Saturday 28 April 2007

No surprises in reality check on participation in social software

Care of Stu Downes and hot on the tail of news about data from Technorati that shows the blogosphere has "stalled", research from Charlene Li provides some data on consumer participation in social media. Li provides this great little ladder graphic to explain the distribution of participation by dividing the world into creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives:


Ross Mayfield has also reviewed Li's paper, pointing to his more theoretical power law theory.

Based on these reviews so far and the conversation around it, this paper also reminds me of the 1% rule and a model I used for a long time now, well before the tools we tagged social software appeared, from Cliff Figallo. However, like Mayfield I think its great to have some data that reflects the gut feel many of us have had about participation in social software, i.e. it was never the case that everyone would write a blog or that everyone would edit a wiki. So Li's data really puts claims that the blogosphere has stalled into a more realistic perspective.

Friday 27 April 2007

Serendipity in the Cosmos and Jimmy Wales on Wikis

It was nice to get a mention on a Yahoo! Developer blog about the My Cosmos Pipe I built. I'm still using the feed it generates everyday - I really like the serendipity of the blog posts that come through this feed.

For example, tonight I came across this post about Jimmy Wales, who is currently on a speaking tour around Australia, that shares some of his ideas on a successful wiki community:

"To set up a Wiki community Jimmy recommends:

  • Have a simple, clear vision for what the wiki is about.
  • Have a core of people - 5-10 to impel it forward in the first instance.
  • Allow, as much as possible, the wiki community to come up with its own solutions."

As far as I can tell (as I wasn't explicitly looking for blog posts on Jimmy Wales) none of the other blogs, news sources and blog search feeds that I subscribe to picked up this post.

So, a good return for very little effort on my part really.

Thursday 26 April 2007

Dilbert on Pointed-Headed Bloggers

I'm starting my own blog he says...

UPDATE: This blog post you wrote for me isn't witty enough...

Technorati tags: , ,

RSS for Dummies, in words and pictures (but not PowerPoint)

Everyone else is pointing to it, so I'll add my vote... its a short movie best described (in a nice way) as RSS for Dummies. Also, interesting because of the anti-PowerPoint presentation style:

"The Common Craft show is a new series of videos done in a format we call "paperwork". Our goal is to make technology easier to understand for the less geeky people of the world."

Wednesday 25 April 2007

Free form or oversight? Wikipedia vs Citizendium

There is no doubt based on page hits and links that Wikipedia has been hugely successful - I've even seen attributed quotes from Wikipedia used on advertising in a staff canteen at large factory!

However, the new Citizendium, which aims to overcome the quality and editorial criticism of Wikipedia hasn't really hit my radar yet. Reviewing the new wiki'ish site, Read/WriteWeb explain:

"The idea behind Citizendium is to improve on the wiki-model by adding what they call "gentle expert oversight" -- which more or less means that qualified users approve articles before they are officially added to the encyclopedia. Further, contributors are required to use their real names...

Citizendium marks files in three ways: CZ Live (articles being written), Approved (articles that have been given the stamp of approval by experts), and a separate draft status for previously approved articles that are being edited."

Considering this is the aim, then anyone interested in social software should be interested in following the success or failure of the Citizendium approach, particularly for Enterprise 2.0 adoption - i.e. can we really tap into the wisdom of the crowds with a self-regulating system or do we still need oversight.

While Read/WriteWeb stress it is a little unfair to compare the two sites at the moment, it is rather telling at the moment that the Wikipedia entry for Citizendium has more to say than Citizendium's own page on itself. Issues of how much content aside, the other issue appears to be the timeliness of new information being added. There is of course an overhead to stronger editorial processes, which ironically inside the firewall is one of the reasons why there is so much interest in using wikis for intranets versus traditional content management approaches.

Incidentally, Ernst & Young's approach to Knowledge Management was based on the idea of "filtered" (i.e. processed, reviewed and managed content) and "unfiltered" (this included discussion forums) knowledgebases. The infamous PowerPack would have been the internal equivalent to Citizendium, while other document libraries might represent Wikipedia - this was all linked together by a search engine. The same issues around the amount of content (deliberately) and speed of information collection existed with PowerPacks. But when a PowerPack was managed well their reduced size and high quality content were valued - so perhaps there is room in the user-generated content stack for both managed and unmanaged content.

