Sunday, August 31, 2003
Change: patterns and leverage points
New pointers to ideas about change.
1. Mike Lee about Patterns for Introducing New Ideas into Organizations [via James Robertson]:
Over the weekend, while revisiting some citations on patterns, I landed on Mary Lynn Manns' and Linda Rising's Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, which is a web page of papers and resources on the patterns of practice they and many others used over several years to introduce the concept of patterns for software design in organizations. As you might imagine, any radically new way of thinking is a tough sell, and their collection of patterns (123 page PDF) for introducing patterns is really a comprehensive cookbook of tactics that can be used to sell any new technology-related ideas in an organization.
2. Dave Pollard summarises Places to Intervene in a System by Dana Meadows (in increasing order of power/difficulty):
I liked both the summary and the original article that brought me back to my last year in university - reading Forrester and thinking about world in terms of leverage points. The following two pieces are from the article by Dana Meadows:
- Change the Measurements & Formulas
- Change the Inventories and Flow Rates of Resources
- Regulate Negative Impacts and Vicious Cycles
- Sustain Virtous Cycles
- Provide New Information
- Change the Rules, or Who Makes and Enforces Them
- Create a New System That Makes the Old One Obsolete
- Change the Goals
- Change the Mindset
- Be open, yourself, to new ideas and ways of thinking
Folks who do systems analysis have a great belief in "leverage points." These are places within a complex system (a corporation, an economy, a living body, a city, an ecosystem) where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.
[at the end] I don't think there are cheap tickets to system change. You have to work at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off paradigms. In the end, it seems that leverage has less to do with pushing levers than it does with disciplined thinking combined with strategically, profoundly, madly letting go.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Coping with complexity: how do you read other weblogs?
Olaf Brugman on downside of blogging:
...skimming through blogs for gems is laborious, timeconsuming and ineffective. Firstly, because it is impossible to keep track of even a couple of interesting blogs. And if you monitor them, most bits and pieces are not relevant to you. Furthermore, the collections of info are unstructured, although some blogs offer channels, chapters and other means to structure (and what is the difference then between a blog and a MS Frontpage managed site, contentwise?). When following links to blog friends, things become more ineffective, since all blogfriends are crossreferences, and bloggers LOVE duplication of info. In fact, a blog is a hyperlinkmultiplier. May be one day we will start fighting hyperlink pollution of the internet.
Even when doing websearches, the number of identical hits is staggering, due to the duplication of links.
Can blogs be useful info sources? My personal experience is that they are NOT. Generating too much redundancy. But the gems and knowledge nuggets hidden in them are extremely useful. The most efficient mechanism for me to mine them is to find info in doing a websearch. I have stopped reading blogs, but go dig nuggets when i have a question that needs to be answered. :)...
Olaf makes a point that contradicts widespread views that weblogs filter noise. This makes me thinking…
As blog-writers we try to provide our readers with good ways to find useful posts in our weblogs (e.g. Tools to digest your own blog), but I also wonder what do we do as blog-readers to cope with information overload.
I have three main goals when reading other weblogs: staying updated, following a conversation and problem-solving. I will try to explain what I do in each case.
1. My main way to stay updated is my news aggregator.
I would like to follow more blogs than I do, but it would take too much time, so I have to make choices. At this moment I subscribe to weblogs falling mainly in one of the following categories:
- On-going conversations - weblogs about core topics that interest me
- Niche awareness providers - highly focused weblogs covering areas of peripheral interest to me (I want to stay aware of the developments, but not be involved)
- Connectors - weblogs linking to a variety of sources I don't read myself
- New weblogs - I usually subscribe to RSS feed of any weblog that fits my interests and has good quality posts on several pages I visit. Then I read it for sometime and it stays or goes…
- Technical feeds - Radio updates, my own comments, trackbacks, etc.
Criteria to find out if weblog stays in my news aggregator
- focus and signal/noise ratio
- connection to networks/sources other than my own
- original insight - I value authors writing original posts or offering non-mainstream commentary to a discussion
- writing style (very subjective ;) - if I feel difficult to read posts of a weblog continuously I unsubscribe
- probability of being linked by other weblogs I read - if I know that several people I read subscribed to specific weblog I trust them to select interesting posts for me (this is why I don't read A-list bloggers :)
- personal connections - sometimes I do not care much about all other criteria and read a weblog because I'm interested to follow specific person
For example, I really value a weblog of Dave Pollard, but somehow I find his writing style difficult. From another side I know that many in my news aggregator read his weblog, so I feel safe to unsubscribe: all relevant posts will come to my attention anyway.
