Wednesday 31 August 2005

What do you think of blogging?

Cast your vote on David Gurteen's poll - do you regularly read weblogs or do you hate them and don't know what all the fuss is about?

When I looked today more than 50% people either don't read them or don't like them. So, come on fellow bloggers and blog surfers - be quick as this is your chance to demonstrate the democratic power of the blogosphere :-)


Friday 26 August 2005

Mozilla Thunderbird

Its taken me a while, but an IMAP bug of some kind in Mozilla Navigator finally forced me to migrate over to Mozilla Thunderbird. Wish I'd done it sooner, because it has a nice integrated RSS News Reader.

So if you're not tied to Outlook, have a look a Thunderbird which is available as open source.

BTW I use it in combination with the Mercury Mail Transport System (developed by David Harris to complement his Pegasus Mail client, but it works equally well with Thunderbird). For small business, it works out as a very cost effective e-mail server solution if you're not ready to step up to something like Microsoft Small Business Server.


Wednesday 24 August 2005


Great article in today's SMH that confirms what we all know already - that the 88% of Aussies aged 16-28 own a mobilephone can't imagine life without them.

However, the rest of the article is nice discussion of the impact of mobile communication on society and how this mobile or "instant" generation communicate:

"But that rapid and comprehensive uptake has had an impact on our working and personal lives. For employees, the technology provides the flexibility to work away from conventional workplaces. Punctuality is no longer a problem, as meeting times can be shifted with a brief call or text message. Dinners or dates also can be arranged - and postponed - on the run and at short notice."

One interesting comment also comes from Dr John Beaton, of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, who says the mobile industry has yet to tackle the issue of ageing populations as users will increasingly demand handsets that are easy to use and have large buttons. Its good point - I've heard similiar complaints from an IT manager in an age care facility looking at VoIP handsets.


Tuesday 23 August 2005

Why ChiefTech?

Ever wondered why my consulting business is called Chief Technology Solutions? MIS magazine discuss the difference perspectives on the CTO vs CIO role. They put forward four types of CTO:

  • The Pilot;
  • The Shaman;
  • The Professor; and
  • The Commando.
Personally I like the idea of the CTO being the person who is "seeking out new technologies, evaluating their impact on the business process, and selectively recommending those that can dramatically affect the business."

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Friday 19 August 2005

Lazy Marketing Is Not Compliant

Does "spam" (and I mean the electronic variety) bother you? From a business perspective we often focus on the issue of receiving spam. However the sending of spam is also an issue when your business operates in jurisdictions such as Australia where we have anti-spam laws in place.

This year I've noticed that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is really trying to take the enforcement of the Anti-Spam Act 2003 seriously and a number of companies have been fined, most recently a racing tips company for sending SMS. Its a timely reminder that all businesses in Australia, no matter how large or small their marketing activities, must comply with the Spam Act. Apparently since the Spam Act came into force in April 2004, the ACMA has dealt with 200 businesses who were not compliant. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg of course.

On the otherhand, while its important to comply (and really, its not hard with the right policies and systems in place) the flip side of spam is that its lazy marketing. An article in CMO magazine highlights that e-mail is really a great tool for developing 1-to-1 relationships. They conclude that:

"It's time, many experts say, for CMOs to acknowledge the potential of e-mail marketing not as a broad-stroke communications tool, but rather as a highly measurable and controlled way to foster relationships with customers."

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Thursday 18 August 2005

Look out for knowledge on the move

If you're an Image and Data Manager magazine (IDM) subscriber look out for my lastest article titled, In the Know And On the Move that looks at mobile knowledge management:

"It has been said that knowledge knows no boundaries. But as knowledge workers begin to access technologies like personal area networks, wireless broadband, Voice over IP and 3G, can we finally say the same about knowledge management and make it truely mobile?"

