13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Mathemagenic
...giving birth to learning...


  Friday, October 31, 2003

  Keeping found things found on the web

Jones, W., Bruce, H., & Dumais, S. (2001). Keeping found things found on the web. Proceedings of CIKM’2001, 119-126.

This paper describes the results of observational study into the methods people use to manage web information for reuse. If I think about my own experiences I'm not surprised to see that they found out that sending e-mails with links or printing web pages is more common than using bookmarks.

What I find especially valuable is the functional analysis the authors provide to explain uses of different methods.

For example, a web address pasted into a self-addressed email can provide an important reminding function together with a context of relevance. The email arrives in an inbox which is checked at regular intervals and the email can include a few lines of text that explain the URL's relevance and the actions to be taken. On the other hand, for mort users in the study, the bookmarking tool [...] provided neither a reminding function nor a context of relevance. (p.119)

Identified functions

  • Portability - being able to take it with you
  • Number of access points - being able to access information from different locations
  • Preservation of information in its current state
  • Currency of information - having updated version of information
  • Context - remembering why it was saved
  • Reminding - remembering that something has to be done with it
  • Ease of integration into existing structures (e.g. e-mail with link can be easily archived with other e-mails, while bookmarks have their own structure)
  • Communication and information sharing
  • Ease of maintenance

The authors use these functions to compare different methods in a nice table (see the paper). It immediately made me thinking about weblogs (linkblogs ;) as a method to access online information for reuse (more on it later).

I also find this paper useful from a research perspective: the data collection method is well described and worth thinking about when doing similar studies. And it also says something very much inline with my thinking about focusing on user rather than on using specific tools.

People exibit great flexibility and creativity in their choice of methods and in their overall practice of information re-use. We begin to glimpse this flexibility and creativity only when we move away from a study of individual tools and their use and towards a study of what the user, by whatever means, is trying to accomplish. (p.125)

See also Keeping Found Things Found project for more publications, bibliography and other useful things (e.g.survey of Web keeping methods).

  Thursday, October 30, 2003

  Knowledge worker spaces

A bit more knowledge networker thinking for my PhD research (I'm looking at weblogs as a case to understand knowledge workers).

I distingush between three directions of weblog use by knowledge workers (slightly different earlier version with more details):

  • personal information management
  • conversations and networking
  • learning

This makes me thinking that it may be more useful to consider knowledge work not as creating-learning-sharing-applying knowledge, but as system of activities in three interrelated spaces:

  • Idea space (managing ideas): creating, capturing, organising and applying ideas
  • People space (managing relations): establishing, maintaining and activating connections with others
  • I space (managing yourself): learning
More on: knowledge networker PhD 

  Recently online on knowledge workers

As I promised: recently online about knowledge workers.

"CIO knowledge worker" series by Davenport:

Jim McGee's letter commenting on Davenport - Knowledge Workers Should Watch Themselves (thanks to Jack Vinson): knowledge work can not be automated and knowledge workers are only those who can judge the quality of it

Dave Pollard posts a paper about The future of knowledge managament with practical suggestions for improving knowledge worker productivity.

More on: knowledge networker 

  Knowledge worker paradox

I guess I'm part of the broader KM trend: writing about knowledge worker productivity :)

I wrote a story, Knowledge worker paradox, where I try to explain why "When it comes to knowledge workers, we pretty much hire smart people and leave them alone" (Davenport).

One sentence summary: organisations focus on things they can control and can measure, thus knowledge work is left to knowledge workers.

Please note:

  1. My thinking was inspired by the iceberg metaphor used to describe informal learning and Jim McGee's writing on knowledge work as invisible craft.
  2. This is part of my research, so your comments will be extremely helpful.
More on: knowledge networker PhD 

  Tuesday, October 28, 2003

  Explosive energy, fish and blogging

Recent discovery: La NuiT's Surfing (RSS feed). For example this post - Hybrid media and its resultant explosive/implosive energy:

McLuhan writes, "The hybrid or the meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revelant from which new form is born. For the parallel between two media holds us on the frontiers between forms that snap us out of the Narcissus-narcosis. The moment of the meeting of media is a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance an numbness imposed by them on our senses." (Understanging Media, pg. 55.)

[...]Blogs are one of these intriguing "hybrids" (or in my view, maybe even the 'meta'-hybrid) that McLuhan tries to inform us about as per quote above. He says that when we get hybrids (interprenetration of one medium by another), the violent release of energy (either by explosion or implosion, fusion or fission, this I am not so sure if I understand) snaps us out for a brief period from the "Narcissus-narcosis" in other words, "numbing" effect" (like the fish not knowing it is swimming in water, again.) McLuhan, in fact, sees this energy to be so violent as to call it a "civil war in media". The sometimes heated discussions that goes on about blogging does give one a sense of a "civil war", and it's happening in the electric medium! Hybrid energy is powerful stuff!

I feel that it somehow correlates with MonsterMedia - monstrosity in the face of weblogs, but I can't explain how.

Check also post on bloggers as fish:

So what do fishes have to do with blogging? Wouldn't you say we are all swimming in a current that we find difficult to grasp, like a fish doesn't really know that he is swimming in water until he is left on land?

This post also appears on channel weblog research

More on: blog new blog research 

  What Matrix Persona Are You?

You are Morpheus-Was searching for The Matrix website and found this test What Matrix Persona Are You?

