Financial hype cycle …

Here’s one for Jackie and Mark … reading Niall Ferguson’s analysis of the financial crisis (published in Vanity Fair, which surprised me), buried on page 3, there’s this description of the classic financial “bubble” in five stages:

(1) Displacement: Some change in economic circumstances creates new and profitable opportunities. (2) Euphoria, or overtrading: A feedback process sets in whereby expectation of rising profits leads to rapid growth in asset prices. (3) Mania, or bubble: The prospect of easy capital gains attracts first-time investors and swindlers eager to mulct them of their money. (4) Distress: The insiders discern that profits cannot possibly justify the now exorbitant price of the assets and begin to take profits by selling. (5) Revulsion, or discredit: As asset prices fall, the outsiders stampede for the exits, causing the bubble to burst.

Well, the terms are different but the shape is the same!

Incidentally, if you’re like me a regular visitor to the US who has always wondered what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are, Niall Ferguson explains that too!

Oh, and how did I come across this reference? Oddly enough, through Forrester’s CEO. The link is in George Colony’s most recent posting on his Counterintuitive blog. Watch for discussion in the comments there.

• Wall Street lays another egg, Niall Ferguson, Vanity Fair, Dec 2008
• Best Explanation of the Financial Mess, George Colony, Counterintuitive, Forrester Research, 15 Dec 2008
• Mastering the Hype Cycle, Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino. Gartner blogs (and see my recent post)

Have you seen … Harbor Research

I’m writing an InformationSpan coverage report on emerging technology. It’s rapidly narrowed down to reviewing insight sources which are of use to technology strategists, who need to review emerging trends and novel technologies, and assess them for potential impact, and figure out what to pilot.

Among the major service providers, of course Gartner’s long established Emerging Trends and Technologies group led by Jackie Fenn holds the lead; I recently covered Jackie’s and Mark Raskino’s book Mastering the Hype Cycle. But the point of this post is to give readers a sneak preview of the report (it’s still far from finished) by highlighting a discovery.

Harbor Research reckon to focus on the “pervasive internet” or what Forrester call the X (for “Extended”) Internet – sometimes expressed as “Everything connected, everything communicating”. In writing my couple of short paragraphs, I signed up for their free access and downloaded a recent white paper called Designing the Future of Information. It’s my kind of paper. It’s strongly focussed. It covers a couple of novel technology developments, the academic groups which originated them (at MIT in this case), and their status as they come to market. It sets them in the wider context, it links to open standards, and it assesses (in this case, enthusiastically) their potential impact. It makes connections between them. And it suggests an impact from the synergy, which might not be seen looking at the technologies individually.

I’ve only one quibble, which is that the report doesn’t carry a date (except the year, in the copyright claim). This is a shame, since one of the things you need to know about a report like this is its topicality in months, not years. Otherwise, for a technology specialist, this is a rich resource. Have a look at Harbor!

Harbor Research is online at

Enterprise 2.0: candy and aspirin

Basex Editorial, one of the many newsletters I subscribe to, recently reviewed an initiative from Open Text which you might like to set alongside the Gartner White Paper I reviewed recently.

I know Open Text from way back. My first commercial IT responsibility was to develop and run text databases using the Basis database software, as it was called in those days. Open Text has, then, a long heritage of dealing with unstructured data and with the issues surrounding corporate information. This perhaps gives them a head start over some commentators.

Sure, their white paper becomes marketing at the end. But it moves the debate about the place of social tools in the enterprise to a more positive level than is often the case. Unlike my reading of the short version of Gartner’s report, here is an organisation that recognises that the primary questions are cultural. How do we interact, as we do business with each other and with our partners?

I particularly liked these elements.

First – they don’t just talk about “Enterprise 2.0” although that’s the headline title. Using case studies, they talk about “The Social Workplace” and “The Social Marketplace”, differentiating internal and external collaborative interactions while at the same time emphasising the commonality of the underlying concept.

Second – they emphasise the role of a “social fabric inside the workplace” in coping with a range of disruptions such as mergers; the retirement of the “baby boomers” and their replacement by younger people with very different workplace expectations but no corporate memory; and globalisation. Conventional information retention structures and records management may well not capture what’s needed for continuity and coherence.

And third – they emphasise the need to understand and to positively manage the risks. That’s not the same as avoiding risk at all costs. Information governance is central. As they say (and as I’ve said in the past) these aren’t new issues; they surfaced with email, newsgroups and the Web. But they are strengthened again. There’s another step up in the trend towards content creation and management taking place across the whole enterprise; it’s no longer limited to specific managers. And they put it graphically (literally – there’s a picture!) saying that “Enterprises need both candy and aspirin”.

