Dr. Jakob Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, publishes his Alertbox bi-weekly on web usability.
"Community features are particularly useful on intranets, and many of the Intranet Design Annual winners offer them. The reasons communities work better on intranets also explains why they're often less useful on the open Internet:
- A company's employees are an actual community with a crucial shared interest: succeeding in business.
- Employees are pre-vetted: they've been hired and thus presumably have a minimum quality level. In contrast, on the Web, most people are bozos and not worth listening to. [Nielsen's quote not mine.]
- Although some intranet communities — such as those around internal classified ads — are aimed at lightening up the workplace, most intranet communities are tightly focused on company projects. Discussions stay on topic rather than wandering all over the map.
- Intranet users are accountable for their postings and care about their reputation among colleagues and bosses. As a result, postings aim to be productive instead of destructive or flaming.
- Small groups of people who know each other are less susceptible to social loafing, so more users contribute to intranet community features. In contrast, Internet communities suffer from participation inequality, where most users never contribute and the most active 1% of people dominate the discussions."
I think he is overly harsh on the value of user-generated content on the web. Most user-generated content I run into is very high quality.
Of course I wholeheartedly agree with his take on the benefit of the Web2.0 applications inside an enterprise and inside a law firm. Web 2.0 inside the firm, Enterprise 2.0, will change the way knowledge is captured inside the firm. They are providing a new and better way to communicate.