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How Web 2.0 evangelists make the Microsoft monopoly stronger

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Comment One IT Manager, bemoaning his lot to me, recently compared the rise of Web 2.0 enthusiasts to the problem the Police has with Freemasons. The blog and wiki evangelists within are not as secretive, of course, but they're equally cult-like: speaking their own language, and using the populist rhetoric of "empowerment" for relentless self-advancement.

He couldn't care less that employees were "wasting" time on Facebook - that was a "problem" for their line managers to deal with, and not an IT issue. (Why should IT be blamed if staff played with Rubik's Cubes all day?) He had always encouraged people to try new software, so long as it remained within the firewall. The real problem, he thought, was that the Web 2.0 cult is loyal to what's perceived to be good for the greater "Hive Mind", not the organisation.

This resulted in staff with conflicting agendas.

For example companies were being urged to "share" IP that would prove valuable (even life saving) to them in the future. (There's a new book Wikinomics, that preaches this, with little discrimination). Or projects were being rushed through with little cost/benefit analysis - or consideration of the consequences - because they fulfilled the evangelists' buzzwords.

The cult-within-the-organisation is a fascinating subject - one that we'll be reading about aplenty in the management columns, and eventually on sociology courses for years to come. A more detailed examination of this cult/religion is beyond the scope of this article, but I'll highlight two very relevant characteristics.

This group of people looks cultish for several reasons. (I first observed the cult-like properties of the web utopians several years ago, reporting on what was the forerunner to the Web 2.0 conference.)

It's a consensus culture that brooks no disagreement - except from the top-down, ironically enough - and reacts to criticism as if being personally attacked.

They also speak their own language: a strangulated and weirdly dehumanized collection of buzzwords: "nodes", "community", and "conversation", for example, have had the life flogged out of them. But most of all, the blog and wiki evangelists give the impression that they have arrived, fully formed, with no recollection of history or economics prior to 2003.

For the Emergent People, everything is new again!

As we know, if we ignore history, we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. If we disregard basic economics, we're at the mercy of people who pay just a little bit more attention. This came to mind reading the latest submission from the legal departments of the ten US States to the ongoing antitrust regulation process against Microsoft.

Just as Web 2.0 has been a gift to Rupert Murdoch, it's also a PR gift for Microsoft. Now Microsoft is turning this mood music to its competitive advantage.

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