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


  Friday, April 30, 2004

  Different ways to look at things

Just a couple of links from today's readings that changed the way I looked at things:

More on: fun passion 

  Blogging as a keynote at conference with 4000 attendees

Talking about Perfect Corporate Weblog Pitch Competition...

Robert Scoble is talking about blogging as a keynote at conference with 4000 attendees:

Steve Ballmer, for instance, spoke to the MVPs last month. 1200 people. Took an hour of his time. Was that a waste of his time? I certainly don't think so.

So, Steve, I have an audience bigger than that here now.

Wanna do a guest blog?

More on: blogs in business 

  Thursday, April 29, 2004

  Weblog research ethics (2)

This is what I love about blogosphere: you post a question and keep being busy with other things while many smart people provide you with answers. Two days back I posted my questions on weblog research ethics that provoked quite a discussion.

The opinions regarding informing bloggers that you study them and asking permissions differ: Sylvie Noël suggests to do it anyway, while Alex Halavais regards weblogs as "the equivalent of public printed matter like newspaper articles, brochures, and books" (so I assume not asking).

In regard to quoting it's a bit more clear.

Sylvie in comments:

As to quoting, well, it would depend if I'm treating the blog as a source for data or a source for information: if I'm studying the blog, then I'd ask for permission to quote, giving the person possibility of being anonymous or attributed because of the possibility of tracing back to the original author. If I'm using the blog for information, then I consider it as the equivalent of a research paper and I would not ask for permission (but of course I'd attribute the quotes to the author).

Alex adds that this is about balancing two potential responsibilities to your subjects: to protect their privacy and to recognize the authorship of the individual. It seems that the bottom line is to attribute, asking permission if you treat a quote as a data.

And thanks to hafey (who is linkless, but could be identified as "just a plain ol’ MBA trying desperately not to see the world through business as usual constructs") I discover what Hawthorne Effect is :)

My further questions are triggered by Ed Bilodeau note that he is not likely to be citing weblogs as they are "not (yet?) valid supporting sources". I thought about it quote a lot - should you refer to weblogs as references in an academic publication?.

My problem is that my thinking is heavily influenced by bloggers. More than by any papers I read. I pick up phrases and ideas from weblogs around me and I feel it's not fair if I don't attribute them only because they are not considered as "serious" enough. But then it goes against existing academic tradition. I've heard some academics saying that even conference papers are not good enough to be cited in a journal paper (ok, I guess that wasn't about first class conferences).

If you add to it that there is not much weblog research published anyway (e.g. I'm not aware of any journal paper on weblogs; let me know if you are :) it becomes quite difficult... Of course, 2004 seems to become a year of "weblog research gets into mainstream publications", so I shouldn't have this problem at the end of my PhD, but still.

Ah, I'm getting convinced more and more that I'm not well fitted for academia. Not the part that explores the world in a rigorous way, but the one with rules for publication and promotion that just don't make a sense to me :)

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  The web is about changing people's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors

Ross Mayfield points to Captology Notebook, a weblog of Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. Between others things there: books about persuasion and a quote by BJ Fogg:

The web is not about sharing information with people -- that's an illusion. In reality, the web is about changing people's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

See also: Captology, persuasive technologies and web credibility

A bit of later: associated with thinking about persuasion - How I was played by Online Caroline, Jill's essay featured at her homepage.

Emanuel Vigeland is the little-known younger brother of the famous Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. While Gustav filled a huge park with sculptures, creating a monumental Oslo tourist attraction that still bears his name, Emanuel spent decades designing and building his own mausoleum. He designed the space to direct visitors' movements in several ways. The door is so low that I have to bow my head to enter. Inside the light is dim, and it takes several minutes for my eyes to adjust. The acoustics are peculiar, making my slightest sound reverberate in echos. I walk quietly to avoid making a din. The architecture makes it physically impossible to enter or view his work without showing it respect (Wadell 41-42).

  Tuesday, April 27, 2004

  Weblog research ethics

What would you do when using quotes or stories from public weblogs as examples in your research?

Do you inform people that you study them? I can understand it if you study specific weblogs to use them as a case, but what if you just let yourself to be immersed in the blogging community and pick up stories and examples as they come and go. You can announce your interest in studying it in on-line chat or forum, but what do you do with weblogs, with their open-ended nature. Do you post "I'm studying your blog" on all your pages?