It says that I'm Morpheus :)

More on: fun 

  Hard lessons learnt

I'm still disconnected. I've learnt a lot about DNS these days, especially that it takes ages to get your domain name back once it switched off. I don't think I will forget to pay my domain name costs another time :)

So, what do I miss:

  • searching my weblogs for ideas and references when I need them
  • feeling that there is someone to listen when I write and hit "Publish"
  • looking for follow-ups of my posts and tracing emerging conversations
  • sending people my weblog link as an addition to two-lines intro

I feel disconnected and invisible, like I don't exist anymore. I know this is not true, I do exist, I enjoy autumn sunshine and I'm happy to reply to all the worried messages saying that it's just a technical problem and my weblog should be back. Still, writing this and knowing that it will not go in the air feels like trying to speak and realising that no word can reach others (thinking of the moment in The Matrix when Neo tries to speak and his mouth dissappears).

Anyway, autumn sunshine is still here, back to work and be patient...

  Monday, October 27, 2003

  Book writer connections

From Lisa Williams

If you type an author's name into GNOD's Map of Literature, you'll get a little scatter plot with that author's name in the center. Surrounding them will be authors whose readership overlaps with theirs -- the closer the next name is, the more the overlap.

Mysteriously, the names jitterbug about as you watch them, as if they were being blown by a stiff wind -- or animated by live feeds from Amazon.

More on: fun 

  'Being yourself' rather than 'misbehaving'

The headline of misbehaving.net, a weblog about women and technology, says

"Well-behaved women seldom make history." --Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I have mixed feelings about the topic and especially the title of this blog. From one side, I know that it's not so easy to be a women in technology-related fields. I like the provocative style of this weblog and I enjoy reading it...

From another side, I feel that there is a broader issue behind this: accommodating diversity, those different from the majority. I've been in situation "woman in dominantly male environment", but it's not much different from my other experiences of being different: being much younger than expected, being a foreigner, being an innovator. Probably, there is a lot to do with specific "women and technology" problem, but I would rather focus on embracing diversity, as from my experience "different-friendly" environments are "women-friendly" as well.

And I also don't feel easy with "misbehaving" approach. For me it means fighting with existing rules. And for me fighting is not feminine... It looks a bit paradoxical - trying to get your own space in a different world by actually playing its rules. 

I would rather go for "being yourself" approach rather than "misbehaving". Fighting for what ever good reason makes your opponent stronger. I believe that there is more value in crafting your own way of doing things than in fighting existing structures. And who knows, may be one day being a woman in IT will be considered as "behaving well".

Later: Liz in What does it mean to "misbehave"?  (read the whole post)

Most of the women I know and respect, in and out of the technology field, have the battle scars to show for their misbehavior. But at the end of the day, you have to learn to pick your battles. And how to work within the system, not attack it from the outside.

I believe women know well how to do it. I often think about Russian saying that "husband is a head, but his wife is a neck", meaning that he can think he is controlling things :)

More on: blog new 

  Sunday, October 26, 2003

  Leadership on the web

David Weinberger in Why The Web Has No Leaders

So, what lessons do we learn about leadership on the Web? That the people we pay attention to are the ones who speak not at us and not to us but with us. We listen to them carefully because they are so interesting, so wise, and even so funny. We learn that leadership isn't a quality that necessarily spreads across all areas and topics: the person who is worth listening to about, say, technology may be just another jerk when it comes to raising children. And we learn the lesson that is most troubling to marketers, businesses and real-world leaders of all sorts: We learn that we, talking together, are smarter, wiser, and more interesting than any single leader could ever hope to be.

More on: leadership 

  Saturday, October 25, 2003

  Impermanence of weblog writing

Just came across series on permalinks in Weblogging for Poets by Shelley Powers (Burningbird):

From the last part:

We edit each other's memories all the time. Two old friends get together and they talk about old times and one says, "Hey remember when..." and the other goes, "That's not what I remember...". Memory of a shared conversation is a negotiation, a give and take and by the time all parties are finished, the memory isn't exactly as it happened, but is no less real. That's how conversations work -- we are not heads of state to have every word in every exchange recorded, permanently.

Somehow it correlates with another piece, by Jay Rosen:

Sure, weblogs are good for making statements, big and small. But they also force re-statement. Yes, they're opinion forming. But they are equally good at unforming opinion, breaking it down, stretching it out, re-building it around new stuff. Come to some conclusions? Put them in your weblog, man, but just remember: it doesn't want to conclude.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Friday, October 24, 2003

  More on reading weblogs

Frank Schaap asks What do you read?

Q: When you first visit a new weblog, what do you read? Of course, you take in the whole design, maybe scroll up and down a bit, but do you a) read the main content/main entries, b) just read some headers, c) read the sidebars, d) read "about me" info, e) some combination of the above, f) EVERYTHING, g) something else entirely?

Q: On repeat visits to known weblogs, what do you read?

Q: Do you read weblogs primarily in your browser or in a RSS newsreader?

1. I read entries that catch my attention and check categories that look interesting. Then if the blog looks promising I check the sidebars and "about me". If I'm still interested I subscribe to RSS feed and give it a try. The rest is described in reading weblogs.

2/3. I read most of weblogs using RSS readers (two at the moment). I use browser only to read really interesting exepts in full or for a follow-up reading from blogs I read via RSS.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Thursday, October 23, 2003

  Blog is down

Daily usage for October 2003I'm alive, I just wasn't writing for a few days and forgot to pay for my domain name. It should be fixed if you are able to see this post.

Not being able to access my weblog is a good case to reflect on my dependence on it: I really use it as an ouboard brain, so my life is difficult without it.

  Friday, October 17, 2003


Was cleaning papers on my table and thought about fields that I had to look at during last two years in my current job...

