The Wikipedia Enterprise 2.0 Debate – Again

If you’re in business, have some interest in collaboration, software, workplace dynamics, it’s hard to imagine you haven’t heard the term Enterprise 2.0. Especially so after the recent Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston.

Quite a difference from last year, when the term was intensely debated and the very existence of the relevant Wikipedia entry questioned. I learned a lot about the workings of Wikipedia, and chronicled the debate, but in the end concluded that it was irrelevant:

“Enterprise 2.0 as a term my be relatively knew, but it’s not some theoretical concept a bored professor is trying to sell to the world. It’s disruptive change, a confluence of technological, social and business changes in how corporations conduct business using new IT tools. No Wikipedia gatekeepers can prevent this seismic shift. Let’s move on, do our work, and in less than 6 months Enterprise 2.0 will find its way back to Wikipedia.”

And it did. The Wikipedia entry on Enterprise 2.0 was allowed to stay. Of course as Enterprise 2.0 became “fashionable”, new players claimed ownership, the entry barely resembled the original, and at some point Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee, whose April 2006 article in the MIT Sloan Management Review started it all was relegated to just a footnote. (He probably cared more about practical adoption in business then about turf-wars.). But none of these changes are comparable to what just happened.

Ironically, not long after the publication of a HBS Case Study on Wikipedia (largely based on the debate-experience), a Wikipedia administrator heavily edited the Enterprise 2.0 entry – in fact he almost completely wiped it out and rewrote it. Here are Professor McAfee’s notes on the change, and the key part of the edited article:

“Enterprise 2.0 is a term used at least since 2001 to describe a second-generation approach to online knowledge within a business…

The term Enterprise 2.0 was coined in 2001 by Participate Systems, Inc. CEO Alan Warms[5] and grew through its use in business and in industry conferences…

So supposedly Enterprise 2.0, which just in 2006 was not noteworthy or original enough to be mentioned in Wikipedia, has been used for half a decade. In that case, there sure is a lot of evidence – why didn’t Andy McAfee’s search on the joint terms “Alan Warms” and “Enterprise 2.0.” bring any meaningful results? Nowadays, “if it’s not on Google, it does not exist“…

Alan Warms’s company, Participate Systems no longer exists, having been acquired in 2004, but thanks to the Wayback Machine we can find some information on their products from several years between 2001 and 2004:

Participate Enterprise is a software solution that takes the collective expertise of your organization and puts it to work on every sales call.

Our software solution, Participate Enterprise 2.0, is built on an open architecture technology that provides our clients with unmatched community functionality that features the industry’s most robust question-and-answer natural language querying engine.

Participate Systems combines best-of-breed Self-Help, Expertise and Community management systems in one comprehensive collaboration platform, Participate Enterprise 3.

Hm… it sure looks like they had a software product named Participate Enterprise, which had subsequent releases, including 2 .. and 3, by the time they got acquired. Yes, they used the term, but not to describe a concept, which would belong in Wikipedia, rather as part of a product name. (I suspect if we look long enough, we might dig up a Microsoft/other vendor product that has an Enterprise version and has/had a release 2.0).

That said, I don’t know all the facts, and I may be wrong in my conclusion. However, what’s really disturbing here ins the process of how this Wikipedia admin got so dramatically changed by one single administrator. All the discussion, the references, the very concept of Enterprise 2.0 is gone – instead we have a history of facts somewhat related (?) to the term. 2006, the year of Enterprise 2.0 is gone – but perhaps that’s not so surprising, given that the Wikipedia admin who wiped it all out, only discovered Wikipedia in 2006, after the Enterprise 2.0 debate:

“I first encountered Wikipedia on the web when I was doing some research. Wikipedia seemed to come up first on my Google searches, so I decided to check it out. I first posted on October 12, 2006. By December 2006, I realized that Consensus and Assume Good Faith were behind Wikipedia’s success.”

Hm… single-handedly wiping out what dozens of experts edited does not exactly indicate respect for Consensus to me. I guess it does not matter, when you’re an administrator. Time to update the Harvard Case Study on Wikipedia.

Update (8/4): There’s a lively discussion going on in the Enterprise Irregulars group right now (and it’s 6am on Saturday!). We’re wondering how to properly fix the bungled Wikipedia entry. Jreferee’s handywork would normally amount to Vandalism, and vandalism is best dealt with by restoring the previous “correct” version, then editing from there. But when vandalism is committed by an Administrator, is it still vandalism?

Update #2 (8/4): Finally! A Wikipedia Admin with common sense smile_regular . From the Enterprise 2.0 entry’s History record:

00:46, 5 August 2007 Ruud Koot (Talk | contribs) (11,391 bytes) (some of these product have a version 3.0 (and likely a version 1.0) as well. they have nothing to do with enterprise 2.0.)

00:56, 5 August 2007 Ruud Koot (Talk | contribs) (40 bytes) (this article is fatally flawed, restoring redirect to Enterprise social software) (undo)

The interesting but completely irrelevant blurb about software products that include the term “Enterprise” and a release number is gone, the Enterprise 2.0 entry is now redirected to Enterprise social software. I tend to think it would deserve its own entry, but let’s be real, it’s difficult to restore a vandalized entry, and this one is a lot closer to the subject matter than the previous version.

Update (8/23)“It’s over. The Deletionists won.” – says Nick Carr in the “Rise of the wikicrats“.  A story worth reading… I’m not about to spoil it.  Here’s just the conclusion:

Maybe the time has come for Wikipedia to amend its famous slogan. Maybe it should call itself “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit on the condition that said person meets the requirements laid out in Wikipedia Code 234.56, subsections A34-A58, A65, B7 (codicil 5674), and follows the procedures specified in Wikipedia Statutes 31 – 1007 as well as Secret Wikipedia Scroll SC72 (Wikipedia Decoder Ring required).”

Related posts: Between the Lines, Venture Chronicles, Scott Gavin, ReputationXchange, broadstuff, Deal Architect, Open Gardens, Collaboration Loop.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. […] more instructive than the debate over the definition of Enterprise 2.0 on Wikipedia, which Zoli Erdos covers in his blog, as does Andrew McAfee, who perhaps first coined the term and was clearly the first person to write […]

  2. […] Zoli writes about the ongoing case of revisionism over at Wikipedia on the "enterprise 2.0" topic. […]

  3. […] movement to lighter weight software is broader than the typical definitions of Enterprise 2.0 software. It’s about customers wanting easy to use, practical, easy to […]

  4. […] true value of collaboration tools is often times hard to measure and it is why there has been such debate around Enterprise 2.0 as a concept. One of my clients (note, this is NOT a plug) is actually working in the collaboration […]

%d bloggers like this: