Wednesday 30 May 2007

Microsoft enters the furniture market

I thought for a moment that it was April Fools Day again... but apparently not. In fact, Microsoft Surface is creating quite a buzz, including here, here, and lots more. Surface "features a 30-inch tabletop display whose unique abilities allow for several people to work independently or simultaneously. All without using a mouse or a keyboard." It all makes a bit more sense if you watch a demo:

Despite the buzz, this solution isn't completely unique. For example, it reminds somewhat of the interface developed by Ted Han at Perceptive Pixel (covered by Wired) - you might remember this demo from earlier in the year:

Also have a look at Coeno and their Office of Tomorrow project. I'm sure there are other examples and related ideas out there.

Monday 28 May 2007

Marching the intranet retreat

Another example of the march of the wikis into the intranet zone, this time Thomas Nelson publishing has switched from a "static" intranet to a wiki (care of Michael Sampson).

Another example, and a little closer to home, I noticed that Ark Group in Australia have an intranet tour during August in Sydney that includes a demonstration of Janssen-Cilag's wiki-based intranet.

Of course, it remains to be seen if these wikis work in a true Enterprise 2.0 style, or are simply turn out to be cheap Web content management systems (WCMS). Does it really matter?

Why would user-generated content commentators disable my mouse?

Sorry, a minor rant ahead.

Why would a Web-site that aims to covers user-generated content topics such as Blogs, Enterprise Web 2.0, Social Media, etc disable right-clicking? What's more surprising is that this site has some well known Web 2.0 people involved. For that matter, I couldn't find the RSS feed for the site anyway... so, they would lack some credibility don't you think?

From another site, reasons why you shouldn't disable right-clicking:

  • Annoying;
  • Pointless;
  • Disabling;
  • Unprofessional; and
  • Insulting.

Its certainly pointless, as you can easily re-enable right-clicking with a handy bookmark like this one available from the site.

I just don't get it - can someone explain?

Technorati tags: ,

Sunday 27 May 2007

Spreadsheets,Mashing and Social Software

Oregon State University have developed a new way to tackle the problem of spreadsheet errors. If you're not familiar with the issue, spreadsheet errors are common and can cost organisations a lot of money.

Its interesting that they say Oregon State University say:

"spreadsheet use and development is so common that it is frequently being done by people with very limited training or interest in computer software programming. These "end users" of computer software don't have the background to investigate codes, programs or formulas, they just want the program to work, and often erroneously assume that it does."

Of course, not every spreadsheet is critical, but if we think of Web 2.0 mashing tools as the conceptual descendents of the spreadsheet (an early mashing tool IMHO) then its important that we have safe guards in place. Ideally these could be a combination of automated checks, tested templates and the wisdom of the crowds (which is the icing on the Web 2.0 cake). This is something I've talked about before.

RSS's dirty little secret

Bear with me while I pull a few different threads together here. What started this line of thinking was reading a Forrester paper on RSS and this post about JP Rangaswami's open email approach, discussed here by Stowe Boyd (care of O'Reilly Radar):

"JP has set up a stringent approach to filtering his email. He throws all email where he is CC'd directly into the trash. Basically, he only reads email directed to him, alone. Of course, for this to have any influence on people's behavior, he has to loudly and regularly let others know that he is doing this. More interestingly, he has opened access to his email to his staff. By treating his email as an open forum, he has found that his associates are more involved in his interactions with others."

Now, the Forrester paper presents a good argument for managed RSS services inside an organisation and even reminds us that you can "RSS-ify" other disparate systems (excellent!). It also starts to discuss feed analytics, optimization and filtering - all good. However, it is here that the paper begins to lose me, particularly with JP's open email approach ringing in my ears. I think where it misses the point is that while in positioning RSS as something to be managed, it becomes yet another information system that is implemented without requiring or taking into account the changes in behaviour that are required to make it work. Forrester simply base readiness for RSS on two factors: need and content availability.

