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Friday, January 29, 2010

Special Report by the Economist on Social Networking

I picked this up last night on the early edition of the Economist which came out late evening, I want to sit down and read it this weekend and will post some comments but I thought that other people would like to look at it.

Hat tip also to Doug Cornelius who has posted his initial comments which pipped me to the post - note to self must do without sleep....

Out of this there are links to other articles that make up the report that are on a side bar.

Do read - the Economist is usually very good at puncturing technological bluster. Big technology slant this week as they also profile the new must have from Apple which I think will have a major effect in the work place as well as in our lives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Intranet Themes for 2010

Useful post from Toby Ward on the intranet themes that he sees for 2010.
I'm pointing this out so that it links in to my post on Enterprise 2.0 last week.

Ignorance is bliss how human beings are addicted to information

Human beings at risk because we have always craved information. It's all evolutions fault according to a New Scientist Article (paper copy) that I picked up on today, in that evolution has hard wired our brain to rally want it as much as we want a chocolate bar (at my side as we speak)

Other people have talked about the dangers of information overload and whether it could bring dangers to man we haven't thought about. The article seems to think that we are automatons who have no sense of control. As my wife tells people, I'm an information junkie out of a sense of wanting to know. However even I know that there are limits so I decided last year that if my blogs unread count got over a certain figure, I wouldn't worry about it I'd just mark them all as read. I've found by experience that certain key articles come round again as new people find them.

What was interesting though is comments that the article makes when we suspect that people say in a corporate setting that people are withholding information from us and that this can lead to a breakdown in trust. - effectively an information hazard.for a variety of reasons - it might lead to where that lack of information dissemination means that we can't fully connect the dots. The article shows what happened in the UK over the MMR vaccine if there is a suspicion and a lack of trust that the authorities are withholding information. One scientists report was enough to generate a frenzy where a false idea was able to gain credence in peoples minds and caused havoc as people refused to have their kids vaccinated or if they were able to have the vaccine delivered in separate doses. It even got to the stage whete the PM at the time was asked repeatedly if his new son had had the MMR vaccine (he refused to answer - probably confirming peoples suspicions).

A final thought, the percentage of people with internet access in 1995 was 0 and the end of 2007 it had got to 24%. Global data traffic in petabytes (1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes) per month in 2008 was 10000 by 2010 it will be c 21000 and by 20103 it is likely to be 55000.

This isgood news for server makers but also for KM practictioners a question?

  •  How do we help people to attend the KM equivalent of weight watchers and not overdose on information but get them focused and targeted informations? 
  • Are the new technologies going to support or overwhelm people in a corporate setting - or 
  • Do we accept that people won't be able to self regulate their information consumption effectively.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Google Wave An Experimental Ride

In view of my post yesterday, I thought that I would copy in this review of Google Wave from Tech web who abstracted it from Information Week - well worth a read in full.

To paraphrase Edwin Starr: Wave -- what is it good for?

The answer: A little of everything.

Almost nothing else Google has created has generated as much interest, and as much confusion, as Wave. Just describing it to others forces you to pick your words carefully -- it's not e-mail, or instant messaging, or a Web chat system, or a message board, or a collaborative-document system, but a hybrid of many features from all of those things.

"Experimental" is the most encompassing word for Wave, in the positive and negative senses of the word. Mitch Wagner believes Wave is one of Google's "concept car" creations -- a showcase for a slew of technologies that will eventually be repackaged in other forms. The most crucial being Wave's native protocol, which in theory can be implemented by anyone who wants to write a client or server for it.

In this article I'm going to walk through Wave as it embodies the aspects of a number of other things we should all be familiar with: e-mail, wikis, blogs, instant messaging, online collaboration apps, and many more. In some cases it substitutes quite ably for the item in question; sometimes, it's short of the mark (and not just because the other guy you want to involve in what you're doing doesn't yet have a Wave account).