Deepening my "old" topics:

  • learning: informal and incidental learning, implicit learning and reflection, transfer of learning
  • change management: technology adoption

New topics:

  • KM theories and approachers, KM strategies and methods, CKOs, KM measurement (a bit), communities of practice, social networks, networking and contact management, knowledge workers, personal knowledge/information management, information search and retrieval, information literacy, knowledge mapping, ontology construction
  • weblogs, wikis and other "social software" things
  • research methodology

"Old" topics that I'm not doing much about:

  • e-learning: formal e-learning, technologies (LMS and so on)
  • HRD and the rest of formal part of corporate learning (but I do a lot about "connecting" these things with KM)

Hope I'll be able to build meaningful connection between all these things without loosing focus :)

  Learning: communities vs. courses (4) - learners' skills and motivation

Another turn on Learning: communities vs. courses - 12, 3: George Siemens summarises the discussion in Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks. It's a great overview (and it's very good to have someone rethinking and summarising bits of distributed ideas), but I'm thinking on implementation challenges.

I wouldn't come back to my concerns that some educational goals may not work with community dynamics, this time it's about learners themselves, as "The simple fact of membership in one or seventeen networks specifies little about content of knowledge and nothing about degree of mastery" (Spike Hall). This point links the discussion about learning in a community with another stream on learning with weblogs.

Spike Hall notes that introducing weblogs as a learning tool is not about the technology, but about "passing over the deuterolearning (aka meta-learning and learning-to-learn) torch" and lack of meta-learning skills of students. He also adds that we are likely to overlook it:

I thought I might mention this because those already deep into a) weblogging / journaling, or b)research and development, as two examples, are already deep into self-directed growth and may take their own skill for granted. This taking-for-granted sets up a certain blindness to the total set of attitudes and skills that go into high levels of active and self-directed learning. And this blindness, in turn, can render the teacher/developer incapable of isolating and teaching the subskills and attitudes that are involved.

Sebastian Fiedler continues:

Though I certainly see the potential of personal Webpublishing to be turned into "a major self-uplift machine" (actually a good part of my paper for BlogTalk 2003 was trying to examine the possibility to conceptualize personal Webpublshing as a powerful tool for self-organized learning), I keep bumping into missing "subskills and attitudes" of adult learners whenever I try to integrate personal Webpublishing practices into formal course settings.

Sebastian points that it's difficult to change existing learning habits and attitudes of adults and that there is a variety of ethical questions around it. At the end his asks:

What can we really do to promote more self-teaching and self-organized learning?

Can personal Webpublishing practices support a development into this direction?

Or do we need to treat some "attitudes and sub-skills" as explicit pre-requisites for turning personal Webpublishing into a tool for personally meaningul learning?

I would add: Can we decide being a self-organised learner is a good thing for someone who is comfortable learning in other ways? It's quite a paradox: we want learners to be self-directed and this is one small thing we will decide for them... I believe that reflection and meta-learning skills are increasingly important in our days. My questions is: how do we facilitate others going there without forcing them?

Coming back to learning in communities: given the lack of structure and guidance in communities it's personal meta-learning and communication skills that make learning possible. And, as Spike Hall notes, those who have these skills tend to take them for granted and expect that everyone will learn given the opportunity to do so. I don't think so and I don't have ready an efficient and ethical roadmap of developing these skills.

Related: earlier post on Developing reflexivity.

  Learning: communities vs. courses (3) - experts vs. novices and competition

Something that I missed in my Learning: communities vs. courses link collection - Martin Dugage on the motivation for learning is the desire to access a community

The traditional professor-student relationship in a classroom setting, with grades, diplomas and the like still makes sense as a prerequisite to entering a learning community. It is a question of managing time and attention. If we start bringing in newbies who haven't acquired the fundamentals required to participate in the learning activities of the community, we might end up annoying the top experts of the community, who might then leave for better places where people will make better use of their precious time.

I guess this comment of Martin comes from practical experiences of facilitating communities in corporate context. There are more insights on "how communities work" in the knowledge management field and sometimes I feel very sad that these experiences are not known or not recognised in educational discussion about communities (lack of interaction between these two fields is my old frustration and overcoming it directs much of my thinking).

Anyway, there is a connection between Martin's concern and Sebastien's recent post on experts and novices pointing to Joe Cothrel observation about opportunities that weblogs provide in enabling novices learning from "gurus" without making them frustrated with depth and scale of interactions. I belive this is the direction worth exploring.

Final comment of Martin:

I believe learning economies (and the web is definitely one) are economies of access and not economies of transaction, meaning that you had rather pay, and very dearly sometimes, to obtain free access to a community of people that you would like to resemble, than for some of the discrete services that the best of these people could offer you. Or to put it differently, you may be prepared to work like crazy to graduate from MIT, but going through MIT's courses without being recognized (a.k.a. branded) as an MIT student is worth far less.

In learning environments, there is always some form of exclusion. C'est la vie.

There are two sides here: people compete (try to get accepted) in communities that provide better learning/networking environments for them and communities compete between each other to get attention of "best" members.

  Thursday, October 16, 2003

  Directory of weblog research

Does anyone know about a directory (or wiki or something else) of weblog research? I'm interested to know about:

  • people and organisations
  • themes and topics
  • finished academic publications about weblogs
  • work in progress

Update: Sebastien posts his list and starts weblog research channel.

I'd love to have a wiki (or whatever collaborative space) to work on it. Anyone to host it?

More on: blog research 

  Wednesday, October 15, 2003

  A Brief Overview of the Linguistic Attributes of the Blogosphere

A research paper by Stephanie Nilsson - A Brief Overview of the Linguistic Attributes of the Blogosphere [via Mario, tout de go...; see also others who linked to it via Blogdex]

I only scanned it, but it looks like an interesting reading for both findings and research method.

Later: final version of this paper and other papers

  BlogTalk paper: final version and a bit of reflection

Something I was supposed to post long time back: final version of my BlogTalk paper - Blogs: the stickiness factor (.pdf).

I finished it only a couple of weeks back: I was too lazy to rewrite parts of it and managed to get organised only before final-final deadline for print version. I'll be sending e-mails to the participants tonight.

There is more in the data about blogging I collected than I was able to analyse and to write about. I'll be using bits related to knowledge work in my "under construction" paper and I'll see if I come up with more ideas.

