Sunday, November 30, 2003
The power of loose ends (2)
The voices below speak well for themselves, so I don't need to comment much. In response to The power of visible loose ends.
Ton Zijlstra, Making Actionable Sense
The problem I think is that for both those steps, digesting the results of exploration, and making actionable sense of them, we should bring our co-discoverers, i.e. the bloggers, along for the ride, but by and large still fail to do so.
We together came up with the idea, so why should we not together turn it into action? Current reality is that we try to feed the ideas into our regular workflow, and try to bring our colleagues into it. Most of our organisations however will not yet be layed out for the types of things we come up with here.
Dina Mehta, Blogs - turning ideas into actions:
I had the very same feeling this evening - amazing synchronicity ! I've only just returned from a meeting with a company that is more 'open' than many others to the idea of using social software tools like blogs, both in their intranet and externally. And as i was driving back - i was thinking that how wonderful it would be to be able to brainstorm with other bloggers interested in this area on some of the barriers or stumbling blocks - and work out possible solutions or directions forward.
John Moore, Blogging and collaboration:
I know that via the net I can now tap into some pretty remarkable talents in different parts of the world. This is both exciting and frustrating. Exciting cos I really like these people and love the idea of working with them, frustrating because I've yet to discover how best to do it. I've seen a lot of putative collaborations fail because they don't get to some kind of critical mass or level of commitment.
Gary Lawrence Murphy, Pinging the Actionable Senses:
Back to actionable sense and the outcome of the blog-dumps, this, I believe, is an inevitable outcome of all blog-reading. Knowledge is only additive, you cannot remove knowledge, you can only add to it. We read each other's stories and make an implicit actionable sense in that we are confrontied with a need to assimmilate what they've said, or to accommodate it into our world model (which may mean to dismiss it), but we're still taking a mental action that changes the way we've previously thought about the issue.
[...] The loose ends offer me a sense of the possible, a landscape that can go anywhere, a sense of adventure that keeps coaxing me back to explore a little more. I wouldn't want it tidied up in a tight focused and deadlined bundle because I know, philosophically, to do so would require closing off many of these possibilities, discarding the undiscovered territories. It's an ongoing story, a story of ideas, a story of what's needed, what's possible, a story of senses where there's no way to end the plotline, no way to limit the cast and no way to cut it off in time for the capping colophon. Unhemmed as it is uneven.
Ton, Making Actionable Sense II
Yes, I too love what Gary calls the landscape of possibilities. In fact I think I'm very much addicted to it. To the feeling of that sudden spark in my head where I feel thoughts and ideas are connected but still just out of reach to be able to put it into words well, but I already sense that it is there.
[...]Nevertheless I do have a feeling that I'm not responsive enough in picking up the thoughts we dream up here in the blogosphere and turn them into action. The blogs reveal emerging patterns, and we can nurture the memes we think important, and block or criticise the ones we think are not.
But I seem to be less succesfull at moving stuff from the complex and un-ordered realm (to adopt some of Dave Snowdens vocabulary) where my addiction is fed, to the more ordered realm of the knowable and practice.
One of the barriers in doing that and that might be turned into an attractor, is the people with whom I try to bring that transition about, from the complex un-ordered to the more ordered knowable. Why would I try to do that with people who never been to the complexity realm, when at the same time I know lots of people who have and are in part neatly listed in my blogroll?
I said to a couple of people on my first Skype round that I wish to be able to get many of us to work together at the same place, but I guess it's not feasible :) And even if it would be I don't think it would work well: the power of our joint discoveries comes from "weak-tied" nature of our connections, different backgrounds, different countries and different lives. Still, sometimes I wish to know easy ways to turn weak ties into strong ones, at least for the time needed to develop ideas that worth it.
I don't think it's a matter of technology, although finding an easy way to communicate and to work on joint products is important. I guess it's more of a mindset, thinking that the line between weak and strong ties can not be blurred, that collaboration is for colleagues and blogging is for bloggers, as well as not knowing there to start.
I believe that one thing needed to start is writing about future plans next to past experiences and current thoughts and inviting others to join. The learning webs paper we wrote with Sebastian Fiedler had been triggered by an e-mail inviting for an adventure of writing a paper in a week before the deadline, leveraging the connection and shared context we had through the year of blogging.
Learning from Jill's PhD journey
Jill Walker has made a final step in her PhD journey. Over last couple of month I was reading her weblog regularly and observed anxieties and fun of finishing a PhD. Today, reading about her defense, I realised what this reading is doing to me: it makes the perspective of finishing my own PhD research closer and easier to grasp.