Do you quote anonymously or with attribution? You can tell stories without giving any names, but quotes are never anonymous - Google is always there for those who are interested to find the author. Attribution is nice for the authors if you quote their smart ideas, but what if you want to illustrate conflict?

Do you ask for permission? I don't ask people for permission to quote their paper in my research and I don't ask for a permission of bloggers to quote their posts in my weblog. How weblogs are different? They out their in public, so I should be able to quote as far as it's "fair use" (but what is fair use when it comes to blogging?). From another side, they are between public and private, so should you excuse yourself as you would do interfering a conversation overheard in a party?

I would appreciate any thoughts on it, especially if you are researching weblogs and have your own guidelines for making ethical decisions.

And, once you are reading this post you are somehow on my radar - beware, I may be studying your weblog :)

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Monday, April 26, 2004

  Lee LeFever wins Perfect Corporate Weblog Pitch Competition

In case you need someone to convince executives about the value of blogging - ask Lee LeFever, the winner of Perfect Corporate Weblog Pitch Competition.

The carefully crafted pitch:

First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context — the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.

With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world.  Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?

Weblogs serve this need.  By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company — context that can profoundly affect decision making.  In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.

In case Lee is too busy to help you, ask Randal Moss (second place), Michael Angeles or Jack Vinson (third place).

More on: blogs in business 

  Searching for knowledge as constructing personal learning experience

Another piece "around" now almost-finished-paper.

In the study we describe in the paper we carried out exploratory interviews (we did more :) using critical incidents technique (see Intel white paper for similar approach), asking people to recall several situations when they needed in-house knowledge and discussed why and what they were looking for, how they found it and what problems were encountered.

During the interviews we found out that in many cases when people talk about "searching for knowledge" they look for

  • information about knowledge (e.g. "what do we know about topic X in our organisation?")
  • knowledge representations (e.g. reports on certain subject)
  • knowledgeable people

This findings support the argument that knowledge doesn't exist "out there" (e.g. in documents) and that people need information cues and engagement of others to (re)construct it. A similar observation is made by Cross et. al. (2001: 102) who make a distinction between being informed about what another person knows and "the willingness of the person sought out to engage in problem solving rather than dump information".

From this perspective "searching for knowledge" is in fact searching for information and people within an organisation in order to obtain knowledge. Or, "searching for knowledge" is a process of constructing personal learning experience, selecting learning resources and engaging others as facilitators.

  Reinventing is more fun than reusing (2)

Just a quote illustrating that reinventing is more fun than reusing.

Overcoming "Not Invented Here" Syndrome (in software development context):

[...] Some organizations and individual developers seem quite content to re-invent the wheel over and over, congratulating themselves on their innovation at the same time.

Becoming more aware of what is already available, however, cannot help but shake our belief that "if you want it done right, do it yourself." Many developers, too, take too much of a perfectionist attitude when considering components for re-use. They look at the available alternatives, and dismiss them for various minor faults. "The doc is not adequate", or "it's not an efficient algorithm", we might hear. The faults may be quite real - but are they truly significant enough to justify starting from scratch? A developer must, of course, take a careful and considered look at components being considered for re-use - but if they do 90% of the job, is it really more effective to re-invent that 90%, plus the remaining 10, or would it make sense to contribute the final 10% to the existing component? Would it be as much fun? No, almost certainly not. Would it be more efficient and cost effective? Quite likely yes.

For an alternative opinion on reusing code of others, see In Defense of Not-Invented-Here Syndrome.

  Sunday, April 25, 2004

  Amour of India
Dance scene with 'amour of India' on background
A craftsman, not woman :)
Mehndi on my hand

This week Dutch department store chain De Bijenkorf has started thematic weeks The glamour of India. Today they had an event in Enschede, so given my interest in India I couldn't miss it.

It was a two hour dive into "everything Indian".

Passionate performance of Samudra, South-Indian dance group. Demonstrations of traditional crafts. Unlearning stereotypes that all these things are done by women. Walking with henna on my hand waiting till it dries to reveal Mehndi. Smelling spices. Finding something Indian in every department of the store. Memories of buying a sari in Mumbai. Thinking of chatting with Dina just a few days back about my dreams of coming to India again.

And only downloading photos I noticed that at one of them the theme reads as amour of India :)

More on: travel 

  Growing pains of virtual communities

Aldo de Moor, colleague and coauthor of An argumentation analysis of weblog conversations paper starts a weblog, GrowingPains, which is "a place to discuss the meeting of theory and practice on evolving virtual communities".

