It's taken a bit longer to get to this post, but maybe I was waiting to read Jim Ware's post on The Dark Side of Collaborative Technology. There is a very dark side to web 2.0 that will send a chill up your spine if you think about it too long. Jim only talks about Stephen Colbert's punk on Wikipedia in which he suggested that his audience go change the entry for elephants to show that elephants aren't headed for extinction. The fact of the matter is that there are negative forces on the web looking to take advantage of the moment of novelty when consumers are in awe of the technology. Black mobs from Moscow, rioting youth in France and al Queda all are using the web for their purposes as well.
Now that I've depressed the heck out of everyone, let's talk about the antidote and the reality that Jim was focused on in his post as were the panelists at the Future of Media conference - TRUST. First Jim's key point in his post:
...but trust that produces genuine learning and new knowledge is a fragile thing. It takes time and common experiences to build trust - and that is a major reason why we don't advocate distributed work as a panacea.
His point is a good one. There might be too much trust placed too quickly in applications and people we hardly know. In the flatting world not only is there more and more information coming at us, but there are more and more people coming into our lives on a daily basis. Andy Halliday, CEO of Ourstory.com, pointed out that we take our first step in building trust by listening to or reading other people's stories and sharing ours. As he pointed out, it's not a new invention to seek kindred spirits through storytelling. We just now have more ways to share our stories. The challenge becomes how do we sort through the cacaphony to find those whom we can come to trust.
Verna Allee, one of the world's leading authorities on knowledge management and communities of practice, pointed out in a side conversation (I happened to sit next to here) that there is a clear preference to believe content that carries a real person's name on it over content that carries an institution's name. Content which has no specific authorship (anonymous entries in a best practices database for example) are dismissed my most people without any evidence of their veracity or lack thereof. So finding ways to know we can trust someone is key. Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired Magazine, shared his belief that you can build that trust through reputation, quality of expression, and experience.
Authenticity it was agreed by the panelists is all there is in the future. The blogosphere has opened the world to authentic discourse. Uprooting entire industries in the process. Ironically, it was pointed out that Stephen Colbert and Dave Stewart are considered the most reliable news sources on TV today. Ray Kotcher, CEO of Ketchem PR, agreed saying "there is no use in running. Your story is going to come out. Your good stories and our bad stories will all be known." Knowing who you are, what you can do and telling it honestly is all there is. If you have a competitive advantage, you don't have time to look at the competition. Craig Newmark, Founder of Craig's List, got a roar of laughter when he shared, very quietly, "In reality we have competition, but in practice we ignore it."
John Hagel pointed to a concept he and John Seeley Brown develop in The Only Sustainable Edge that one of the three key sectors of the future economy will be centered around customer relationships. Ray Kotcher agreed asking the question "is media a collection of micro chunks of content or is it first and foremost about relationships." Hagel feels that the true economic unit of the future is going to be attention. The ability to get customers focused on what you can deliver to them to meet their needs is key to business success, he feels. The ability to keep yourself or your organization focused on what you want and need will be real determiner of success in the future.
While it's very true that new technologies are totally disrupting the global society, creating radical changes across the globe, and yes, creating an environment in which click fraud, disinformation campaigns, and identity theft may run rampant for a time. The ability to connect with like minds using the new technology but some very traditional, even ancient human skills of storytelling, authentic presense, and focusing our attention is incredibly exciting.