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Voices from the past

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia it is considered as both a national day of commemoration and also a celebration of what many Aussie's feel to be the point when Australia's national identity was largely forged. The ANZAC Day tradition began in 1916, but fast forward to 2007 and ANZAC Day can now be found online.

Browse through YouTube and you'll find plenty of ANZAC related videos, meanwhile we can expect the blogosphere to light up with posts about it, some using the opportunity to discuss what the ANZAC spirit means today. The Australia War Memorial has also used the Web to showcase some previously new film footage this year.

Remembering that at the beginning of the last century the concept of modern computing didn't exist, I'm not exactly sure what the ANZAC Diggers from the 1st World War would think about the Internet, Web 2.0 or even YouTube. But, like it or not, their voices from the past are echoing here online today.

Monday 23 April 2007

Stand clear, Knowledge Management evolving

As I've always thought, those who predict the death of Knowledge Management (KM) are premature in completely writing off the concept. Just in the last day I've seen the following posts that continue the debate about how KM is evolving, not dying:

  • Keith De La Rue, who works in Knowledge Management at Telstra, comments on that curly issue of trying to tie down what knowledge management is, and says pragmatically that "I don’t see any particular need or benefit in attempting to tie down KM.  It will continue to adapt and evolve - and take on other names to suit different environments"; and
  • Meanwhile, Matt ponders one of the questions that also fascinates me, does Social Software = Knowledge Management? He says, "So has KM evolved to KM 2.0? No, not at all. KM is still about people and sharing knowledge. It’s always been about ensuring a supporting environment in which this can be best achieved. It’s never been about the technology because good KM can exist without it! It can even be about drinks with your IA colleagues once a month. Yes, we’re currently seeing, through blogs and wikis, an environment in which knowledge management can be supported through technology. My message is, just don’t get confused between the two of them."

BTW Meanwhile over at the NSW KM Forum tomorrow night that will be tackling one of the big KM questions, Is Knowledge Management an Oxymoron?

Sunday 22 April 2007

ThinkFree Portable Review

A few days ago I received a trial version of ThinkFree Portable office suite on a U3 USB drive to review, care of Ismael Ghalimi. Here are my immediate observations:

  • The interface is very friendly for users familiar with Microsoft Office (and more so than OpenOffice) and perhaps equally as important it was quick to load;
  • For this portable edition its a great match with a U3 USB drive as it makes it very easy to get up and running with ThinkFree Portable - however its unfortunate that the latest versions of Firefox and Thunderbird aren't available;
  • ThinkFree's compatibility with native Office files isn't 100% perfect, but particularly with PowerPoint files I would rate it better than OpenOffice; and
  • While it lacks the full functionality of macros and some other advanced features, I have to say that the streamlined and familiar interface made me want to use it.

Overall using ThinkFree so far has been a very positive experience.

Looking at the bottom line ThinkFree (both the desktop and portable versions) at US$49.95 works out locally at about AU$60. This is pretty good value when you consider that in Australia the basic Microsoft Office Standard 2007 suite for commercial users retails around AU$700. To get something for the same price you would need to look at something like Microsoft Works instead, however in Australia even the basic Works version retails at around AU$85.

Incidentally the online version of ThinkFree is free, but (and this is most likely a problem of distance and my broadband connection) I simply found launching the applications and the online file management a little slow to interact with. However, I was pleased to find out that they are also have in closed beta a premium edition that will include online and offline access to files.

Also worth checking out is the server-based edition - in fact I think this combined with offline access would be a great combination for larger organisatons. To top it off all I think they now need to add is some kind of records management functionality and it would be a perfect enterprise solution ;-)

What are the new dimensions of social software?

In the old days of knowledge management before social software became popular, we could divide the world of communication and information sharing technologies into a simple 2x2 grid - you might remember this:

Same place, same timeSame place, different time
Different place, same timeDifferent place, different time

Most of the focus then was actually on tools in the bottom half of the grid, what in fancy terms we described as synchronous versus asynchronous communication. In reality the choice available was fairly simple - in the case of asynchronous tools the menu of options consisted of:

  • Knowledgebases or document libraries (document centric);
  • Discussion forums or mailing lists (conversation centric); and
  • Project spaces (activity centric).