Doing that study was a great experience. It started almost accidently when I discovered a way to connect my interest in weblogs with my PhD exploration. At that moment it was a way to test some ideas I had and I didn't think that I would seriousely look at weblogs in my PhD research. Well, you never know: Life has more imagination than we carry in our dreams.

Discovering blogging - writing a weblog, reflecting on my own process, reading others' reflections, sparks of comments and discussions, studying it - all these things contributed in somehow invisible way to my thinking about knowledge workers and my PhD research. At the certain moment two themes that make me passionate collapsed in one. And I've got my PhD focus, in one day, after struggling for months.

My new PhD focus is not approved yet, but at least I know what and why I'd like to study. This may change again and I guess I have more struggling ahead, but at least now I feel very happy to see how bits of ideas are getting into coherent whole.

So, thanks for participating in that study: you did more than you may think.

  Blogs in Russia

Wired - Russia: Dial 'H' for Hostage [via browsing started by Waypath plug-in] - a year old article about LiveJournal as an alternative to mainstream media.

It also says about LiveJournal: "Of the site's 700,000 users, more than 6,000 are Russian." I wonder what is the real number as Blogcensus shows only 900+ Russian language blogs.

More on: blogs Russia 

  Tuesday, October 14, 2003

  Blogging turns web pages into people

Playing with old quote by Sebastien Paquet in blogs and Googling people (cited a lot by others):

Finally, I note that blogging itself is actually in the process of making people as easy to find as web pages on Google -- it turns them into web pages!

I think the opposite is more important: blogging gives voice and face to web pages and turns them into people.

More on: bloggers 

  Topic-based RSS feeds from K-Collector

K-Collector provides RSS feed for aggregated topics. I loved the idea, went to subscribe to Knowledge Management and knowledge work, but was dissapointed to find there mainly weblogs I read anyway :)

  Learning: communities vs. courses (2)

Follow-ups on Learning: communities vs. courses

George Siemens summarises main benefits of communities and courses and suggests that "good" elements of courses can be supported in communities. I'm not so sure.

Structure and focus of courses have something to to with teacher's authority (courses are other-directed), while in communities there is no real authority (ok, there are respected experts, but respecting someone is not enough to discipline yourself :) I'm not sure that a combination of both will work.

Jeremy Hiebert reflects on his own learning in different forms (read it!) and describes three main reasons to join formal learning program: credentials, discipline and feedback.

I especially liked parts on feedback in courses and in blogging community. On feeback in blogs:

The blogging community talks a lot about the interaction of blogs, and we've all seen some great quasi-conversations emerge across several sites at once, but the type of feedback you get on your writing tends to be somewhat impersonal, even if you get to know the personalities behind the writing. Comments might point you somewhere for more info, or disagree with something you've written, but they rarely give you a sense of how you're doing overall. You might know that Person B disagrees with your stance on standardized testing, and that a study exists to refute one of your points, but you probably won't get help in improving the articulation of your arguments or research skills.

Bill Brandon summarises problems with communities:

1. Accountability: with formal instruction, someone is accountable for results; and 2. Bad information drives out good
He also adds, "Much of what is learned informally is wrong, and there is no easy way to correct it." [related: piece on why articulation of implicit learning is important in implicit learning]

Oliver Wrede suggests that not only who is learning, but also what is to be learnt is important for making choices between communities and courses.

  Monday, October 13, 2003

  Paper abstract: a weblog case to understand knowledge workers

I'm writing a paper and have to submit extended abstract in two days. I would appreciate any comments on it - What's in it for me? Using weblogs to understand knowledge workers (.doc)

I'll post paper draft as well once it's more readable :)

Update: final version  of the paper - Discovering the iceberg of knowledge work: A weblog case

  Sunday, October 12, 2003

  Weblog and paper blind review

I wonder, if I submit a paper abstract for a conference and it is supposed to go through a blind-review is it a good idea to post it to a weblog too? From one side, I'd love to share my current writing to get a feedback. From another side, I'm writing about weblogs and knowledge management, so if reviewers are curious to learn more about the topic they can easily find it and it's not 'blind' anymore. Next to it I'm not sure if I can share submitted abstract (it's usually clear "no" about papers, but I'm still not well with academic standards...)

Any experiences or ideas?

More on: blog research 

  Learning: communities vs. courses

There is an interesting post by George Siemens and follow-up discussion on learning communities vs. courses. I guess  it reflects well educator's frustrations about courses and fascination by communities.

Why communities are not good? Communities are nightmares for novices: lack of clear roles or structures, overflow of information, discussions that you join in a middle, strange language... Communities could be good to stay updated in the field or get specific questions answered, but they are hell if you want to get solid understanding of the domain. Communities are difficult for those who are not self-directed learners yet or choose not to be self-directed in specific context (I believe in the right to choose not to be self-directed :) And finally, to learn in a community, you have to be open for unexpected opportunities to learn (see related thoughts about not learning in a community).

Why courses are good? Good course instructors take into account learners needs and level of being (choosing to be) self-directed and provide guidance that makes our path through learning exciting and efficient. Courses provide context that makes us more 'disciplined' then we would be by ourselves: pushing to learn things we would never consider important, doing assignments to articulate silent ideas or connect loose ends, initiating brainstormings that should lead to some tangible results and not only random thoughts. Courses provide structure to make learning about complex things easier. Finally, good courses develop our abilities to become self-directed learners.

I believe that both courses and communities (and other forms to support learning) provide good conditions for learning in some  cases. The problem is that we don't know much what are those cases and how learners and those who facilitate learning can make good choices for combining different environments for learning. Effective learners are developing their own (often unconscious) strategies to make these choices, but I haven't seen much research on it.

