Should an ebusiness venture start with a great idea
Islands in a sea of randomness
The biggest handicap of the telephone as a communication media is the lack of a visual element. Voice tones and speech mannerisms add extra dimensions to a discussion, but, a wealth of visual communication aids are not available. Facial expressions, eye contact, posture, physical appearance and clothes, each provide important clues that add or subtract weight to what a person says. These are not evident during a telephone conversation.
The Internet appears to be an even less reliable medium for establishing credibility than the telephone. Not only are communicators invisible to each other, they cannot even hear each to be able to gain from auditory clues. This is readily apparent when communication is by way of Internet chat groups (where people communicate with each other in real time). Such chat groups are based around a common server that emails all messages, as they are received, to everyone who is currently logged on to a server.
Such real time chat groups are often frequented by teenagers who can say lots of rude and insulting things to each other using fictitious names. In these chat forums, people can pretend to be whomever they like and it isn't uncommon for men to assume the identities of women and women to assume the identities of men. Chat is also used on adult sites to provide viewers with a sense of being there without any real identities being exposed. More sophisticated versions of real time chat environments allow participators to adopt visual images (known as avatars) and let these images interact with each other - sometimes even in three dimensional environments.
Although these real time chat environments can be quite fun and often form the basis of serious role playing adventure and fantasy games they have very little application in e-business. What serious application there is, is limited mainly to providing novelty forms of customer service so that customers feel they are communicating with a real person rather than a robotic machine.
On the face of it, this inability for people to be able to establish credibility using email communications would seem to be a fatal flaw for e-business email communication purposes. In any form of business, reliability, truth and credibility are essential requisites. However, for serious business purposes, real time email chat isn't the only option, emails can also be sent to a group of people without them needing to be on-line. This works by means of the server having a list of subscribers: a copy of any email coming in from any of the subscribers is sent to everyone on the list.
In this way, a form of group interaction can be arranged that has no parallel outside of the environment of the Internet. People can take their time over what they say to others in a group. There is no obligation to make immediate responses. Time can be taken over reading emails before answering them; allowing more thought to go into the understanding and interpretation. One subscriber can start up a topic and others join in the discussion. A subscriber can ask a question and that question will go out to all subscribers for them to respond if they know the answer.
Such email discussion forums, known as list serves, can become stable centres of interaction with subscribers forming personal and group bonds just as they might in any group in the world of bricks and mortar. They can be of any size from a handful of people to several thousands and become stable feature of the Internet environment. Over periods of months and even years, regular subscribers to these list serves can become respected personalities and earn the respect and trust of other subscribers just as people might within long standing stable groups in the real world.
Upon realising the existence of these email discussion forums- and there are tens of thousands of them covering a multitude of different subjects, topics and themes - the big picture of the Internet takes on a new form. It is not a vast mass of randomly interacting individuals. There are patterns there, patterns not too dissimilar to the patterns of weather that might be observed looking down on earth from a space ship. Theses patterns are patterns of people, assembling into groups for specific communication purposes. They may wax and wane like areas of high and low pressure in weather systems, but, they are always present. They are islands of stability in what would on first impressions seem to be a featureless unorganised environment.
It is these email discussion forums, the islands of stability, through which the immense power and potential of the Internet can be realised. Anyone can go to these islands to make friends, find business partners, get information help and knowledge. These can provide the workshops in which to create and refine ideas. Within these enigmatic communities, gaps in the fabric of the self-organising process of the Internet can be recognised and identified.
We started off this chapter by becoming aware of the uselessness of a single great idea or a predetermined business plan. It seemed impossible that any rational approach could be used to embark on any kind of e-business venture. But, these islands of stability offer a solution; by frequenting these email discussion forums, paying attention to what is going on, joining in the discussion and asking questions, it will be like the surfer going to the right kind of beach, arranging to be at the right place to wait for suitably large waves to appear.
E-business solutions are not planned off-line, but, manifest on-line as a dynamic consequence of human interaction and communication. It is through being in these list serves, paying attention to what is going on and being able to spot opportunities to increase efficiency that replace the concept of the great business idea in the world of e-commerce.