From an introductory post:

Although the importance of virtual communities is clear, much of their potential is not realized. Many never reach maturity, become paralyzed, or die before they have accomplished their goals. Virtual communities are living organisms: they have (or lack) energy, grow, and have a lifecycle. To make them successful, their evolution needs to be fully understood. Research on the evolutionary dynamics of virtual communities is still in its infancy. With this blog, I hope to contribute to a fascinating and much-needed research discussion on how to alleviate the growing pains of virtual communities.

More on: blog new communities 

  Friday, April 23, 2004

  Do you want to be a management guru?

Heath Row:

Ever wonder how much money business speakers such as Jim Collins, Tom Peters, and Michael Porter pull down each time they take the stage? Workforce Management has compiled a handy chart. Here are the highlights:

  • Clayton Christensen: $40,000
  • Jim Collins: $45,000
  • Stephen Covey: $65,000
  • Gary Hamel: $50,000
  • Tom Peters: $65,000
  • Michael Porter: $70,000

The chartlet accompanies a feature story about management gurus -- and whether they make good on the promises they make the companies they work with.

Even if speaking fees look very attractive I'm not sure I want to become a management guru. Don't know why, just a feeling while a read the article. I guess the reason behind it is the same as behind lack of desire to write books: it feels like broadcasting and not conversation or visible impact.

Please, remind me about this post if I publish a book :)

More on: leadership passion 

  Knowledge flows are powered by questions

Don't know if this piece will survive in the paper I write, so post it here. This is pretty much what I think on "why people share knowledge".

One of the goals of knowledge management is to improve knowledge flows and knowledge reuse in an organisation. While there is much discussion on knowledge sharing, motivation and culture, the demand side of knowledge exchanges seems to get too less attention.

I believe that knowledge flows are powered by questions: in many cases employees do not mind to share their knowledge, but do not do it because nobody asks them or because they are not sure that others need to know. This could be one of the explanations behind the success of on-line communities where knowledge bases fail (e.g. in Shell EP case, see Petersen & Poulfelt, 2002 or ask Andy): many communities work in a problem-solving mode, where knowledge sharing starts with a question or problem. In this case knowledge is shared to help others, and it is rewarding. In contrast, submitting a document (for example, "lessons learnt" from a project) to a knowledge base doesn't have an immediate question behind it, but more of an expectation of future questions that may never arise, so the motivation to share is much lower.

And, as I wrote before, asking is more difficult then answering and reinventing is more fun then reusing.

Guess what my conclusion is? KM is about motivation to learn :)

  PhD blogging and paper writing

Just wondering: when I finish my PhD research how much of it will not documented in my blog. In other words, will I be able to say to my readers something like "this is a link to my dissertation, but there is nothing new there for you"?

Trying to imagine how things will be when I finish PhD (futurecast ;) is one of my ways  to get over unproductive time.

Blogging is another way - it helps starting. When I work on a paper I often write posts related to it: informal notes that later will turn into formal paragraps, side track ideas, paper summaries or just associations. Next to a good feeling of producing at least something it get's me into a writing mode: switching from blogging to paper writing is much easier then starting directly.

It's funny how blogosphere brings something that correlates well with your current mode (or how selective is your own attention :). Came across this old post by Joel Spolsky in the morning:

Once you get into flow it's not too hard to keep going. Many of my days go like this: (1) get into work (2) check email, read the web, etc. (3) decide that I might as well have lunch before getting to work (4) get back from lunch (5) check email, read the web, etc. (6) finally decide that I've got to get started (7) check email, read the web, etc. (8) decide again that I really have to get started (9) launch the damn editor and (10) write code nonstop until I don't realize that it's already 7:30 pm.

Somewhere between step 8 and step 9 there seems to be a bug, because I can't always make it across that chasm. For me, just getting started is the only hard thing. An object at rest tends to remain at rest. There's something incredible heavy in my brain that is extremely hard to get up to speed, but once it's rolling at full speed, it takes no effort to keep it going. Like a bicycle decked out for a cross-country, self-supported bike trip -- when you first start riding a bike with all that gear, it's hard to believe how much work it takes to get rolling, but once you are rolling, it feels just as easy as riding a bike without any gear.