Now it's not an "I know there will be an end of it, but it's too far away" journey anymore, now I can better imagine the details of what I want it to be, what I hope to feel at the end and why it's important to me at a personal level. Now I know better that all the pain and hard work will dissolve giving space to feeling happy of accomplishment and joy of having people you care about to share it with you. To the certain degree I always knew it, but observing how these feelings develop in front of me makes it more real, motivating me to work hard now.
I wonder if/how apprenticeship relations work with weblogs, and I hope to do some research on it, but at the personal level I don't need to be convinced: it works for me.
And, to turn to something else, a small bit from Jill's defence story:
The dinner may be stressful to prepare on top of preparing the defence itself and the trial lecture, but in retrospect I realise that it, along with the lunch with the professors, is crucial: social networking is absolutely necessary in academia and it's a skill that's not often formally recognised as part of the job. Often seeds of important ideas and collaborations are sown in these less formal settings, and getting to know one's colleagues socially allows much more fruitful collaboration later.
Friday, November 28, 2003
2004 conferences I'm thinking about:
- March 25-25 - Web-based communities 2004, Lisbon, Portugal - paper has been submitted, waiting
- April 2-3 - OKLC04, Innsbruk, Austria - abstract has been accepted, so I'll go there
- June 21-26 - ED-MEDIA, Lugano, Switzerland - may be
- June 30-July 2 - I-KNOW, Graz, Austria - may be
- July 5-6 - BlogTalk, Vienna, Austria - will do everything to go
- August 30-September 1 - ICALT, Joensuu, Finland - may be
- September - KM Summer School - may be organising
- September 19-22 - AOIR, Sussex, UK - may be
- November - KM Europe
An observation: many of these conferences are in Austria and ED-MEDIA/I-KNOW/BlogTalk make a good time/location combination.
For sure I don't have neither time to submit nor budget to go to all of them (and I expect others to pop up), but having this list helps making choices. Please, let me know if any of these conferences is in your own list - being sure of meeting interesting people increases the probability of choosing a conference :)
Deadlines to watch
- December 19 - ED-MEDIA full/brief paper (4-8/2-6 pages), panel/roundtable/video festival/student panel/poster/demonstration proposal (2-6 pages) detail requirements
- January 26 - I-KNOW long abstract (4 pages)
- February 2 - AOIR paper/creative presentation abstract (500-1000 words), panel (500 words general + 500 words for each presenter)
- February 13 - ICALT full/short paper (5/3 pages), poster/tutorial/workshop proposal (2 pages)
- March 17 - BlogTalk, proposal (250 words)
- April 26 - I-KNOW camera ready
- May 3 - ED-MEDIA camera ready
- May 24 - ICALT camera ready
Thursday, November 27, 2003
It's true that weblogs make idea development visible, but there are other interesting things that are not blogged. For example, researchers rarely blog directly about their research (also reasons why, a bit more and not documenting, doing) and then become very surprised discovering research connections with people they read regularly.
Using weblog to capture ideas is different from documenting actions and announcing plans. So far weblogs provide very fuzzy views of our bigger canvas. This is good to find like-minded people, but not enough to turn ideas into actions.
For me it's still not very clear what do we need to do more things together. I guess that posting a bit more about our hidden agenda, future plans open for others to join, is a good start. So, here is an overview of my own plans...
My PhD research: studies I hope to do in 2004
- use of weblogs as personal knowledge repositories: how weblogs are used to capture and organise ideas (e.g. use of categories or keywords), how people deal with their own archives (come back or not, review on regular basis, search, reorganise)
- reading weblogs of others: why and how people read weblogs (see discussion as an example), what reading via RSS changes
- corporate weblogs in KM context
For all of these studies I'm open and very will to cooperate with others. Please, let me know if you are interested. Any suggestions of companies that could provide access to their internal weblogs and their authors are very welcome as well.
