Friday, October 13, 2006

More Reactions to the Office 2.0 Conference

Originally uploaded by SteveHargadon.
First, on the new web tools and education...

Early adopters in education are using some of the most powerful tools to have come from the web in the last few years: blogs and wikis, in particular. But for all of the the incredible benefits of these tools, we have to recognize that they are fairly disruptive. That is, there is no standard curriculum to follow, and they present all kinds of difficult issues (both practical and political) with regard to access to the web. But even more than this, these tools do something more--they reward the self-learner, and seem to be most effective in less formalized teaching settings. It is hard to imagine their easy adoption on a widespread basis in an educational system largely based on testing, accountability, and control.

Culturally there have been changes which would seem to reward individuals who are self-learners and not necessarily the traditional "good student:" the dramatic reduction in the past 15 years to the commitment (both by employees and employers) to a 'covenant of employment;" the rise of the Internet and Free and Open Source Software, which reward self-learning and ad hoc collaboration; and the "long tail" economy, which allows much more specialization of work based on individual interest. Can our educational system continue to provide a basic education to students, and also help prepare them for this new world? A most interesting question.

Second, on the new web tools and small business...

While the discrete or independent business web applications that were shown at the Office 2.0 conference don't really fit into the enterprise computing environment, they are just what the doctor ordered for small businesses, giving them sophisticated tools without the infrastructure costs: project management, online web site creation, online conferencing, database publishing, workflow, and much more. These pieces don't fit together seamlessly the way a larger enterprise requires, but for the small business owner or entrepreneur, it's like being in a candy store.

So, could you pull off a conference, like Ismael Ghalimi has done so adroitly, targeted to small business? Certainly, the audience would be larger, but also maybe harder (more expensive, more complicated) to communicate effectively to? What specific part of that group would be most likely to respond and attend? Would you need to hold several in different parts of the country? Would it be worth the while of the vendors to participate?

O'Reilly is holding a Web 2.0 conference next month, but it's not really focused on the practical and immediate applications for this technology for small business. Seems like there might be an opportunity here.

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