But Web 2.0 has blurred the lines between documents, conversation and activities by giving us tools that integrate them into network. We could also argue that Web 2.0 breaks down the silos between different tools such that the old 2x2 grid is meaningless anyway as open standards and APIs allow data to easily move between synchronous and asynchronous channels, while geotagging has made the concept of "place" something tangible in the virtual space.

Unfortunately the overall result is that understanding what technologies can enable knowledge management in a particular way has become more complex. Considering also the hype around Enterprise 2.0 and other misinformed debates, such as this one reported by Dave Snowden, about the value of new social software versus the old technologies, I think there is a real need for a new framework to help understand and discuss (if not completely answer) what is available and what it can do.

I thought about a new dimension of collaboration last year, serial and parallel, but I don't think this goes far enough to explain the differences. This is also different from a model I've suggested to help people select technologies for collaboration or to support knowledge management in this article (PDF, 108KB). No, these new dimensions need to address the key issues of what makes old and new technologies different, but also what makes them the same.

So here is my challenge to you - if we replace the old 2x2 matrix of time and place, what are the top 2 or 3 dimensions you would use to describe the knowledge management technology landscape today?

If I put my two cents worth in to get the ball rolling, here are my three new dimensions:

  • Boundedness - is the technology open to participation (a blog), or is it closed (an email mailing list);
  • Cohesiveness - will the tool create consensus or help groups of users, or is it designed for individuals.
  • Discoverability or dialogue - simply, does this technology help you find stuff or talk about stuff.

Now its your turn.

Monday 16 April 2007

Blog spotting: Parasite, scavenger or commensal?

Nick Carr's blog turns forty-eight (in blog years) and he offers up a great post explaining why blogs can be Parasites, scavengers, commensals:

"What I'm getting at here is that blogs need not be narrowly categorized as parasites or scavengers. A blog, like the larvae of a humpbacked fly in a termite colony, can be a scavenger or a parasite - or even, for that matter, a commensal. Or all three at once."

The Google Ads about intestinal parasite medication and food testing are the icing on the cake ;-)

Page rank stinks for blogs

Talk about good timing, or maybe just the power of the Blogosphere, this academic paper via Joho the Blog about makes interesting reading considering my attempts at mapping and aggregating my blog "cosmos":

"our conclusion that the intensity of traffic directed to a blog through search engines (which use traditional page-rank algorithms) does not seem to correlate with the “real” popularity of the blog, suggests that social-network-based navigation may be playing an increasingly important role in web navigation in general, and blogosphere navigation in particular. On that count we note that in blogspace, the popularity of a blog is more a reflection of its owner’s social attributes (e.g., celebrity status, reputation, and public image) than a reflection of the number and rank of other blogs or web pages that point to it. This highlights the need for the development of page-rank algorithms that take into consideration the social attributes of blogosphere actors"

Based on the data I've seen coming out of Google and Technorati, I think there is a lot of work to be done to improve this space. A good start would be to produce rankings along the lines of the Tipping Point, i.e. who are the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

BTW If you have trouble accessing the article in question, try this cached Google version instead.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Reflections on mashing my Blogosphere

The little time I've spent online this weekend I've ended up spending time playing around with the My Cosmos Feed pipe I created. Its now humming along about as good as its going to be within the current limits of Yahoo! Pipes. Some of the issues I've had included:

  • Weird errors trying to save changes to my pipes, but a minor upgrade to the most current Firefox release appeared to fix the problem;
  • Strange formatting issues with RSS feed, but it looks like Feedburner has helped out there in the end in terms of getting a clean RSS feed into my RSS Reader; and
  • What appears to be a limit on the amount of XML data Yahoo! Pipes can consume out of the Technorati API (which is fair enough - I just didn't see any documented limits).

A reminder that these mashing tools are still not quite ready for the average computer user. Still, technical problems aside, I'm enjoying this new feed I've created and I've also started to use the My Cosmos Feed pipe to explore the cosmos around other bloggers.

For my next trick I might have a go at creating a Pipe to output data that can be used to create an instant blog network map. Stay tuned!

