Collaboration as an online service

Knowledge management is a fuzzy IT challenge that feels like it will soon become as tired as Artificial Intelligence and Decision Support Systems, but finding new life online under a few new labels, such as co-creation, collaboration, and innovation networks. What I know about knowledge management systems and tools comes from my participation in McKinsey’s Business Knowledge Services initiative in 2000-2001, my strategy consulting with Richard Lusk in the go-to-market strategy at the online collaboration company, Foldera, and reading of Thomas Davenport’s Working Knowledge and Thomas Stewart’s The Wealth of Knowledge and other desultory scans of the business theorists.

I’m going to focus the next few weeks on the concept of external knowledge management — the practice of seeking and managing intelligence from the market versus managing what lies within the organizational wall. I wrote an article in 2004 for Forrester Magazine with Navi Radjou on his research into corporations that constructed networks within and outside those walls to increase their time to market and improve their portfolio of innovations (I hate the term innovation on principle, having seen the term abused by makers of everything from candy to pickup trucks. I define “innovation” as invention made commercial). Those networks have tended to emphasize the connections between an organization’s internal resources and contractors or partners.

The extension of knowledge management to include outside contributors and participants leads to the point of this post: what tools can facilitate the collaboration? The old models of using enterprise solutions such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange have crumbled under the rise of PHP forums, commercial (and open) wiki structures such as JotSpot and MediaWiki, and now Office 2.0 plays such as Zimbra, Foldera, and 37 Signals’ Backpack, and Google’s moves into online applications such as spreadsheets and word processors.

IBM’s announcement last week that it was moving its online innovation activities — such as its lauded “Innovation Jam” — to Second Life sparked some interest, but I remain reluctant to endorse Second Life due to the more significant account set up issues that confront new users. Some press beefed about the PITA factor when a competitor of ours held a press conference in Second Life, but I can’t completely throw the metaverse play to the dogs just yet, even after spending an hour in “Amsterdam” yesterday ogling the virtual hookers …

But I digress. Online collaboration tools seem to be focused on point to point collaboration plays such as 37Signals which extend an organization’s reach beyond the constraints of its enterprise tools – aka Lotus Notes. Opening a Notes account or granting a non-employee VPN access into a corporate knowledge management system is much more trouble than its worth, so solutions such as Basecamp are filling that niche. Foldera’s tool offers a lot of promise and when it comes out of beta next year, the proof will be in its adoption. I have not played around with Zimbra, but my buddy Dan Lyons at Forbes has been experimenting with it and gives it high marks.

For public collaboration — inviting the masses in to comment and play — there are of course blogs and their comment structures, but as I have noted in an earlier post on the mechanics of blogging and community development, they ultimately give too much amplification to the power of the blogger’s voice and little to none to the commentary.

That leaves wikis — a solid platform for collaboration as the Wikipedia attests — but not one without a significant amount of parliamentary processes to control vandalism and defacement.

And so I shall experiment, downloading the installer for MediaWiki and building out an instance here on

Michael’s Thoughts: Sampson Kids, Powered by Lenovo

Michael’s Thoughts: Sampson Kids, Powered by Lenovo

Thanks to Michael Sampson at Foldera for the nice plug:

“My boys asked for a new Windows-based computer so they could run some of their Lego software. I had purchased a Mac Mini last year, but it’s the variant that doesn’t run Windows. So I rang my reseller (Michael Burry at TLC) and asked what he would suggest. Lenovo, said he.”

[full disclosure, I sit on Foldera’s advisory board and hold shares and options]

I just lit up my Foldera account

I received my beta account from Foldera and have just up my account. Excellent job on the part of the U/I team for building a sleek initialization process, help screens, and how-tos. Now to start playing. I won’t blog on the process and start posting screen shots, but as someone who was looking at the alpha three years ago, I am very impressed by the progress of the tool. Thanks to Michael Sampson for getting me set up.
[disclaimer: I am on Foldera’s advisory board and have been since 2003. I hold shares and options in the company.]