Weblog research networking
I feel quite stupid that many people doing weblog research do not really correlate their work: it would be much easier and more fun together. Things that I have in mind at this moment:
- get weblog research wiki going
- Sebastian Fiedler, Sebastien Paquet and me are thinking about writing/presenting together at conferences
- next to it there is an idea of organising a series of f2f meetings/workshops/colloguia on "around weblogs" research in Europe (discussed a bit with Sebastian Fiedler and Thomas Burg)
I'm planning to blog/act on those things for some time already, but they get postponed as I have a lot of work to finish "end-of-the-year" tasks. Hope I'll do it coming month, but at least now you know my hidden agenda. If anything of this looks interesting enough to join, please let me know.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Monday, November 24, 2003
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Knowledge worker paradox (2)
There is an interesting discussion on the Knowledge worker paradox story I posted to the Knowledge Board some time back. I would not repost all interesting comments here, just a piece from my own thinking:
Recently I started to think about knowledge worker productivity as about personal effectiveness in a knowledge-intensive environment. I'm interested to see how knowledge workers do their work and what could be improved.
For example, being involved into conversations in different communities or professional networks is an important part of learning and coming up with new ideas, but our time and capability to establish and manage relations are limited. How do I make choices selecting groups to join? How do I remember all different conversations and their contexts? Some people do it naturally (I guess I'm not the only one wondering how Denham manages all his online activities :), others have to struggle... I could think about many other knowledge-work-related activities that could be improved: keeping track of someone's readings, brainstorming ideas, effective sharing. Next to it there are different technologies that can make those tasks easier or more difficult. And other "simple" issues like time management.
The power of visible loose ends
There is something I don't like about blogging: it makes all the loose ends visible.
I usually have more ideas than time to implement them. Blogging is perfect for it: you've got a minute, you post an idea, a conversation develops, you follow it and think of writing a story to pull all the bits together and to reflect, but then next busy week comes and there is no time anymore and new ideas are getting written down. For me this was usual - coming up with more ideas than time to implement them. But blogging is changing it. Once ideas are written down I have a visible trace of things I forgot to do and it pains to look back and to see them waiting for me to come back and to work them out.
Before I was happy to look back and to see how much have been done. Blogging makes it different: I look back and I see things that could have been done if I would have more time or more focus. This is something that takes me out of the comfort zone and pushes to do more...
A few weeks back Richard MacManus wrote starting his adventure of Writing a novel in 30 days:
btw, one reason why I'm writing this novel is to explore themes - such as two-way communication - that seem to demand a bigger canvas than a weblog
I keep thinking about it. I guess this is something my weblog has done for me: revealing a need to pull all the loose ends into a bigger canvas, to connect bits of ideas and to work them out. This bigger canvas requires time and focus, it needs more than a few minutes in between to write to my weblog. It calls for recognising that is really important and for giving it enough energy to grow. Setting priorities, making choices and time management.
One of the most difficult things in learning time management is to become frustrated with loosing time enough for taking actions. Time management course (in Russian) I started a week ago suggests crossing days in a special calendar to get this feeling. I don't need it. I have my weblog showing me all the loose ends...
Friday, November 21, 2003
Publishing preprints on-line: please explain the rules
I guess there are some experienced researchers out there. Can anyone explain me what are the usual policies about publishing preprints on-line?
I can often see preprints of conference or journal articles at researcher's pages, I guess posting them is the normal practice, but I can't find any good explanations of do's and don'ts. My specific questions are:
- What could be counted as a preprint? How close to the final version it could be?
- Do I have to get any permissions from a publisher to post a preprint on-line? Do I have any specific responsibilities if I pots it? Do I have to remove it once published version is on or can I keep it?
- If I post drafts on-line, what is the usual practice - to keep different versions (so it's clear if someone refers to the old one) or to have only the recent one?
- What can go wrong with publishing preprints on-line?
I asked related question before (Weblog and paper blind review), but this one is much broader. Ideally I'd like to have my "close to finished" research work availiable on-line for a feedback, but I don't want to get into copyright troubles with publishers...
How not to get fired because of your blog
Nice to start a day with a smile reading another example of Blogger customer education (Creative Tutorials series) - How not to get fired because of your blog
If you work for a company with a "faceless behemoth" corporate policy, you may need to modify the intellectual environment before even suggesting a blogging policy. This can be daunting, but we've got you covered. Or rather, Chris, David, Doc and Rick have you covered.
First, get your hands on multiple copies of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the entire text of which is available for free online. Then launch a quiet campaign to work the manifesto into the upper echelons of your corporate hierarchy.
Put a copy in the break room on top of the donut box, run out to the parking lot and stick one under your CEOs windshield wiper, stand outside the executive washroom with some mints and a basket of books, or just walk up to your manager and say, "Oh, and here's that book you wanted."
Distribute the book. Once the ideas contained therein begin to soak into the minds of your bosses, conditions will eventually ripen to the point that you will be empowered to step up to the challenge of suggesting that blogging has value for your company. We at Blogger encourage you to do so.
