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Sun CEO talks Web 2.0

So last Tuesday, I got to go to the AeA Technology 4 Government Dinner in DC. The event is held at the Grand Hyatt, located near the Washington Convention Center. (If you have ever been to the Grand Hyatt ballroom, it is located way underground. For us Californian natives who are always somewhat wary of earthquakes, it's kinda freaky, frankly.)

The keynote speaker was Jonathan Schwartz, the president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, which is going through something of a resurgence these days. And no, he didn't talk about Sun's issues with the Justice Department, by the way. Most of his talk was about why open is better then closed. Of course, he was talking about software, but he applied to much more -- journalism, for example. And he was talking about what we have branded as Web 2.0 and Wikinomics.

But he said that both journalism/publishing and software are industries that are undergoing incredible change. Traditional newspapers are produced by the employees of the publication, except for the letters to the editor page, which is generally limited to a single page and is generally edited and filtered. Editors are in control. Meanwhile, on the other end, there are sites like Craigs List or YouTube where the contend comes from the global community and a very small portion comes from the employees of those companies.

Media companies are generally trying to embrace these changes, but, he noted in his blog post on this subject:

traditional media could certainly take another tack. They could sue the new/technology media companies, claim they're stealing readers by violating patents held by traditional media. Imagine, "We patented text in columns! Classified ads in boxes! Captions on pictures! Headlines in large type!" But they'd be suing the community - the moral equivalent of suing subscribers - stepping over the line of editor, into the role of censor. And censoring free media is a particularly awkward plea for those that believe in freedom of the press. Few have sued. Most, but not all, have evolved, through competition, acquisition, reorganization or rebirth. Those that failed to adapt have deservedly perished.

And these collaborative sites are powerful -- and growing. He noted that during the recent Virginia Tech tragedy, students did not turn to CNN to find out what is going on. They went to FaceBook or MySpace.

I think there is a corollary to government here, only it may be more stark because the users are citizens.

Another aside: Schwartz is an avid blogger. He has been for some time. In fact, he blogged even before he was CEO. It is generally worth reading, and it is fascinating to see a corporate executive talk -- sometimes very frankly and very honestly -- about hiswork and thoughts.

Schwartz said that managers within Sun will sometimes poke him about some blog post because, he said, he is saying something different then they are saying to Sun employees. He said that he tells them, "Oh well."

His blog is an effort to communicate across boundaries -- to shareholders, to users, to employees... and yes, to competitors.


Can we imagine a blogging CIO... or CFO... or chief human capital officer... or secretary or administrator, for that matter. What a concept.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jun 11, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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