Saturday 29 April 2006

Beta Mobile Search

Ok... I didn't scroll down to the bottom of my mobile Google search results. These guys are just one step ahead of me... Mobile Search is already in beta.

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Searching for m dot

If you are PDA or smart phone user who goes online wirelessly, have you noticed that some sites are now offering alternative URLs that are mobile friendly? They all start with http://m. (for "mobile") and some popular sites I've found include:

I'm sure there are more out there, and plenty yet to appear. Unfortunately I have yet to find a way of locating or searching for the sites. Even googling "site: http://m." is a bit hit and miss.

However, I did discover this mobile content proxy from Google (not sure how official it is?) - mobile Google uses this automatically when you browse frm search results. I suppose the question is, do we need alternative sites for small screen users or just better standards- and XML-based web design that will work anywhere?

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Thursday 27 April 2006

Are you taking the Miki?

Earlier in the month corporate social software company, Social Text, launched it's mobile wiki or "Miki". Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the bank that served as a case study for McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 article, has apparently been beta testing it.

With my own interest in social software and mobile knowledge management I thought that this would be something worth taking a closer look at…

Well, basically it appears the Miki is a stripped down version of Social Text's core wiki product. I'm not entirely sure the name will take off, but that's the least of my criticism because I'm not really sure how much of a breakthrough this it…

I don't know about you, but my PDA has a full colour screen and a rich user-interface – so why do I want a stripped down tool on my PDA?

Well, lets look at Google’s Gmail for inspiration as they offer a PDA and mobile phone Web-browser optimised version. I want to see this level of functionality and integration in my mobile wiki before I get too excited!

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Monday 24 April 2006

Enterprise D'oh

While McAfee might be excited about the potiential for social software in the enterprise, Jason has embarked on listing the 10 things he hates about wikis. But don't worry, it all constructive criticism. Also check Rami's requirements for the perfect wiki (from 2004!).

From my point of view its about the difference between social software form and function. We should aim to improve the form without changing the function so it stops being social software.

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More comments on Enterprise 2.0

Over the weekend I finally had a chance to look over a copy of the Enterprise 2.0 article. At the same time I was also re-reading The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage. A odd combination you might think, but a good way of ensuring I don't get myself caught up too much in the hype - one of the messages in Standage's book is that technologies never quite have the "utopian" impact we think they will, but they still have an impact.

Ok. Very briefly this is what I like and don't like about McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 vision:

  • His framework for enterprise social software is defined as SLATES - Search, Links, Authoring, Tags, Extensions and Signals. We could probably debate his terms and definitions, but I think he has caught enough of the essence of what makes an enterprise social software architecture different.

  • He identifies the critical role of managers in facilitating the adoption of social software inside the firewall but also recognises that this may also create conflict because "These tools reduce management's ability to exert unilateral control and will be used to express some level of negativity."

  • Further he also concludes that there will "significant difference in companies' abilities to exploit them. Because of the opportunities the technologies bring, these difference will matter a great deal." Or in other words, its not the technology but knowing what to do with it and how to do it that counts.

On the other hand I was disappointed not to see some mention about the consumer driven innovation seen in the Internet social software space and the impact this pressure will put on organisations to change their approaches to IT. Similarly, while McAfee notes that centralised intranets hinder effective search because such intranets lack the dense links that we find on the World Wide Web, he does not link this to his point about management control that he raises later. I've discussed some of these things in the Intranet Imperative last year.

Finally - and perhaps this is a little out of scope - a mention of the issues that the ideology of self-service within organisations has also created in terms of information and knowledge sharing might have added some further context to the discussion around the challenges of getting knowledge workers to use this stuff. Why would we expect everyone to contribute in the same way as their peers? Think about The Tipping Point and the different roles of Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

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Saturday 22 April 2006

Podcasting - evolutionary or revolutionary?