Nice recipe :) Although my company supports blogging I guess distributing copies of The Cluetrain Manifesto would not hurt :)))
And an optimistic final:
If you end up getting yourself fired for blogging, deep down you must have really wanted out of that job. If that's the case, keep blogging. With your newfound status as one of only a handful of people in the world who have been "fired for blogging," you should be able to grab some headlines. Fan those flames! You could wind up on Oprah with a million dollar book deal. Theoretically.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Learning webs: Learning in weblog networks
Learning webs: Learning in weblog networks (.pdf) - a paper by me and Sebastian Fiedler, submitted to Web-based communities 2004.
This article explores how professionally oriented Weblog projects support the emergence of loosely coupled learning networks. We provide an overview of the technical infrastructure of this particular form of personal Webpublishing and the social ecosystems that emerge through current Weblog authoring practices. Furthermore, we suggest that some Weblog ecosystems can be conceptualized as learning webs. These learning webs appear to meet the specific needs of knowledge workers for flexible and dynamic learning environments. Some preliminary results of qualitative data collection in this area are shared and some further lines of research are proposed.
This is not the final version (and it's not perfect :), so comments are very welcome.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Later: I changed file from .doc to .pdf, but the link should work.
If you will be linking to the paper, please, use link to this post and not directly to the paper: this way I can trace your comments (I can't see who links to the paper, which is at my company's server).
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Communities: activity vs. content access
From Interview with Etienne Wenger on Communities of Practice, about "how to involve everybody" (in the Knowledge Board context):
The combination of a core group and a lurker group is a pattern we have observed in most communities and I am not sure that you would spend your energy most efficiently by trying to get everybody to contribute in the same way. It is more important to have an energized core group that attracts more and more people into it. And of course you will face the question of size but most core groups that go beyond a certain size naturally evolve into sub-groups. Then it's a matter of how you connect these sub-groups with one another by having people that act as brokers between the sub-groups, for instance, some kind of co-ordinating groups that make sure that if something important comes up in one group it is also understood by the others; or by having events organised by one sub-group but open to everyone.
If you are thinking of growing the groups, grow them from the inside. Don't try to pull everybody in; increase the intensity of conversation at the level of the core groups. Now, to find ways to involve new voices is very important. You may want to create an event or encourage some people to take on some new responsibility. Sure, but still, having everyone in one big core group is neither realistic, nor necessarily useful because not everybody has the same level of interest. And if you have 5,000 members who all contribute the same, it will be just overwhelming.
Last week I joined Knowledge Board discussion at KM Europe. Raising the level of the community members activity of was one of the issues raised there. What I found out interesting is that (according to the survey) only 30% of members participate in discussions. I guess the number of people in core group is much lower.
I don't know if it's good or bad: many people say that Knowledge Board is a good source of information and staying updated, and they don't want to engage in conversations using it. I'm wondering why being non-active is percieved as bad? Why do we want to make (corporate) communities more active? And is there a limit for meaningful activities?
I don't know. I know that we don't want a dead, not talking, community. But I also know that we don't want conversations for the sake of conversations. May be we should let those who join a community to stay updated to do it this way. I wonder where is the border line that says: this community is active enough, you don't need to promote more activities...
Just a work-related thinking...
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Wiki as a data collection instrument
Denham Grey points to TWiki KM Survey, a wiki survey about use of wikis for KM:
KM surveys have become something of a pain for me. They are always long, not too well-structured, often rambling and you hardly ever get worthwhile feedback or results. This one is a little different. The survey itself is in TWiki and about TWiki. You are taken to a sign-in page and the survey is then copied to your own wiki page which is created.
I'm thinking about data collection methods for my weblog studies next year and I'm thrilled by the idea of using wiki for it... There is a lot to think about, wish I have more than 24 hours a day :)
I will be posting more on my research plans coming weeks.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Saturday, November 15, 2003
KM Europe: other weblogs
This is the growing list of other weblogs posts on KM Europe (see also conference presentations online). Please don't be angry when updated :)
Martin Dugage: A quick report on KM Europe in Amsterdam
Lee Bryant (Headshift): general notes and more about
Ton Zijlstra: Squarewise: KM's Soap More Slippery Than Suggested, On the KM-community, Keynote Dave Snowden and much later - How to organise valuable congresses/conventions
Sam Marshall: The Kindness of Strangers, KM Europe notes (Renault, Dave Snowden, Rolls-Royce, Verna Allee), see also notes on KM Asia 2003
Martin Roell: KM Europe 2003 - So war's (in German, but make sure you use Google translation for a story which is less about the conference content, but more about people and observations)
KM Europe: random quotes and thoughts
I know that drafted blog posts have to be finished within a few days, otherwise I never finish them. This collection of quotes and thoughts from KM Europe is still drafted, but I post it before it gets lost.