It’s a practitioner’s white paper, rather than an analyst’s. Worth a read.

• Roadmap to Enterprise 2.0 OpenText ( need to register to download the White Paper)
• Basex specialise in information and advice for the Knowledge Economy

GetArticlesFree … what *do* they do?

WordPress flagged up to me that my recent posting on ReCaptcha has been picked up by the site at So I went and had a look.

Sure, it’s recognisably my content. But it looks as if it’s been auto-translated into some obscure foreign language, and then auto-translated back into garbled English.

Action: if you pick anything up on GetArticlesFree, don’t set your expectations or judge the posting by what appears on their site. Track back to the original!

GetArticlesFree is at

A note on Gartner’s Social Computing special report

Gartner a couple of months ago (September) published a “special report” on Social Computing, analysing its impact under 20 different headings of both business functions (corporate governance, CRM, the CIO …) and market verticals (Higher Education, financial services, media …). You won’t be able to see the full report unless you’re a Gartner client (and I’m not, of course). But there are some pointers out there to give you an idea of its coverage.

Not in the Gartner blogs sadly, unless someone from Gartner is listening and can give me a pointer (and remember, I do have a topic index to Gartner’s blogs – see the InformationSpan website). It does appear, but only as a marketing sentence. Disappointing, really. And, par for the course, a lot of the links that Google uncovers are other sources who just reproduce the words in the Gartner press release.

There is, though, a two page Gartner document which summarises the coverage; and you can see the headings on the Gartner website also. The summary begins with a definition: Social computing is about enabling, encouraging and capturing the often unstructured interactions between individuals. The power of human communication and collaboration is something I learned about when teaching an Open University course in the early 1990s, which introduced computer-mediated communication (as we called it then) to the world of distance learning. And, as Gartner note, the academic roots of this analysis go back to at least the 1940s.

Gartner’s take on Social Computing, going back to when I was an enterprise client user, was initially very sceptical but, once convinced, their insight is worth considering. I don’t think Gartner will ever become a social media evangelist in the enterprise, but if you are an enterprise leader or IT architect you need the realist as well as the enthusiast. There are indeed challenges to business leadership, as Gartner point out: information risk is undoubtedly one, and the challenge to hierarchic leadership is another. There is also the perennial question: does an enterprise attempt to reproduce the social environment within its boundaries, or accept and use the tools that are already out there? Try searching for your own company’s name on if you doubt that your people are already using them!

As I’ve commented before, none of these questions are new. We faced them in the 90s through email and newsgroups. I’m not sure myself how many command-and-control enterprises are still out there; certainly the one I worked for networked to get things done. And on the evidence available, I think Gartner misses the point in talking about “social computing projects”.

It’s more fundamental than that. “Social computing” is an enabling technology, no more. It provides easier, faster, more accessible, wider ways of doing that characteristic human activity: communicating. Holistically, across the whole of one’s activity, not in project silos. The creative interactions have always been the ones that cross boundaries.

So: does an organisation continue to embrace the developing open-ness of interpersonal communication and team interactions? And not just within the enterprise, but across the increasingly fluid boundaries between the enterprise and its partners? Do you understand partnership, or still expect (maybe without fully realising it) to dominate the interactions? The answers to those questions drive technology choices: proprietary and enclosed, or open and externally linked.

Nikos Drakos, one of the Gartner report’s authors, has blogged about the separation or overlap of people’s personal networks: work-life, or one life? That’s another important aspect to the debate. As computer-mediated interpersonal networking becomes mainstream (which it has, whether the enterprise likes it or not!) it’s almost too late to be asking the questions.

• The Business Impact of Social Computing 2008 summary, Gartner, 16 Sep 2008
• You can see the index of sections here, and each link provides a one-sentence summary of Gartner’s take in that area
• Personal and work networks: Separate them, mash them, or mesh them? Nikos Drakos, Gartner blog, 26 Sep
• For our Analyst Blogs Index, go to and click the link in the top right hand corner

Analyst Perspectives features InformationSpan

Jim Zimmermann, who founded Techra and now runs the Analyst Perspectives blog, has featured us on Analyst Perspectives this week. Have a look here, and link to Jim for another source of news on this industry.

I’m in the process of rebuilding the InformationSpan website. It won’t surprise friends to know that the new version looks fine on my own system, but absolute pants when I review it on the standard Windows platform! More about this when it launches (soon) but one of the new features will be a page of links to other sources about the insight services marketplace – including Analyst Perspectives and other blogs. Watch this space.

In the meantime – thanks Jim!