Some time ago I wrote about my own thoughts on tackling email overload (see For better, or worse: Living with e-mail in the workplace [PDF, 81KB]) - part of that advice then was:

  1. Where possible, eliminate the root cause of the problem;
  2. Take control of your own inbox by managing it appropriately; and
  3. Lead by example and practice better e-mail etiquette and style.

I believe this advice holds true for RSS too, especially if you see it as part of a broad solution for dealing with information overload rather than means to an end. Otherwise, despite all the nice filtering approaches you might like to apply, RSS is going to end up contributing to information overload and not reducing it (of course, good technology makes it a whole lot easier). This line of thought has also found myself contemplating these two points of view on the surveillance society:

Thinking back to JP's open email approach again, the main barrier is not so much the technology but having the right behaviours and attitudes for how we communicate and share information. And some of those attitudes relate to our perceptions of privacy as well as control. So, if we take the open email idea and try to identify the root cause of the problem it solves, then I think it is more about taking a collaborative approach to information and knowledge management. And clearly, if you're are familiar with JP's particular information technology philosophy, his open email approach is more about his mindset than the technology.

So if we think about this more broadly, is JP alone in taking this approach? I don't think so as I've had the luck to work with some different organisations over the years where by policy they have pursued open information access - in one recent case they are starting to share email through a document management system where access is restricted only by exception. Fundamental to that policy is organisational change, backed up by technology that makes sharing information as easy as possible. And that is the secret to using RSS to successfully tackle information overload.

Saturday 26 May 2007

Popfly, some bugs, but a step in the right direction

Popfly is Microsoft's venture into the world of visual mashing applications, and is a Web-based offering like Teqlo and Yahoo! Pipes. Currently in invitation-only alpha release, I signed up to the waitlist for Popfly about a week ago and my invitation to join arrived today. In between time I had seen this review on a Wired blog, so I had already reduced my expectations a bit of what I might find with this alpha release.

What has lived up to expectations is the interface, and while I can see a fair bit of room for improvement I imagine as a Microsoft product this can only get better. However, I won't hide my ongoing disappointment of Web-based applications that require the latest browser (Internet Explorer or Firefox only) and yet another plugin (in this case Silverlight) to operate correctly.

Unfortunately the main problem I had initially was getting mashups I tried building to do something and then run. My browser froze a couple a times or appeared to do nothing. I had a little bit better luck with mashups built by others, and then when I tried some simple mashups using RSS feeds. But with limited debugging tools or information, its hard to know as a user what was going on (or why something wasn't working). I did at least manage to get an RSS feed converted into a table. Problems with the mashing interface also caused a few problems, such as blocks that created outside the middle of screen and become inaccessible - all I could do in that instance was start over from scratch again. BTW I eventually worked out that the RSS input is a bit picky doesn't accept anything other than a true RSS feed, so forget Atom or even Feedburner!

Now, having said all of that what I do find promising about Popfly is that it provides the ability to create new "blocks", which are written in javascript. Blocks are packages of programming that a user can string together to do something new, or as Popfly describe it:

"A block is a piece of middleware that is contained in a single JavaScript file (.js), which provides methods for user generated code to invoke. A block may also make use of resource files such as XAML files, images, etc. A block can act as a middleman between externally provisioned services such as web services, or it may simply be a library of useful functions, e.g. a function that calculates the area of a circle given a radius. A block can also act as a display surface: something which takes data from other blocks and displays it in a meaningful manner, and allows the user to interact with it."

This means it is relatively simple for people who can script to add new functionality or data sources into Popfly. Hopefully because of this we will see more than just mapping and photo mashups, such as more options for displaying mashed up results in graphs, dashboards and spreadsheet-like tables. From an enterprise perspective, that really is an exciting prospect.

Overall, while I still not convinced based on any of my experiences to date that these types of tools will ever be easy enough for anyone and everyone to use (also see the "Difficulty Curve"), Popfly is another step in the right direction towards that vision.