This new article will be available from my Website later, but in the meantime you can download all my past IDM articles from the archive:

  • Wiki - The New Facilitator?
  • Use it or lose it
  • The Search for the Perfect Intranet
  • Meeting of Minds
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The New Knowledge Management Standard - 7th September

The New South Wales Knowledge Management Forum (NSW KM Forum) is holding a special meeting at midday on the 7th September in Sydney.

At this meeting Sue Halbwirth (Chair, Standards Australia Knowledge Management Committee and Senior Lecturer, KM, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, UTS) and Kim Sbarcea (Member, Standards Australia Knowledge Management Committee and Director Knowledge Networks, ASIC) will provide a full briefing of the content of the Standard, including key ideas such as:

  • The knowledge ecosystem;
  • The map-build-operationalise framework; and
  • Knowledge enablers.
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Thursday 11 August 2005

Keeping organisations safe from user gadgets

Following on from my blog thought piece, the Intranet Imperative, and also some of the implementation issues I raised in my recent social software presentations this article outlines some of the information security issues that some of the lastest technology "gadgets" present to organisations.

Its looks at the risks created by camera phones, USB thumb drives, P2P and other Web-based services.

However one person reminds us to keep everything in perspective and says "the technology is neutral. It's not good or bad. It can be used in novel ways. But if we survived e-mail, we'll survive this evolutionary process too."

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1 in 3 Aussie workers suffer from "tech rage"

The results of a survey of 400 office workers in Sydney and Adelaide has been picked up by many of the major Aussie newspapers (such as the Australian) that claims 1 in 3 find that modern technology is an increasing cause of major stress or "tech rage". But while its an interesting survey, do you trust a research company that doesn't appear to have a Website? O'Square Holes who are you and where are you?

However, there is probably a grain of truth in the survey results. The Australian Financial Review recently reported (Not without my BlackBerry, 5 August 2005) that always on, always connected wireless PDAs like the Blackberry are causing friction in the workplace and making it harder for people to deal with worklife balance. One user commented that "They do become a bit addictive . . . it's hard for people to give them up."

However, none of this is really new or surprising. I reported on these risks at confernces just last year and even wrote a short article where I concluded:

"Wireless is a disruptive technology with implications for business and society. Business owners and managers need to properly consider the risks and implementation problems associated with wireless tools. For society we need to discuss the impact of a wireless world where people are always on and always connected to their jobs. For some, like small business owners where the line between work and life is often blurred, the benefits could be positive but for other workers this lack of definition may cause problems." (Sorry - This short article isn't currently available online, so please e-mail me directly if you would like a copy)

So the question is, when are organisations and managers in the workplace going to start doing something about addressing this problem?

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Tuesday 9 August 2005

Instant conversations are changing the face of friendship

As you know, I'm a one man campaign dedicated to challenging the misconceptions of computer-mediated collaboration tools such as Instant Messaging (IM). Well, hidden within the ITAlive section of Tuesday's Australia newspaper you'll find what I consider a fairly well balanced exploration of social IM. Three articles (all by the same journalist, but only one appears to be available online) look at:

  • The pros and cons of socialising by IM;
  • A case study of an IM user; and
  • A look at what IM software can do beyond the "chat"” of its original ICQ incarnation.
The only disappointment - and I suspect this was never the intention - the articles don't really touch on the use of IM within a business or organisational context. The advice for users in this article is quite sensible and applicable in both a business and social context:
  • IM isn't a substitute for real, face-to-face relationship but it can augment it or help where its not possible to be in the same place;
  • Keep your buddy list to manageable number; and
  • Make good use of your status to control when you want to talk.

There is also a nice link here to an academic article I was reading this week, titled Media Richness or Media Naturalness? Originally published in IEEE Transactions on Professionals Communication, Ned Kock revisits the assumption that "the face-to-face medium is the richest and most effective medium for reducing equivocality" and discusses what he calls the "Media Naturalness Hypothesis".