I would explain lack of research in this area by two factors. First, the scale and importance of informal learning are quite recent discoveries (as far as I know from 1979 study of Allen Tough on personal learning projects). Second, the focus of most thinking about learning: educational institutions and companies think in terms of activities or environments that support learning of many. In this case even when learners' needs and preferences are taken into account they result in events and programs optimised to help learning of many at the same time, rather than to optimise learning of one person across different contexts.

Related reading: Jay Cross: The Other 80% for an overview on informal learning.

Some of my posts: formal vs. informal learningSupporting informal learning, Virtual communities as learning networks, Bricolage learning and longer story on synergies between formal and informal learning.

  Saturday, October 11, 2003

  Perseus weblog study (2)

Some follow-ups for Perseus weblog study

  • Phil Wolff: summary and reasons for abandoned blogs
  • Clay Shirky: on below-average abondonment rate of LiveJournal and writing vs. reading focus of analysis (see also comments for more explanations about LiveJournal and use of survey results)
  • Oliver Wrede: publishing 'personal' vs. 'professional' life and stopping blogging
  • Jim Elve: flaws, explanations of abandoned blogs
  • Nick Douglas: a bit on dinamics of switching from hosting to your own sever and community
  • Jim McGee: 'This is a perfect application of Sturgeon's Law - "90% of everything is crud." '

Check links to the survey at Blogdex if you want more.

Also: Russian translation of survey results (without caveats!)
More on: blog research Russia 

  Friday, October 10, 2003

  Challenges of studying knowledge work

Just to summarise some of my thinking behind previous post. I believe that there are several challenges of studying knowledge work:

  • finding a way to address knowledge work as a system of interrelated activities (with networking in the list of activities)
  • discovering and understanding invisible aspects of knowledge work (did I mention that my PhD project ID is Iceberg?)
  • understanding what is needed to 'manage' knowledge work, which is discretionary and can not be controled

Were you able to guess that I'm writing a paper? I am :)

More on: knowledge networker 

  Knowledge work as discretionary behaviour

This paper was long in my "to blog" list: Kelloway, E. K. & Barling, J. (2000). Knowledge work as organizational behavior. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2, 287-304 (if you can't get access to it you can check earlier report on-line).

Abstract says:

Knowledge work has been defined as a profession, a characteristics of individuals, and as an individual activity. We review and critique these definitions of knowledge work and propose that knowledge works is best understood as discretionary behaviour in organizations. As such knowledge work is understood to comprise the creation of knowledge, the application of knowledge, the transmission of knowledge, and the acquisition of knowledge. Each of the activities is seen as discretionary behaviour. Employees are likely to engage in knowledge work to the extent that they are the (a) ability, (b) motivation, and (c) opportunity to do so. The task of managing knowledge work is focused on establishing these conditions. Organizational characteristics such as transformational leadership, job design, social interaction and organisational culture are identified as potential predictors of ability, motivation and opportunity. Implications for further research and practice are identified.

This paper has the best overview of the literature on knowledge work I've seen so far. It contains an interesting model that describes connections between organisational characteristics (predictors'), 'mediators' (ability, motivation and opportunity) and knowledge work activities, as well as extensive discussion on 'predictors' and 'mediators'.

The authors build on the idea of employees as 'investors' of their knowledge, referring to work of Steward (1998) and Drucker (1999):

As investors, employees choose whether or not to invest their skills in a given company. Perhaps more to the point, as investors, employees choose when to invest their knowledge, and how much of their knowledge to invest. Moreover, employees choose to withdraw their investment in the workplace when the 'pay-off' falls below acceptable levels. [...] Importantly, simply employing an individual is not a guarantee that the investment will be made. (p.293)

And related piece that I loved:

In advancing the position that knowledge work is discretionary behaviour, we explicitly deny any direct link between employees' knowledge and intellectual capital of the firm. Put simply, the organization does not and cannot 'own' the knowledge of employees, and to categorize such knowledge as an 'asset' is fundamentally misleading. (p.293)

Personally, I subscribe to the definition of knowledge work the authors propose and to the values behind this definition, but there are a few things to comment as well.

First, according to the authors (based on the literature) knowledge work takes at least four forms: finding (learning is here), creating, packaging (sharing is here) and applying knowledge. I have a few problems with it:

In all papers I read those definitions of knowledge work forms or activities are given in a way that they are almost unrecognised by normal people (Do I "package knowledge" when I give a presentation?) It seems that the terms used are coming from an organisational view and high level of abstraction. I wonder if you can do something useful with those definitions if you want to study knowledge work.

What is not said in the article is that these forms of knowledge work are interrelated and often undistinguishable from each other. When we talk at coffee-table do we share or learn? If we brainstorm new project ideas do we learn or create new knowledge? When we apply textbook principles in our work do we learn or apply? Once you want to study knowledge work in real settings you can not avoid thinking about it.

It's nice that the authors say "at least four forms", because I believe that something important is missing. I would add at least networking/contact management (that's why I'm much into using knowledge networker as a term). I'm actually very surprised that with all the work on communities of practice and social network analysis nobody (as far as I know) added "creating and maintaining personal knowledge network" and "managing own membership in communities and networks" as knowledge work elements.

I would also add "personal information/knowledge management" to address activities related to evaluating and organising personal knowledge and knowledge resources (e.g. ideas).

Second concern is much lighter. The authors address difference between physical and knowledge work:

It is relatively easy to coerce and control physical labour that by definition is observable and measurable. [...] In contrast, knowledge work is fundamentally unobservable – one observes the outcomes, not the process of knowledge work. (p.293)

I'm curious if this statement is true (because if process of knowledge work is unobservable and unmeasurable we can not study it :) It may be difficult to lurk in the brains of people, but we can find some ways to get insights about specific activities that people engage into to get to outcomes. For example, looking at the learning theories we can find many models to explain learning process and some ways to measure it. And, of course, I'm coming to weblogs here because I believe that they may improve our understanding of process of knowledge work (I'm under strong influence of Jim McGee's Knowledge work as a craft work).