This is something I had to learn: trusting that weblogs I read will connect me to all relevant posts (from interesting weblogs I do not subscribed or those that "scroll down" before I have time to read and comment).
2. Following a conversation is different. In this case I'm interested to see how idea from one weblog (my own or one I read) develops across weblogs. In this case I use mainly tracking tools: comments, trackbacks, Technorati, referrals.
3. Problem-solving. If I have a specific question/problem in mind I use search. Could be anything between searching my weblog/ weblogs I read/ all weblogs/ all internet.
Would be interesting to know how other people read weblogs…
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Case Research Methodology course
This are some of my notes from Case Research Methodology course by Robert Scapens and Chris Humphrey. I started writing this during the course and revised/published a few days later.
Overall impression. I liked the course and would recommend to take it to people at the early stages of their PhD and thinking about qualitative research.
Random insights (summary from different presentations/discussions):
- action research and case research are in the same continuum
- sad reality: it's not about designing your research and selecting ideal cases, it's about making sound research from what you can access
- finding/selecting cases
- getting cases
- finishing a survey with "are you prepared to talk more about it?" to initiate contact
- networking, exploiting oportunities, via alumni
- starting slow and then asking for more
- "it's a selling exercise"
- negotiate with a company: goals, methods, reporting, control, confidentiality
- keep your commitment even if they don't (e.g. by being on time or sending promised results)
- initiating "back up" case contacts (if the primary one stops in the middle)
- design and interpretation
- importance of keeping field notebook
- the idea of tape-recording discussions between researchers to keep track of developing interpretations
- theory is a way of seeing [interpreting case]
- triangulation: not only data and methods, but also researcher, theory, methodology
- understand your equipment
- do not save on tapes and batteries
- do not switch after interview is over - you may hear interesting stories
- it takes 10 hours for professional to transcribe 1 hour of interview -> not transcribing, but annotating
- "more subjective" questions: asking at least two interviewees
- finding unexpected by asking "if you come to work tomorrow and disaster/miracle will happen, what would it be?"
- plan before lunch/at the end of the day to get more time in informal settings
- breaks between interviews to make notes
There was more for me in this course than I'm able to write: methodological and writing insights are more difficult to put in my own words. It was good for networking and also contributed to my survival from "PhD crisis" I had last couple of months :)
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Friday, August 22, 2003
Tools to digest your own blog
Sebastien Paquet asks about value/problems of using Trackback in Radio and use of other add-ons too. This is what I think about it:
1. In spite of Trackback in Radio bugs and features it was easy to install and it works. It just doesn't make all the things I want. No breaking Radio in my case.
I agree with Stephen Downes who is "not sure trackback is the way to do it, because it means that we listen only to those with specialized software". I'm not relying much on incoming trackback, but I don't mind pinging others (especially Movable Type users) who use it more.
For me the main value from using Trackback would be in tracking connections between your own posts. For example, if you write something now and link to your earlier post there is no way that readers of that post know that there is a follow up. Trackback can solve this problem. I'm not sure if it does now because it worked for some of my posts and not for others. Will try to get some clarity on this.
2. This brings me to the broader issue: tools to digest your own blog.
I use my weblog as a learning diary. In this case connections between posts (=development of ideas) is one of the most important things (Jay Cross about this) and one of the less supported. Do you have the same pain of finding earlier posts relevant for your current "to be post"? I have, even with many ways I use to seach my weblog. Yesterday I tried to find posts that I could use for my PhD literature review. It pains.
Just think about this: if I (the author and the person who uses these pages most) have problem of tracking ideas how easy then it is for others?
3. On of the tools I use to track ideas in my weblog is liveTopics. It works well, although it's not bugs-free and it's not supported any more since Matt Mover works on k-collector.
I wrote earlier about it in comments to one of my posts:
I believe in work around k-collector, but I think that it serves totally different goal - discovering emergent connections between people. I use liveTopics to provide an alternative navigation for my weblog and I value this aspect as well (especially given not-easy-to-find-a-way chronological structure of blogs). Both aspects are important for me and it's really pity that I have to make choices between these two tools. May be one day k-collector guys will also provide "one blog" functionality next to "group" functionality.