As a possible explanation of the success of text-based tools, such as e-mail and IM, Kock suggests it might be a case of maximum naturalness at the lowest possible cost with "compensatory adaptation"” overcoming the inherent limitations of these mediums (i.e. people need to put more thought and effort into their electronic communication). However, it you want to learn more I sugget you browse around the publications available from his Website.

UPDATE: Have a read of Shawn Callahan's thoughts in reaction to this post on the importance of IM to distributed communities.

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Thursday 4 August 2005

Social Software: More of the same... or something really different?

If you missed my NSW KM Forum presentation in July on Social Software and are in the Wollongong area I'll be presenting again at the University of Wollongong on a similar topic of Social Software: More of the same... or something really different?.

The hour long presentation takes place at lunch time on the 10th August. Contact me by e-mail for details.


Last round of ITOL funding announced

The Australian Federal Government has announced the 14th and most likely final round of ITOL (Information Technology Online) funding in a press release.

Grants of up to $200,000 per project are available under ITOL, an Australian Government initiative that fosters the take-up of collaborative e-business across a wide range of industry sectors.


Wednesday 3 August 2005

Building Vibrant Human Networks

Its been a while since a Harvard Business Review article has jumped out at me, but with a title like Collaboration Rules I couldn't really go past it without taking a look. The authors use the examples of open source and Toyota to demonstrate two examples of effective collaboration that breaks through organisational barriers. You might recall one of the authors, Phillip Evans, also co-authored Blow to Bits.

The long and short of the article is that they provide 5 principles for high-performance collaboration:

  • Deploy pervasive collaborative technology;
  • Keep work visible;
  • Build communities of trust;
  • Think modularly; and
  • Encourage teaming.
In particular about the use of technology they say:

"Keep it simple and open: 'small pieces, loosely joined' in Cluetrain Manifesto coauthor David Weinberger’s felicitous phrase. Tools should work together through common standards and be as compatible as possible with those of the rest of the world. Think options not integration, adaptability not static efficiency."

They conclude that "perhaps the effectiveness of these collaborations suggests the ultimate emergence of something altogether new. Not markets. Not hierarchies. But a powerful combination of both—and a signature of the networked society."

BTW You can read an extract from this HBR article on the HBS Working Knowledge newsletter Website, although to be honest its a little confusing to read in isolation. However, for the moment it appears that you can access the full article on the HBR site.

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Open Source halts ICT brain drain

Because of my work at the moment on helping to kick start a Wollongong ICT cluster/network at the moment, a comment piece in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jonathan Oxer caught my eye talking about how decentralised software development (aka open source) can help to strengthen local software industries.

Jonathan says "We have the brainpower available to revolutionise the local ICT industry by changing our focus from shipping boxed overseas product to developing and supporting products locally."

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Free Steak Knives with Membership???

The Australian IT industry is experiencing an injection of membership organisations at the moment with CompTIA (as reported in ZDNet) and a new CIO Council (as reported in ComputerWorld) both setting up shop down under. Both appear to be positioned to compliment the Australian Computer Society, however how that plays out remains to be seen.

However, I had wondered why Computerworld was making such a fuss ("Free set of steak knives...and there's more!") about the new CIO Council. You would have thought that a bunch of CIO's getting together behind closed doors would reduce the value of their publications and research. But then I found at the bottom of the press release on the global CIO Council Website that:

"Launched in April 2004, the CIO Executive Council ( is a global, professional organization of CIOs created for the purpose of achieving lasting change within critical industry, academic, media and governmental groups. The council was founded by CXO Media Inc... CXO Media is a subsidiary of International Data Group (IDG)" and of course ComputerWorld is a publication of IDG...

Hmm. Do you think people will get free steak knives from the the world’s leading technology media, research and event company if they join the council? ;-)

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Tuesday 2 August 2005

Reality Mining

Wired magazine has reported on an MIT research project that puts into reality some of the ideas about mobile social software that I've been writing* and blogging about (e.g. location enhanced applications). Called Reality Mining, the project captured communication, proximity, location, and activity information from 100 subjects at MIT over the course of the 2004-2005 academic year. The data was collected using special software written to run on any Nokia Symbian Series 60 mobile phone and apparently represents over 350,000 hours (more than 40 years) of continuous data on human behaviour!