Monday 21 May 2007

Brad and Matt on Virtual Life, and Coventry

I noticed this post the other day about virtual worlds, but Brad has commented on the topic before I could and says:

"Companies are using Second Life as an experimental environment to test collaborative spaces and new ideas, but don’t be surprised to see a massive growth in real world companies commercialising virtual worlds in the future (it is happening now but it will get much, much bigger). Simon Bucks from Sky News said: “We felt that Second Life has the biggest and most potential for growth.”

When the real world starts to run out of consumers, the virtual world might be the next best thing. As a consequence, this means not only a reshaping of our communication platforms, but also the content associated with it."

Locally I noticed that Telstra are also supporting the growth of Second Life as their ISP customers can access the software and site without paying any data charges, so I guess indicates how serious the media players see the opportunities.

I'm actually old enough to remember getting excited about the idea of MUDs as business tools - in this article from Wired magazine in 1993, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold predicted:

"Until now, most MUDs have been written by fanatical students in their spare time. But recently, new MUD forms involving researchers and scientists have appeared. The dawn of commercial MUDs, where virtual goods can be bought and sold, or political MUDs, where lobbyists and politicians schmooze in virtual hallways, can't be far away."

So, were they ahead of their time or despite the improved graphics are we just seeing a repeat of the hype from a decade ago? Or as Matt puts it:

"I have to admit to being a trifle puzzled about Second Life. I have enough difficulty managing my first one so I can't promise that Ricardo5D Negulesco will get up to much but we'll have to see. Quite why crude 3D renderings of a fantasy world would be appealing to large numbers of people defeats me (except here you can choose the body you want without resorting to expensive plastic surgery). I spent a year living in Coventry (a crude 3D fantasy world of crazed 50s architects) and have no strong desire to inhabit its virtual equivalent."

Maybe if the technology continues to improve beyond crude 3D rendering that might really create broad adoption? Perhaps work will become more like a video game? I suspect the earlier adopters to watch will be the porn industry ;-)

BTW If you're not ready for Second Life, try MyMiniLife instead.

Sunday 20 May 2007

Case Study: Success at Ernst & Young's Center for Business Knowledge

I wrote this case study, Online Collaboration Tools, Knowledge Managers, and a Cooperative Culture, in 2003 while working at Ernst & Young in Sydney, Australia, as the Ernst & Young Online Program Manager for Asia. It was published as a chapter within Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques in January 2005.

Ernst & Young's collaborative capability is the central theme to this paper. It aims to provide a background on their approach to knowledge management in order to understand:

  • Why Quickplace was selected as the tool to enable collaboration with their clients;
  • How this approach contributes to the successful diffusion of a new information technology innovation into their business;
  • How it has helped them to manage the risks that exist for organisations that implement Web-based collaboration; and
  • To provide a framework that can help other organisations to understand how they can develop the capability to collaborate on-line with other organisations.

Reference as Dellow, J., 2004, 'Success at Ernst & Young's Center for Business Knowledge: Online Collaboration Tools, Knowledge Managers, and a Cooperative Culture', in Madanmohan Rao (ed.), Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques, Elsevier, London.

Further Reading

Other case studies on knowledge management at Ernst & Young:

Articles & Papers

This is a consolidated list of my articles and papers:



Articles Published in Image & Data Manager

The following articles have all appeared in Image & Data Magazine.