If Wave has been described as any one thing, it's as an e-mail killer -- a way to take the inbox/message/threaded-discussion metaphor and push it into an entirely new realm. In many ways, at first glance, Wave does resemble an e-mail client of sorts: there's an inbox, there are folders, and the messages resemble e-mail messages organized into discussion threads.

These design analogies are probably quite deliberate. Most people have trouble working with something that presents absolutely no parallels to what they know and worth with -- and if there's one environment that even most non-technical people are familiar with, it's an e-mail client (be it Outlook or Google's own Gmail). Others have superficially compared Wave to "Microsoft Outlook / Lotus Notes on steroids," since Outlook (especially in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange) sports a great deal more than just mail: contact management, calendaring, note-taking, etc.

Because Wave is an invitation-only protocol -- at least in its current incarnation -- that makes it a good deal more secure than e-mail. Conversations are only possible among trusted peers. What's not present is a sense that Wave can be transitional -- e.g., you can't take your existing e-mail and slurp it up into Wave. Maybe this isn't so bad, since it further underscores the difference between the two, and since Wave itself is not at this time intended to eclipse other, more broadly accepted things.

Perhaps Google's stance with such things is that they will provide just enough API-level functionality to allow other people to mortar over those gaps. Example: a third-party bot allows people to be automatically notified by e-mail when changes are made to a given conversation. A good idea, but it's something that belongs in Wave by default -- especially this early on in Wave's evolution.

Discussion Boards 

Another commonplace metaphor Wave emulates is that of a threaded discussion board or USENET group. Unlike the former, though, all Wave discussions are inherently moderated to some degree: people can only participate in a discussion on your explicit invitation. Unlike the latter, though, simply having a Web browser isn't enough: the other person also needs to have a Wave account.

One thing Wave adds to the discussion-board metaphor that isn't available -- and which adds to many other aspects of using Wave, too -- is the "playback" command. With this, you can see how messages were added, changed, or deleted as if you were pressing the play / fast-forward / rewind buttons on a VCR or DVR. It's an interesting way to see how a given thread has evolved over time, and what directions the conversation may have taken.

Unfortunately, some other things common to message boards are just plain missing. You can't prune and graft message threads, for instance; the only thing remotely close to this is the ability to copy a given message into a whole new wave.

So, again, a lot of what Wave offers is a little too specific to its current incarnation to serve as a substitute for other services. But from what we've seen, the goal isn't so much to substitute for those things as to present analogs to them as ways to allow people to acclimate themselves to the Wave way of doing things.

Wikis / Note-Taking 

Another example of this kind of analogous functionality: the way a wave can be used, sort of, as a wiki. Not in the sense that Wave supports wiki-style formatting, but in the more general sense: as a freeform repository for information that can be updated quickly by all participants.

The biggest downside of using Wave as a wiki is the lack of versioning as we have come to know it in Wiki-land. I mentioned how the "replay" function works with conversations, and it has the same function -- and the same limitations -- when dealing with a conversation that's being used as a generic information store. There's no diff function, as one might find in even the most rudimentary wiki tools. The only way around this right now is to rope in tools from the outside (e.g., a Web site where you can cut and paste to perform a UNIX-like diff on the texts in question), but that defeats the point of using Wave in the first place, where all the tools should be right in front of you.

One thing Wave's formatting does bring to wiki-style information management is an inherent sense of organization to conversations about a given piece of material. Anyone who's attempted to participate in the "Talk" page for a Wikipedia article quickly understands how difficult it can be to follow or keep track of discussions, as the format for such things is an ad-hoc creation that is not really enforced by the wiki software itself. Wave discussions fall into their native format automatically, so both document and discussion are consistent.

Wave also allows multimedia (at least, a subset of common multimedia types) to be inserted directly into conversations. This allows for that much greater a breadth of material to be included, not just plain text or HTML. Note that some document types may be interpreted strangely within the context of a wave: a "classic" Word 97-2003 document, for instance, shows up with the proper icon, but a .DOCX or .ODF document shows up as a .ZIP archive. Experiment before you embed.

