Thursday 30 April 2009

Conferences in May and June

I know I said I probably wouldn't be cross posting from the Headshift Australasia blog, but I thought you might be interested in two events where I'm presenting over the next few months:

  • Connecting Up 2009 - 11th-12th May, Sydney
  • Web 2.0 in Government Conference 2009 - 24th June, Sydney

More details over on the HOZ blog. PS Also, have you heard about Senator Kate Lundy's first 'Public Sphere' next week?

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Friday 24 April 2009

Keeping the Enterprise RSS Dream Alive

Today, it is one year since we held the global Enterprise RSS Day of Action - with the help from many people, including vendors like Attensa and Newsgator, the aim was to raise awareness of this critical element of back end plumbing for Enterprise 2.0. I'm not going to make a big deal about the day of action today or suggest we hold another one (unless you really want too!). But, if you missed it the first time around, have a look around my blog or search the Web for further coverage.

Things finally came to head earlier this year when ReadWriteWeb posted what many thought was a premature obituary for Enterprise RSS. You can see my response post here. I still don't think Enterprise RSS is dead - personally I couldn't live without my RSS reader. But its more than that: when ever I feel overloaded by email, every time I subscribe to a search result or mashup something using Yahoo! Pipes, I imagine what the future enterprise could be like if only we had the same access to Enterprise RSS as we do email in the workplace.

BTW Don't forget to check out Newsgator's new whitepaper on the ROI of Enterprise Social Computing.

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Tuesday 21 April 2009

Adding RSS and Twitter feeds to local council Websites only takes a few minutes!

I was talking about this the other day. Now I don't want to pick on Wollongong City Council (WCC) specifically, but as they are my local council I just thought I would demonstrate how easy it is to start Web 2.0'ifying local council Websites if people put their minds to it. Currently there are no RSS feeds on the WCC Website, but luckily the back end is all SharePoint and it does natively support RSS (thank goodness).

The low hanging fruit on the WCC Website are their media releases... so here we go:

Firstly, by pushing the native SharePoint RSS feed through Yahoo Pipes and Feedburner I can clean up the feed a little and it generally makes performance better IMHO - from this I get a nice clean RSS feed.

The next step is to push though the RSS feed out via Twitter (since that's all the rage at the moment). So, we create a Twitter account for them and a tool like RSS To Twitter.

Now, we just sit back and wait for some news to appear... :-)

Of course there is a whole bunch of useful information that could be pushed out if it was available in the right format, for example geographic information. And yes it would be better if we didn't need to use a bunch of 3rd parties tools to mash it together, but then again this is Web 2.0 in action and none of this is mission critical stuff.

BTW Wollongong City Council are more than welcome to all these bits and pieces if they want them.

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On the HOZ blog: Get enterprise wiki software for just a few bucks

Over on the Headshift Australasia blog, find out how to get a 5 user license for Confluence for just US$5! PS This will probably be the last time I routinely cross-post a link to the Headshift Australasia blog. Remember, you can subscribe to the feed for the HOZ blog here.

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Saturday 18 April 2009

Story week is coming: Anecdote, Sparknow and Innotecture

This should be interesting:

"Anecdote, Sparknow and Innotecture [aka Engineers without Fears] have been working together for a little while now to find out a bit more about what stories have influence and impact. We've found quite a difference in views, even among ourselves. So we're inviting our combined readership and their networks (and their networks) to participate in Story Week (starting May 4th) Over 5 days we're going to show you 5 stories from different people in different formats, intended for very different audiences and settings. You're going to tell us how you respond to them. We'll tell you what you collectively told us. We'll all learn something in the process. Oh, and it will be fun, too. Watch this space..."

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There goes the neighbourhood? Twitter, celebrities and all that

There really should be rules about blogging about Twitter (or if we want to speak more generically, micro-blogging). Navel gazing makes for boring blogging. But luckily, there are no rules for how people have to use social media... which is my point:

The only rules are the individual 'game' rules (not just the terms of service, but how the tool actually works in practice) that exist for each social media part. Privacy controls for example are a game rule that people can have direct input into. But one of the most important game rules in any social media application is how you 'friend' people. Some social media applications are strict, whilst others are open.