Maybe this is the key to productivity: just getting started. Maybe when pair programming works it works because when you schedule a pair programming session with your buddy, you force each other to get started.

Yes, another thing to get into paper writing it to start discussing it with someone else :)

More on: blog writing flow PhD writing 

  Thursday, April 22, 2004

  Technorati macro for Radio

For Thomas and others: Radio macro to get Technorati cosmos for a post (see this post in browser for an example).

From Matt Mower via IM:

I also edited macro to display "Technorati cosmos" instead of "What other blogs are saying about this post", you'll find it easily in the text.

Matt comments:
I forgot to mention, you can change the text by passing a parameter (easier than editing the macro), e.g. use:

<%postCosmos( [Macro error: Can't evaluate the expression because the name "itemNum" hasn't been defined.] , "Technorati Cosmos" )%>


Also: the same for Movable Type (+ other tricks), some other systems and more Technorati add-ons.

More on: Radio 

  BlogWalk 2.0: personal Webpublishing for self-organized and informal learning

BlogWalk 2.0 LogoIt didn't take us long: BlogWalk 2.0, 28 May, Nürnberg, Germany, hometown of Sebastian Fiedler. This time the fun and conversations will be around the role of personal Webpublishing for self-organized and informal learning.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Frustrations of being an alien

Usually I prefer sharing insights and not frustrations, but this time it's too much to keep for myself.

For a few days I was trying to reach Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst or IND) to find out about extension of my residence permit. I'm here for almost three years (btw, paying taxes and contributing to Dutch economy), I sent all my papers two months back and I even paid all what they want (285 euro; this is only for extending the permit, it's 430 when you first apply)... No way I can reach them - I get through the phone menus only to hear "everyone is busy, please call later" and then hanging.

Fine. I change my tactics. I go to expat web-site only to find our that others managed to get through and were told that now permits would take anything between 3 to 7 month to arrive (a little detail - it serves as a visa, so you are not able to travel without it).

Great. Since I have to travel in a week this means getting return visa. I'm calling IND again. This time I choose another option, so after a few minutes waiting I'm getting a person, she connects me to the right line (why do they need all the menus then?) and I wait for ages again. Several calls like that (my record - 20 minutes waiting patiently) and I get someone on the phone: they will call me next week to say when I can come (btw, to another city 1,5h away). I'll have to pay travel costs and 40 euro for a visa and they don't promise that I can get it in time.

Some small details: since I came here permit prices were raised from 50 to 430 euro, rules, responsible organisations and phone numbers were changed several times, IND web-site got several fancy redesigns (including special site of about the authenticity features of the Dutch identity cards for aliens), I've lost countless hours trying to find out about progress of my documents and I've got none of my permits in time.

Who talks about mobility and knowledge economy? It's about survival of the fittest.

There is only one funny thing in it - imagining myself as an alien :)

More on: cross-cultural life 

  A Topic Sharing Infrastructure for Weblog Networks

A Topic Sharing Infrastructure for Weblog Networks by Sebastien Paquet & Phillip Pearson (via Sebastien Paquet)

Abstract. Weblogs have recently emerged as a popular means of sharing information on the Web. While they effectively foster the networking of participants on a one-to-one basis, so far they have been lacking the capacity of allowing the establishment of many-to-many communication relationships. This paper describes recent work on facilitating group-forming processes and the sharing of content among weblog authors with shared interests. We have designed, implemented and tested the Internet Topic Exchange, a system that enables weblog posts to be shared among open groups in the form that we call topic channels. After nearly a year of operation, more than 200 topic channels have been created; several of them have been very active and have brought together many participants. This suggests that our approach to enabling weblog authors and topical content to cluster while retaining the advantages of personal publishing is a viable one.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Wednesday, April 21, 2004

  The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think

Edwin Schlossberg: "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think" (reference; via Martin Roell)

In a funny way this quote calls for many associations. It turns me to the "information vs. knowleldge" discussion which is one of the most difficult questions in KM (both "you have to make you definitions clear" and "don't even start this discussion or we'll never get things done").

Although it's a difficult topic, I'll try to articulate where I stand:

Knowledge doesn't exist "out there": products and artefacts only represent knowledge that people have. Explicit knowledge is information.

Knowledge sharing doesn't exist, it's about at least two processes: one person tries to articulate knowledge creating artefacts (e.g. blog posts :) while another one uses artefacts to (re)construst knowledge. This is more obvious in asynchonious or mediated settings, while conversations are closer to co-construction, but any conversation still has micro steps of articulation/(re)construction.

