Beating Social Media’s 90:9:1 Rule in the Enterprise

The 80/20 rule is out (so last century), 90:9:1 is in: the rule of participation in public communities, social networks, wikis:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

90:9:1 is a pretty good fit for most public wikis, starting with Wikipedia. Ben Gardner observed very different numbers: 50:25:x (he does not specify “x”). The interesting number here is 25, or it’s relationship to 50, meaning:

When the same question was asked about our corporate wiki ~50% of those present had used it but about ~50% of those had edited it.

Active participation in a corporate environment is much higher than in the public domain – this is not really a surprise, since the corporate wiki is used by people of real identities and reputations, and most importantly, shared objectives. This is also why Prof. Andrew McAfee hasn’t seen vandalism – a plague of public wikis – in the corporate world at all.

I suspect that 25% can go a lot higher, depending on the purpose of the wiki. When after the initial “grassroots movement” management fully embraces the wiki not as an optional, after-the-fact knowledge-sharing tool, but the primary facility to conduct work, it becomes the fabric of everyday business, where people create, collaborate, and in the process capture information. When the wiki is the primary work / collaboration platform, participation is no longer optional. Not when the answer to almost any question is “it’s on the wiki.” smile_wink

My earlier posts on this subject:

(hat tip: Stewart Mader)


A Confluence of the Wiki and Document/Folder Worlds



1: a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point <a happy confluence of weather and scenery>

2 a: the flowing together of two or more streams

b: the place of meeting of two streams

c: the combined stream formed by conjunction

Today we’re seeing the confluence of two worlds: the flow-oriented thinking and collaboration, represented by Confluence, the market-leading enterprise wiki, and the more traditional approach of documents, lists, folders, represented by Microsoft SharePoint. Or perhaps it’s a right-brain / left-brain thing. I’ve talked about it at length, and since Jeremiah, Web Prophet says backlinking is OK, I’ll just do that, instead of repeating myself: Flow vs. Structure: Escaping From the Document & Directory Jungle.

Now, as important forward-looking visioning is, successful business leaders recognize what the market wants today, not where they’d like to lead them tomorrow. Recognizing that Microsoft Office is deeply entrenched in the corporate workplace, Atlassian first added Webdav capabilities to Confluence (drag-and-drop files into the wiki, single click on attachment to edit them in the original MS Office format and save back to the wiki). But customers wanted more, according to Jeffrey Walker, President:

..meeting with customers and analysts, SharePoint came up in every meeting. “We have growing groups who love the wiki, and long standing users of Microsoft and now SharePoint. Help!”, customers asked..

The result of today’s joint Microsoft and Atlassian announcement of the SharePoint Connector for Confluence. The initial features include:

  • Search: Users can search SharePoint and Confluence content together from one place.
  • Content sharing: From within SharePoint, users can embed Confluence page contents allowing users to blend content. This also includes Confluences numerous plugins.
  • Linking: Within Confluence, users can access SharePoint document facilities. By including SharePoint lists and content within Confluence, users, in a single click, can edit Microsoft Office documents.
  • Single Sign-On and Security: With one login, users can access both systems while seeing only what they have permission to view.

In short, access your information, whether you’re the wiki-flow type or the create-save-hide-in-folders type smile_wink

The screenprint above shows a Confluence page (with the charting plugin) embedded within, and editable directly from SharePoint. For more, check out the feature tour.

Jevon MacDonald is pondering about the business realities behind this deal:

The question that weighs most heavily is: is there enough incentive for Microsoft to participate in this partnership in any significant way? The immediate economics aren’t obvious for Microsoft, which leaves us with two options:

– but I’m not giving those options away, you’ll have to read his post. (as an aside, he is the only one examining the business side, but his post is not on TechMeme – let’s see if we can push it theresmile_sarcastic)

Speculation aside, some numbers: SharePoint has 80 million users while Atlassian Confluence has 4,100 customers – I don’t know how many users that translates to, but I’ve just written about SAP’s SDN/BPX communities which has about a million (!) users, and Confluence is a significant part of it. That said, Jeffrey said it right, David kisses Goliath in this deal.

There is no marketing agreement behind it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft’s huge reseller channel show interest in Confluence. And frankly, just removing the “we’re a SharePoint-shop” political obstacle in some major enterprise client is worth it alone.

Sour grapes? Competitor Socialtext announced their SharePoint integration a year ago, and CEO Ross Mayfield says SharePoint wiki was last year’s news. Well, I think Socialpoint, the Socialtext/SharePoint integration was last year’s news, this year’s news is Confluence.

