The Wikiworld
Future’s Ramblings – Issue 29 – April 9, 2007

The Wiki world in 3 parts

Part one – World of Warcraft

My son Harry spends an incredible amount of time playing World of Warcraft. This game, created by Blizzard entertainment, is a MMORPG or massive multiplayer online role playing game that takes place in the world of Azeroth. In this game each player controls a character within a persistent game world; they explore the landscape, fight monsters and perform quests on behalf of computer controlled characters (sounds like a day in the office to me). What intrigues me about the game is that it requires players work together to solve problems, or in this case defeat monsters. The players do not know one another personally; never the less, they are in constant communication with one another via e mail developing strategies, discussing what has worked or not worked in the past and sometimes just chewing the fat.

There are 8.5 million people in the world that play this game, a little under half the size of Australia! Harry is now in level 70, which is the highest. A testament to his nerdity. Of course if you own shares in Blizzard you would be delighted that 8.5 million players happily fork over 30 dollars a month to play the game. However, as a mother of a child who plays, I have concerns. Mostly I wonder why can’t he do useful things in his spare time like sit on the couch with a beer and watch TV like his parents. Also I fear he is neglecting his formal education, even worse, he might get gaming addiction. Don’t laugh there is such a thing. As a matter of fact in an extreme case a couple in China was arrested for neglecting their baby because they spent so much time playing the game.

On a more positive spin, improving ones communication and collaborative abilities is a great thing to do given the role these skills will play in the future. Another bit of good news is the mainstream has now recognised that there are plenty of gamers out there who can work collaboratively to solve tough problems. A bunch of nerds playing a game to one mob is an untapped labour pool to another.

This is why researchers at Stanford University have struck a deal with PlayStation 3 which will enable PS3 owners to convert their consoles to help find a cure for cancer. The PS3 is powerful machine, its user interface and 3.26 Hz power PC processor allows the machine to download a segment of a problem from another source. Therefore, by connecting to Stanford’s systems through your PS3, any gamer can download their information and help out with specific program if they choose.

One such program at Stanford is Folding @ Home which is a study of how proteins fold. When a protein folds incorrectly it creates problems none us want to have, like Parkinson, Alzheimer’s and Mad Cow disease, not to mention cancer. This is similar to another system, SETI @ home, that crunches data from radio observatories looking for extraterrestrial life, despite the added manpower no aliens have been located. Never the less, the point is that by adding additional machines and brains your chances of solving a problem increase.

Part two – Living in the Wiki world

The reality is that Harry and all of the other kids that play this game live in the wiki world, and though you might not know it, you probably do too. If you don’t maybe you should because it is the wave of the future.

Wikis, blogs, chatrooms, open source, social networking, crowd sourcing, smart mobs, crowd wisdom what ever you call it the ‘blogsphere’ and new ways of collaboration are enabling millions of people to actively participate in innovation, wealth creation and social development by collaborating with others. People are using a growing suite of collaboration technologies to brainstorm new products and services, manage projects and share ideas and data. According to Brad Anderson CEO of Best Buy, North America’s largest consumer electronics seller, it is all about “unleashing the power of human capital”

Already this new economic model extends beyond software and music to every part of the global community. The new art and science of collaboration, ‘ wikinomics’ will force us to think differently about how we compete, how we maintain profit, and how we harness mass collaboration to create real value

We work in the ‘wiki workplace’ by collaborating with piers across organizational and geographic boundaries. We consume products that we helped to create online. If we at Geyer are smart, we will begin to brainstorm how we should design for the wacky wikiworld’s workplace. Amanda Wood put this challenge to the Melbourne office in a past presentation by asking how are we going to design for the ‘flat world’ because the status quo isn’t going to cut it.

In the flat wikiworld workers will develop their own self organized networks that will cut across company divisions, they will have the ability to communicate and interact as a global, real time workforce. This will be exacerbated by the entrance to the workforce of the Net Generation, a group with familiarity and comfort with working with web-based tools. All of this combined will drive a massive shift in how we design, produce goods and services, store service and sell product.
As a result, the way companies and countries compete will change; smaller companies will have the ability to go neck and neck with giants by creating partnerships to increase their size and skill base.

Not everyone embraces the wiki world, some are concerned with intellectual property and the risks of airing dirty laundry to the world, but the reality is that in the wikiworld you will not be able to hide. Every individual will have the ability to post data or a picture of you on the internet doing something you should not be; like watering your garden during restrictions or leaving your dog’s poo on the grass. This will be an especially enlightening time for politicians, organizations and companies. They will no longer be able to afford to not walk the talk.

Part three – Wiki Companies
Companies like HP, Chevron, Boeing and Telstra agree this is the way of the future and have joined the wikiworld through company blogs. While many are controlled vehicles used to blow the company’s horn, others are open means of communication engaging employees, customers, shareholders and the general public. The Telestra blog http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au bears all, complements and complaints of the company. The site launched in December and already it attracts 7000 hits a week. Editor Rod Bruem says “The company philosophy now, since Sol Trujillo came, is to be open and honest. What is worse? Somebody coming to us with a problem or going to Ray Hadley or the Today show?”

He has a point. No company, politician or person is immune to having their personal lives on view in the wikiworld. One of my favourite examples, DontDateHimGirl.com, is a site offering dating advice to young women by profiling men that are unfaithful, have sexually transmitted diseases, don’t pay child support, or are just plain cads. I have not checked the site yet to see if there are any Geyer guys there. Last week Judge Stanton Wettick ruled that he had no jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by Todd Hollis who was profiled on the site. Lawyer Robert Byer summed it up well “I think he must have the idea that just because you can access the internet anywhere in the world you can sue someone anywhere in the world” clearly not true – there is no wikijustice.

Nope no justice for Mr. Holis or Tony Blair – pranksters added an entry to his profile on Wikipedia stating his middle name is “Whoopdedo” they also said that Kylie Minogue “is the more beautiful and more talented older sister” of Michael Jackson and that Sharon Stone and Demi Moore headed the Soviet secret service. Interesting but untrue and that is the challenge with open source collaboration it could be really good or really bad. This is why proposed guidelines are being created for blogging netiquette.

It gets a bit overwhelming, what does it means to free speech and personal rights, copyrights and most important to us, what does this mean to upholstery fabric?

Sources

“All Profit in the Wiki Workplace”
By Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams
The Australian Financial Review
March 29, 2007

“Kill Baddies and Fight Cancer”
By John Davidson
The Australian Financial Review
March 20, 2007

“How Gamers Can Help Cure Cancer”
By Jim Martz
Wired Magazine 6.14.05

“Baring It All on the Company Blog”
By Fiona Smith
The Australian Financial Review
August 15, 2007

“Don’t Date Him’ Site Beats Law Suit”
By Joe Mandak
The New Zealand Herald
April 12, 2007

“Wikipedia gets Minister’s Vote Despite errors”
The New Zealand Herald
April 12, 2007

“War of Words Prompts Call for Blogging Netiquette Code”
By Brad Stome
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 10, 2007

“As Gadgets Get it Together, Media Makers Fall Behind”
By Saul Hansell
The New York Times
January 25, 2006

Wikinomics
By Don Tapscott

The World is Flat
By Thomas L Friedman
Penguin Books

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