Effective knowledge sharing is about facilitating (re)construction of knowledge: articulating in a way that is easier for another person to interpret. At this end effective knowledge sharing is about learning on one side and facilitating it on another.

If "facilitator" and "learner" share contexts one word could be enough to (re)construct the knowledge, if not the role there is need for more contextual information. ~"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think".

Or, if I don't sound convincing :), check the paper that I consider the best on this issue: Stenmark, D. (2002). Information vs. Knowledge: The Role of intranets in Knowledge Management. In Proceedings of HICSS-35, Hawaii, January 7-10, 2002

[…] knowledge is based on personal experiences and cultural inheritance and fundamentally tacit. We use our knowledge to perform actions such as creating information. Although the knowledge required to create the information is interwoven with the information, the reader must still have knowledge similar to that of the creator to be able to interpret the information. The more overlapping that cultural background between the two, the easier the information is understood. Information is a vehicle for reflection that may, by informing the reader, expend or relocated his or her knowledge state. (p.9)

  Scripting News dinner in Amsterdam

Funny: it takes reading blog by Italian to find out about Scripting News dinner in Amsterdam.

If I guess right it's about Monday 26th April. And Dave Winer says you don't need an invitation to join. Will try to be there.

More on: learning event 

  Tuesday, April 20, 2004

  Implicit Structure and the Dynamics of Blogspace and more papers from HP Information Dynamics Lab

It's always like that: looking for one thing you find many others.

Full paper behind Blog Epidemic Analyzer (for Anjo and Rogier :) - Implicit Structure and the Dynamics of Blogspace by Eytan Adar, Li Zhang, Lada A. Adamic, and Rajan M. Lukose

And other papers from HP Information Dynamics Lab, especially those with titles that I found interesting:

  The high cost of not finding information: Reinventing is more fun than reusing

The high cost of not finding information by Susan Feldman (via Michael Fioritto): 

  • examples of information disasters (how things went wrong because of information not found)
  • reasons for these disasters
    • information is scattered between multiple sources (think of your own e-mail, local drive, paper archive, bookmarks, weblog + all systems of your company that you use + Internet + who knows what)
    • everyone does search, but not everyone has skills to do it well
    • there is too much information (but think of: every signal starts out as noise)
  • data on costs of not finding information for an organisation
    • success of searches
      • knowledge workers spend 15-35% of their time searching
      • only 50% searches are successful
      • 40% corporate users can't find information they need to do their job on their intranets
    • costs of recreating information (see the quote below + estimations of costs for an enterprise)
  • a bit of promotion for advanced search technologies
  • what knowledge workers need to interact with information efficiently?
    • easy access through a single interface
    • need to understand what is there, so they know what they don't know
    • information seamlessly embedded into work

A quote:

Recent research on knowledge work shows that knowledge workers spend more time recreating existing information than they do turning out information that does not already exist. Some studies suggest that 90% of the time that knowledge workers spend in creating new reports or other products is spent in recreating information that already exists. In 1999, a European study by IDC examined that phenomenon, called the "knowledge work deficit," and concluded that the cost of intellectual rework, substandard performance and inability to find knowledge resources was $5,000 per worker per year.

Just a small thing to add: in many cases the reason for not finding information is not about search problems, but about not searching at all. For me it's not about bad search, it's about human nature: for people reinventing is more fun than reusing even if their organisations lose money (hope to post a paper with some data to support it soon :)

See also: Knowledge workers time spent finding information, Why people do not ask questions? (1) and (2)Personal ways of doing things in public

  Monday, April 19, 2004


Reflection of Moscow Kremlin, sunny Sunday 18 April 2004Back from Moscow. It may be worth adding to your travel list. And if you wait for a couple of years I'll finish my PhD, go back home and will be able to provide personalised guided tours to bloggers :)

Btw, just to let you know: not all Russians drink vodka (and even those who drink rarely do it for breakfast :), it's not so scary and corrupted as you may think watching TV, we do have hot summers and not always snow, of course there are people and not bears on the streets, etc... Think something between Europe and Asia, between order and chaos ;)

More on: travel 

  Friday, April 16, 2004

  The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in Human Rights Abuses

danah boyd:

Many people have heard me tell an anecdote that i learned while living in Holland: At the turn of the century, the Dutch government collected mass amounts of data about its citizens with good intentions. In order to give people proper burials, they included religion. In 1939, the Nazis invaded and captured that data in less than 3 days. A larger percentage of Dutch Jews died than any other Jews because of this system.

