Category Archives: Semanatic Web

Book Review – Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom

Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom

Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom

This very readable book has impeccable academic credentials:  Fraser and Dutta are on the faculty at INSEAD but they wear their scholarship lightly. They consider the effects of Web 2.0 on business and society, and their case studies include FaceBook’s patchy relationship with its users and their employers, the destruction of the music business by the internet, and the 2008 US presidential election. It’s comprehensive and accessible and has a superb bibliography, what more can you want?

Occasionally I disagreed with Fraser and Dutta’s arguments.  They use examples from medieval France and the Knights Templar to illustrate the fracturing of hierarchical power structures.  Now colour me cynical, but would they have done that if it weren’t for Dan Brown?

More seriously, they are naive about the height of the barriers of entry to online fame and pin a lot of the first section of the book on the unsupportable assumption that online fame is open to all. They talk breathlessly (well, breathlessly for academics) about Joe Nobody from Nowhere obtaining online fame. But that doesn’t mean it’s replicable: the fact that they cannot see how it happened doesn’t mean that there weren’t reasons for it happening.  I mean, haven’t they read Outliers?  Online fame doesn’t come for wishing as Sandi Thom’s publicists discovered.  Exactly the same astonishment was expressed about the working class rock heros of the 60s, but for every Lennon and McCartney there were …. well there weren’t any other Lennons and McCartneys.  Which is my point.

They are balanced in their reporting of Web 2.0 evangelists and Web 2.0 apostates. This makes a refreshing change.  In fact, they aren’t just balanced on the subject, they delve deeply into why and how corporate and governmental organisations resist Web 2.0.  This is the nub of the book, and no-one else is saying just these things in quite this way.  But even so, they are reluctant to admit that there are some serious Orwellian implications for all our futures.

So I am not sure why I’m not raving about it.  Perhaps because I like books that give me epiphanies.  This one was rich and informative but didn’t shift any of my paradigms. They close their arguments down in a rather authoritarian way, which doesn’t set the brain fizzing with ideas. It may just be that their usual ‘voice’ is  the de-personalised style of academia.  Don’t be dis-heartened by my faint praise: it is much better than I make it sound.

Definitely a must-read, though possibly in paperback, for anyone considering the role of Web 2.0 in any kind of organisation, or who has an interest in the recent history of the internet or in how technology affects individuals and society.   Worth it for the case studies and the bibliography alone – everything else is a bonus.

PS – I thought I’d reviewed Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – turns out I hadn’t. That’s easily remedied.


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Unexpectedly Delicious

Ok, I’m feeling naive now, because  I hadn’t realised what a great portal Delicious is and how easily it helps you tap into the NetGeist.  I am annoyed with myself about this, because I’ve used Delicious for over a year now.

So – what is Delicious?  It’s a site that makes it easy to manage your bookmarks and favourites so you are never more than a couple of clicks from any link that you might want to go back to.  Suddenly moving from PC to PC doesn’t matter because your bookmarks are always there, even if you are a hot desker at by day or an internet cafe user by night or just a browser tart like me.

What’s new for me is just how good Delicious is as a portal into the web. For the last 18 months or so my start page has been Google News, so no wonder my surfing’s been dreary:  I’ve read more of the Daily Mail than is good for anyone.  (How do they get to be the main link for a story so often?)  Delicious is a much cooler way to tap into the NetGeist.  My favourite Favourite is Fresh Bookmarks, but there are others.  Fresh Bookmarks shows you what’s been bookmarked recently and by how many people.  And this is part of the power of Delicious:  it’s an automatic ranking system based on self-interest rather than altruism, so it works.

You use tags to sort out your bookmarks, and the collective tagging within Delicious forms what is sometimes called a Folksonomy.  For a while I found it hard to find links which had been tagged using the tags I use for my own bookmarks, but in fact that’s easily done using the Subscriptions feature, which gives you more control than an automated feature would.

The other thing that I hadn’t realised is how easy it is to discover who’s got a specific page or site bookmarked, like this blog for instance. (And a special Shout Out to Simon, here.  Hey! Simon! I said it was cool!).  I keep track of myself on Google and Technorati of course, and I’ve found at least 4 other Ben Warsops on Facebook, but it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone thinks I’m Delicious.

I do give myself credit for realising that Delicous lets other people take a look at what you’ve bookmarked.  Feel free to take a look at my bookmarks: you’ll find them rather serious, because I mark recipes and shoes and pages about SatNavs private, but that’s because my account is in my own name.

In summary: Delicious – so much cooler than I thought.


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