- biggest KM challenge is not knowing what we have to know (me - how do you know what you need to know?)
- you need "critical mess" (I'm not sure now if it was Edna or Ton who sat next to me)
- If you see a conference with "emergent" in the title, go there.
Dave Snowden: if you force visibility into a system you stuffle innovation
Gerald Prast: BLOG = Benign Low-threshold On-line Growth
Audran Sevrain: blog is personal intranet
Knowledge Board discussion - activity vs. content access
Things to think about:
- weblogs and apprenticeship
- blogging in different languages (extend to multiple blogs): difficulty of switching contexts
- visibility and traces, public and personal spaces
KM Europe: Dave Snowden
I was very happy to listen to Dave Snowden's keynote. I tried to follow some of his writings, but listening is much better way to grasp complex ideas. This speech provided a good initial framework to glue pieces together when I'm reading again.
Below are some of my notes. They are quite random and text-only: I'm too lazy to make something of my drawings. If you want some background there is enough articles by Dave Snowden on-line. The one I can link without much searching is The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world (.pdf).
KM is about:
- Content management - managing what can be written
- Narrative management - managing what can be spoken
- Context management - managing the rest (what is the rest?)
Rules vs. heuristics. Rules tolerate no ambiguity, so they are difficult to apply then context changes. Heuristics are more flexible, but there is lack of consistency in applying.
Retrospective coherence - in advance it doesn't make sense, but looking back it makes a good sense. The final pattern is clear only once it formed and can be explained
Why people are different from ants
- We never make decision based on rational grounds
- Human beings have multiple identities
- Free will
- When people change between groups (re: size) they change identity.
- People are very good in managing serendipity.
- People know that databases are dangerous.
- Human beings are brilliant in gaming explicit systems.
- All innovation processes are work on incremental innovation. True innovation is achieved by seeing the world in a different way.
Categorisation and sense-making
- Categorisation is about fitting ideas into an existing frame. Exploitation. (Good example here: asking people to allocate things into 2x2 matrix with 2/3 things designed to be not fitting --> people squeeze all of them into 2x2).
- Sense making is about pattern recognition and discovering emerging frame from the data. Exploration.
Managing chaos (managing a party of 12 years old as an example)
- gain different perspective
- create, modify, remove boundaries
- create, modify, remove attractors
- single point attractor
- multiple points
- "strange" attractors
With my system dynamics roots I'm used to think about the world in terms of boundaries and attractors, so I'm definitely interested to learn more. Dave said that there are some kinds of training programs for students. Will find out.
KM Europe: Dorothy Leonard
Dorothy Leonard talked about "deep smarts" and how novices become experts (official keynote description, slides). As I understand "deep smarts" refer to a form of expertise - tacit, unrecognised, distinguishing experts from novices. I post some of my notes first and then a bit of comments.
"Ladder of expertise": novice - apprentice - journeyman - master
Deep smarts (experts vs. novices)
- use pattern recognition
- draw on their tacit knowledge
- make swift decision based on knowledge about context
- extrapolate from what they see to what might be
- perceive small variations
Compared to novices experts have a lot of "receptors" and broad experiences, so they recognise patterns more easily. Novices have few or no receptors, without receptors information doesn't become knowledge.
Ways of learning (with increasing independency)
- specific directions
- rules of thumb
- stories with a moral
- Socratic dialogue
- joint problem-solving
- learning by doing (guided experience)
- guided practice
- guided observation
- creating receptors (mind-stretching)
- challenging assumptions and beliefs
- checking role-models
- guided experimentation
- response to uncertainty
- bounded search for feedback from environment
- learning to think in hypotheses
For me the bottom-line of this talk was that coaching of novices by experts is may be the most effective way to acquire deep smarts. I would be interested to read more on studies Dorothy referred to and I'm getting convinced that I have to spend time studying research on apprenticeship models. If you have any pointers, please, let me know.