Saturday 14 April 2007

Mashing my own personal Blogosphere

You might recall that last weekend I created some network maps of the blogosphere around my own blog. Well, that was all well and interesting but what can we with that information?

Some of the questions I've been thinking about are (and in part, considering the idea of "best of lists" vs dynamic lists):

  • How do I keep up with changes in my personal Blogosphere or "Cosmos"?
  • How will I read the posts appearing in my personal Cosmos?
  • How can I easily share a way to help other tap into their own Cosmos?

Well, in the end I turned to Yahoo! Pipes for help and I'm pleased to announce the release of my first useful published Yahoo! Pipe - its called My Cosmos Feed. The result is a mashup using Technorati, Yahoo! Pipes and Feedburner.

What it does is this: Input the URL for a blog into My Cosmos Feed and it generates an RSS feed that includes the most recent 3 posts from the other blogs that link to that blog, plus all the other blogs that link to the blogs linking to the original blog! To see how this works in practice you can check out, via Feedburner, the My Cosmos Feed for the ChiefTech blog.

But wait, there is more - if you want to create a My Cosmos Feed for another blog (including your own) then hop over to Yahoo! Pipes to create it. Note: You'll need your own Technorati API Key.

Thursday 12 April 2007

Knowledge: Its transplantable, Jim, but not as we know it

When talking about Knowledge Management (KM) these days we often make the point that knowledge is in people's heads, and that early KM efforts failed because they assumed that it could be "captured" into a database. I mean, its not like you can transplant knowledge, right?

Well, maybe we are wrong in making some assumptions about knowledge - there is a TV show on ABC (in Australia) tonight, called Thanks for the Memories:

"Is it possible that in receiving a transplanted organ, a patient could also inherit some of their donor's memories and tastes as well?

In recent years several heart transplant recipients have reported unexpected side effects including memories, habits, desires and new talents they never had before."

Of course if you are skeptical... this is a phenomenon known as cellular memory that doesn't quite have everyone convinced. So it looks like I won't be starting up my new knowledge transplant venture after all. Just think, it would have been great for dealing with problems like the ageing workforce ;-)

Tuesday 10 April 2007

Exploring my blog network map - Collection vs Connection

Since creating my blog network map over the weekend I've started to explore some of the new blogs that it has revealed. One blog I want to highlight from exploring the network so far is Uncommon Knowledge by Lucas McDonnell. The current post talks about a subject close to my heart, Collection and connection: does this relate to blogs?

"One of the endless information science/knowledge management debates is on the value of connection versus collection. For anyone unfamiliar with this debate, it’s basically this: is collecting information all in one place better than providing connectors among the people who share that information (or knowledge, if you like that word better). Or vice versa?"

Is social network analysis of blogs one way creating relevant and timely "collections" in the social space, rather than the lists that people love to hate? Particularly as this lists get out of date so quickly. Lucas - what do you think?

BTW I also want to say a quick hello to two people who dropped by and commented on my post:

ContentExchange (Koral) knocks another brick out of the enterprise IT wall

I almost wandered straight past this post about's new hosted content management offering - on the face of it, ContentExchange, which is Koral rebadged, is just a simple content management system with some nice social software features, like tagging.

I think comparisons with Microsoft Sharepoint and EMC Documentum as reported in Read/WriteWeb are little overstated (there's actually a cheeky post on the Koral blog that suggests 8 of 10 collaboration vendors don't even use their own products), particularly as I don't see any records management functionality or true Web 2.0 capabilities in Koral. However, if we look at the bigger picture this is obviously a way for to leverage their CRM beachhead into organisations and sell related hosted services. This has two impacts:

  • Its an easy way for non-IT functions in organisations to bypass the IT department by using a existing supplier with a good reputation (its going to be hard to block); and
  • Its a cheaper way to implement (potentially if the solution works) as  Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) disrupts how these content management solutions are traditionally implemented - Saasforce, a implementation consultancy, commented recently that "How we differ from the big five consulting organizations is that we are focused on doing lots of short integration projects, whereas an Accenture or a BearingPoint wants to send in a school bus full of consultants into its clients for 18 or 24 months at a time."