  • The Enterprise RSS Value Chain [also published under the title, Enterprise RSS benefits go ignored] (PDF, 97KB), November/December 2008 - Along the way, an important allied Web 2.0 technology has been largely neglected. This technology is Enterprise RSS and if you can understand how to harness it, the possibilities are endless.
  • Looking for Intranet 2.0 [also published under the title, Too Cool for School] (PDF, 185KB), September/October 2008 - Information and knowledge management "cool hunters" have been peering out over the firewall and observing how the consumer led innovation of Web 2.0 is changing the way we use, contribute and interact with information on the Internet.
  • Patrolling the Web 2.0 borderline (PDF, 180KB), July/August 2008 - So is the read/write web a friend or foe to information management? A look at the implications for corporate IS.
  • Knowledge Management: How to separate the wheat from the chaff (PDF, 108KB), March/April 2006 - The demise of knowledge management has been predicted by many, but while we may be uncomfortable with what has to be one of the most poorly defined management concepts, the fact is that the "knowledge" problem in organisations will not go away.
  • Small World! (PDF, 89KB), November/December 2005 - The influence of social network concepts continue 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.
  • In The Know And On the Move (PDF, 89KB), July/August 2005 - 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 truly mobile?
  • Wiki - The New Facilitator? (PDF, 121KB), May/June 2005 - Is the wiki about to revolutionise team work, communication and how we collaborate in organisations? A wiki is a server program that allows users to collaborate in forming the content of a Website. Wikis are quick, simple and effective whenever people need to share information, but what exactly makes the wiki such a good collaborative tool and should mature IT applications, platforms and architectures be thrown out in favor of the new kid on the block?
  • Use it or lose it (PDF, 113KB), January/February 2005 - IT gets quite a rough ride these days. In recent years the failure and difficulties of rolling out major information systems in organisations have all received a great deal of attention in the media. Meanwhile critics, like Nicholas Carr, have also emerged as the champions of disgruntled end-users who challenge the competitive role of IT in business and argue that it is now just a commodity. But if this is the case, why do we still hear about innovative IT solutions that exceed expectations or achieve widespread adoption? Usability is claimed by some as the missing factor that can make or break a new technology but the real question is to ask if this is so, how do we know?
  • The Search for the Perfect Intranet (PDF, 108KB), November/December 2004 - Anyone involved with intranet development will confirm that they are very much a product of their environment. Every organisation leaves a distinct fingerprint on the design, implementation and management of their internal Web space. So is there a perfect intranet for your organisation? By James Dellow and Leigh Moyle.
  • A Meeting of Minds (PDF, 94KB), July/August 2004 - The technology to ease collaboration in business – both internally and externally – is readily available, but it seems the Australian business community is yet to be convinced of its merits.

Other Articles (Selection Only)

These downloads and presentations are kindly hosted by and SlideShare.

Shaping knowledge with business data

Nice to see someone else providing a sensible overview of next generation knowledge management and the role of social software tools. Bearing in mind that the author, Mauro Cardarelli, is a business technology consultant (rather than a management or social media consultant) and his audience was an e-commerce interest group, I think he covers the business and technology issues well.

But what I really liked was his link to business intelligence - in particular you might recall that Tom Davenport has also mentioned he is more interested in business analytics, over Enterprise 2.0. However, I think there is a stronger link between social software and business intelligence than either Cardarelli or Davenport appear to notice, and that is social software is also about data too.

La Blogopole of the 2007 French Presidential Elections

Talking of visualisations (both search and the blogosphere), this is a nice looking interactive blog network map showing the "Cartography of more than 2000 sites and blogs political French allowing to dominate and analyze the battle fields of the Web for the presidential election of 2007" [Translated from the original French courtesy of Google]. This cool map was created by a company called RTGI to promote their social media analysis services. Care of Bill.

Search Imagineering

Google continues to show us how data is the Intel inside with some interesting new experimental search visualisation tools that show results in a timeline or in a map. It just shows that once you have the "data", how you decide to display is limited only by your imagination (and programming or mashing skills of course). Of course this imagination isn't limited to Google alone, there are plenty of other people out there doing interesting things - this is just a small random sample:

  • KartOO, Quintura - search engines that present results in the form of an interactive map or tag cloud;
  • Summize - provides a heatmap of product reviews (good to bad); and
  • Alexa - provides a screenshot of the Websites appearing in your search results;
  • MusicPortl - a mashup that creates a instant snapshot on music artist; and
  • Buzz Images and News - not really a search engine as such, but another mashup that is an example of using pictures to navigate news and entertainment search data from Yahoo! 