The only reason I'm not switching to k-collector is simple: I have news aggregator, Technorati and long list of other tools to track my connections with others, but I don't have many ways to connect my own posts. liveTopics is one of the tools that makes it possible.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
If you are a node in knowledge-sharing network, what is important?
If you think about yourself as a node in knowledge-sharing network, what is important (having in mind both: your own interests and being a part of the network)?
- Knowing your expertise
- Knowing others (people, communities), knowing what their expertise and how to contact them
- Being able to find information (to do things) or learning resources (to grow)
- Having opportunities to reflect on your own experiences, to review "pieces of the past" and to construct new ideas
- Being able to search, to contact, to share, to learn, to create effectively
Brainstorming and struggling...
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
First derivative, knowledge workers and PhD
Jim McGee makes my day. The morning started with his pointer to Career Calculus by Eric Sink. I loved this piece. It's about simple formula behind someone's career:
Cluefulness = Gifting + Learning*Time
And as Eric notes, "your career success is determined by three variables, only one of which you can control". It's not about how smart you are, it's about the speed of learning. The first derivative.
Two small pieces:
...We want learning to be a process, not an event. Making your first derivative constantly positive is not just about formal training. It is a posture which you bring to your job each day. It is a posture of teachability, a constant willingness to learn.
...The best learning occurs when we choose to process a mistake with a mentor or peer. Unfortunately, this goes against our natural tendency. When we foul something up, the last thing we want to do is shine a light on it so everyone can see what a bonehead we are. What we really want to do is cover it up and hope nobody notices. But in doing so we miss a huge opportunity to increase our cluefulness.
That was a good start. Then I scrolled a bit and found From managing knowledge to coaching knowledge workers:
The fatal flaw in thinking in terms of knowledge management is in adopting the perspective of the organization as the relevant beneficiary. Discussions of knowledge management start from the premise that the organization is not realizing full value from the knowledge of its employees. While likely true, this fails to address the much more important question from a knowledge worker's perspective of What's in it for me?. It attempts to squeeze the knowledge management problem into an industrial framework eliminating that which makes the deliverables of knowledge work most valuable--their uniqueness, their variability. This industrial, standardizing, perspective provokes suspicion and both overt and covert resistance. It also starts a cycle of controls, incentives, rewards, and punishments to elicit what once were natural behaviors.
[...]Our goal is to make it easier for a knowledge worker to create and share unique results. Instead of specifying a standard output to be created and the standardized steps to create that output, we need to start with more modest goals. I've written about this before (see Is knowledge work improvable?, Sharing knowledge with yourself, and Knowledge work as craft). In general terms, I advocate attacking friction, noise, and other barriers to doing good knowledge work.
This approach also leads you to a strategy of coaching knowledge workers toward improving their ability to perform, instead of training them to a set standard of performance.
These two posts got me out my "I'm lost in my PhD" mood. I'm still lost, but now I see the light :)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Lessons learnt implementing expertise locator system
Lessons learnt implementing expertise locator system by Jack Vinson:
C. The information within the system needs to be self-maintaining as much as possible to reduce the likelihood of info-rot reducing the value of the system. John did not discuss using tools that automatically populate expertise information based on reports and communications, such as Tacit Mail.
D. Corporate information and data systems need to be integrated, from the basic HR systems to provide contact data to more sophisticated links between the expert database and patent and report databases. For Baxter, the vision of the expert locator system did not include these connections, and there was internal resistance in adding them after the fact.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Random observations from user studies
Recently I thought about several associations between discussions in the blogoshere and user studies we do at work (trying to undestand how people search and find in-house expertise). The parallels I found interesting:
Blogosphere: many people seem to be interested in How Technorati works?
User studies at work: Any search system does some filtering and ranking. Users are usually curious about the criteria used for it as it helps to understand reliability of search results.
Blogosphere: Google comes up with built-in calculator and synonym searching.
User studies at work: It seems that Google sets up search standards that users start applying to all their search experinces. Many compare internal search engines with Google (and you can guess which side wins ;)
Blogosphere: Dina Mehta discusses impact of joining focus groups on client's understanding of customers
User studies at work: it's so nice to observe the power that user feedback has. You can spend hours talking to system developers without much effect and then one hour meeting with users makes a difference.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Trackback in Radio (2): bugs and features
As many others I'm happy to have Trackback in Radio, but I have bugs too.