Instant Messaging 

Many people had plenty of experience with instant messaging even before things like Google Talk ever appeared, but between that and things like Facebook's chat function the concept of an in-browser instant messenger has become familiar territory. Wave isn't a substitute for other instant messaging apps -- e.g., AIM -- but more like a parallel venue for real-time discussion.

Like instant messaging, wave discussions are logged as they happen, and the other person's typing can register on your own screen in real time. Unlike instant messaging, though, you're not obliged to respond only to the last thing someone posted -- or, rather, you can comment contextually on previous posts without the conversation derailing itself. If you and your friends in the discussion have a habit of jumping around or engaging in several parallel discussions at once, using Wave to hold that kind of talk imposes order that would be next to impossible to find through a typical chat client.

...But What Is It, Really? 

When Wave first premiered, it was widely rumored that it would replace or eclipse any number of other, existing systems and services. E-mail, mainly: Wave has a high degree of built-in security, while e-mail is natively about as secure as sending a postcard written in pencil.

The more people were able to work with it, however, the clearer it became that Wave wasn't intended as a replacement for many things -- and now it's clear that it might not even be intended as an adjunct to them, either. Instead, it's entirely possible that Wave is being used as one of two things.

The first is the "concept car" analogy I mentioned earlier: it's a demonstration of a whole group of different Web 2.0 (and possibly Web 3.0) technologies that could be broken out on their own and put to use in any number of contexts.

The second is a little trickier: Wave is an extended experiment in application interaction -- a way to take many common user interface metaphors (e-mail, discussion groups, IMs, etc.) and re-implement them in new ways. Most of us are so familiar with the concept of e-mail that any thinking about the way it's put together tends to stop right there: there's an inbox, a spam trap, a list of unread messages, etc. Wave's ingenuity is in taking the outward metaphors of many things we take for granted and combining functionality among things that, on first glance, might not seem to play well with each other.

A programmer friend of mine described Wave as "a research project in human-computer interaction." It makes sense: by creating something a great many people will want to try out in an enthusiastic if also provisional way, Google can figure out which parts of the protocol -- both on the backend and in the implementation -- are worth developing, and which parts are best left as add-ons by third parties or discarded entirely. And Google's long made a name for itself as a company that creates things that are experimental by their very nature, with their years-long beta cycles.

Because Wave is so amorphous, many things are missing, and many of those omissions are almost certainly by design. One is a way to migrate to Wave -- for instance, a tool that would let you take your existing e-mail store and convert it into a set of Wave conversations. No such thing exists right now. Not just because no one's written it, but because Wave itself is a moving target, and so migrating to it would be pointless. The protocol could be nothing like what it is now by the time people other than Google start using it. (In theory one could build Wave servers that run in parallel to one's existing e-mail system, create gateways between the two, and then incrementally migrate the functionality of the latter into the former -- but again, why do that when you don't know what you're really migrating to in the first place?)

Another and far bigger issue: Right now, the only version of Wave is Google's Wave. If Wave is meant to be an open protocol that can be implemented by any number of people, either on the client or server side, it'll have to exist in multiple independent implementations before it can be considered any kind of protocol or platform to use in a production sense.

The last word on Wave for now would seem to be that it's aptly named. It's a moving target, and whatever its final incarnation -- if there is one -- it's likely to only resemble what we have now in the most distant way.

For Further Reading 

Is Wave A 'Concept Car' For Google?

Enterprise 2.0: Google Wave, A Solution Seeking A Problem?

Google Buys AppJet To Power Wave

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The psychology of Google Wave and a sceptic won over

Innovation: The psychology of Google Wave - tech - 09 October 2009 - New Scientist

I was reading this article and then tweeted an article by Chris Brogan on how he had started to like Google Wave and was using it to help him on managing a project that he is working on with a colleague.

I also think that it would be useful to do a brain storm style exercise when the team are distributed throughout the organisation or for example when bad weather sets in (as I type this it has started to snow again)
 I think that this is probably what I'd want to use it for - however the major problem and I hope that Google sort it out is to allow people to use say their work e-mail addresses to use rather than if you aren't already signed up to a Google account.