Anyway, must read article for anyone interested in knowledge work.

  Understanding and developing knowledge work practices

In one of the discussions about knowledge management someone asked if we were thinking of supporting "knowledge workers as they are" or some kind of "ideal knowledge workers". I guess it's true that most of people now have some elements of knowledge work in their job, but most of us are too far from what could be considered an ideal case.

We are still in the process of trying to understand what knowledge work is, how do we do it and what do we need to do it better. At the same time we want to make knowledge work more effective. I would say that we are targetting at understanding and developing knowledge work practices at the same time.

See also Is knowledge work improvable? by Jim McGee and Peter Schutt on knowledge worker productivity.

  Thursday, October 09, 2003

  Uses/benefits of blogging for knowledge workers

This another slide of my presentation, but this one is probably the most important for me as this is the frame I use to think about weblogs in my PhD research trying to summarise (possible) uses/benefits of blogging for knowledge workers.

What's in it for me?

  • Publishing
  • Personal information management
    • Watching trends, staying updated (~'search' strategy)
    • Documenting experiences and ideas
    • Organising links, ideas and references
  • Dialogue and networking
    • Getting feedback and evaluation of ideas, engaging in conversations
    • Establish contacts based on common interests
    • Emergent community
  • Learning
    • As a result of:
      • staying updated 
      • articulation 
      • organising ideas
      • conversations 
      • being part of a community
    • As a side effect: writing, communication, search and technology skills

  Weblogs from a business perspective

I just posted edited slides for my internal presentation on weblogs in business. I don't think that there is much new in it, may be just my way to explain weblogs :)

The presentation has two parts: explaining weblogs and discussion on weblogs from a business perspective. Below is a summary of some "business" slides.

What's in it for business? Releasing and "channelling" personal passion

  • Personal nature of a weblog
    • Provides context to understand and interpret ideas
    • Supports trust, reputation and relation building
  • Personal motivations to write in a public space make employee knowledge and aspirations visible, supporting articulation of ideas that are difficult to get other way
    • Experts and their expertise become more visible
    • Documented ideas can be collected, stored, processed and reused company-wide
  • We tend to trust people more than we trust machines or organisations
    • Personal touch in customer-relation building
    • Authentic internal communication


  • Tools vs. voices
    • Weblog tools can be used to support organisational processes as any other tools, but then we risk loosing advantages of weblogs as personal voices
    • Weblogs can be passionate uncensored voices of employees, but then we risk information leaking and creating "wrong" image
  • Business vs. individual
    • If we impose organisational goals and rules weblogs are not likely to work
    • How can we benefit from weblogs if we don't?
  • How do we balance organic and personal nature of weblogs and business goals and needs?

Specific questions

  • Intranet weblogs
    • If there is enough weblog readers to motivate weblog writers?
    • How weblogs integrate with everyday practices and existing tools?
  • Public weblogs
    • Corporate weblogs=no personal voice: Will they be trusted?
    • Personal "work-related" weblogs
      • Are they censored? What do we loose then?
      • How do we insure that no competitive knowledge is leaking?
      • Should they be affiliated with a company? Hosted on a company's web-site?
      • Who has copyrights?
  • Business model? Legal issues? Technology choices?
More on: blogs in business 

  Wednesday, October 08, 2003

  How to start blogging?

I'm constantly finding myself in trouble when people ask what they should do to start blogging. I don't have any good step-by-step approach and I don't know any good text on it that would satisfy me. May be you know something...

The prerequisites are:

  • Think of someone
    • thinking about starting professional or semi-professional weblog (=not a personal diary) in public
    • interested in using weblog for networking, so RSS is a must
    • non tech person (so no complicated install and preferably as less usability troubles as possible)
    • not sure if blogging will work for him/her (so paying for the blogging is questionable)
    • not an early adopter (so will likely to stop facing problems)
  • My questions
    • What weblog software would you recommend?
      • At this moment I'm leaning towards TypePad
    • Do you know good introductory articles about how do you start blogging that such a person should read?
      • I'm not interested in articles about "what blogs are?" and "why blogging?". In most of the cases people I'm talking about have some understanding of weblogs and some ideas about What's in it for me? I'm talking about people ready to give it a try.
More on: blogging tools blogs 

  Tuesday, October 07, 2003

  Presentation on weblogs and business: links

Follow-up links for my presentation on weblogs and business (slides, public version).

More on: blogs in business 

  One more day for learning

On the same day last year I learnt not to chair workshops on my own birthday. I don't have a workshop today, just a presentation about weblogs in business :)

It smells apple-pie-in-the-oven, I'm finishing my slides, thinking about my mother, who helped me to discover the joy and challenges of learning, and looking forward to see what this day brings... 

More on: life 

  Sunday, October 05, 2003

  Weblogs in business: following the culture or changing it?

Compare and contrast :)

Guardian Unlimited: Why blogs could be bad for business by Neil McIntosh

While blogging's earliest advocates operate on the "information wants to be free" principle, many businesses would shudder at the very thought.

"Information is power" is a more likely mantra in many organisations. Whenever you hear those three words, you're hearing the signal of the kind of closed information culture where there's also a heads-down, bunker mentality utterly unsuited to the openness required for a convincing weblog, be it an external PR effort, or knowledge-sharing internal one.

There are plenty of areas of business where people are judged on their knowledge, and the competitive edge - and thus the safety of everyone's jobs - is the thickness of a single good idea. Share it all on a weblog, with competitors or (worse) an office rival? You must be kidding.

Robert Scoble, very passonately, about "why do you weblog instead of doing something to get rich?"