Bug 1. Shortcuts are not expanded. Except from my post that TrackBack sends contains my shortcuts instead of full text. This will make me thinking twice about using shortcuts next time, which is stupid, because I really like this Radio feature (btw, for Radio guys: I stopped using categories because shortcuts are not supported in categories RSS feeds).
Bug 2. It doesn't work with KMpings. I tried to ping KMpings (as their instruction says - sending ping to this page). It doesn't work.
Also I would like to be able to define use of trackbacks per category:
- Defining page(s) to be pinged automatically for all posts in a specific category
- Switching trackback off for posts belonging only to a specific category (e.g. if I upstream one category to a password-protected location).
Do I have any chances to be heard? Please.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Knowledge networker needs
Just a quick brain dump. What knowledge networker needs?
- traces of earlier work --> articulating experiences + access to it later
- personal network --> contact management and communication tools
- easy access to those two and the rest of "learning resources"
Who owns narrated experiences? (2)
Comment by Scott Leslie to Best Set of Tools to Support Communities:
One capability that may be specific to the type of communities I support (though I expect applies more widely) is the ability for a community member to easily extract their contributions (and possibly also the contributions of others) so that they can use them in other parts of their online lives. Alternatively, the ability for a community member to easily contribute materials that have been developed elsewhere.
The majority of online communities I participate in aren't organizational in nature - the cross institutional and organizational boundaries. As such, it is likely that they are not the only community that any one of the participants is a part of. Software that acts as a restrictive 'container' where a community member can make a deposit but not a withdrawal or a transfer is of less and less interest to me. Software, or the models we set up, needs to recognize that most of us are a part of multiple communities and thus must help (instead of hinder) in participating in as many of them as possible given our limited time and resources.
I think this is important not only because we are members of multiple communities, but also because we are taking more responsibility for our own learning and we need traces of our thinking to reflect and to learn (recent example: Circadian Blog Rhythms). This need also explains why weblog can take place of participation in forums.
See also related post: Who owns narrated experiences?
Btw, definition of social software in the same comment:
This is why I think the whole 'social software' movement is in fact different from many of the collaborative technologies we've seen before - it's software that is centered around individuals (instead of the community 'site' or server) but that creates conjunctions of these individuals by accepting various interfaces, feeds and formats from those individuals and coalescing them.
NetWORK and knowledge work
Nardi, B., Whittaker, S, Schwarz, H. (2002). NetWORKers and their activity in intensional networks. In Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Volume 11, Issue 1-2, 205-242.
Abstract. Through ethnographic research, we document the rise of personal social networks in the workplace, which we call intensional networks. Paradoxically, we find that the most fundamental unit of analysis for computer-supported cooperative work is not at the group level for many tasks and settings, but at the individual level as personal social networks come to be more and more important. Collective subjects are increasingly put together through the assemblage of people found through personal networks rather than being constituted as teams created through organizational planning and structuring. Teams are still important but they are not the centerpiece of labor management they once were, nor are they the chief resource for individual workers. We draw attention to the importance of networks as most CSCW system designs assume a team. We urge that designers take account of networks and the problems they present to workers.
Authors use ethnographical research to document personal social networks in the workplace or, as they call them, intensional networks.
We choose the term intensional to reflect the effort and deliberateness with which people construct and manage personal networks. The spelling of the term is intended to suggest a kind of tension and stress in the network. We found that workers experience stresses such as remembering who is in the network, knowing what people in the network are currently doing and where they are located, and making careful choices from among many media to communicate effectively with their contacts. At the same time, 'intensional' also suggests a 'tensile strength' in network activity; we found our informants endlessly resourceful and energetic in their everyday collaborative activities within their networks. (p.3)
The authors define "an ongoing process of keeping a personal network in good repair" (p.9) as netWORK and suggest that it "tends to be hidden work, unaccounted for in workflow diagrams or performance evaluations" (p.5). Then they elaborate on specific characteristics of netWORK and illustrate them with examples from the study.
Key netWORK tasks:
1. Building a network: Adding new nodes (people) to the network so that there are available resources when it is time to conduct joint work;
2. Maintaining the network, where a central task is keeping in touch with extant nodes;
3. Activating selected nodes at the time the work is to be done (p.9)
Key actions: remembering and communicating.
See also for comparison with related research on: communities of practice (Wenger, 1998), actor-networks (Law and Callon, 1992; Latour, 1996), networks of strong and weak ties (Granovetter, 1973), knots (Engeström and Vähäaho, 1999) and coalitions (Zager).