Another point to consider is that if is successful, then it also points to value being seen in managing content around specific business activities rather than across the whole of an organisation. So from one point of view all ContentExchange and similar services will create is yet another enterprise content silo - unless of course it really is an open, Web 2.0-based solution.

Monday 9 April 2007

SNA Map of my blog - second edition

My blog social network analysis (SNA) map (really an egonet map) from a few days ago was ok, but I wasn't completely satisfied. Inspired by this other visualisation, I decided to try using the Technorati Cosmos API to extract some new data.

This new map (and one containing all the data) looks quite different and overall I think its a more interesting map, however I still have some issues:

  • One of the limitations of both approaches is that I'm still only using incoming links (or rather, number of unique blogs linking to each blog), where as I would like to use both outgoing and incoming links;
  • The other frustration is that I still needed to clean up the data from Technorati to remove duplicates blogs, either with different domain names or links to specific blog posts (I'm not the first to notice this) - I suspect the best thing to do would be to create my own startup blog search site and spider it myself; and
  • I need to find a better publishing tools for the map - Many Eyes's network visualisation tool has very limited functionality compared to the desktop SNA tools I normally use, which makes it difficult to explore the network.

In my blog egonet, these are the top 20 most popular blogs based on the number of other blogs that link to them as reported by Technorati (that's number of unique blogs, not number of links): (37 incoming blogs) (30 incoming blogs) (28 incoming blogs) (26 incoming blogs) (25 incoming blogs) (24 incoming blogs) (24 incoming blogs) (23 incoming blogs) (22 incoming blogs) (18 incoming blogs) (17 incoming blogs) (17 incoming blogs) (17 incoming blogs) (17 incoming blogs) (10 incoming blogs) (7 incoming blogs) (6 incoming blogs) (6 incoming blogs) (6 incoming blogs) (5 incoming blogs)

Also, here are the top linkers within this network ("real" blogs only, again number of unique blogs, not number of links): (18 outgoing blogs) (15 outgoing blogs) (12 outgoing blogs) (10 outgoing blogs) (9 outgoing blogs) (9 outgoing blogs) (8 outgoing blogs) (8 outgoing blogs) (7 outgoing blogs) (7 outgoing blogs) (7 outgoing blogs) (6 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (5 outgoing blogs) (4 outgoing blogs)

Now to the technical stuff... If you're interested in know how I pulled all this together, these are the tools I used:

  • Technorati's API for the link data
  • I wrote an Microsoft Excel macro to automatically download data from Technorati using the API;
  • I also used Microsoft Access to help deduplicate and tidy up data; and
  • Many Eyes for visualisation.

I was surprised how easy it was to use Excel to access the API - basically I wrote a script that built a URL with the correct parameters for each blog and then just "opened" it. The data was then saved into a master table. Once I wrote the script, getting the data was quick compared to cleaning up the data.

BTW If you're interested in SNA, you might like to take a look at this article, Small World! (PDF, 89KB).

Saturday 7 April 2007

Just for fun - a SNA map in Many Eyes of my blog

Its a long weekend public holiday in Australia for Easter, so as a bit of fun(!) I've created an SNA map in ManyEyes of the blogs and other sites around my ChiefTech Blog. There are two maps:

Now, a word of caution - and don't shot me over this - I should explain that this data has come out of Google incoming link data; it would just have taken to long for me to pull the data together otherwise. I had a choice of spidering my own data (no thanks) or using some other search engines but Google simply worked out to be the quicker of the options. If you have any better ideas for gathering this link data, let me know!

So these maps are really based on the incoming links that Google thinks are worth collecting. However, I thought that would be one way of filtering some of the rubbish out of the data anyway! In fact, its lucky that my blog isn't too popular as this would have taken a lot longer to put together :-)

I'm still exploring this data myself but in the meantime let me know what you think:

  • Are you in my blog neighborhood but perhaps we haven't said "hello"?
  • How does you blog neighborhood compare to mine?
  • What other patterns can you see?

Friday 6 April 2007

Living on the Web

I'm currently digesting a very new report from CSC's Leading Edge Forum (you might remember that CSC is my day job right now) called Harnessing Web 2.0: Enterprise Strategies for Living on the Web by Doug Neal.

