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Author's profile photo Holger Stumm

Of little kids and improbability: Living Web 2.0 Experience

As usual, as a good consultant, you spend your life on the road and a good part of your life in hotel rooms.  In preparation for the SDN community day in Bonn, I have a good amount of literature in my backpack and do the reading in the train and in the Bern, Switzerland Hotel I am sitting right now.

Can you measure the Web 2.0 or is there more behind the information? 

The question that I have for my presentation in the track in Bonn is about the  key goal:  Can you measure the value of using Web 2.0, can you put a price tag on Web 2.0 projects, on Blogs, Wikis and Twitters, to come to a more solid discussions for projects inside enterprises? Or is there more behind the information?

Inspired by the title “We’ve Got Something to Share: TLE Book” and the recent discussion on my It needs to be said from time to time: GIVE and TAKE, where Mark nicely responded (and giving me some more insights), it made me thinking in different directions.  I really have to admit, that research about Web 2.0 and its implementation at SAP customer sites was looking like “moving targets” or rather “non-moving targets”,  but now I see it as enterprises that are constantly shifting and changing.

I came across an article of Tim O’Reilly about last years “5 Years Web 2.0 Summit” (where SAP was by no coincidence a diamond sponsor) and he has a great comparison.

“Imagine the Web (..) as a newborn baby. She sees, but at first, she can’t focus. She can feel, but she has no idea of size until she puts something in her mouth. She hears the word of her smiling parent, but she can’t understand them. She is awash in sensations, few of which she understands.”

This reminds me truly to the world of Web in its first wave of hype and as well at the beginning of Web 2.0. Now, five years after the first draw of Web 2.0, we feel, that a lot of technologies like Wikis, Blogs and Facebook was tried and evaulated. While some things became our personal (or our companies) asset, we have abandoned some other tracks, out of interest or out of benefit.

Tim O’Reilly continues to develop the comparison with the little newborn baby that grows up.

“Gradually, the world begins to make sense.

The baby coordinates the input from multiple senses, filters signal from noise, learns new skills, and once-difficult task become automatic”.

I like this idea. The mind (or the corporate anticipation) goes from first tinkering and “just checking” to a more diverse approach of understanding the different sensations that information interaction offers to the ever changing Internet world.

I tried to focus on two topics in preparation (or you can say, to focus on two things I understand) and this is Blogs as a communication backbone, as the 101 of information management in large, dynamic communities and on Video as the new enrichment of communication, learning and interacting.

But I found also, that thinking about the essence of Information, the meaning and definition behind this anticipation of a changing, vivid and living world full of information and non-information, is also crucial.

I re-discovered the original definition of information by Shannon “A mathematical Theory of Communication” published in 1948.

Information is improbability 

The basic theory says that the actual information value, the content value of a symbol (text, word, letter, objects ) is its improbability, the improbability that this information event will occur.

This is a very, very, short resume of what is in the book and there is much more behind the true, theoretical structure, behind large amounts of information clouds (Markov Chains), but that is the true short form.

In other word, the news, that a politician is lying, has no information value – everybody knows it already. The other way around would be information : An honest politician found in parliament  – how high is  improbability we are looking for? OK, I am exaggerating here (and excuse to all politician in the audience), but you got the point.

Or an example from the SAP-World:

Your average SD-Sales order in your company has an average profit margin of, let’s say, 20%. In terms of Shannon, an average sales order has no information value. But what about one with 90% margin? What is that of a probability? Or one with -10% (Oh my .. the sales rep has give it away..) Time for the controller to get some real information on this objects..

Pulling the strings together

Discovering and predicting true information of high improbability in a universe full of noise and predictable non-events is the holy grail of information technology. And finding the right tools to identify Information and the underlying meta-Information by using communities, crowds and social interaction is the new challenge. Like the little baby, that develops more and more social (and cultural skills) to manage her environment, her relations and her information, we need to foster the corporate abilities to develop the skills and projects to manage information on a higher scale than in the past.  

I think we see a change from the passive, “mechanical” age of information towards an active information management that consists of individuals, clouds, virtual information, real life and social environments.

And to extend Tim O’Reillys paraphrase:

Gradually, the IT-World begins to make sense

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      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt
      Thanks Holger for surfacing fascinating content (although I admit that Shannon’s article was way beyond my ken from a mathematical perspective). Still the reading lead to learning about a number of concepts that were unknown to me previously such as ergodicity "ergodicity becomes manifest when you think about how we all infer various things, how we draw some conclusion about something while having information about something else".  from What is Ergodicity. So thanks and I'm looking forward to reading about your presentation in Bonn (wish I could hear it live but will rely on Web 2.0 Experience 🙂 )
      In answer to your question about what makes sense, it might come as no surprise to you that what makes most sense to me personally in Tim O'Reilly's piece is the following:
      "If we are going to solve the world’s most pressing problems, we must put the power of the Web to work – its technologies, its business models, and perhaps most importantly, its philosophies of openness, collective intelligence, and transparency. And to do that, we must take the Web to another level. We can’t afford incremental evolution anymore."  I hope that from an SAP perspective that translates into adoption of open standards and sustainability products that support all of those "powers" and that as an enabler and exemplar we help our customers enable those powers as well.
      Author's profile photo Holger Stumm
      Holger Stumm
      Blog Post Author
      Thanks Marilyn for your input.
      All three (Ergodicity, Tim's cite and your remark) made it into my slides for Bonn 😉