Friday 30 November 2007

Will the real Charlene Li step forward?

I'm not sure what worries me more in Charlene Li's post about Facebook's new Beacon advertising system - the problems with Facebook Beacon or the fact that Charlene has two Facebook accounts, one for her analyst persona and the other for her (apparently) real persona:

"I'm not sure of all of the details, but I suspect that if I had logged into my "personal" Facebook account first (yes, I have two Facebook accounts and unless you know my personal email, you won't find my truly personal Facebook profile), that Overstock activity would have been logged to that Facebook profile."

On the Facebook issue, I can see some value in Beacon if the user has the right level of control over privacy. On the other hand, the cookie-based approach sounds a little clunky. But the persona issue I find more interesting. Now, I know you shouldn't throw stones in glasshouses because like Charlene I limit the personal information I publish on the Web but in terms of my online identity there is only one. Maybe I'm being a little naive but I'm a little more disturbed about the impact of people developing fake relationships with fake people in Facebook than I am by a clunky marketing system that needs some fine tuning. In that respect, that's the really compelling reason for Facebook to get its marketing systems and privacy control working right and working together just so we can keep our online relationships - professional and personal - real.

BTW Some of the comments in a reply to Charlene's post are worth reading - you have to feel sorry for the guy who bought an engagement ring and Facebook then announced it to his friends (ruining the surprise).

Wednesday 28 November 2007

Living Information Systems

I've talked about spreadsheets in the past - they interest me as one of the earliest forms of user-generation applications so this article from Forrester, titled Ouch! Get Ready — Spreadsheets Are Here To Stay For Business Intelligence, caught my eye for a number of reasons:

"For years, IT practitioners and vendors have tried to develop and implement applications that would eliminate spreadsheets from mission-critical processes... But that battle has been fought and lost. Rather than fighting the use of spreadsheets, application developers, information and knowledge managers,
and business managers must embrace them — but in an environment that provides much needed functionality while treating every spreadsheet as an important enterprise resource.

Despite the availability of a modern enterprise-grade Business Intelligence (BI) stack, the spreadsheet wins out because of its ease of use, flexibility and availability. There are some strong parallels here with the drivers behind enterprise social computing - in fact, the solution to the spreadsheet "problem" put forward by Forrester very much reflects an Enterprise Web 2.0 philosophy of social and technical controls, and pragmatic risk management that recognises that some spreadsheets are more important than others.

But this future state isn't one in which spreadsheets are absorbed into a better BI solution, instead Forrester starts to describe a vision of a "holistic environment" complemented by other technologies like enterprise content management. And I don't think its a big step to see how this vision might become one for an enterprise-wide living information system where structured, formal systems not only coexist with, but provide a supporting infrastructure for working with dynamic, informal social tools.

BTW You can currently register to download the full paper for free.

Monday 19 November 2007

Enterprise RSS moves information

There have been quite a few responses to my post about the state of enterprise RSS. Off blog Scott Niesen, Marketing Director for Attensa, has a go at articulating the value of what he calls a "managed RSS ecosystem":

"Let's start with a blinding flash of the obvious. Information Moves. It moves markets, innovation, time to market, price, profits and productivity. Enterprise RSS moves information"

Simon also adds his two cents worth, and also makes a similar point about how RSS moves information, and not just blogs and wikis:

"RSS is raising its head as part of the conversations going on around social software adoption within the enterprise. This is not necessarily a bad thing, syndicated content is certainly key to these tools and their success. But why are RSS and ATOM not been given more attention outside this context, as part of more strategic thinking? There is a lot more they can be used for than just blog feeds!"

And on blog there are whole bunch of more great comments.

BTW along the way I also discovered a couple of RSS-related bits and pieces:

I'm wondering, do we need to organise an Enterprise RSS Action Day or something to help kick start things?

Knowledge Management: Results may vary

Hmm. It would appear that most of the Knowledge Management community is still sleeping, however David Snowden at least passed his critical eye over the Knowledge@Wharton article from the other day.

Mostly his doesn't like this kind of academic research approach, but he makes a valid point that is applicable across the whole of the Knowledge Management domain:

"In any knowledge sharing environment you are dealing with a complex system so the creation of survey instruments with dependent and independent variables is in appropriate. It gives a happy appearance of order and structure, but in reality there are too many factors (or better modulators in play). Five minutes reflection produced those listed above and it would not be difficult to create more."

Or, in the interests of simplicity, I summarise this as:

Remember, its Knowledge Management and results may vary ;-)

Wollongong: Mostly Harmless

Its the little things that count - while signing up to Dopplr (care of fellow CSC'er Mark) I was asked to enter my Home City - all I typed in was the word "Wollongong". Dopplr replied:

"We know about just one place in the world that matches what you've typed: Wollongong, Australia."

Nice, very nice.

