Taking Community to the Enterprise


During the summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I had the absolute dream job for a teenager; I got paid to play video games, well, just one game actually. The game, Terra 2120, was one of the first Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) and it was my job to be logged onto the game and help new players get accustomed (addicted) to the game. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was also my first exposure to an online community. Even then, certain people/players exhibited various traits of strong community members by being a bit more dedicated to the game, and helping others out to make the entire game a bit more enjoyable for everyone. (screenshot below from the current community that keeps Terra 2120 alive even after the original company changed their focus away from the game)

Terra Screen Shot

Whenever I logged onto the game on company hours (at the beginning, I was logged on for 8 hours to work, and then another 8 continuous hours to play for fun…), I would immediately join the help frequency to let the newbs know that I was there to give a helping hand. At first, I was probably the only one on the help frequency and assisted the occasional newb who would join the frequency and then change back to the general frequency for all players once they got their question answered. But as time passed, I noticed the occasional seasoned player also logging onto the help frequency giving new people a hand as well. These seasoned players were not only not getting paid to help, but they were in most cases paying the monthly fee to help. My young, greedy, and selfish mind was baffled. I slowly lost interest in the game after my formal job ended, and soon I was hooked onto my next addiction, Starcraft.

Fast forward to present, and my recent experience of the TiddlyWiki anniversary just a couple weeks back. I’ve been doing a lot more thinking and pondering around how to better leverage and encourage communities within my firm, BT. One of the bigger opportunities that I, along with a couple members of the Osmosoft team and other BT people have been brainstorming with, is the idea of community supported intranet applications. There are numerous benefits to be realized where a service may not have the volume to justify (or more likely, the approved funding) paying for formal support people, but still need the help and assistance to guide newer members through the initial learning curve. This is where community in the enterprise can come together and play a major role, just like it already does with open source, TiddlyWiki, and even Terra 2120.

I know of only one example within BT of a community supported application. Our biggest internal wiki instance (it wouldn’t surprise me if at a 150,000 person organization, we had all the wiki flavors in one form or another…) has grown from a box under some engineer’s desk a year or two ago to one that is data center hosted and used globally throughout BT. This wiki instance even has it’s own online task manager to automatically assign new requests and resolve issues (via the hard work of Alex, Urmy, and the rest of the team). So far, this experiment has worked fairly well, with some concerns here and there about the usual growing pains. But already, BT people have proven that community supported applications work at certain scales. How many other scenarios, scales, and situations can it work as well?

Using the head start with our wiki support mechanism and Osmosoft’s role in the open source community, I will endeavor to find opportunities where we can stir some life into BT’s internal communities and if we happen to realize some cost efficiencies at the same time, then even better!

(Updated with some more links and pictures)



One Response to “Taking Community to the Enterprise”

  1. James,

    Interesting! It’d be great if you followed this up with some specific thoughts about what kind of people/roles/software are needed for a community to support an enterprise application.

    Great to see you thinking so disruptively…


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