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That’s what I meant to say…

Brevity is not my gift. My readers have figured this out by now. As Charlie Nesson noted on his blog the other day, linking to my transcription of Jonathan Zittrain’s talk, I’m “a prolix motherfucker”.

Which is it’s always nice when someone summarizes a two-hour long talk of mine in a three sentences. Which is what Wayne Hall of the Idea Festival blog does with the talk I delivered to Open Society Institute last Thursday:

If I may paraphrase: He makes the case that knowledge management has moved down the hall and into your office.

You are the IT Department.

No, no, that’s a good thing.

So that’s what I was trying to say. I knew I had a thesis in there somewhere. Thanks, Wayne.

Part of what was so interesting about the talk was the way in which the audience reacted, turning to the IT department at OSI and asking, “So, are you actually going to let us use this stuff?” Like many large organizations, OSI has a number of usage policies that make it tough for people to download Firefox, install del.icio.us bookmarks and fire up their own personal bookmarking site.

I hadn’t quite realized how provocative my suggestions would be. (One of my best friends reviewed my talk ahead of time and warned the IT department of the potential troubles to come…) To their great credit, the IT folks assured the staff they would be, indeed, encouraged to play with the tech I was pitching (del.icio.us, bloglines and wikipedia, mostly), and would begin researching ways to implement some of the trickier tech (standalone aggregators like reblog, password protected wikis.)

It’s been a while since I’ve worked in anything resembling a corporate IT department. I can’t decide whether the rise of Web2.0/readwrite web tools makes an IT manager’s job easier, or utterly miserable. On the one hand, everyone who sees Google Earth wants it NOW, whether or not their machine is capable of running it. On the other hand, I remember trying to get my users at Tripod not to download every buggy plugin released in 1996 – at least the vast majority of the cool new toys out there just require a modern web browser, plus flash and java.

I guess you forget about these things after being your own IT department for a decade or so…