Every Web 2.0 service out there please take note, I might not live in North America, but I am still part of the known universe rather than the mystical realm of otherland or the kingdom of noneoftheabove :-)

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Saturday 17 November 2007

Connections + Information = KM?

I really do hope this research paper form Knowledge@Wharton, Different Knowledge, Different Benefits: Toward a Productivity Perspective on Knowledge Sharing in Organizations by Martine Haas (Wharton management professor) and Morten Hansen (professor of entrepreneurship at INSEAD), will cause a bit of stir in the knowledge management community - in K@W's summary of the paper the authors comment that:

"We find that using codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task, but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients, whereas in contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signaled competence, but did not save time," Haas says. "This is interesting because managers often believe that capturing and sharing knowledge via document databases can substitute for getting personal advice, and that sharing advice through personal networks can save time. But our findings dispute the claim that different types of knowledge are substitutes for each other. Instead, we show that appropriately matching the type of knowledge used to the requirements of the task at hand -- quality, signaling or speed -- is critical if a firm's knowledge capabilities are to translate into improved performance of its projects."

In the actual paper [PDF}, the authors also put forward the suggestion that:

"firms that primarily compete on quality can benefit most from emphasizing personal advice usage (and perhaps downplaying electronic document usage), while the opposite holds for firms relying on efficiency."

If not the paper, then read the rest of the summary for yourself as there is also a discussion of the factors the authors found were important to productivity that Knowledge Management should make a contribution to:

  • work quality;
  • time savings; and
  • signals of competence.

They also mention factors, based on earlier research, about the factors that influence the ability of teams to get value from the external knowledge they obtain:

  • slack time;
  • work experience; and
  • decision-making autonomy.

They make this interesting comment about slack time:

"Teams with insufficient slack time may download large quantities of documents from a database without checking their quality, skim the papers on their desk superficially -- missing important information -- or fail to solicit sufficiently diverse views by only consulting close colleagues who will return their phone calls promptly."

Does this sound familiar?

I've always maintained that in knowledge management, the combination of people, process, technology and content (information, if you like) should support goals that link to business problems or objectives, and this drives the selection of the mix - in fact part of my masterclass talks about using theories like Porter's Five Forces model to help understand what knowledge strategies an organisation might need. Its neither a case of just building document libraries or just connecting people, but getting the right balance. And the by the way, you may need a little bit of process too.

Picked up by Mike Gotta.

UPDATE: Fixed and added links to the paper.

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Why aren't we getting enterprise RSS yet?

I thought it was interesting that two PR people contacted me in response to my post about enterprise RSS. First, Janet Johnson, representing Attensa, said:

"why do you suppose the adoption of enterprise RSS (and associated benefits available today) is so slow?... I shake my head on the lack of institutionalized adoption all the time.  Help me understand - thank you."

Jennifer Gazin from LaunchSquad, representing Newsgator, also emailed me talking about NewsGator's participation in OpenSocial - she also pointed me in the direction of Newsgator's blog on Enterprise RSS where this post caught my attention about Gartner's magic quadrant and they commented:

"The Gartner view of team collaboration and social software, and this is just an observation and not a judgement, is still rooted in the blogs and wikis mindset, which is not what we do so according to how Gartner is segmenting the market there really wasn't much upside for us.

We believe the market is much broader than Gartner is allowing, encompassing content relevancy, discovery, and surfacing (what you need, when you need it, and in an app that can use it), user profile data, user initiated action, such as sharing and tagging, coupled with user generated content."

I think this comment points at a symptom of why the adoption of enterprise RSS is so slow - and that is RSS is still very much misunderstood by the corporate computing world, Gartner included. I've actually had comments from other IT professionals that RSS is "flaky" in comparison to other types of Web-delivered content and email, which is disappointing.

The other big issue is that for enterprise RSS to work you need both RSS content and RSS readers in place. From a technology point of view neither issue is difficult to overcome but we run into the old chicken and egg problem of supply and demand for RSS - It departments won't invest in RSS if there is nothing to consume, and if there is no way of consuming then why create RSS content?

The other issue is that if you can overcome this first problem, then it would appear you don't need a enterprise RSS system in place, however the problem I have is that I (and I think most knowledge workers) want an integrated RSS experience.

Hopefully its just a question of time and getting people to evangelise RSS? What do you think?

Monday 12 November 2007

Team Collaboration and Social Software Redux

Its been more than a few days since Ross Mayfield and Jeff Brainard from SocialText shared a copy of Gartner's magic quadrant on Team Collaboration and Social Software, so I felt I should make some kind of comment on it. Unfortunately - and no disrespect to Gartner or SocialText - the problem with this first iteration of the report is the scope, which they actually point out themselves:

"For this version of the Magic Quadrant we did not insist on any specific coordination or social software functionality, as there is not yet a clear consensus on what should be included."