I think it fair to say that one of Twitter's failings is the simplistic privacy controls and follow/follower management. If a user's Twitter account is public, then you can follow them. As the person being followed, you are left to your own devices to determine if you want to follow back. With this model, and in the worse cases thanks to a little bit of social engineering Internet marketing, you can easily end up with with people - like celebrities, Internet marketers, news providers - who follow a handful of people themselves but have tens of thousands and even millions of followers. While its questionable in most cases how much social capital they actually add to the Twittersphere as long they don't bring Twitter down because of the volumes of traffic they generate, who really cares?

But we also have to accept these game rule deficiencies in Twitter are also a major strength. It allows people to easily connect with each other - if you think a person looks interesting or said something interesting, then follow them. It has also allowed a whole ecosystem of third party hacks and applications to grow around it (I previously shared my idea for checking a Twitter user's authenticity).

Ultimately, if you don't like what someone is doing or saying on Twitter then you the user still have the ultimate social networking anti-pattern defense - you can unfollow. And in the worse cases block.

Of course if you are out there trying to use social media tools like Twitter to engage with people for business or other reasons, then in the absence of fixed general social media rules it is critical that you understand the norms that are evolving in reaction to the particular game rules for each social media part. Just like any social group, these norms will continue to evolve even if the underlying game rules don't as the usage of that particular social media part grows or matures. (BTW this is also one reason why you should never hire a social media consultancy or service provider to help you, unless they use this stuff themselves).

It is interesting to consider that even Twitter's own definition of spam is an evolving one too:

"Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers."

Me personally, I switched off the option to receive a notification when someone follows me as it was just too hard to sort the expletive deleted Internet marketers from the genuine users (alas, I'm not aware of any celebs ever following me!). These days if you want to get my attention on Twitter you'll need to actually talk to me in a meaningful way. And, for the record I don't expect anything less back.

As Twitter goes mainstream how are you managing followers? And are you following any celebrities (and did they follow back)?

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Thursday 16 April 2009

Down and Out in a Pizza Chain

A well known pizza chain is the lastest organisation to suffer from a "social media quake" of sorts (check out the view from Twitter) - on this occasion, a couple of employees uploaded to YouTube a series of (what they claim to be) prank videos showing them doing disgusting things during food preparation. The company responded with its own YouTube announcement and the employees have now been fired and may face legal or criminal action.

Its very easy to blame social media for causing so much damage to this company's brand:

"The opportunities and freedom of the internet is wonderful. But it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an internet link to cause a lot of damage"
But this whole episode actually reminds me of this quote from George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, from the time he was working in a hotel kitchen - he describes the filthy conditions behind the scenes:

"It was amusing to look round the filthy little scullery and think that only a double door was between us and the dining-room. There sat the customers in all their splendour--spotless table-cloths, bowls of flowers, mirrors and gilt cornices and painted cherubim; and here, just a few feet away, we in our disgusting filth. For it really was disgusting filth. There was no time to sweep the floor till evening, and we slithered about in a compound of soapy water, lettuce-leaves, torn paper and trampled food. A dozen waiters with their coats off, showing their sweaty armpits, sat at the table mixing salads and sticking their thumbs into the cream pots. The room had a dirty, mixed smell of food and sweat. Everywhere in the cupboards, behind the piles of crockery, were squalid stores of food that the waiters had stolen. There were only two sinks, and no washing basin, and it was nothing unusual for a waiter to wash his face in the water in which clean crockery was rinsing. But the customers saw nothing of this. There were a coco-nut mat and a mirror outside the dining-room door, and the waiters used to preen themselves up and go in looking the picture of cleanliness."
Thanks to the modern food and health regulations that didn't exist in Orwell's time, I don't think that pizza chain in question is any better or worse than any other similar commercial take away operation. But lets not kid ourselves. Do you think you really know what happens behind the scenes in any organisation? But is it worse that we know about it or worse that it happens at all?

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Wednesday 15 April 2009

On the HOZ blog: We can't live without it, so lets rethink television advertising

Another post over on the Headshift Australasia blog, this time talking about the future of television advertising. Would love to hear your views on this topic!


Monday 13 April 2009

Is collaboration bad, really?