You can already read a summary of the report by John Milan on the Read/WriteWeb blog - picking up on the example of British Petroleum, he comments:

"'Living on the Web' is a fascinating study - not so much by recognizing trends and needs of the internet and business, but because it comes from a group of big business thinkers dedicated to big business issues. What makes it powerful is actual examples of big business changing - in this case British Petroleum."

One of the interesting things I found in this report it that it doesn't restrict itself to what many people are talking about in the Web 2.0 space and organisations - e.g. Social Media and Enterprise 2.0 - but actually looks at the broader spectrum of how we manage IT and why current approaches need to change in the context of Web 2.0. This puts a refreshing new perspective on the Enterprise 2.0 adoption debate (which by the way, I see as a narrower issue that Web 2.0 in the enterprise) and shows that while it doesn't have to be an adversarial process, it will require change.

IBM and Consumer Products

A few days ago I blogged about some of the other big IT vendors offering Web 2.0 flavoured solutions and I asked:

"considering that one of the themes of Web 2.0 has been consumer driven innovation, I wonder how well these large vendors will be able keep up with the fast paced evolution of Web 2.0"

I now wonder if I was picking up some weak signals from somewhere, as the following day Luis Suarez also blogged about this same issue, but focusing on IBM and discussing if it should play in the consumer space - Luis argues that companies playing in the consumer space have an advantage in getting their products accepted in the enterprise space:

"All of those different companies that have been experimenting in the consumer market about how they can leverage social computing for their own offerings are soon going to be ready for the next stage, which is bringing together all that innovation into the enterprise world and continue to shake the ground further of how interactions are taking place. Their main key advantage at this stage? Well, the fact that they already have got a massive, and successful, critical mass of knowledge workers making use of those tools in their own private time. And now they would probably want to make use of them extensively at their own workplaces. This is something that most large enterprises out there will have to struggle with, and big time! Convincing their knowledge workers that what they have to offer to them, and their customers, is better than whatever they have been using all along for many months / years is going to be a hard sell, a very tough one, indeed, so ignoring the consumer market at this point in time and in the near future may not be the right approach to things.

Time will tell, but something that has been going in my mind for a while is that same Web 2.0 in the consumer market is what got us to the stage where we are now, so instead of just fighting against it I think it would be a whole lot more productive to actually embrace it and take it on to the next level. As I said, to me, that is where the main challenge is, and what will help differentiate those companies that will survive the next wave of Internet interactions and those which will fail along the way."

Again, talking about weak signals, I made some similar comments last year specifically about Lotus Notes:

"Unfortunately the real challenge that Lotus Notes faces from an Enterprise 2.0 platform is that it isn't a consumer technology - the trend we have seen is Web 2.0 technologies coming from the outside into organisations and with only few exceptions this is unlikely to happen for Lotus Notes."

I don't want to turn this into a debate about Lotus Notes, because it isn't. This issue affects any type of software that has feet in both the consumer and enterprise camps

There have been related posts by James Governor, Mike Gotta and Luis has also posted the following follow up with links to other related articles that are well worth reading.

Its speaks... but nothing unexpected

We've all been wondering about Ray Ozzie, but at least he has made an appearance in the blogosphere via an interview in Knowledge@Wharton (BTW the fact that you need to scroll past about three screens of intro to get the meat of the interview probably says something about Ozzie's lack of presence outside of the Microsoft campus these days).

Ozzie is given the opportunity to pitch some ideas about the future of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and future computing architectures, he says:

"I don't believe a single model is going to solve all problems. Computers within an enterprise, for example, are very tethered. In the enterprise model, it might be that running applications off a service with a high bandwidth connection to that desktop is the perfect thing. Some professionals are highly mobile and the best architecture for them is to have things delivered to a mobile device and replicated up to the service.

In the docs and spreadsheets realm, I believe there are certain uses of spreadsheets in particular, where the sharing model [enabled by] using it up on a service could be really useful. I think that there are other scenarios where you want it on your laptop...

...Adobe is a great example. Flash is a rich client; it's rich code delivered to the edge. It's not a centralized model; it's a decentralized model. It just happens to be tethered to the service.

If anybody has a software and services model, it's Adobe, because of that rich [Flash Player] applet that they extend the browser with. The more they enhance that, as you can see in their Flex and Apollo plans, the more it becomes this unified software and service vision...