They then go on to list a basket full of social computing-like features that they might expect to see included.

I also found it interesting that they included EMC's eRoom (which, if you're familiar with this popular project collaboration tool, its not surprisingly it rated badly as "social software") but did not include IBM's Lotus Notes instead only really focusing on Lotus Connections. In this respect the magic quadrant is a little misleading because they identified vendors and not the products, but for the smaller vendors they are the product where as the larger vendors have a range of products on offer. Having said that, its also not clear if the commentary on Microsoft's capabilities is about Sharepoint portal or more broadly (what about Groove?); they also make no mention of the integration with products in the quadrant like SocialText, Atlassian and Newsgator. And don't forget, EMC's product line will also play with Microsoft... and so on!

Overall I'm left very feeling unsatisfied by this report. Hopefully future iterations of the report will get more focused, but I suspect they will continue to run into the problem of definitions and scope.

Saturday 10 November 2007

BEA's annual enterprise portal report and the 4th way

Ok, its a marketing exercise by BEA so its going to be a little biased but their annual report on the state of the enterprise portal market is still worth a look. While the final spin is BEA's, the reports mixes data and ideas from other analysts with data from their own customer base.

Looking across the external data they argue that health of the enterprise portal market can be attributed to these factors:

  • The need to integrate;
  • The expansion of the user base to larger and external audiences (i.e. extranets); and
  • BPM, SOA, and Web 2.0.

In their conclusion they comment on:

  • The evolution of portals from static information aggregation to "one of the few infrastructure frameworks that truly embrace open and flexible computing";
  • The coming of age for enterprise portals over application portals; and
  • The fact that no matter what no technologies appear, portals are likely to be piece of the solution.

This report is very much about the now and the near-term. However, what it did make me think about in particular was the direction for enterprise portals as extranets in relationship to Web 2.0 and Enterprise Web 2.0 - for me an extranet portal for customers and partners is great, but the issue I've always had with this scenario is why does the customer or partner have to come to you?

In the past I've thought about a similar issue with Web-based collaboration tools like eRoom, Quickplace, etc - when two organisations want collaborate they have 3 choices:

  1. Use company A's site;
  2. Use company B's site;
  3. Use a neutral site.

But can't there be a 4th way - each uses their own site? Think about it. (Hopefully this goes a little way in answering Janet's questions)

Anyway, read BEA's report for yourself here - registration required, of course.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Dreaming of Enterprise RSS functionality

I'm increasingly convinced that an RSS server is a critical part of the Enterprise Web 2.0 stack - its a messaging system that should be as important as email. Attensa add some meat to this idea by putting forward 3 key reasons for implementing an Enterprise RSS system:

"Enterprise RSS - Why Not Just Use Google Reader?

It's a question that inevitably comes up in every conversation we have with businesses looking to use RSS for streamlining communications. We think there are three big, compelling reasons to use a managed system for integrating RSS in your enterprise communications mix: synchronization, analytics and security."

If you check out their original post, they actually offer 9 further reasons. Now, these reasons are all good but I'm actually looking for some extra pieces of functionality to round out two of the key reasons they put forward:

  • Federated synchronization between organisations for direct sharing of private RSS feeds;
  • While we wait for encrypted feeds to go main stream, I want managed secure feeds for external consumption - I'm actually thinking of a couple of levels, with options for authenticated feeds and also public feeds with readable titles but content that is either encrypted or sitting out on a HTTPS site so only an authenticated user can read it.

We take the ability to transport email between organisations for granted and I think  we need RSS to have the same abilities. I know the Attensa guys drop by occasionally, so hopefully this might give them food for thought.

Of course I'd also like an enterprise version of Yahoo! Pipes too! :-)

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Windows Live Writer 2008

For all the bad karma Microsoft may have created in the past, the release of Windows Live Writer 2008 spreads positives vibes around the world... download and try it yourself!

The good news in this release is that you no longer need to use a dictionary hack and it has support for the Atom Publishing Protocol. Unfortunately I haven't actually been able to get the Atom Publishing Protocol working in the Lotus Greenhouse, so hopefully someone might be able to give me a hint the right direction?

Monday 5 November 2007

Dare Obasanjo's review of OpenSocial

Its always good to get different perspectives, in this case Dare Obasanjo (who, for the record works for Microsoft but is blogging his own opinion) provides a critical review of the OpenSocial API in comparison to Facebook:

"In general I believe that any effort to standardize the widget/gadget APIs exposed by various social networking sites and AJAX homepages (e.g. iGoogle, Netvibes,, etc) is a good thing... Given that Web widgets are now a known quantity, the time is ripe for some standardization.

That said, there are a number of things that give me cause to pause with regards to OpenSocial"

Its a technical perspective, but worth reading. Care of Brad Feld.