It will be interesting to see if this forms part of the Google Apps Premier edition where as I see it you pay $50 a year or £33 in the UK. A colleague was telling me that her husbands company (Jaguar Land Rover and is advertised as a user on Googles site) has already signed up - a few teething difficulties but generally ok. Google Wave might be a useful add on as part of the collaborative element of the site especially for small businesses.

However what about the 600 pound gorilla companies with all their legacy systems - will they for example start to put pressure on Microsoft to develop something similar for Sharepoint 20XX. Or will frustrated people use skunk fund monies to sign up a few users because their IT department can't deliver. £33 isn't a lot.

I looked back through some of my old reader feeds and came upon the article in the New Scientist - not a publication given to hyperbole as I wondered how this might change the way we communicate if it was in wave format as I find that e-mail tends to be more formal an electronic version of memos that I used to send to my boss. My wife tends to say that some of my messages tend to be stream of consciousness which lends itself more to a Wave style conversation.

Two of the features of Wave that are likely to alter how people communicate are related to time: it allows users to see others typing live, even if they later delete that text; and a "replay" function plays back the complex tangle of interactions that produced a wave.
Past research has shown that the real-time, synchronous, nature of instant messaging (IM) encourages an informal tone, says Susan Herring, who researches the convergence of computer communication platforms at Indiana University in Bloomington. "It invokes face-to-face communication and encourages people to use conversational strategies," she explains.
Seeing live typing may accentuate that effect, but Wave can also be asynchronous, like email. "We won't see the difference between the two types of communication disappear," says Herring. "More elaborate messages are still possible, but when the other person is online you will be drawn to a more informal style." The pace and style of communicating with Wave will be more varied than with email.

The replay button I think can be useful as it gives you a way of seeing what the other correspondee was thinking about a little earlier and gives more of a sense of the conversation.

The problem that this article doesn't address is the culture of the organisation and whether it encourages more free wheeling conversation and whether in working in a project group you would address say the project leader in a more relaxed format.  I consider that people will tend to use the more relaxed style amongst their peers. I've found by experience and across cultures that people express more individual opinions and brainstorm more openly when a senior member of the team isn't present. I'd also find this useful if I was in a small informal community of practice and wanted a quick tool to work on a dialogue on an issue if I didn't have any internal forums that could be quickly set up.

If you have a number of you in the organisation and you have access to Google Wave why not try it on a small and relatively unimportant project either to project management or to brainstorm an issue and see how you find it.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Creativity and thoughts on a post

Seth's Blog: Why ask why?

A very brief but good post by Seth Godin, is the question of creativity and that the secret to it is curiosity. I'm just reading a book called the Red Rubber Ball at Work. It interviews people who are successful and the first view, I was struck by how much they played and created imaginary worlds in their mind.

I wonder how many of us still have that playful spirit or as the article goes stick to the status quo. The danger is that we can then end up in the land of commoditised knowledge and as Godin says we then stagnate individually and so does the company because it doesn't get the best out of its people who can say heres how we can improve this process or by seeing a potential pattern we can combine A to C and have a new product.

One of my new years resolutions is to try to read articles from outside of KM to see what I can mash up and gain new inspiration to bring back to my field. Maybe a bit of plorking might be called for one day...... to keep creating what if questions in my mind.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Season for Giving

A Season for Giving

A thoughtful post - I particularly liked this quote in full from the ever readable Mary Abraham - it reminded me of a nice comment from a colleague recently who stated that as the KM in my area of the business I was one of the few people who were able to help find the knowledge or the person he needed to help complete the project.