Saturday 19 May 2007

David Weinberger's Google TechTalk

As you must know by now, David Weinberger has a new book. Here is a great video of a presentation by Weinberger he made at Google about that new book.

Its all good but I did enjoy the part that looks at the history of the Dewey Decimal System. BTW if you enjoy Weinberger's book, you might also want to take a look at Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything because part of his story of science also covers some the challenges of classification.

Monday 14 May 2007

The Art of Data

If, like me, you are interested in the "shape" of the blogosphere you'll like this. Care of David Weinberger who saw it somewhere else...

These visualisations are actually by Matthew Hurst, and if you browse through his blog you'll find more visualisations and other links related to search and mapping online relationships. This includes a link to someone else working on mapping Twitter relationships.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Walking the talk on product and service independence

I saw this on a Website today, for a business working in an IT related field:

"100% product and service independent
This site is best viewed through Internet Explorer, and was last updated on 16th March 2007. Parts of the site may be distorted or missing if viewing the site via Internet Explorer for Mac."

Hmm. I suppose 99% independent doesn't quite sound the same.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

I'll take the low road, and you take the high road

A little off topic I know, but funny:

Follow the instructions below..

Google will probably find this out and fix it pretty quickly. How do people find this stuff? Follow these steps [in order of course]:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on maps
  3. Click on get directions
  4. Go from "new york" to "london, england "
  5. Scroll down in the directions to number 24
  6. Laugh and then re-post this ASAP so other people can enjoy

(This is a shortcut to this map)

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Only 8% of Americans are avid participants in all that digital life has to offer

Forrester gave us a ladder of participation, but Pew Internet have shown us where that ladder is standing in what they call A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users which tells us that only "Half of all American adults are only occasional users of modern information gadgetry, while 8% are avid participants in all that digital life has to offer."

If you look into the detail they actually divide users into 10 different groups:

  1. Omnivores (8%)
  2. Connectors (7%)
  3. Lackluster Veterans (8%)
  4. Productivity Enhancers (8%)
  5. Mobile Centrics (10%)
  6. Connected But Hassled (10%)
  7. Inexperienced Experimenters (8%)
  8. Light But Satisfied (15%)
  9. Indifferents (11%)
  10. Off the Network (15%)

In a way this reminds me of the categories of users described in a classic book published in the late 1990's that attempted to address information overload, called Technostress - in this book they talked about Eager Adopters (10-15%), Hesitant "Prove Its" (50-60%) and the remaining Resisters. It would be interesting to see how the Pew user types map to a typical workplace.

Incidentally, Matt also highlights the digital disconnect:

"Using the internet is still an abnormal experience for most inhabitants of the globe. Their lives may be touched by it but they don't see it... We worry (or in some cases rejoice) that our societies are becoming post-literate when many societies are still coming to terms with the whole reading thing."

BTW For those of that have been touched by the Web, Pew have a little quiz to determine where you fit. Perhaps Matt could build one for his Web 2.0 Beliefometer?

Monday 7 May 2007

Dubious about Technorankit

Technorati tell us that they have changed how they report the popularity of the blogs they index by showing authority (the number of incoming links in the last 6 months) and rank (from 1 to infinity). But while they explain, "Technorati Rank is calculated based on how far you are from the top. The blog with the hightest Technorati Authority is the #1 ranked blog. The smaller your Technorati Rank, the closer you are to the top", if you look at their Top 100 blogs, then even their top blog only has a rank of 4.

So, where are the blogs with a rank of 1, 2 and 3?

Having played around with the Technorati data to create a network map of this blog, I remain a little dubious about what these rankings actually mean anyway. And I'm not the only one to notice this.

One thing I would like to see is these rankings with blogroll links filtered out. In fact, Technorati might benefit by incorporating some more sophisticated social network analysis measures for centrality than simple indegrees. Unfortunately that might require some serious number crunching on the Technorati servers. Or maybe they just need Google's Page Rank?