In a HBR article (and discussed in an interview for CIO mag), Morten Hansen argues that some internal collaboration can be bad for organisations.

He puts forward a relatively simple equation that weighs the projected return on the results of the collaboration against the opportunity cost and direct costs of collaboration as the basis for a managerial decision making aid - in effect you can calculate the “collaboration premium” to determine if its worth proceeding. As you might guess from the provocative title, in Hansen’s view the cost of collaboration often doesn’t add up.

On closer reading, I found Hansen really only talking about a specific level of organisational collaboration - specifically project-based collaboration between business units, where there is a defined beginning and end to the initiative (e.g. writing proposals, creating a new product line). In this context Hansen’s examples really simply point at the root causes for failure - that is, internal politics, organisational structures and management systems (both technical and organisational) are all factors that can create barriers to effective collaboration. In other words, if people in your organisation are pulling in different directions, then collaboration is going to be difficult. No kidding?

In doing this he also neglects a whole level of strategic collaboration above this formal business unit project-collaboration and emergent social networking or tactical collaboration below. It also ignores the benefits of collaboration to ongoing operational processes that span internal boundaries. Unfortunately, my concern is that this paper might convince some managers to block all kinds of collaboration without a quantifiable short-term business case.

In this sense the article is particularly disappointing because it fails to look at the bigger picture of collaboration in organisations. For example, he describes a solution for bad collaboration in one organisation as the appointment of a manager with “a broad personal network within the company”. However, its this very kind of beneficial below the line informal collaboration that Hansen omits from his discussion and risks blocking

He also confirms that while the experienced teams they evaluated found the cost of collaborating on proposals provided no direct benefit, “novice teams at the firm actually benefited from exchanging ideas with their peers.” So shouldn’t we factor in the total organisational costs and benefits of collaboration when evaluating a single project?

The other issue that Hansen fails to address with his collaboration premium calculation is the benefit of both experience and systems that can help to reduce the cost of collaboration - which is exactly why some of us are excited for the potential of social computing to contribute to collaboration and knowledge management in large or distributed organisations. Unfortunately, as Clay Shirky discusses in his book, the return on investment of social computing is hard for organisations to see.

At a high level Hansen is right when he calls for cultivating the right kind of collaboration, but by then encouraging managers to add up the pros and cons of each project in isolation sends the wrong message.

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Monday 6 April 2009

I'm in Adelaide (Tuesday 7th) and Perth (Wednesday 8th) this week

I don't get out west that often, but I just thought I would mention that I will be in Adelaide (Tuesday 7th) and Perth (Wednesday 8th) over the next few days. I have full days, but have time to talk about Headshift, government 2.0, social computing, social media, collaboration and even knowledge management over a beer in the evening if anyone is interested. Just drop me a line or give me a call - I'll be staying in central Adelaide and Perth.
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Friday 3 April 2009

Rules of engagement for our new online society

I don't think we should be surprised to be getting mixed message about the value of being online. On one hand some (Australian as it happens) recent research suggests that:

"people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not."

Meanwhile, we have had a run of more scare stories locally about people getting sacked over online behaviour, in particular negative comments about their employers or their jobs.

I have to say, searching around some of the social networking sites it wasn't that hard to find examples of things, in the current environment, that could get people into trouble based on those reports. I am actually surprised by the number of people who either don't know or don't care about privacy settings on social networking sites (even people who might catch the media's attention right now - perhaps they aren't looking that carefully?).

Of course, one day, hopefully sooner rather than later, and the vast majority will realise that the cluetrain was right. But even then I suspect a little common sense will still apply. I think the younger generation is going to be a lot more savvy about navigating the norms and values of a hyperlinked society. They at least are getting exposed to educational material like this:

Only say online what you would say face to face

Hat tip to Mark Woolley for the video - there are more on his original post.

Still, I can't help thinking organisations should be more worried about what their customers and other people are saying about them because, unfortunately, in most cases you can't sack them..

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Thursday 2 April 2009

My first post to the new Headshift Australasia blog

This is still my blog, but Headshift Australasia has a blog too now (with an RSS feed here). If you enjoyed my slides from BarCamp, you'll enjoy my first post over at our Headshift blog, where I go into a bit more detail about the thinking behind my presentation.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get over there and comment already :-)