The reduction of corporate infrastructure means that instead of reliance on an organisational backbone to access resources via fixed roles, today's workers increasingly obtain resources through personal relationships. Rather than being embraced by and inducted into 'communities of practice', netWORKers laboriously build up personal networks, one contact at a time.(p.25)
This study highlights the increasing role of personal network in doing work without explicitly looking at learning and knowledge sharing. Studies we do at work show that many people tend to rely on their networks while searching for information (which is related to learning). Supporting knowledge creation and sharing in social networks study is about similar things as well. All of this convinces me more and more that there is something wrong in studying knowledge workers without their networks, but I'm still struggling to understand how knowledge work and netWORK are connected.
See also: Knowledge networker
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Saturday, August 09, 2003
Blogging tool wanted
Still in a questioning mode :) A friend asks:
I have used Blogger for a while, but the blog is almost dead now. One of the things preventing me from putting more time in it is that a Blogger blog (the free version) is hard to organize and searchable. It is a long list of postings. I would like something with more navigation options (like channels or categories). Also, every time I put new features (blogroll, statistics, comments etc) into the Blogger htmlcode, the blog showed display errors, like showing the dates in scriptform, instead of normal writing. So I was not impressed with the quality of Blogger.
I thought about TypePad. Do you have other options in mind?
I need something that is more stable (no script errors), is managable in channels, as in informationwebsites, so that I can show people an easy way to different themes (not everyone wants to know about China....), and may be with a minimum set of standard features. Also, I want minimal tampering with code, and do not want to run my own server. So I am basically looking for a hybrid form or a managed site with easy posting facilities...
What would your pick be?
Friday, August 08, 2003
How Technorati works? (2)
David Sifry answers my question about Technorati:
Here's the basics:
1) We spider blogs, and match up their links to your blog - to anywhere on your blog 2) In the inbound blog list, we use the outbound links from the blog homepage, not from the archives 3) We do process RSS feeds an other metadata, but that doesn't affect your inbound blog stats 4) Nightly, we go through the database and re-calculate the number of inbound blogs and links, which helps us double-check our work and also allows us to create the interesting newcomers list, the interesting recent blogs list, etc.
We strice to be accurate all the time. Sometimes things slip through. For example, one of the reasons why your inbound blog count may be down today is because we were doing maintenance of the database last night to remove duplicate blogs - for example, Radio Userland has an obnoxious habit of sending pings to www.weblogs.com for each weblog "category" if you use multiple categories on your blog. Same information, same author, just link spam, basically. So, last night we cleaned out a bunch of that stuff. If you were linked from a bunch of people's blog categories, then you lost those inbound blogs. Then again, so did everyone else. :-)
The last thing to remember is that while we strive for accuracy and completeness, we still do have bugs and have to fix things. If you notice something strange, please don't hesitate to send us feedback (email@example.com) and let us know.
Thanks for fast reply! And for fixing the category problem (I had it in my stats).
I suggest that you add this explanation somewhere, so people know that inbound blog/link statistics are calculated based on links from homepages of other weblogs. (I guess I'm getting spoiled as a researcher: I want to know the method to trust results :)
See also more advanced version of answer in David's Technorati Tutorial, Part 1
How Technorati works?
Last technical question before I move to other things. Does anyone knows how Technorati works? Do they process blog homepages only? Or only items in RSS feeds? Or only things "not older than ..."?
I wonder because I usually observe some fluctuations in numbers of inbound blogs and inbould links. E.g. yesterday I had 100+ inbound blogs and today it's 80+. It would be interesting to know why these things change. I tried Technorati site and weblog of David Sifry with no luck.
I guess this is a quite typical question that user has about systems that digest information: what are the criteria that are used?
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Site statistics for weblogs
More pragmatic questions: what site statistics could you recommend to use with a weblog?
I'm most interested to know the following about my weblog:
- history of referers and tracking changes (quantitative, for the rest there is Technorati :)
- search strings and their change over time
- most popular visited pages (I have some insight about popular linked pages from Blogdex)
- RSS requests/traffic vs. pages requests/traffic
- visitors that are RSS readers (this comes down to knowing how many people are subscribed to your RSS)
It's also interesting to know usual things (e.g. hits and visitors), but as far as I don't have ads it's not important :)
See also: RSS Flow, Measured
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Monday, August 04, 2003