Perhaps next year’s news will be which enterprise wiki vendor could translate their deals into real market gains. smile_shades

Update: here’s a video interview with CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes and President Jeffrey Walker on ScobleShow.

HOT! EXCLUSIVE! Here’s the real price Mike had to pay for this deal… just compare his looks above with this video. What’s next? A suit and tie? smile_tongue

Related posts: Read/WriteWeb, Computerworld, Don Dodge, Atlassian News, WebProNews, Between the Lines, Ross Mayfield’s Weblog, Irregular Enterprise, Radiowalker, elliptical ,, Socialwrite, Trends in the Living Networks, Rebelutionary.

Update (10/19): Intriguing thoughts on wiki plug-ins, KM Web-services and Enterprise SOA on – surprise, suprise! – the SAP Community Network

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Atlassian: Is There a Message Behind the New Homepage?

Atlassian, makers of Confluence, the market-leading Enterprise Wiki has a new homepage. So what? – you may ask. Well, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this case is no exception. Two pointers (not that you need any):

  • Atlassian is a four-product company, and the old site reflected that.
  • Their original hit was Jira, later Confluence, as a downloadable product. They were somewhat late with a hosted version – but they delivered what the market wanted, and their numbers speak for themselves.

Times change. One would have to be blind not to see they are getting a new religion: (old page to the right, new one below)

Update: One would either have to be blind, or just look at the site at another time… as it turns out (see Mike’s comment below), the big banner is a rotating one… so much for going to SaaS Church together smile_embaressed Oh, well, if you want to find out more about Atlassian, you can attend their user conference in Boston on Palo Alto.


Wikis are Not Knowledge Management Tools

No, this is not an anti-wiki pitch, that would be highly unlikely coming from me. But I am continually amazed how we tend to focus on features while missing the people factor. Knowledge Management is a prime example. KM projects typically do not fail due to software issues, but for human reasons: lack of input, or GIGO. Yet here’s an excerpt from a white paper by enterprise wiki vendor MindTouch::

Wikis provide a flexible alternative to the rigidity of conventional

knowledge management software.

Why wikis work for knowledge management

Based on the features described above, wikis are a powerful replacement for conventional

knowledge management software, because they make knowledge easier to

capture, find and consume:

a. Capturing information: The information is there. Somewhere. Maybe on

a PC, maybe in a file attached to an email, maybe in someone’s head

undocumented. With a wiki, all documents are stored in one central

repository, and files are uploaded rather than attached to emails. Therefore

information is more likely to be captured, stored and made available for reuse.

b. Finding information: When a user has to search a network file server,

he or she must know exactly where to look. A wiki lets a user search

contextually. In addition, because the structure is not required to be linear—

as with KM software—cross-linking of pages helps users not only find

information, but find relevant information.

c. Consuming information: In addition to finding information more easily with

a wiki, a user finds that information in context, meaning the information

is in a location that gives the user some background and perspective relative

to the data. That enables the user to more quickly comprehend the meaning,

significance and relevance of that piece of information. “

All of the above is true – yet it misses the Big Picture. The real story is not about a better tool, but being able to work differently. When wikis are truly embraced in the enterprise, they don’t just make KM easier; they put it out of it’s misery. Yes, that’s right, the wiki is the end of Knowledge Management as we know it: the after-the-fact collection, organization and redistribution of knowledge objects.

The wiki becomes the primary platform to conduct work, the fabric of everyday business, where people create, collaborate, and in the process capture information. While not a Knowledge Management tool, the wiki resolves the KM-problem as a by-product.

Update (6/15/08): Now we have pretty good terms to describe the above, instead of my clumsy explanation. See the discussion on In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow wikis by Michael Idinopulos and Ross Mayfield.

Ross Mayfield talks about similar ideas in Manage Knowledgement (MK):

“Turns out, users resisted and the algorithms didn’t match reality. With MK, through blogs and wikis, the principle activity is sharing, driven by social incentives. Contribution is simple and unstructured, isn’t a side activity and there is permission to participate. Intelligence is provided by participants, both through the act of sharing and simply leaving behind breadcrumbs of attention.”

Update (5/1): What Happened to Knowledge Management? – by Stewart Mader


Losers of the Google / JotSpot Deal

In my longer analysis of the JotSpot sale to Google I listed a group of JotSpot customers who may feel disadvantaged by the deal: those who’d rather pay to have their data at a company whose pure business model is charging for services than enjoy free service by Google whose primary business model requires dissecting/analyzing their data left and right.