Gerald Prast asked Dorothy about dangers of coaching by experts and then we spent great part of lunch time discussing her answer. My summary of why coaching may not be good:
- not all experts can coach novices
- experts can be wrong, so with coaching "wrong expertise" will multiply
- when you learn from experts you are less likely to come up with new ideas
I believe that to overcome those dangers there is a need for more critical skills from novices (=not following gurus blindly, but finding their own path). Next to it an opportunity to learn from many different experts with controversial experiences and ways of coaching will help (but in this case there is a risk of getting lost with multiple role-models). Anyway, both require meta-learning skills which (we know :) are difficult to develop.
KM Europe: summary
I'm back from KM Europe. That was a strange conference. If I think along content vs. networking scale it was much about networking. Or networking and peer-generated content. I'm sure I've learnt more from talks around coffee, food and walking in Amsterdam than from the formal program.
I will try to post specific notes about some sessions, but so far general insights.
Building bridges. I had a lot of fun of getting people from my blogging network and from my Knowledge Board/KM Summer School 2003 network talking to each other. Hope they had fun as well.
Main lines that emerged in my head from visiting presentations and talking with people:
- exposure to differences and "mind stretching" are very important for learning and innovation and related issue of apprenticeship models vs. exposure to differences
- KM is much about interplay between public and private spaces and related question about what happens once private becomes visible
- how do you find what you need to know (or - the cost of not knowing)
I wonder if it is an objective confirmation for my own beliefs (e.g. that learning comes from recognising differences) or I just filtered out things that are aligned with my own thinking and research :)
Monday, November 10, 2003
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Weblogs: Simplifying Web Publishing
IEEE Computer Magazine: Weblogs: Simplifying Web Publishing by Charlie Lindahl and Elise Blount (registration required). There is a companion blog for this article, but there is not much there.
3 pages popular tech article about weblogs: intro, a bit on comsumer-producer blur, a lot on blogging system features (separating content from presentation, templates, blogger APIs, information management, syndication), a bit on expected integration with mobiles.
For my taste, technical aspects of blogging are described well, but there is totall miss of social aspects (may be the fact that I wasn't able to find the authors blogs in Google explains it ;). I don't believe that the best thing of blogs is easy webpublishing.
And a quote:
There are two basic blog styles: filters and journals. The filter style focuses on a collection of links to other Web sites. The journal style is an online personal diary with dated entries presented in a "stream of consciousness." Both styles use headlines and excerpts -- putting the most recent entry at the top of the Web page -- to entice readers to investigate further.
This makes me wondering what is the style of my blog? Somewhere in between? And I don't have excerpts :)))
Nothing new, but nice to know as a paper reference on tech side of blogs.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Preparing for KM Europe
Last few months I was asking very often "is there a chance you will be at KM Europe?" I'm asking it once more, so if you are coming please write me.
KM Europe starts on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it. It will be a great opportunity to meet many people I know only "digitally" via weblogs or Knowledge Board. It's also great to meet most of KM Summer School 2003 team again and to get to know new people.
I'm trying to plan my own program at KM Europe. There are many things going in parallel, so I'm trying to get a bit of orientation.
If you haven't noticed it yet - the conference web-site is awful. There is no one place to get an overview of all events (this is not entirely true - you can get something like it via your booking page, but you have to book them and not everything is there). There is no exibition plan yet (two days before the event), and I wasn't able to find a link to travel details (you can book a flight, but there is no link to finding it in Amsterdam).
So, some quick links: travel to Amsterdam RAI (conference venue), KnowledgeBoard at KM Europe 2003. I'll post my own planning later on...
There is some e-mailing going on between KM bloggers, we are very likely to meet on Monday. I will post about it as soon as there is some clarity.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Weblog as knowledge networker instrument: questions
Brief summary of the issues that came out during presentation of my PhD research.
Weblogs seems to be good for novices, but what can they give to senior experts?
- Learning from weblogs? Experts have their own networks and professional bodies and rely on them for staying updated with the field and for new insights. This can be even overloading, so there is no reason to add one more way.
- Sharing insights? If you are not recognised as an expert you are likely to share more ideas as this is a way to get recognition. If you are already recognised you are likely to publish small bits of ideas for marketing, but will not share real insight or techniques (next to it they are likely to be copyrighted or patented).
- I wonder if it's right that weblogs are more valuable for people without established knowledge sharing networks (novices, moving to another area of interest, looking for interdisciplinary connections). Is there differences in why professors and students blog?
How weblogs are integrated with other tools?
- Weblog could be good for managing ideas and links, but it's one more system next to e-mail, file archives and corporate repositories. Why should we use one more tool?