...Most web pages have JavaScript in them. That's code that is delivered to the client and it has the lifetime of the browser instance you're using. Flash -- what is that? Well, it involves enhancing the browser runtime by downloading code. But it tethers those enhancements to the service and the lifetime of those things is still within the browser. With Apollo, maybe you can make the lifetime that of the user on that device. They have increased the lifetime from the browser instance to the PC."

Other than being very complementary about Adobe's strategy, the mention of the Adobe Apollo model is worth considering in light of current conversation about it and the offline Web-apps debate. However, I find neither clarity or anything revolutionary in the Ozzie interview about where we are going to end up. For example:

  • I'm not sure I agree that we can't develop a single model to accommodate both "tethered" and "mobile" computing needs at the same time.
  • He suggestions that 1st generation SaaS "really just meant browser. Second generation means weave together hardware, software and services to accomplish a specific solution", but again this dismisses the whole ease of deployment issue and lack of vendor lock-in (from a technology platform perspective) that the browser provides.

So, he either has nothing to say or doesn't want to reveal his cards just yet. Nick Carr comments:

"Ozzie doesn't say anything unexpected, but he provides a through and often subtle explanation of his view of the future of software and of Microsoft."

Yep. Nothing to see here, people. Move along.

UPDATE: More commentary on the interview from Dan Farber.

Thursday 5 April 2007

Bridging the gaps between intranets, innovation and Enterprise 2.0

The FASTForward blog continues to roll along, and I have to admit that there are still some good posts coming down the line. This recent post about innovation by Paula Thornton was almost perfect in challenging the assumption that Enterprise 2.0 is all about the technology - but then she says:

"Enterprise 2.0 provides necessary but insufficient means by which to facilitate the potential of individuals to innovate. The potential can easily surpass Knowledge Management initiatives, which were doomed by edict as a misnomer. There is no value in managing knowledge, an intert collection of bytes. The value is in facilitating human potential."

Unfortunately Thornton appears to be falling into her own hole by suggesting that Knowledge Management (KM) is all about managing bytes. That's a first generation KM idea that and no reflection of current ideas in this space. Now, I know I have said some of this before, but we should careful when try to compare Knowledge Management with Enterprise 2.0 and likewise Enterprise 2.0 with Intranets. In this respect its a little unfair of Thornton to pick on James Robertson's article about Building innovative intranets - I actually interpreted this as being about the concept of continuous improvement that needs to happen to keep an intranet relevant (something I've written about myself in The Search for the Perfect Intranet [PDF, 108KB]).

Getting back to Thornton's point - and she concludes that:

"I suggest that it is not Enterprise 2.0 that is threatened by this renaissance, it is the survival of the current IT model that is in question."

If I had one criticism of James' article (and my own for that, in hindsight) is that it still places responsibility for innovating the intranet with the "intranet team". In the words of Euan, if you are heading down the Enterprise 2.0 road then IT and intranet teams both need to learn how to get out of the way of the stuff that matters to the end users so they can innovate...

So here is a different perspective - rather than creating a wedge, what we really need is a way to bridge the gap between those focused on running IT and intranets with Enterprise 2.0.

In fact James Robertson has a second piece published at around the same time, Three fundamental purposes of an intranet, that reminded me of one of my favourite papers by Dick Stenmark, titled Information vs. Knowledge: The Role of intranets in Knowledge Management (PDF, 425KB). In this paper Stenmark introduces a "multi-perspective view of the intranet" consisting of information, awareness and communication (which he later expanded to include a fourth dimension, collaboration) - very similar to James' content, communication and activity idea. Stenmark concludes in this paper:

"When facilitating KM initiatives, information technology environments such as intranets may be utilised to establish a virtual meeting place where communities of practice can engage in dialogue and collaboration. Actions such as information creation, information seeking, and information interpretation can successfully be performed in these environments. To facilitate this, intranets must be design to support not only the informational aspects but also include people by making salient networks of users with similar interests and allow these to communicate and collaborate. I therefore argue the intranet must be viewed from both an information perspective, an awareness perspective, and a communication perspective."

