BusinessWeek ran a story last week, "Digg's Mob Rules", about the recent challenges faced by Digg. The dilemma is about a very popular Digg article detailing how to illegally copy HD-DVDs. Having been requested by a copyright consortium of heavy hitters, Digg removed the article, only to have the tens of thousands of Digg participants re-post the article or variations of it.
Digg owns the forum but the content is borrowed. This argument could be applied to all social networking forums. If Digg imposes it's "value" system will it risk alienating it's audience? Will it risk the authenticity of mass collaboration? . Clearly the Digg rules around banning pornography, or hate messaging seems to work through the self-governance model because the large majority would agree with the rules. But what happens when the crowd disagrees?
Whatever the answer turns out to be, this topic illustrates a key differentiator between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. And really the point I want to discuss.
In Web 2.0, the social-network IS the business but in Enterprise 2.0, the business is only harnessing the social-network for it's real business.
The implications of this statement is that Governance with a capital "G" has an important place in the enterprise even if web 2.0 doesn't tolerate it. In my opinion, the goals of business are specific and doesn't include providing a completely open platform for democracy relating to all business decisions. It's about running the business.
Definitely there will be arguments that providing a free forum with no governance can provide insight to the deepest parts of the organization. Or that this is an attractor for retaining employees. No doubt these aspects can be harnessed. The line though is to what extent.
Even the whiz kids of the Web 2.0 era have clearly opposed complete democratization of decision making. Apple's Steve Jobs gave clear design instructions for the iPod to not have an ON/OFF switch even though his designers wanted it. Even Google itself was turned down by everybody at first as a viable business requiring Sergey Brin & Larry Page to go it alone. Had they based their decision on the opinions of the masses we may never have seen the likes of Google!
Top-down decision provides agility in pushing breakthrough concepts ahead even when the majority of people "just don't get it". Agility is one of the biggest competitive advantages a company can have.
So what does governance look like? Well that's another blog.