I have to admit that I don't really listen to Podcasts, primarily they don't really fit my way of working but also I don't find them very interactive. The fact that Podcasts aren't really hyper-linkable yet by the masses makes them an interesting but still just a one-way content distribution system. Taking this a bit further, Steve Rubel, in his Micro Persuasion blog, asks if Podcasting is evolutionary or revolutionary?

"Podcasting is an important medium, no doubt. It changed how people listen to audio and where that content comes from. On the other hand, podcasting is not very social. It's largely unidirectional. It's about democratized distribution. In five years time podcasting will be seen as evolutionary while Wikipedia, social networking and blogging will be viewed as revolutionary because they are dialogue driven, scannable and searchable in mainstream Web search engines."

However, perhaps its just a question of time as we see tools like Podzinger emerge that let us search Podcasts and zero in on what interests us. Podzinger is google for audio data that converts speech to text so it can be indexed.

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Update on tech-etiquette challenges

Care of Lifehacker and Micro Persuasion, Christian Science Monitor discusses the latest etiquette challenges of our always on, always connected world including ipods and wireless headsets ("The first question when you greet someone in our office is, 'Are you on the phone?' They don't know, with wireless headsets.").

This article talks about a room full of publicists at a lunch forum, all tapping away at their PDAs and Blackberries rather than listening to the speaker. I remember when this used to be a common occurrence at internal meetings in organisations, but now it looks like this bad tech-behaviour is leaking outside as wireless connectivity becomes even more wide spread.

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Friday 21 April 2006

Small World! now available for download

My November/December 2005 Image and Data Manager (IDM) magazine article, Small World!, is now available for download from my articles and papers archive:

"The influence of social network concepts continues to manifest themselves in many different areas of business. From understanding who knows who to viral marketing, organisations are finding legitimate uses for putting conversations and informal connections to work in the search for competitive advantage."

PS I'm in the process of reorganising my articles archive page, so you may need to scroll down to find my list of IDM articles.

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Ok... Not quite the dawn?

Always good for a counterpoint, Nicholas Carr's gives his point of view on McAfee's Enterprise 2.0 article:

"Managers, professionals and other employees don't have much spare time, and the ones who have the most valuable business knowledge have the least spare time of all. (They're the ones already inundated with emails, instant messages, phone calls, and meeting requests.) Will they turn into avid bloggers and taggers and wiki-writers? It's not impossible, but it's a long way from a sure bet."

I don't disagree with Carr's assessment - KM needs to be human-centred not technology driven. In May last year I blogged about the grey area that social software exists in - there is nothing magical about social software unless people use it as social software.

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Thursday 20 April 2006

The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration

Continuing on the theme of my previous post, Harvard Business School academic Andrew McAfee has a new article in the latest edition of Sloan Management Review where he argues why enterprise social software "may well supplant other communication and knowledge management systems with their superior ability to capture tacit knowledge, best practices and relevant experiences from throughout a company and make them readily available to more users."

I haven't read the full article yet, but there is some good commentary by Ross Mayfield in the Many-to-Many blog and McAfee continues the discussion on his own blog.

McAfee builds on his article to identify three trends why is Enterprise 2.0 is now an appealing reality:

  • Simple, Free Platforms for Self-Expression

  • Emergent Structures, Rather than Imposed Ones

  • Order from Chaos

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The art of social software inside the firewall: First, avoid the IT department

Trevor Cook, reacting to a post by Shel Holtz, weighs up the both sides of the argument about how IT departments can block the take up of social software within the firewall:

"IT departments... have to let go because we're entering the era of the user as controller. If IT departments don't let go - the HUGE productivity gains to be had from things like RSS feeds and aggregators will be lost.

OTH, I continue to be amazed by the absolute IT illiteracy of most people, even people who use computers all day seem completely incurious about how they operate...

Perhaps, if I worked in an IT dept and had to deal with this level of ignorance all day I too would be a paranoid, control freak.

So is it just ignorance or good IT managament practice? This is something I've discussed in the past. IMHO rather than rolling up the shutters, IT departments must engage with this new technology.

