Collaborative Internet Tools

I mentioned in my last post that bloggers tend to act as editors/sub-editors for one another. Well Jeff Jarvis says much the same thing in a recent post of his: "The internet doesn't need editors. The internet is the editor." (My italics -- edited in!)

The internet has long been seen as a breeding ground for collaborative tools. While many "community" features have now become common (bulletin boards; comments on blogs; etc.), the list of collaborative tools that have failed is far greater.

The fact that they’ve all disappeared is precisely why I can't think of any right now.

Oh hold on, here's one I remember: “Virtual sticky notes” have been touted many times over the last few years. The idea is that you could leave sticky notes on sites you visit, for other surfers to read.

( is one of the latest companies to offer a toolbar with a sticky-note feature.)

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here's why I doubt it will succeed:

1. For the tool to have value, it needs a certain critical mass of users. After all, who’s going to install the software and leave a note that no-one else will be able to read?

2. If the tool does manage to traverse this tipping point, sites would soon become clogged up with sticky notes, to the extent that users would rarely bother turning the feature on – catch 22!

Other collaborative tools have likely failed for similar reasons. Successful collaborative phenomena, however, tend to be self-organising (e.g. bulletin board communities that spring up around a hot topic); they grow from the bottom up. The internet may be ripe for collaborative tools, but no-one can impose collaboration.



john Howey / September 10, 2003 7:49 PM / #

A lot of people have been talking about klogs as a collaborative tool involving weblogs as knowledge management systems. Do a Google search on klogs and there are lots of links. The idea is that the company would benefit from sharing knowledge.

The problem is that they never take off because no individual will benefit. Everyone thinks, why should I bother doing this? What is in it for me? So they are not developed from the ground up as you say, and they never pass the tipping point.

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