- I had some answers here (e.g. weblogs can substitute at least bookmarks and reading notes; e-mail integration trends).
- Weblogs makes expertise, knowledge flows and social networks visible. What's about privacy? Resistance to let everyone know? Misuse?
- Weblogs ecosystems seems to be a good example of slef-regulated peer-groups, but how their dynamics would interact with hierarchical and control-based organisational structures.
- This is why I'm so interested and so scared to study weblogs: there are many interesting issues there. Next to pub
My research (more)
- What scientific value does studying weblogs brings?
- If the ambition is to contribute to the understanding of knowledge work a study of weblogs only will have a questionable scientific value. What about comparing findings about knowledge worker activities with non weblog cases.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Converted to RSS reading :)
I've finally started paying attention to RSS and all this stuff about "Blog Aggregators". The final shove was wanting to get Martin Roell's English feed.
Knowing myself, I decided the easiest way to find out what they do is just to install one and see what happens. I did a quick google and after a few minutes decided to try SharpReader. I tend to go for half-informed blunders on this kind of thing, as I'm better with experimenting than with reading in the abstract.
Already, I really like it. After figuring out one glitch (had to cancel the default setting to "Proxy Server", whatever that means) it works a treat. Slightly slow to load but a great time saver. Instead of slavishly visiting all my favourite bloggers, often to find they've not updated, it instantly shows me a summary of who's written and who's been silent.
And prompted me to fiddle with the XML feeds this blog generates...
There are many interesting comments about weblog reading that I'd like to discuss (1, 2, 3) but no time. Hope I'll be able to do it this week.
Monday, November 03, 2003
Learning instructional design
Course Development Wars: A Content Expert's Cry for Help by Susan Smith Nash [via Alex Halavais]
This is a story about a teacher (in a SME role) being pushed to fit instructional design categories
Why did education departments brainwash students in this way? Or, more to the point, why do such people think that they are the only ones who possess the right to comment on (more like "make pronouncements on") learning? I know I'm only seeing a tip of the iceberg, and that there are real and compelling reasons for accepting the results of carefully conducted, IRB-blessed research. Nevertheless, aren't we sealing our own fate if we allow ourselves to present information and to mediate learning their way only. Heaven help those who deviate from the norm!
This makes me feeling happy that I studied instructional design after several years of learnt-by-doing training design. I remember my reaction for the ID course assignment: ok, I do it this way once and I'll play my own rules after. I've learnt the language, some useful models, techniques and tricks, but I still do it "wrong way".
A couple of years back I was designing a teacher training program for PhD students. I had to think how to teach them instructional design and avoid the risk of making them thinking that ID models boundaries are those to respect.
The program was implemented, first results were promising, but I left the job, so I can't evaluate it properly. Still my recipe for teaching instructional design is the same:
spending more time not on studying ID, but on being exposed to different learning designs and facilitation styles (values, models, methods, technology support) + reflection on what, why and how works and on "what I would do differently?"
This is not a very efficient or easy to reuse method. It also depends highly on learners reflective skills or instructors' ability to facilitate their development (I don't have a good recipe for it :) It worked for me and for some others and I didn't find a better way.
Weblog reading: 96 second per weblog
Blog Statistic - Length of Stay by Darren Rowse [via Blogcount]
Darren has analysed Site Meter statistics of 350 weblogs and found that in average a reader spends 96 seconds reading a weblog.
- The top ten blogs on the list had an average of only 37 seconds where as the bottom ten averaged 83 seconds.
- Apart from the 'top ten' there was not a huge difference between blogs receiving high and low traffic. For example - blogs receiving 60 visits per day had an average visit length of 100 seconds which was almost the same as blogs averaging 2000 visits a day (ave 97 seconds).
- Blogs with comments scored a higher average than those without. (this might partly explain the 'top ten' scoring lower as most of them do not have comments) I did not collect data on this, but it became very clear anecdotally.
Darren notes that the accuracy of his survey is limited by Site Meter measurements. I would add one more: RSS readership is not accounted for as Site Meter counts only webpage views. I guess even with RSS traffic details there is no way to analyse how much time average RSS reader spends on reading a weblog :)
Suggested questions for further research
- Does blog design/loading time impact the the length of stay?
- Does blog topic impact the length of stay?
- Do bloggers from certain countries (with high local readership) have different lengths of stay?
- Does posting length have an impact?