In outlining the context for the research, the Reality Mining Website explains that:

"Today's social software is not very social. From standard CRM systems to, these services require users to be in front of a computer in order to make new acquaintances. Serendipity embeds these applications directly into everyday social settings: on the bus, around the water cooler, in a bar, at a conference."

*PS Look out for my latest article on mobile knowledge management in the July/August 2005 of Image and Data Magazine. (In the meantime check my online archive of past articles)

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Monday 1 August 2005

E-mail - responsible for social laziness

Hidden in Sydney's free MX newspaper tonight was short report on an Australian survey that claims e-mail has led to social laziness in workplace with people taking little responsibility for follow-through. But it won't really come as much of a surprise to learn that people use e-mail to exacerbrate conflict and power play one person off against another...

BTW Talking of e-mail in the workplace, you can now download an article on my main Website, called For better, or worse: Living with e-mail in the workplace where I discuss the need for a organisational-wide response to dealing with information overload.

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Industry Update No. 6: DocBanq

Last week I spent an hour with Matthew Lipscombe from DocBanq in a remote demo session where I had the chance to see their document management software in action. DocBanq provides document and records management in a straightforward fashion. This focus on simplicity is by design, as Matthew's background is in implementing larger and more complex (and costly) systems but with DocBanq they deliberately set out to design an application that that would be quick and effective to implement. DocBanq has all the key features you would expect such as:

  • Access control, including group access rights;
  • Version control;
  • Document check-in and check-out;
  • Management of both physical and electronic documents and records; and
  • Allocation of document retention schedule.
DocBanq can be used in a way that meets all the relevant records management standards but smaller organisations, where the compliance overhead is less, can also use it more pragmatically as a practical solution to managing documents and records.

What makes DocBanq a little different is that is it delivered using a hosted application service provider (ASP) model and is accessed using a thin-client interface. The thin-client interface is provide by a software tool called Bullant Remote and is available as application to download or as an Active-X plugin for Internet Explorer. In comparison to a recent experience of using applications across another popular thin-client technology, I found the DocBanq client to be easy to install and very responsive. In fact I soon forgot that this was a hosted solution. You can also drag and drop between the Windows desktop and to other applications like Microsoft Outlook. And of course the other benefit of a hosted solution is that DocBanq take care of backup, with the system being mirrored across two different data centers.

One of the other attractions of DocBanq is that as a hosted solution it is very simple for organisations to setup selective remote access to their documents by their customers or other interested parties. Matthew described how in one instance an organisations uses DocBanq to give selective access to a panel of service providers. This makes is easy for the organisation to manage the flow of information to each service provider as projects are allocated to them using group access control features in DocBanq.

One of the latest new features in DocBanq is the ability to archive and import data in XML format. This allows users of DocBanq to:
  • Archive redundant material electronically to physical media, say DVD, and remove it from their DocBanq account;
  • Import archived material back into their DocBanq account as required with complete fidelity;
  • Export and prepare material for long-term preservation in a digital preservation archive, free from any proprietary data format; and
  • Import suitably prepared material from other databases and archives.
Overall I have to admit that I like DocBanq as I think its a excellent example of what a hosted application should be. And with the ease of setup and ability to export data into XML format it also represents a low risk option for both SMEs and departments within larger organistions looking for a discreet document or records management system.

You can also check out a review of DocBanq and six other document management systems by ZDNet Australia in April.

Disclaimer: Information on this site is of a general nature. Please seek advice for specific circumstances. Unless otherwise stated, please assume that I have no commercial relationship with the vendors or products discussed.

Previous Industry Updates:

Update No.1: Pivot Software
Update No.2: Objectify
Update No.3: GMB Research
Update No.4: TeamFrame from Crux Cybernetics
Update No.5: Grouputer

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