I have to say that I was pretty excited when Billy Cripe asked me to review his new book. I’ve been a big fan of his blog for a while now and I have enjoyed his writing on the topic of Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0. I haven’t always agreed with him, but the dialog has always been engaging and enlightening. I had very high expectations for the book.
I want to start by saying that I did find the book quite useful and informative. I’m not sure it could be called definitive on the topic, but it was an enjoyable read and provides a solid insight into both the why and how of implementing Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise. If you are looking to implement Enterprise 2.0 initiatives, this book will help you understand the various challenges and provide ideas on how to overcome them.
The Sum of its Parts
The book is well organized. Each author wrote, or collaborated on, individual chapters. This is where my largest complaint with this book centers. It almost feels more like a collection of articles and not a truly cohesive book. Each author brings a distinct style. So while the chapters that Billy, and for the most part Jean, wrote met my expectations, the others varied to some degree.
The largest variations fall in the middle section on Technologies. Vince and Philipp each wrote two chapters talking about the various technologies in the Web 2.0 space. All four chapters were fairly technical and in sharp contrast to the rest of the book. There is even sample code in three of the chapters. It feels as if the middle section is targeted at implementers while the rest of the book is targeted at the strategists. It threw me off me stride a bit.
The larger shift was Vince’s chapters. While only one had code, both felt like advertisements for Oracle products. Okay, I understand that Vince is an Oracle VP that focuses on Web 2.0 technology development, Enterprise 2.0, and portal products. It is his job to sell Oracle products. My problem is that it feels out of step with the rest of the authors, and there isn’t a big Oracle stamp on the book which would prepare you.
To be fair to the book, the other authors seem to go out of their way to show products from other companies, like Google, Facebook, OpenSocial, and Yahoo!. Also, Vince did introduce me to Yahoo! Pipes in his Mashups chapter. Walking Oracle advertisement or not, Vince gained credibility there. Of course, I didn’t need the course on how to use Pipes complete with screen shots, but it is a cool application.
What Did I Learn?
Quite a bit. It is a little hard to quantify as much of it has merged into my general knowledge. Billy had a nice final chapter on the Semantic Web and how we need our systems to start building links for us. Right now, I can link places and search engines can derive some meaning from those links. There are other places to which I do not link, because I don’t know about them, I’m lazy, or they don’t exist yet. If I understand correctly, in the Semantic Web, those links would be created for me.
You can see an example of this on my blog. WordPress has a feature called Possibly related posts. If you are reading this post in the full page, as opposed to my front page, you can see the automatically generated links right above the Comment area. The features has a while to go until the links are precise, but this is what the Semantic Web will try to achieve. Call it Web 3.0, Knowledge Management, or just solid search algorithms finally delivering, it doesn’t matter. The Semantic Web is a target that we have been striving towards for years. Right now, we still need people to create solid links, but when we don’t need people anymore, the world will change.
I learned a lot more about tagging, keywords, and otherwise categorizing content and information. I can’t really pull it out, but I think that Chapter 3 on the Varieties of Collaboration broadened my horizons on some of the possibilities.
The book also made me realize how fast things change and how easy it is to fall behind. This book will give you a solid foundation for Web 2.0, but be sure to hit the web when you are done to see the latest thinking and to read about actual experiences out there.
Overall, definitely a worthwhile read. If I knew more about the differing styles before I read the book, I would have enjoyed it more, but the information inside is no-less insightful.