San Francisco Local Politics Derail Free WiFi Project

I so saw this coming… of course I probably could claim a higher degree of prediction gift were it not for the fact that this is SF and everyone who knows the City by the Bay knew that this would happen. Link via VentureBeat

Davis Freeberg’s Digital Connection » Blog Archive » San Francisco Local Politics Derail Free WiFi Project:

Despite the announcement made last April free WiFi instead has turned out to be vaporware thus far with Google and Earthlink discovering that dealing with the local San Francisco political scene is about as fun as being set up on a blind date with Mike Tyson after being rubbed down in meat sauce.

Culture Clash

Dennis Howlett’s post titled Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway and David Tebbutt’s Jerry Bowles’ (sorry Jerry!) post titled Top 10 Management Fears about Enterprise 2.0 made me think of a couple of things in order to put context around them. For several months we have, as a sideshow to the larger enterprise technology industry, been talking about deploying hierarchy-breaking technologies like social media, web services mashups, and social networking inside enterprises as a mechanism to unshackle the “knowledge worker” (emphasis on “quotes”).

Along the way to this utopia of the free form enterprise we got the idea that IT organizations are bad and the hobgoblins of all that is good among the innovative and inspired lead user set. This, upon reflection, is a mistake but it is not the first time a younger generation has lashed out against “The Man” and I really doubt it will be the last.

WE’VE GOT THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE AND
THERE AIN’T NO WAY WE’LL LOSE IT
THIS IS OUR LIFE, THIS IS OUR SONG
WE’LL FIGHT THE POWERS THAT BE JUST
DON’T PICK OUR DESTINY ‘CAUSE
YOU DON’T KNOW US, YOU DON’T BELONG
- Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

My point is that all along the path we have been on since the first PCs started showing up in business we have fought a pitched battle with IT about control of this new technology, or more appropriately, a fight about one side not losing control of the existing data infrastructure. Now we have a younger generation of enterprise workers who are openly thumbing their nose at IT and saying “fine, you don’t want to support me? I’ll just buy this service on my corporate credit card and expense it!”. You gotta admit, it’s terribly liberating to think like this.

It’s a mistake to assume that this new landscape of loosely coupled, decomposed application processes as represented by enterprise 2.0 and hosted infrastructures is going to somehow make IT obsolete and inadequate. We need IT and not just for maintaining legacy systems. IT is the critical link to providing a consistent and coherent security infrastructure (yeah, still important), reliable bandwidth and quality of service, and ultimately a new generation of transaction monitoring that sits atop this loosely coupled architecture. IT keeps the trains running, they don’t build them anymore but they keep ‘em running.

The catalyst for this post was the comments from Tara Hunt following the Office 2.0 conference and her essay titled Embracing the Chaos.

No disrespect to Tara, but her attitude is roughly analogous to “free love” and just as that movement demonstrated an appalling degree of naivete about human behavior, her thesis about embracing the chaos demonstrates a genuine lack of appreciation for what actually happens inside medium and large enterprises. Some things don’t scale, “embracing the chaos” is one of those things.

I do believe that the pendulum of process automation has swung too far in the enterprise, but correcting that doesn’t mean we go to the opposite end of the extreme. Workers in the modern enterprise do require a higher degree of latitude about ad hoc process automation in response to exception handling and more effective collaboration with co-workers, but they still require a framework and the absence of one would be an abdication of responsibility of the command-and-control system of management that companies depend on. Maybe instead of “command-and-control” we need something analogous to “influence-and-direct”?

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Prediction Markets

Fellow Irregular Bruno Haid setup a prediction market titled “which traditional IT vendors will profit from the Enterprise 2.0 paradigm shift?” In talking with Bruno before he set it up we agreed that this is somewhat a compromise thesis because there are other “traditional” vendors that might be better positioned than the name brands, but this is a good question to test in a market like this and both of us really want to give a go at prediction markets so it’s up and running. I can think of a bunch of other questions to test, but would open the floor to your suggestions in an attempt to build a broad portfolio of IT and technology related markets.

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