So, why do this if not for money? Well, I started doing this mostly for myself. I am a news junkie. A community junkie. A computer junkie. I wanted a way to keep track of the sites I visited that I found interesting. I wanted a way to keep track of people I find interesting. I wanted a way for me to talk to the world about my point of view. I wanted a way to change the way corporations talk with their customers.

[..."weblogs and Miscrosoft vision" and more...]

But, no, there's lots of people out there who think there just is no value in having a conversation with customers. Don't worry. There were people in the 1970s who thought the idea of a personal computer was wacky. I know that people asked Steve Wozniak "why don't you do something with your time that has a chance of making you rich?"

I think we all know the answer. I'd rather change the world, thank you very much.

I agree with Neil McIntosh that weblog use in companies depends on their culture or, I would put it more specific, on having a critical mass of individuals that can change it. He is right that bloggers tend to be "knowledge-sharing is power" people (e.g. personal characteristics that support blogging). But the question is: if people believing in the cluetrain manifesto are anomaly or early signs of changing balance between businesses and their customers?

And it also comes to more fundamental question: do you believe you can change the world?

  Perseus weblog study

The Blogging Iceberg - Of 4.12 Million Hosted Weblogs,Most Little Seen, Quickly Abandoned by Jeffrey Henning [via Andrew Orlowski]. An interesting study about weblogs:

Perseus Development Corp. randomly surveyed 3,634 blogs on eight leading blog-hosting services to develop a model of blog populations. Based on this research, Perseus estimates that 4.12 million blogs have been created on these services: Blog-City, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePad, Weblogger and Xanga.

Interesting findings:

...The most dramatic finding was that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned. Apparently the blog-hosting services have made it so easy to create a blog that many tire-kickers feel no commitment to continuing the blog they initiate...

...Blogs are famed for their linkages, and while 80.8% of active blogs linked to at least one external site from a post on their home page, these links were rarely to traditional news sources. Only 9.9% of active blogs had a current post that linked to one of 2,875 traditional news sites. So blogging in practice is not just about linking to news articles...

...Blogs are currently the province of the young, with 92.4% of blogs created by people under the age of 30.

And from the conclusion:

When you say 'blog' most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

I guess this study correlates well with an average view on weblogs: weblogs are "me and my cat" diaries by teens :)

I found the most interesting part at the end, in "caveats" describing research method:

  • only hosted blog services were considered (because your-own-hosting-blogs "require more work to set up and will be characteristically different than those blogs created using hosting services")
  • most demographic data are taken from LiveJournal and Xanga

So, they didn't take into account Movable Type blogs (and MT blogs have larger share than some of hosted services they looked for) and hosted Radio blogs.

I think that selecting a sample for such research should be considered more carefully: focusing on some platforms/hosted services and not the others can impact results a lot. I don't have hard data here, but I believe that demographics, blogging goals and styles differ a lot between blogging communities (e.g. comment about word of the mouth and differences between Radio and LiveJournal blogs), so you are likely to get biased sample selecting only some of them.

I would also look at the correlation between technology "community and communication" features and links/number of readers of a weblog. For example, weblogs with RSS feeds or embedded comments or community features like "friends" in LiveJournal have higher potential for survival (because even those who write for themselves write more when they have readers). See Marysia on interpersonal communication on blogs

Another caveat gives hope for more careful follow-up studies:

This is the first in a series of studies we will be conducting on the blogging community, each designed to help strengthen our understanding of the community as well as to refine our blogging research methodology.

  Random BloggerCon quotes

During last few days I was browsing many BloggerCon-related weblogs (If you are interested, you can check BloggerCon webcast, aggregated blogroll (RSS) and Feedster BloggerCon buzz)... 

Betsy Devine notes on educational panel 

Dave Weinberger, JOHO: Is it the opinion of the panel that weblogging is a life skill, and everyone should learn it? Or is it like singing, that not everybody should do it in public? [...]

Kevin Marks, Epeus Epigone: Blogging is not selective by race, it's selective by electricity. Also, you can't really blog if you haven't mastered the basic skills of reading and writing.

...and on Cluetran 2003 panel 

Adam Curry: When you talk about what people are doing with the web now, think about the way the telephone was used when it was new--to call ahead and tell you that a telegram is on the way. [...]

Ted Henderson: People have compared weblogs to the telephone. I don't know many people, except maybe teenagers, who pick up the telephone and dial random numbers to get their message out. [...]

Kevin Marks: The net is too big for us to see all of it. It's like Caliban's mirror, because you see what you're loooking for. If you look for dark things you'll see dark things.

Lis Riba 

Blogging is just a technology. It doesn't make us better people, doesn't by itself improve our lots or say much about ourselves.

Lis again 

I raised my hand to ask a question, and by the time I finally got to speak, began with a statement that garnered applause and I've now seen quoted on several other blogs: 'We're a roomful of people used to writing monologues trying to have a dialogue.' As somebody else pointed out, the key question is often who can speak when; with weblogs, it can happen in parallel.

Lance Knobel 

I have never been to a conference where there was such easy intercourse between panel and audience: everyone was truly a participant, in the best sense of the word.

Part of the explanation was the generally high standard of topics and panels. But I think there is something more fundamental. Since everyone (or just about everyone -- I found one exception) at the conference was a blogger themselves, everyone is comfortable with voicing their views, and is generally pretty cogent in the way they do it. It makes for a very potent mix.

  Revealing part of yourself without knowing it

Hairdressers can do magic. They look at you, they find out something that you don't even know about yourself and they work to make it visible. It may be something you always wanted to be or something that you tried to hide from yourself, but after being in good hands for your haircut you always come to know something new about yourself.