If we all gave one trinket of knowledge and you have a large organisation, then that is an awful lot of tacit knowledge. and then if you ally it to the network effect when because of one person you are inspired to add some knowledge then you can achieve a lot more in your day to day work.
The King Cake is a wonderful metaphor for pragmatic knowledge management. Just yesterday I thanked a colleague for his contribution to one of our knowledge management systems and in response he told me that his team had been able to complete their project in record time because another colleague had made an earlier helpful contribution to the same knowledge management system. In other words, the first contribution was the trinket in the King Cake. The lawyer who found it then stepped up to make a contribution of his own. When things work this way, knowledge sharing increases exponentially and knowledge managers have to spend less time helping skeptical lawyers understand “what’s in it for me.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 themes for 2010

As is usual at this time of the year, we receive peoples predictions for 2010. In the world of Enterprise 2.0 this is no different. I picked up on this post whilst browsing from a guy called Hutch Carpenter who runs a company called spigit which aims to help communities to help with innovation. This is an interesting area for me as I've been trying to get people to see how communities of practice can add value and be less of a theoretical talking shop by asking them to deliver a value product to help the company move forward.

I was looking though at his comments about Sharepoint 2010 which is going to be released this year.

Features that are going to be included are slated to be

  • Social profiles
  • An actual wiki
  • Blogs
  • Activity streams
  • Status updates
  • Presence status
  • Social bookmarking
  • Tags
  • Ratings
Now I have had some problems looking at Sharepoint 2007 but have seen some recent examples at companies that have made me look at it a little less sceptically.

I think that for large companies that are using Microsoft already and are looking to take the plunge into Sharepoint and deal with the rising demand for social software in their organisations, then this could be the safe approach during 2010.

I also think that some vendors will be able to provide bolt ons for Sharepoint 2010 similar to the wiki enhancement that Atlassian provides to Sharepoint 2007.

I consider that the new E 2.0 software needs to support workers so that they don't have to switch applications and lose that sense of flow.

Intranets need to change and be less corporate document dumping grounds and an area that supports people in their day to day work and that they find as easy to post material as adding a book mark to delicious.

I'd like to see an intranet a bit like netvibes or iGoogle where you have pods that you select rather than what the organisation thinks that you need. so you have in one area what you need to do your job - but also with some element of prediction so that possible new pods that you might like to subscribe to are covered.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A failure of intelligence and knowledge management

It is interesting to note that since the recent attempted bombing of the plane in the USA on how failures of intelligence organisations to share knowledge nearly led to tragedy. Since 9/11 the us intelligence agencies have tried to improve this through technology. There has been the well cited case of the use of wikis such as intellipedia as a means of capturing information. I suppose one of the problems is that you can have too much information and you return to the drinking from the fire hose - or as this article puts it sorting the wheat from the chaff.

I think that the article is useful but I think that it needed to look at the people and leadership issues within the intelligence agencies as well as the culture.

Interestingly one of my KM favourites Morten Hansen has a piece in HBR (Click here) he highlights the hoarding barrier where the organisation and its incentives penalised sharing and also the poor ability to search for relevant information. He proposes three areas for improvement and I agree with the one regarding incentives - probably through areas such as the appraisal system and other non monetary inducements - however job rotation may not work in some organisations because of specialisation and recruitment of new people both in public and private sector seems a bit of a no no in the current economic climate.

I've undertaken KM work in the past in that we can provide people with the tools that we think that they need but the problem is that the culture of the organisation needs to be a safe one where people can use the tools and that it is expected that they will use them and that there are no disincentives for people to use them.

We probably also need to look at what is going on in the working environment that the intelligence agencies are working in and the culture - if you are working in a organisation that deals in secrets maybe knowledge sharing amongst other secret organisations is a little more difficult.

I am convinced that a new wave of technology will support improved knowledge management however at best at present it is a marginal revolution with people carrying out work in this area in many cases under the radar - because the organisations that they work for haven't yet caught up or it isn't seen as an organisational imperative in a very competitive and threatening business environment.

It is very easy to snipe from the sidelines when there is a systemic failure - but what current articles fail to look at is the pressure that the intelligence agencies are under and sometimes people don't have the time to share that knowledge even if they wanted to.

Later.... Rosabeth Moss Kanter puts her two pennorth into the discussion - here which talks about the lessons leaders can learn from this - however, there are also lessons that knowledge managers can learn from this.