What Are the Rules for Web 2.0?

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings…"
–from "The Walrus and the Carpenter," by Lewis Carroll

Jim Flowers, Director of VT KnowledgeWorks, asked me to think about the Web 2.0 phenomenon of wikis.  I started here, then here

To that, I’m adding thoughts of co-creation.  I’m remembering reading Now, Discover Your Strengths, recommended to me by Marisa Keegan of Mailtrust.   

My mother and father turned 75 last month, they had me when they were 25, I turn 50 at the end of this year, and my two grandmothers are approaching the one century mark.

It’s time to talk of many things.

I surely had an external locus of control when I was 25, a belief that other people had more control of my life than I did. My life’s job was to figure out who was in charge, what they wanted, and to give it to them. I didn’t question that my parents, then school officials, then employers had the authority to determine my goals and the criteria by which my achievement of them would be measured.

My parents didn’t expect high grades, but they did expect learning, so I learned. My teachers wanted me to learn while listening silently, seated in a desk, so I did. My employers wanted me to contribute to the perpetuation and growth of their systems in some way, not to mess them up. So I did that.

I tried to figure out what the rules were and to follow them.

What are the rules for Web 2.0?

Near the end of 2007, I met Marisa Keegan, Marketing Manager of Mailtrust, a division of Rackspace. Mailtrust (formerly Webmail.us) was rated in September 2007 by Inc. as one of the top 500 fastest growing private companies in America.

Marisa told me that Mailtrust asks employees to read Marcus Buckingham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths.  Buckingham’s discovery process includes taking an online StrengthsFinder assessment. It generates a list of six strengths.

Mailtrust employees post these strengths at their work stations. Everyone then knows the go-to-person for whatever project they’re working on. They find the person who has the strength they need.

Is that the fundamental rule for Web 2.0? Be who you are? Have an internal locus of control, a belief that you and your strengths control and direct your life?

I read the first part of the book. I felt excited. Which strengths were mine?! Then I felt wistful. My job was to figure out what others needed me to be, not to be who I was.

When I read the second half of the book, I actually cried. Buckingham gives instructions to managers on how to help their employees maximize their strengths.

You mean, I might work for someone who knew my strengths and tried to foster them? Who paired me with co-workers with complementary strengths so we could achieve the highest heights? Who didn’t tut-tut my weaknesses and ask me to improve, but set me up so my maximized strengths left little room for my weaknesses to matter much?


I read the rest of the book, did the exercises, took the test, generated my list of strengths.

An excerpt (edited for clarity) from a section from Buckginham’s Now, Discover Your Strengths on managing someone with one of my strengths : "This person is likely to have a strength for putting her ideas into words. To refine her thinking, ask her to present her ideas to her colleagues…"

As I near 50, I’m refining my thinking. My locus of control is less external, less outside in, less like e-mail (You want me to respond? Okay, I’ll respond). It’s more internal, from the inside out, more like a blog (Here is a buffet of my strength-generated ideas and insights. Feel free to fill your plate with what looks tasty. Feel free to leave the rest).

Jim Flowers, Director of VT KnowledgeWorks, asked me to think about wikis.  (From Buckingham:  "Always give her ample time to think…"  Deep thanks to you, Jim, for understanding my strengths.)

Could a wiki be defined as a strengths-based, co-created generation of an online compendium of information by those with an internal locus of control?

Ah, more time needed to think of these many things…


  1. So what are your top five strengths???

  2. Thanks for asking!


  3. A thinker!!

  4. Yes! And a thinker who loves to write!

  5. Anne

    When you hit about 25, the older generation amazingly starts getting smarter and wiser by the day. I tell people this when they have kids about 12. They laugh. And the next 13 years they wait to see if what I said was true. I'm not into all the wikis and blogs just yet, but maybe soon I'll get smart enough to be there with you.

    Wally Newton

  6. Wally, my Web 2.0 consultant is 17 years old!

  7. Great post; challenging.
    If a wiki is "a strengths-based, co-created generation of an online compendium of information by those with an internal locus of control" then it should meet a test. As I thought through my Trevey files (a developing dynamic planning system) http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/rhgiles/trevey/contents2.htm I thought about the Firewood file,(http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/rhgiles/trevey/firewood.htm ) one that may interest your readers because of looming fossil energy shortages addressed in my "The Survivalists" blog (http://faunalforce.typepad.com/survivalists ). The firewood text (maybe a wiki) is created from many authors, a level of expertise (a forestry degree, trail work, wood carving, and much chopping and firewood-burning experience). "Inward" and synthesizing, I have this outward compulsion to teach, share, and inform. Maybe other writers have the "outward" also.

  8. I think you're right that a wiki can meet the needs of anyone–writer or not–who feels that outward urge to share what he or she knows.

    I'm curious–what "test" do you think a wiki should meet?

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