Well, i'd been searching for a citation for a while. Tonight, i remembered to ask Google Answers and in less than an hour, had a perfect citation:

The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in Human Rights Abuses. Social Research, Summer, 2001, by William Seltzer, Margo Anderson

The essay is even better than my anecdote and i truly believe that anyone in the business of doing data capture should be required to read this.

I knew the story (did my readings on Dutch history), but didn't think about connecting it with current thinking on transparency. One more reason to repeat my own point: transparency is good in many cases, but I don't want all my data easily accessible in one place.

  Thursday, April 15, 2004

  Media literacy: from reading to writing and beyond

Richard MacManus:

I'm currently reading Lawrence Lessig's new book, Free Culture, which is available as a free download under a Creative Commons license. I'm only up to pg 64, but already I've discovered some great new ideas. One of them is "media literacy". This is the best definition I've found so far of media literacy:

"The ability to read, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of media forms (television, print, radio, computers, etc.)."

Lessig refers to it as "an expanded literacy - one that goes beyond text to include audio and visual elements" (pg 50). He follows this with a paragraph that really made me sit up and take note:

"Read-only." Passive recipients of culture produced elsewhere. Couch potatoes. Consumers. This is the world of media from the twentieth century. The twenty-first century could be different. This is the crucial point: It could be both read and write. Or at least reading and better understanding the craft of writing. Or best, reading and understanding the tools that enable the writing to lead or mislead. The aim of any literacy, and this literacy in particular, is to "empower people to choose the appropriate language for what they need to create or express." It is to enable students "to communicate in the language of the twenty-first century."

In a nutshell:

20th Century = Read-Only

21st Century = Read/Write

Now obviously this is exactly what I've been trying to promote on my own weblog over the past year, but it's only been recently (after my interview with Marc Canter in fact) that I've begun to appreciate that "personal publishing" goes far beyond writing. It's whatever form of multimedia is most suited to you, the Reader/Writer. 

This is exceptionally large quote for my weblog :) It explains well my own interest in weblogs: it's not about weblogs, it's about empowering individuals, authorship, freedom and will to create...

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Sunday, April 11, 2004

  Dutch BloggerCon

Peter Breuls on Dutch BloggerCon (via Kaye Trammel)

For a few months, a thought has been growing in my head: why don't organise a local BloggerCon? Just do what Dave does, but in the Netherlands, discussing Dutch topics. It might stimulate the local blogosphere, give bloggers a chance to explore what everyone is blogging about, and why...

I have posted this idea to my blog a few times, and I got positive response. So I actually would like to try it. But where to start? What should the topics be? Do we have a location? Webcast facilities?

There are things happenning in The Netherlands - BlogWalk 1.0 was in Enschede. It wasn't Dutch or about Dutch or in Dutch, it was international, but here locally. It's so funny that we always know better people and initiatives overseas than something that happens at home :)

There is an interesting overview of Dutch blogs:

I know there's some politicians in Holland blogging, but only a very few are actually blogging. One of our ministers, Gerrit Zalm, only keeps a boring diary, while the leader of the Socialist Party is keeping a real, more than daily updated, blog. A question to talk about: what should politicians blog about? They have a channel to their voters, to the people. Doesn't it make sense that they use it to communicate with the public?

A lot of Dutch weblogs have a personal touch. They should, but it's all lifelogs. Stories about what happened in someone's life, what they dreamed about, small fictional stories.. Other blogs are only linkdumping. They provide links to open dirs, funny movies, funny pictures, online games, and so on. Only a very few blogs are commenting on politics, media, the news and more like that. Why is that? Why are so few bloggers actually using their blog to comment on the world? Don't we all have opinions? Do we rather discuss them in real life?

I know many Dutch bloggers blogging "to comment on the world", they just do it in English. I guess it's matter of critical mass (e.g. Elmine's story of switching into English). This would be an interesting topic to discuss...

See also: Dave Winer would join Dutch BloggerCon.

This post also appears on channel BlogWalk

More on: BlogWalk 

  Saturday, April 10, 2004

  Age of transparency: live your life well aware that everything counts

You Are Your References by Seth Godin (via Jim McGee). It's about no escape from leaving digital traces (Janine would like it ;) and what to do with it...