From a management point of view, Knowledge Management, Innovation, Enterprise 2.0, even intranets and information technology are just tools used in organisations to achieve an end. Management helps us to frame these ideas in, dare I say, manageable chunks so we can understand and apply them. Its not perfect or holistic, but it is human. So Stenmark has helped to bridge the gap between intranets (information) and Knowledge Management. Can we do the same with Enterprise 2.0?

I think we can - add together Stenmark with recent concepts like McAfee's S.L.A.T.E.S., the Wisdom of the Crowds and earlier ideas like the Cluetrain Manifesto and even Tom Davenport's Human Centered Information Management then we have some pretty good bridge building resources in our management toolkit already.

And this brings me back to one of my questions, does how we do it matter more than what we do?

(Sorry, couldn't resist the tool metaphor...)

Online offline is really still just offline

TypePad hosted blogs are down at the moment and missing action. At first I thought it was some kind of DNS problem or even that our Aussie Internet links to the rest of world had been cut... but no, its some kind of outage.

Its a little unfair at the moment to point the finger at TypePad, as other services have their problems from time to time. And of course, some of the interest in offline Web-apps has come from issues of reliability. But at the end of the day an offline online Web-app is still offline.  The most important point is that you can't "communicate" - and for many knowledge workers this is what work is all about.

So, while offline online gives us some security we still need a fundamental change (or rather ongoing evolution) toward some kind of Web-OS that has allows us to not only work offline from time to time, but to have redundancy so we can keep communicating.

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Cognitive load theory and being PowerPointless

More evidence that PowerPoint is, well, PowerPointless:

John Sweller, from the university's faculty of education, developed the "cognitive load theory".

"The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster," Professor Sweller said. "It should be ditched."

"It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented."

If you're interested in more depth, I noticed that Anecdote picked up on some links to the original research at the University of New South Wales which summarises some key points about "Cognitive load theory":

  • Working memory is only limited when you’re learning new information. Once information is in long-term memory, it can be brought back to working memory in very large amounts.
  • In a classroom situation, only limited material is going to be retained, unless notes are taken or handed out.
  • PowerPoint presentations can backfire if the information on the screen is the same as that which is verbalized, because the audience’s attention will be split between the two.

However I've been avoiding death by PowerPoint for years and I don't agree that we need to ditch PowerPoint completely; we just need to use it with caution by planning the whole presentation, rather than just creating a PowerPoint.

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Do BEA, Oracle, etc really get Web 2.0?

I must admit I've been focused more on following the efforts of vendors like IBM and Microsoft at one end and start ups like Teqlo, but it looks other vendors such as Oracle and BEA are also offering enterprise Web 2.0 inspired "solutions" (yeah, I know sound odd doesn't it?):

  • BEA recently launched its Pages, Ensemble and Pathways collection of tools that promises to let users "Create it, Mash it, Manage it and Discover it"; and
  • Oracle's WebCenter offers "a set of integrated Web 2.0 services into a new generation of context-centric, composite applications."

I hear that Oracle is actively using social software like wikis internally, however, considering that one of the themes of Web 2.0 has been consumer driven innovation, I wonder how well these large vendors will be able keep up with the fast paced evolution of Web 2.0. And what happens if or when the bubble bursts?

The other question is whether these Web 2.0 offerings from large established vendors really offer a true Web 2.0 experience inside the firewall, or are they just mixing existing SOA approaches with user friendly interfaces?

I guess if it achieves the same end, does it really matter?

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Sunday 1 April 2007

Enterprise 2.0 and Records Management

I've talked a few times recently with people who are trying to reconcile Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 technologies with issues in organisations related to records management. Well it looks like Google have done it again and solved this problem with Google Paper:

"Now in Gmail, you can request a physical copy of any message with the click of a button, and we'll send it to you in the mail."

As the name suggests, Google Paper is the smart way of backing up email as physical record. At this stage it looks like Google Paper is only available via Gmail, but imagine we'll soon see it added to the whole of the Google office suite - hopefully this will include Google Reader as I'd love to keep paper copies of the stuff I read in the blogosphere. After this I'm sure it only a matter of time before enterprise software vendors catch up with a similar offering.

I really think this idea is going to make adoption of Enterprise 2.0 so much easier. What do you think?

Hat tip to Read/WriteWeb.