I think KM, therefore I am KM

Through my involvement in the New South Wales KM Forum, I've noticed a real turn around of interest in knowledge management this year. All our meetings have been well attended and along with the regulars, new faces continue to appear. There is a similar story over at the NSW KM Forum's sister group ACT-KM, who held what is said to have been their best annual conference to date (so much interest in fact, the large number of people downloading copies of conference presentations crashed the server!)

However, we are probably no closer to agreeing on a definition for knowledge management - but that argument, which usually descends into a debate about "knowledge" and occasionally "management" (yes, the irony that the Wikipedia entry for management currently says "This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject."), isn't going to solved anytime soon. My position has always been that knowledge management is two words.

Moving on from that quagmire, I suspect some of the renewed (or perhaps refreshed) interest is in part technology driven and we have social software to thank. But as I've also written before, we shouldn't confuse Enterprise 2.0 with knowledge management, and knowledge management isn't "fluffy" information management either (for more see Knowledge Management: How to separate the wheat from the chaff). In fact I think its fairer to say that most of the real activity in KM today is at the edges of technology or technology is at the edge - e.g. using narrative analysis tools that can reveal weak signals or using wikis to help facilitate an unconference.

But fundamentally I see knowledge management evolving into an attitude or a style of management, rather than discipline as such. KM is as much defined by the community of people in KM, as it is by the different tools, points of view and techniques we use. And by the way that's how I know I'm in KM, because my community of KM friends tell me so.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Being OpenSocial

I was reading feeds as the announcements and discussion started to bounce around during the week about Google's new open API for social networks. It provides a set of functions around what might be described as the three core functions of a social networking platform:

  • People - information about individual people and their relationships to each other;
  • Activities - the ability to post and view updates on what people are doing; and
  • Persistence - a simple key-value data store to allow server-free stateful applications.

So far major sites and companies like, Friendster, hi5, Hyves, imeem, LinkedIn, MySpace, Ning, Oracle, orkut, Plaxo,, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, and XING have already signed up to supporting OpenSocial - and even Yahoo! has indicated that it is broadly supportive of the move (actually, I hope the create a Yahoo! Pipes connector in OpenSocial).

Of course there is also a lot of talk about OpenSocial challenging Facebook. Personally I do wonder while standards are good, are we mistaking it with the need for interoperability and accessibility between social networks? Both the Facebook and the OpenSocial API's are out there so there is no reason why a bridge between them can't be built - and its important to remember that Facebook is a destination, while OpenSocial is a connector between different social sites and applications. And lets not forget that the other social networking player, MySpace, is already part of the program.

I'm also interested to see if this API will provide a model for organisations to create their own social networking platforms - e.g. will we see IBM support this API in its social suite? Nick Carr has similar ideas and comments:

"Plenty of people have commented on OpenSocial, but not many have focused on the possible implications for corporate computing. But given the fact that the OpenSocial consortium includes Oracle,, LinkedIn, and Google itself, it's clear that businesses are an important target of the initiative. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine OpenSocial, or something like it, becoming the glue for "Enterprise 2.0," which has become (alas) the umbrella term for the use of web-based social software by companies."

However once we get past the excitement Read/WriteWeb have some concerns that its control and dominated by Google and may not actually deliver data and identity portability.

Fundamentally I think the benefit of someone like Google kicking off OpenSocial is a good thing - we can see this in the momentum that has gathered so quickly around it. But the concept of People, Activities and Persistence is simply enough that it can be replicated and for me the enterprise social networking story that plays out behind it will mean Google can't completely dominate it (well, fingers crossed anyway).

Friday 2 November 2007

Chumby, the evolution of digital photo frames?

I'm not sure why, but I think I want a Chumby.

Spotted care of Nancy White, who already has one, and describes it as a "little mobile wireless displayer of widgets". I think about it as a the evolution of digital photo frames and Chumby themselves describe it this way:

"The chumby is a compact device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web: news, photos, music, celebrity gossip, weather, box scores, blogs — using your wireless internet connection. Always on, it shows — nonstop — what's online that matters to you.

Why would I want one?

It's just pure 24/7 gratification to be able to have the Internet on tap. Sure, you can get the same information on your computer, but why be stuck behind a keyboard to enjoy your internet addictions?"

Its interesting because you can use it in different ways from being a clock to keeping in touch with your social network. On the other hand its just a fancy always-on widget player, so why can't my Palm T|X (or your mobile device of choice) work like a Chumby? I suppose its not as cute... but there is a little more to it than just a widget player - the current wikipedia entry describes what is under the hood as including:

"a bend sensor for squeeze-based user interface features and a sudden motion sensor (accelerometer). Future releases for the Chumby may include a "Hacker Sensor Package", with motor drivers, A/D Converters and digital inputs and outputs to make the device more flexible."

Hmm. Not quite your average PDA or digital photo frame.