I also pointed out that several competitors are offering deals to migrate these customers to their platform free or at a discount. Socialtext and Atlassian were the first to come forward with their offers, but since the previous post I heard about Central Desktop, (update: see correction in this comment by Central Desktop’s CEO), ProjectForum and I’m sure there are others. (Clearly, the wiki market is growing and sadly, I don’t know all the players). Jerry Bowles and Tom Raftery wrote more on the subject.

We all seem to have missed a point here: there is a group of customers for whom migration is not optional but a necessity: participants in the JotSpot Wiki Server beta program. Like I’ve said before, as much as I am a SaaS believer, it is not a religion, apparently the feedback from most customers is that they want their wiki behind the firewall – JotSpot’s response was the Wiki Server edition. These customers now have a rude awakening: JotSpot notified them that they would discontinue the beta program. Current customers have the right to continue using the product for the remainder of the 90-day beta period (what’s the point? smile_omg) but there is no support, no migration plan – game over, bad luck. smile_angry Of course JotSpot had the right to do this, these were not paying customers (yet), and a beta is a beta, after all. But a beta program is a mutual effort, and especially early on requires a lot of time and effort from the customers, so it’s clear that these customers may feel let down. While most competitive migration offers are hosted solutions, it’s this specific “betrayed” group that Atlassian goes after: they offer migration help and discounted rates on Confluence, their behind-the-firewall enterprise wiki. So let down or not, these customers may eventually be better off on a more mature, robust enterprise platform.

As a sidenote, this is the second time that JotSpot drops a product benefiting a competitor: when they discontinued JotBox, Socialtext reaped the benefits by moving those customers to their Appliance. Update: Please read the comment exchange below for correction by JotSpot.

Update (11/29): two post on how the deal affected JotSpot partners and customers:
JotSpot Got the Goldmine. Its Partners and Customers Got the Shaft.
The JotSpot Google Merger

Update (11/30) the above post, The JotSpot Google Merger is now deleted, supposedly under pressure by … (?) Read the story on TechCrunch.


Atlassian Taking On the World

(Update: apologies for the dead video links, Youtube is apparently down, here’s their message: ”

We’re currently putting out some new features, sweeping out the cobwebs and zapping a few gremlins.“)

I’ve recently had a chance to meet Mike and Jonathan in Atlassian’s San Francisco offices, and frankly was blown away by their enthusiasm, the company’s growth, but most importantly by a demo of Confluence, the market-leading enterprise wiki.

Market-leading? Never heard of them, you may say …. Certainly they enjoy a lot less brand recognition than let’s say JotSpot or Socialtext, both of which enjoyed abundant PR from the moment they launched, largely thanks to Joe and Ross‘s star-power. (Hey Joe, you were my early inspiration to get started with blogging, time for YOU to post again!). Lacking the “instant brand”, Atlassian spent their money on product development instead of PR, and it has obviously paid off. Watch this video for background:

Less PR or not, they are not exactly unknown to customers, as Confluence’s corporate market share is more than the others put together. From what I understand Confluence’s sweet spot is larger organizations, where administration, sophisticated permissioning schemes (groups, pages, activities…etc.) scalability, performance are increasingly important. (Yes, permissioning kinda goes against the social, “we’re-all-contributors” nature of wikis, but it’s a fundamental corporate requirement). The largest implementations currently run up to 30k users, but Atlassian is working on a clustered release that will be scalable to hundreds of thousands of users. Pricing also reflects the focus on large corporations: while at the entry-level Confluence is typically more expensive, at the high end (large user-base) it costs less then either Socialtext or Jot.

Despite it’s impressive feature-set and favorable price Confluence is not an available choice for some customers; namely those who are determined to use SaaS solutions. Confluence is strictly on-premise, download and install-behind-the-firewall software. Being a big believer in SaaS of course I would like to see them offer a hosted version, but today’s market reality is that only 10% of all software sold is SaaS. Atlassian’s own customer experience is that a lot of larger organizations do want their wiki behind the firewall, and competitors must have been receiving similar feedback, as both Socialtext and JotSpot are adding an installable product to their offering. However, Confluence may be missing out on the bottom-up, grassroots adoption by business users that both Jot and Socialtext are enjoying – at least until it becomes available on-demand.

And while the Founders did not have the star-power of their competitors 4 years ago, they are getting closer, having just received the 2006 Ernst & Young Eastern Region Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.. Watch the video of the Awards Ceremony here:

Congrat’s, Mike and Scott!