This seems to do nothing with knowledge management, learning or weblogs, but I kept on thinking about it yesterday reading Small pieces loosely joint (thanks, Ton) at my hairdresser and thinking about the quote by Susan Mernit [via Just a Gwai Lo]:

The topic of privacy and what you do and don't write on your blog--both your personal blog and a workplace blog--interests me as a question of privacy, but also of voice, of how bloggers present themselves. After all, blogs are personas. We emphasize particular aspects of ourselves, allow things we want to share to be revealed, and try to obscure those we consider private, want to hide, or are not aware of.

We can try writing to show part of what we really are, but I have a feeling that weblogs disclose more of us then we are aware of. A good reader can tell me something that I don't know about myself as my hairdresser makes visible the part of my personality that was hidden from me. It can be scary, but for me learning is always worth the risk.

More on: bloggers 

  Saturday, October 04, 2003

  Waypath plug-in once more

Olaf Brugman writes in Debunking Waypath about his far-from-perfect experiences of finding relevant weblogs via subscription to RSS feed of Waypath search results. My experiences with RSS subscription are similar (noise/signal ratio is comparable with general search), but I'd like to point out that my enthusiasm about Waypath comes from using Waypath plug-in, which somehow works better.

Waypath plug-in finds and shows weblog posts connected to your post. For me the main value of it is in finding posts related to my writing outside of my "regularly read" circle of weblogs.

This plug-in is not perfect as:

  • results are better for longer posts, so there is almost nothing to expect for short posts
  • sometimes it links to weblogs I read, so there is noting new (but it's still interesting)
  • it's a rare case if all of three links shown are relevant

Still, there are cases when I'm really happy with it. Two recent examples:

For my Technorati+TrackBack for tracking who links to a post Waypath plug-in links to Burningbird: Trackback for the Non-Trackback Enabled and magpiebrain: Trackbacks considered harmful?

For my Is it difficult to 'catch up' with a weblog? it links to Read/Write Web: Tracking conversations with Wikis and Common Craft - Online Communication Planning: Advice on Professional Weblogs

2 out of 3 relevant (for me) posts from weblogs I don't read regularly.

  Technorati+TrackBack for tracking who links to a post (2)

I've got suggestions for my question about tracking who links to a post: subscribe to links to my weblog via RSS feed from Technorati, Waypath and Blogdex. This is not what I want. Quick morning look at Technorati is enough for my "ego-blog-tracking" purposes (I know that I can do it via RSS, I just don't see a value of paying money to get something in real-time if I need once a day :).

I want: post-specific links (who links to the post X) and not page-specific or weblog-specific links AND automatic display of those links (a-la TrackBacks) next to the post.

I expect that it can help blog readers to find follow-ups for posts that they found interesting without having to look at all links to my weblog. This is the same difference as subscribing to comment notification for a post (what readers are likely to want) vs. subscribing to all weblog comments notification (what bloggers do).

  Friday, October 03, 2003

  Technorati+TrackBack for tracking who links to a post

Sebastien's TrackBack from comments? makes me thinking about something else: Technorati+TrackBack combination for tracking who links to a post.

Starting point. Knowing who links to a specific post is important to follow the discussion. It also may say something about post quality (as inbound links to a weblog say something about it). Knowing who links to a specific post is interesting not only for a blogger, but also for blog readers.

Problem. Most of the comments in the blogosphere are written not as comments, but as posts in other weblogs. Sometimes weblogs that link to your post send TrackBacks and you may be able to receive and display them. Then the connection is visible for both blogger and readers.

But in most of the cases it's not possible to trace all incoming links with Trackbacks. In that case I use my Technorati page and today's referers. With those two I'm able to track most of the follow-up posts in other weblogs. [You can also trace post-specific links via Blogdex, but I'm not happy with coverage]

In this case there are two problems:

  • I have to check those tools regularly because links are not stored there and it's easy to miss interesting follow-up.
  • Links are not captured next to the post they refer to, which means that my readers can't find them (and I guess most of them will not go to Technorati to find links to a post between all other links to my weblog).

Possible solution. So far I found Technorati to be most accurate with finding links to my weblog. Ideally I'd like to receive a TrackBack from it for other weblog posts linking to each of my posts.

May be there are other solutions. I'd love to hear about them.

This post also appears on the channel lazyweb

Update: I wrote a follow-up post, I hope it provides better explanation of what I want.

  Wednesday, October 01, 2003

  Is it difficult to 'catch up' with a weblog?

One problem in on-line communities is getting newcomers up to speed: it's not easy to catch up in a middle of a conversation of a group that has history of developing shared understanding and common language. A colleague asked if weblogs have the same problem.

I would say yes, but I believe that "getting into" a weblog is easier than joining a community conversation.

Compared to a forum posts weblog posts are more "self-standing" pieces. I would say that weblog post is more like one of many TV series and forum post is like a movie scene.

  • Weblogging discussions are distributed and bloggers have to take into account that the rest of a discussion is not visible on the same page, so they provide explicit links and often some kind of summary of other posts.
  • Bloggers also know that a specific post can not be easily connected to previous posts in the same weblog (because most of the archives will separate them into different pages), so they also provide linking and summary to their own posts.

In a forum you have to read most of the posts to get to the point, but weblogs provide multiple coherent "views" on a distributed discussion simply because each author tries to make his weblog meaningful. This provides a reader with choice of "entry points": I can always select weblogs fitting my level of understanding and preferred reading style and use them as "lenses" to grasp what's going on.

There is still a problem of developed shared language and understanding that can be difficult for newcomers to get through, but I believe that openness and multisubjectivity of blogging ecosystem provide more space for accommodating emergent interpretations of newcomers. [Of course, multisubjectivity may lead to lack of shared language that makes dialogue more difficult, but this is another topic]

These are my ideas and personally I find "jumping into new weblog" easy, but I wonder if there are other experiences.

© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Last update: 6/26/2005; 9:36:51 PM.