By the way, if you go to check Darren's weblog don't miss his Gospel blogging and Blog tips series:
- Get to the Point
- Keep it Simple....Stupid
- Blog Designers
- Make it Scannable
- Titles are Everything
- The Rhythm Method
- Set Boundaries
- Interactive Blog Tools
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Aggregation can kill personal voices
A follow-up thinking for my previous post: I wonder if aggregation kills personal voices.
Think of a simple scenario. You start blogging, you find several blogs you like, you discover news aggregator and start reading these blogs regularly. It creates a sense of connection with the authors of these weblogs, sense of knowing them. It creates a context for interpreting posts.
Then upscaling comes: you have hundreds of weblogs and no time to read everything. You scan for interesting titles and jump back and forth. It's convenient, but your pay less attention to any specific weblog and you don't get to know its writer well.
I wonder if it's true. What if once I have more than X weblogs in my news aggregator they become content, news bits and not personal voices any more?
This brings me to another question. We say that weblogs provide a context to interpret ideas (btw, this is one of "weblog selling points" for knowledge management). What exactly provides this context: informal writing style, ability to see other posts, regular reading or something else?
For me much of the context is provided by regular reading. It creates a sense of knowing a blogger and makes connecting with his or her ideas easier. But the problem is that regular reading doesn't scale: news readers make it easier than browsing, but after a certain number of weblogs they don't help (and I guess magic number 150 has something to do with it). If upscaling weblog audience turns it into broadcasting (discussion overview), may be upscaling number of weblogs you read turns them from voices into content?
This is also one more point for weblogs in business: tools vs. voices dilemma. More practically speaking, if a company-wide weblog aggregation (think of k-collector :) will turn weblogs into a smart content management system?
RSS vs. browser for weblog reading
In Comments, Aggregators, and Broadcast Models Liz Lawley points to a a comments thread on Julia Lerman's site on posting behavior and aggregators, where Sam Gentile says
Of course, a blog is personal but is very well established that if you don't have a RSS feed you just don't get read. I don't what world you two are in but that is a well established fact by now. The majority of blog readers read blogs through RSS feeds in aggregators. Thats the whole point. No one has the time to go to 100 separate web sites versus one window with 100 feeds. This is so established that I am not going to even debate it. Nor am I going to debate the comments. The tiny amount of commenting that goes on in the blogging world is so small that its insignificant. Most blogs don't even have comments and if they do you see very little if ever leading to the conclusion that most people in the blogging world read feeds and "comment" by blog posts not commenting systems.
I would agree with Liz that the majority of people reading blogs via RSS readers is an assumption. I guess there are many people, who would agree with Liz saying:
And despite the lengthy list of weblogs I read regularly, I still resist using an aggregator, because the visual aspect, the virtual space, of a weblog is important to me.
I believe there is a great number of people who don't know about RSS readers, find them too difficult or simply don't care (e.g. only a quarter of would be bloggers is planning use of news aggregators). Next to it many people find weblogs via Google, read a bit and go away.
Some insights about possible numbers:
However, what makes me wondering is not how many people use one or another way, but why do they use it and what does it change.
For example, using news aggregators for reading weblogs
- is more efficient
- focuses on content rather than "decoration"
- makes much easier doing all kinds of "analytics" with weblogs: going back, rearranging, tracing connections, posting
- can be superficial (e.g. scanning through headings to see if there is something important) - in this case weblogs are likely to be treated as news sources (=I'm interested in links and ideas)
- can provide a feeling of "getting to know someone better" with making regular reading of a few weblogs easier - in this case weblogs are likely to be treated as personal stories (=I'm interested in people behind weblogs)
- commenting in original weblog is less likely (because extra click or two are needed to comment)
And there are many other questions as well:
- how use of RSS readers changes our relations with authors of weblogs we read (makes establishing connections easier? helps staying updated? creates an overload?)
- how use of RSS readers changes our writing style? commenting style and place?
- how reading preferences are correlated with weblog designs? (e.g. may be RSS readers think that blogrolls are obsolete and weblog-in-browser readers don't understand the value of full-text RSS and don't care about providing it)
Many people say that RSS feeds and RSS readers are important to distinguish weblogs from homepages and that RSS will stay once weblogs fade or integrate with something else. But I still wonder why there is much less discussion about "how RSS reader changed my life" than "how weblogs changed my life" and why I don't know of any research on impact of RSS readers.
I hope I'll have time to come back to these questions. As many others I believe that RSS is a key to weblog uses in business settings, so we'd better get some answers.
This post also appears on channel weblog research