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Tuesday 18 April 2006

The World Is Round

Talking of information vs knowledge, Jack Vinson picks up on some commentary from Bill Brantley about a new HBR article by Laurence Prusak.

Prusak's article challenges the "conventional wisdom that the Internet has made the world flatter."

Brantley's summary tells us that "Connectivity and information technology alone are not the solution to realizing the benefits of innovation and thus countries must spend time and resources to creating knowledge" while Vinson reflects back that "Throwing a bunch of knowledge workers together via the internet does not automatically create a smart organization. Organizations still need a goal and leadership. People need to know how they should be smart and what is expected of those zillions of interactions that are possible."

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Tackling one of the big KM debates - the role of IT

I'm very pleased this month to be the cover feature article in the March/April 2006 edition of Image and Data Manager (IDM) magazine. The article, titled Knowledge Management: How to separate the wheat from the chaff, tackles one of the big KM questions – what is the role of information technology in knowledge management?

Just to get you thinking here are a couple of dot points I use in the article to consider information vs knowledge:


  • 1st generation knowledge management was really about using information technology to enable a paradigm shift from controlling and limiting access to information to one of sharing information so that anyone who might need it could freely access it. Fundamentally this approach to knowledge management was really about employing the right information management practices to better reflect the needs of knowledge workers.

  • In next-generation knowledge management, information is treated as a valuable resource for learning, providing context and providing evidence of the past.


  • The philosophical debate about what is “knowledge” has raged for centuries. We have to accept that it is unlikely that this debate will ever be resolved and instead focus on the activity of knowledge management.

  • Knowledge workers need more than just information to help them make non-routine decisions or manage non-routine activities. Next-generation knowledge management involves managing the organisational environment not only so that information can be freely shared, but to help knowledge workers learn from and connect with each other.

Let me know if you have any comments about this or the article!

BTW I’ve recently moved most of the articles I have available for download, including those previously published in IDM, to this page on my main website. You'll also find a few more related to Web and Intranets here. to here.

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Saturday 15 April 2006

Redesigning the KWeb

Another new'ish Ernst & Young "KWeb" (or EY/KnowledgeWeb) case study (PDF), this time documenting their recent user-centered design project to improve user satisfaction.

What's so special about this? Well, other than the fact I used to work as part of the KWeb team at Ernst & Young in Australia, check out the graph on page 6 of this case study and note that E&Y's knowledge management intranet is more than a decade old. In this time it has gone through more than 6 iterations meanwhile some organisations are still trying to get their first or second iteration off the ground.

PS You might also want to have a look at this other case study from December last year looking at how Factiva is integarated into KWeb.

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The story of our quest to communicate better

I stumbled across this nice little virtual museum site from the UK, called Connected Earth:

"Connected Earth is the story of our ongoing quest to communicate better, from the first simple messages to today's sophisticated global communications.

Established by BT, Connected Earth lets you explore communications past, present and future both here online and at a network of partner museums around the UK.

For the nerds out there, also have a look at the archives section of the main BT website where you can also browse photos and film from the history of telecommunications in the UK.

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Wikis at WIN TV

I'm always on the look out for examples of Australian organisations making use of social software within the firewall, so here is one from a report by Rodney Gedda in ComputerWorld on Wollongong-based WIN Television.

This report actually talks about WIN TV's use of open source in a number of areas, but I was interested in how they are using a wiki internally to share information. According to this report WIN TV's former IT manager, James Purser, has created created three wiki-spaces - one for their production departments, one for IT and another to provide general information to users.

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Thursday 13 April 2006

Email software is "socially inept"

Don't take my word for it, this comes from Marc Smith a research sociologist who works for Microsoft. He was recently interviewed by the UK's FT newspaper and while he pretty much covers old ground about email productivity, he makes a good point:

"He says e-mail software just does not give people enough help. He calls current software socially inept: 'It simply has no conception of human relationships.' His team is working on ways of making software 'socially savvy' so that it can take more of the load."

Also, check out these associated articles on enterprise social software and email.

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