So what should we do? Should we fret and live in fear of our past actions and words coming back to haunt us? I don't think so. There's a bright new opportunity just sitting here, waiting for organizations and individuals to take advantage of it: Spend your future creating your past, starting right now. Live your life out loud, well aware that everything you say can (and will) be used against you (or for you). Treat every customer as though he could turn into a testimonial. Treat every vendor as if she could give you a recommendation. And then, when the time comes, the seeds you've sown will pay off.

I don't think it's much different from what most of religions say: live your life well aware that everything you do will count. May be the current age of transparency just will make us more aware about basics that we tend to forget in everyday stress.

Of course, there is a risk that we'll play it and reconstruct our past, creating fake history online... Could be, but as my mother says, lies always become visible. At least between you and God... 

  Thursday, April 08, 2004

  Chapter on weblogs and learning by Alex Halavais

In case you haven't seen it yet: Alex Halavais for the chapter in International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments, forthcoming from Kluwer.

Must read.

Update 11/04:

Update 16/04:

Update 19/04 (final part :)

This post also appears on channel weblog research

More on: blogs and learning 

  Ideal intellectual communities

Something that I overlooked in my own links (thanks, Seb) - Amanda on Ideal intellectual communities

The IIC would consist of people who aren't competing with each other for funds, status, recognition, or employment. Intellectual work would not be a zero-sum game to determine who can publish the most, or the fastest, or with the most prestigious publisher.

I wonder if it's feasible :) Amanda articulates other conditions and then suggests:

The blogosphere fulfills several of these conditions, but I'd like to be able to be in the same room with fellow IIC members. What I really want, I suspect, is a salon. [...]

So: where are the salons of today? Have we anything similar? Am I overlooking any existing communities?

I think that our idea of BlogWalk is pretty close to a salon: getting together for intellectual joy :)))

Btw, I can't stop enjoying explanations of weblog titles. Amanda's weblog called Household opera

The phrase "household opera" comes from a sonnet by James Merrill ("Matinees," poem 5, in The Fire Screen [Atheneum, 1964]): "One's household opera never palls or fails."  

This post also appears on channel BlogWalk

  From creative mess to products (blogs and wikis for thinking)

Thinking of blogs vs. wikis to support thinking. For me blogging is easier - it shows how ideas unfold over time and somehow I don't have a problem when I create new page (I do think twice in wikis - because it increases navigation mess). Blogging is also about permalinking and hypertexting half-baked ideas...

The problem is that at the certain moment there is a critical mass (critical mess ;) of bits related to a theme. At this moment you need a least an overview of all of them and then a way to construct something more coherent. Wikis are great for that. It's much easier to get an overview of ideas (if they collected on one page :), edit them into something better or even go for refactoring the whole thing.

But then you get the clarity of a final product and lose an overview of path that took you there. And I'm getting more and more convinced that process and artefacts on the way is as important as the final product.

Of course, some wiki/weblog combination can make life easier (but not those where weblog post is edited as a wiki - you lose the path then).

The funny thing that so far I have my own work around: I use weblog for thinking in progress and then ideas are ripe I write papers. It also makes pretty clear distinction for content ownership in a case where someone (like me) gets paid to produce ideas: I'm building my "thought repository" (weblog) while my company benefits from more polished "knowledge artefacts" (papers and reports) I produce.

Hmm, have to dig out some research on process of creative thinking - something about stages in which clear ideas emerge from a mess of doing and thinking, reading and writing...

Lot's of associative thinking instead of working :)

  BlogTalk 2.0: coopetition and research blogging

Anjo reflects on BlogTalk acceptance list:

Apart from the fact that I'm happy our proposal was accepted, I was totally flabbergasted there are only two accepted proposals with multiple authors (ours, which has three authors; and one other with two authors). All the other 25 proposals accepted have precisely one author. Why is this?

Later: updated list suggests that 8 out of 25 proposals have multiple authors :) 

It's really strange and I'm surprised of not noticing it myself (may be because both of my proposals were co-authored :). I share Anjo's why - why it's so different from any academic conference where it's more difficult to find a single-author contribution?

Is it a selfish nature of blogging? Do we simply have a reflection here?