Foldera Adds TechCrunch Editor and Web 2.0 Authority J. Michael Arrington to Board of Directors: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

Foldera Adds TechCrunch Editor and Web 2.0 Authority J. Michael Arrington to Board of Directors: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

Dang, I missed this one from the PR newswire on Friday: TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington joins Foldera’s board. Good stuff for Foldera — founder Richard Lusk is building an all-star team. This is the big week for the company — the beta goes public, Richard et al are in Boston at the CMP Collaboration conference — and me, I’m still waiting for my fricking beta invite (you’d think being on the advisory board would count for something … just kidding Richard, just kidding).

Foldera to take the wraps off the beta next week

Collaborative Technologies Conference to Showcase Collaborative Technology Industry’s Latest Product and News Announcements

“Foldera will release the beta of its long-anticipated work organization and collaboration service for individuals, teams and businesses, which automatically organizes work in the context of key activities, and enables collaboration with others.”

Next week, at a CMP Collaboration Conference, Foldera opens the beta of its online collab tool. I am looking forward to the launch and think people are going to be pretty impressed. When CEO Richard Lusk walked me through an Alpha-demo in early April, I was stunned.

[ Full disclosure: I am on Foldera’s advisory board and hold shares and options in the company]

Connecting the Dots: Web 2.0: Connecting people to dots

Connecting the Dots: Web 2.0: Connecting people to dots

I discovered Steve Borsch’s blog via Foldera’s news paper this morning. Seems smart and genuinely engaged with the online collaboration space. Into the blogroll he goes.

Foldera Shows Great Promise – Orchant

First look: Foldera shows great promise by ZDNet‘s Marc Orchant —

“I had an opportunity recently to get a first-hand look at Foldera in an online demo with founder and CEO Richard Lusk. For those of you unfamiliar with the as-yet-to-be-released online application, Foldera is an AJAX-rich information manager that combines e-mail, instant messaging, a calendar, task management, and a document repository to produce a browser-accessible collaboration space.”

Good first-look review of Foldera, the hot web-based collaboration tool I’ve been advising since 2003. As the product moves into beta and people start banging on it, I expect there will be a big uptake as people begin to challenge their preconceptions formed by a lifetime of bad personal information managers and clients such as Outlook and Notes.

/Message: The Power Of Blogs

/Message: The Power Of Blogs

Stowe Boyd blogs on Foldera’s presentation at ETech, focusing on CEO Richard Lusk’s success in working Blogistan to build 1 million indications of interest in Foldera’s collaboration tool.

[usual disclosure, I sit on Foldera’s advisory board and hold shares]

Foldera – a case study in Web 2.0 Buzz Generation

Hats off to Richard Lusk, the CEO of Foldera. (full disclosure: I am on Foldera’s advisory board and am a shareholder. The relationship dates to the 2002 when I began advising Taskport, Foldera’s original incarnation, on marketing strategy and fundraising).

Lusk has been hand carrying the concept of a web-based collaboration tool for the past four years, putting everything on the line to get his vision coded and launched to the world. Late last month the product went into Beta, and Richard, one of the more engaging, charismatic individuals I have known, went to work putting into practice the art of word-of-mouth buzz building around his product.

TM Beta
First, while there were the obligatory press releases, Richard took the beta to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, who in turn blogged about and opened up the floodgates — positive and negative — all commenting on Arrington’s initial reaction (positive), some screenshots, and the description of the product.

That lead to Shel Israel and Robert Scoble to blog about it, which further fanned the flames — leading to the news that 400,000 beta requests flooded Foldera in a week. That’s nearly half-a-million beta requests. No bus wraps, no billboards, no spam …

Now Foldera is following the GMAIL model of a controlled beta (remember when people were eBaying GMail invites?) and letting a lot of desire build up before slamming their servers with traffic. I’ve played with the product and it’s utterly the personification of viral. You get a free account, you invite other people open associated free accounts, and the thing spreads. Think Basecamp meets Office meets ….

I won’t speculate on Foldera’s chances in the market. The users will vote on that when the cover is taken off, but as far as rollouts go, this is the best example I’ve seen yet of how to take a new Web 2.0 company out the door. Hat’s off to Lusk for scoring a coup in online marketing.

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