27 July 2011

What's the Father of the Wiki Doing at Nike?

The idea of the wiki is now so pervasive that we rather take it for granted - "oh, let's just use a wiki" is a typical cry these days. But it's important to remember that for all its simplicity, it took someone to come up with the idea (just as it did for the "simple" idea of a hyperlinked Web.)

That person was Ward Cunningham, who has led a colourful professional life, as his Wikipedia entry (oh look, a wiki...) makes clear:

He is a founder of Cunningham & Cunningham, Inc. He has also served as Director of R&D at Wyatt Software and as Principal Engineer in the Tektronix Computer Research Laboratory. He is founder of the Hillside Group and has served as program chair of the Pattern Languages of Programming conference which it sponsors. Cunningham was part of the Smalltalk community. From December 2003 until October 2005, he worked for Microsoft Corporation in the "patterns & practices" group. From October 2005 to May 2007, he held the position of Director of Committer Community Development at the Eclipse Foundation.

In May 2007, Cunningham joined AboutUs as its chief technology officer.[2][3][4] On March 24, 2011 The Oregonian reported that Cunningham had quietly departed AboutUs to join Venice-based CitizenGlobal, a startup working on crowd-sourced video content, as their Chief Technology Officer. He remains "an adviser" with AboutUs.

Well, he is moving again, to fill this rather interesting, if horribly-named, post at Nike:

At Nike we know tomorrow's world will be radically different from today's. To thrive in a world where resources are constrained, where people and governments and systems are fully connected, where sustainability is an imperative, not a choice, where transparency is requisite, we believe we need innovation. Disruptive, radical, jaw-dropping innovation. Innovation we cannot imagine. That kind of innovation is not going to come only from within. It will require the best of what we've got, along with unlikely partnerships, collaborations and open innovation.

We believe that data and technology will be key to unleashing new innovations.

Nike is looking for a person with the skills, passion and know-how to use data and technology to solve problems standing between business-as-usual and a sustainable future. We're looking for a creative visionary who also has both feet firmly on the ground — one in Nike and one in the open data world, ready to run. We're looking for a Code for a Better World Fellow.

The fellow will help Nike determine the steps needed to open our sustainability data to communities of data-obsessed programmers, visual designers and researchers.

The fellow will work with Nike's data managers to landscape current data and craft a desired future state; manage the formatting and release of data to the open data community; curate use of the data within the community; bring knowledge from the open data community back to Nike as actionable steps; attend conferences related to open data to grow Nike's network and profile in this space; and ultimately create/steward the creation of prototypes that demonstrate how opening Nike's sustainability data can be a force to drive change.

What's particularly interesting here is the emphasis on open data. So far, we have seen mainly governments opening up their data stores, but there are many benefits for companies, to do so too, as this article points out (it was also the source of the news that Cunningham was moving.) It also points out that Nike has been in the forefront of innovative business practices in this area for a while:

Nike have a surprisingly long history of releasing data. Back in 2000, they started publishing a list of all their contracted factories (scraped list by Selena Deckelmann) and related audit information. The aim? To improve their factory working conditions, both by improved scrutiny of Nike’s own measurement systems, and by enabling direct on the ground inspection and campaigning by activists.

Employing the Father of the Wiki is another smart move, and I can't wait to see what he does there.

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