BTW The The ChiefTech blog currently has an authority of 109,749 with a rank of 42, so I suppose I shouldn't complain to much much ;-)

Sunday 6 May 2007

Don't blame the system

I've previously been a little critical of the Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) movement and the impact their approaches have on social capital inside organisations. Well, I'm not surprised that according to some research by OnPointConsulting most HR professionals are dissatisfied are with their performance management systems. Further, simply tweaking or changing the system doesn't really have any effect - they advise:

"The system components that people seem to change most frequently do not directly address the primary obstacles we discovered in our survey: lack of clarity between pay and performance, inconsistent application of the system, lack of commitment to developing people, and lack of managerial skills. Generally, it’s a user problem, not a system problem. Pick a system, commit to it, and make sure everyone is on the same page."

Of course my big question to the SHRM community is why this should come as a surprise? But really its little unfair to just pick on the HR department - there are lessons here for anyone attempting to change people's behaviour using information systems to manage a process.

That mob just wants to be heard

What was more interesting, the reaction of the Digg community or the issue that started it? It may come down to the perspective you take, was this about voice or power? Looking at how this issue in the Web 2.0 space might cross over to the Enterprise 2.0, Mike Gotta tries to address both issues through the middle ground:

"Let's say that management decides a course of action and announces that plan to its workforce. What happens if there literally is a "digital rebellion" of sorts as employees strongly voice opinions that the company should take a different path? Most workplaces are not a democracy and the initial management reaction might be to forcefully shut down (by taking down the application) what is perceived to be "mob rule" - people might be disciplined, told to "just do their job" and so forth...

...You might dismiss the voice-of-the-crowd. But I might suggest that there is still some intrinsic value to transparency and public discourse. In some cases, the crowd may be wrong, technically, but the collective voice may be a signal to management that it failed to adequately address the human capital and softer organizational facets of how the decision impacted its workforce emotionally or in some other quality-of-life aspect. Such lingering sentiment may negatively impact the organization in other ways.

So while many of the stories regarding Digg will focus on the "mob rule" aspect, I believe the real take-away here is that the line between "mob rule" and "collective intelligence" is razor thin and that companies will cross back and forth across that line. The goal is to avoid significant and long-lasting chaos and anarchy. Some degree of ongoing cultural disruption can be a good thing actually."

Now consider this quote about communities of practice inside organisations, from Etienne Wenger, in light of what happened and Gotta's point:

"Existing across an organization’s formal structures, communities of practice rarely derive much power directly from positions in formal hierarchies. But communities do not usually seek positional power, with its control over resources and accountability for investments—tasks for which communities are not well suited. They do seek the power of voice, however: the power to be heard, to make a difference, and to have their practice-based perspective matter. In the knowledge economy, the power of voice becomes just as important as the power of position. In an organization where the power of voice is acknowledged, managers would routinely ask: 'Have you checked with your community about this? What was their reaction?' The one time I saw a community really angry was an occasion when its opinion had not been sought. The company had gone ahead with an acquisition in the domain of the community and the acquisition had not turned out well. Members of the community’s core group were furious that their
community had not been consulted. The community, they were certain, could have foreseen the problems. Interestingly, they were not asking for the responsibility to make the final decision. They did not care for the politics associated with such responsibility. But they wanted their voice to be included in the debate.

So was the anger of the Digg community really that surprising? Do organisations really have anything to fear from Enterprise 2.0?

PS Where does this place me on the Web 2.0 beliefometer?

Wednesday 2 May 2007

The fearless engineer is back

I was feeling a little guilty about not posting much this week, but luckily I've noticed Matt Moore, blogging as engineers without fears, has revamped his blog and has come back to the blogosphere with a vengeance. Matt appears to writing a small book on his blog at the moment, so just dive in as there are some interesting posts... everything from Social Technographics: Interesting But I Don't Buy... to Video Conference with the Dalai Lama.