in order to be able to subscribe to the most important sources of information.
Podcasting
According to Wikipedia, Podcasting is a method of publishing audio broadcasts via the Internet. Users subscribe to an RSS feed that delivers MP3-quality audio broadcasts directly to their desktop via a reader, to be listened to through a portable digital player.
Feeds span every subject from church sermons to city tours, film reviews to radio broadcasts (see www.apple.com/itunes for a directory of some 6,000 popular casts). Companies in the know are already using Podcasts for training, collaboration enhancement and customer relations. In essence it’s a digital radio station, where listeners choose when and what to listen to.
A Business Case
These HyperNetworking technologies are not just fun toys for under worked IT nerds. They’re serious business tools that need to be strategically considered by companies regardless of their industry. They present exciting ways to create additional connections with existing and potential clients, to collaborate and network with entire ‚communities‛. In addition, these tools can be used by everyone, including marketing, knowledge management, team development, recruitment, sales, R&D and corporate communications. If we are living in a connected relationship economy, companies would do well to find innovative ways of connecting with their customer.
TomorrowToday.biz is a network of thought leaders who help companies understand, harness and exploit Connection Economy challenges. Experts in utilising HyperNetworking technologies, both internally and externally, TommorrowToday.biz assists companies in obtaining bottom-line benefits from their implementation.
On 10 November 2005, TomorrowToday.biz is running a half day seminar on these issues. Details available at http://www.tomorrowtoday.biz/public_events. For further information contact mike@tomorrowtoday.biz.

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