Underwhelmed at ‘Enterprise 2.0’ response

Like Oscar Berg, I’ve been decidedly underwhelmed at Andrew McAfee’s response to our critiques of his definition of ‘Enterprise 2.0’. To me he hasn’t addressed any of the critique at all.

For what it’s worth, I posted a comment to his blog, to restate our position and ask him to at last actually tackle those critiques. I was going to post a copy here, but overwrote it by mistake… 🙁 In the event that McAfee passes it for publication, you can read it there; otherwise a quick summary would be as follows.

The main point that McAfee still refuses to address is that his definition focusses almost exclusively on the software side of the issues, and all but ignoring the social. As McAfee admits, the technology is only an enabler – but he presents it as being the core, which is entirely the wrong way round.

Next, McAfee seems to believe that as the person who coined the term ‘Enterprise 2.0’, this makes both the definition and he himself immune from critique:

I was the first to write extensively on Enterprise 2.0 (the only prior close term I could find was “Enterprise2.0? in a single February 2006 blog post by Stuart Eccles) and the first to define it. I can’t hijack something that I started; the verb in that context is, to use Graves’s phrase, worse than meaningless. It can be hijacked from me, but not by me. I gather that Graves didn’t take the time to familiarize himself with the history of the term.

As it happens, I did indeed “familiarize [my]self with the history of the term” and the terms on which it is based, namely ‘enterprise’ and ‘Web 2.0’. Given the definitions of those latter terms (e.g. FEAF / IEEE-1471, and Tim O’Reilly, respectively), ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is indeed a term-hijack: it places arbitrary and inappropriate constraints upon the context described by each of its parent terms. In that sense, McAfee has indeed hijacked something that he started, by the process of definition itself. Yet he doesn’t seem to be able to understand that point at all – or its implications.

To be blunt, his insistent refusals to face the consequences of that hijack are seriously scary. I wish I could do more about it, but it’s clear he’s not listening, and seems to have no intention of listening, either. So as he himself put it, if in somewhat more dismissive form, probably best not to engage any further.

Underwhelmed indeed: oh well, we tried…

[Addendum: 30 Aug 2009]

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say…

When I posted my reply to Andrew McAfee’s site, I ticked the box asking for email notifications of updates. Just after posting this above, I received an automated-email from the site to say that – perhaps somewhat to my surprise – the reply-post had been accepted there. A short while later I had another auto-email, saying that a comment from Jeannot Muller had also been cleared by Andrew, as the moderator: so I wandered over to take a look. Muller’s comment was indeed there; but mine wasn’t.

So unless something very strange has happened in his website’s workflow – which is unlikely, since it’s a bog-standard WordPress weblog – this suggests that McAfee first approved my comment, and then immediately deleted it so no-one else could see it. Seems likely he’s done the same to others too, as Oscar Berg noted in his comment-post, and later on Twitter:

I get uneasy reading “another term I coined” + only comments with positive critique gets published // applying Web 2.0 in an enterprise context requires an understanding of social media principles, such as openness & dialog // understanding of principles such as openness and dialog need to be reflected in our own behavior

Oscar then suggested that blocking of posts and similar ‘anti-collaboration’ tactics kind of suggests that someone may not be living up to those principles… We might note, though, that one tweet-comment that McAfee did allow through ran as follows:

RT @amcafee New blog post responding to critiques of my E2.0 definition http://bit.ly/1PAySH {don’t mess with a Harvard prof, you will lose}

…and it’s easy to appear to ‘win’, of course, if you actively stifle contradictory critique.

I can understand deleting a comment that contributes nothing: I do so myself, such as to one the other day which in essence said nothing more than “you need psychiatric treatment” and the like. Yet both Oscar and I had genuine concerns that were and are highly material to the ‘Enterprise 2.0’ debate – but seems that McAfee doesn’t want that debate to happen at all. Which is curious behaviour for a professional academic, surely?

Not impressed… underwhelmed indeed…

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