Is it a competitiveness? When everything is out there, "thinking in public", you know, and blogged back and forth, it's pretty difficult to come up with original ideas. Is it something that keeps many of us not sharing with others than ideas are a bit more ripe? Is it some kind of coopetition, collaboration and competition at the same time?

Or is it just simply lack of knowing of others who can add value to our own thinking, lack of not clear ways reaching them or lack of trust that you need for co-writing?

I believe that many of people submitted BlogTalk proposals would benefit from coauthoring. I guess I'm not going to make unrealistic suggestions here... Let's see how the sharing values of blogosphere and conference competitiveness clash and where we go from there :)))

And if you want something related, but different, check Thoughts on Academic Blogging (MSR Breakout Session Notes) or any other links of research blogging.

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Wednesday, April 07, 2004

  BlogTalk proposals

The list of accepted for BlogTalk 2.0 is out there. One of our proposals went through, another did not.

The accepted one is on shared conceptualizations in weblogs by AnjoRogier and me (these two guys can do magic with metadata and all kinds of "smart tool" analysis, so I guess my role will be asking sceptical questions and connecting it to other weblog studies :)

More on: BlogTalk 

  Blogging as lurking

There was something in my drafted posts from January... Something about lurkers vs. creators.

Stephen Downes: Blogging Without Writing

One tenth of one percent of the people write publicly. Well, OK, I can't validate this figure, but it has been a rule of thumb for me for about a decade. If you have a thousand readers on your Website, one person will post regularly to the discussion board. If you have a thousand mailing list subscribers, one person will post the bulk of the messages. If you have a thousand Internet users, one person will create (and maintain) a blog (people may observe that two percent of Internet users currently blog, but I see this as an indication of the scale of the coming shrinkage of the blog community).

Jonathan Smith: With this medium I am reading much more than I am posting.

Just a few questions related to it:

Is it true that blogging is more about reading than writing? I guess so.

Is is true that % of active bloggers (blog writers) is so low? Is there any way to find how many blog readers are there (especially given the blurring line between weblogs and other types of online publishing/communication; also - when you write you know that this is a weblog, but your readers may not know)?

Do the numbers of active participants say something about general ratios between creation/consumption? I wonder what if we assume everyone is (wants to be) a creator, but this is not the case...

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Research on wikis?

Is there any (published or in-progress) research on wikis? I've only heard about two papers "under construction", but I don't believe this is it...

Just realised - there is some in Seb's dissertation: chapter 4 and 6.3 (evaluation with 2 cases and survey).

More on: wiki 

  Tuesday, April 06, 2004

  How to advise EU and do research in other countries

Jill Walker:

Did you know an individual can sign up as a potential expert advisor to the EU's research programs? You register your field, what you'd be willing to do (review proposals, monitor existing programs, etc) and if they need someone in your area they might contact you. The workload would be up to 10 days a year with pay and expenses and trips to Brussels.

Thought that it was worth spreading further. If you sign as a reviewer EU funding choices could become less dependent on "background plays" and personal networking :)

Btw, you may also check research fellowships info for funding opportunities of doing part of your research in other EU countries. For example, there are some vacancies for Convergence, Digital Media&Innovation: The Internet and Digital 'Content' Applications and European Doctoral Training in Social Representations and Communication studies. You have to be EU national or have 5+ years staying in EU counties (so, I can't apply ;(

Seriousely speaking, does anyone know how to arrange for a few month research visit to another country? I'd love to do that somewhere next year.

More on: PhD 

  Monday, April 05, 2004

  OKLC04: on knowledge work

OKLC04 interesting leads on knowledge work:

PhD research of Thomas Hädrich on modeling knowledge work. The perspective of Thomas and the literature he uses complement my own research really well. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find much online...

The paper I've got from Thomas - Hädrich, T. & Maier, R. (2004) Modeling Knowledge Work. Research paper accepted for the Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik (MKWI) 2004, 9th-11th March 2004, Essen.

Abstract. Designating information and communication technologies for knowledge management in knowledge-intensive organizations requires adequate modeling technologies that consider the specifics of modeling context in knowledge work. The paper studies knowledge work and discusses the four knowledge work practices: expressing, monitoring, translating and networking. Modeling techniques are reviewed from the perspective of their suitability to guide the design of knowledge management initiatives and of knowledge management systems. The paper compares business process management and activity theory. The concept of knowledge stance is presented in order to related functions from process model to actions from activity theory, thus detailing the context relevant for knowledge workers switching between the two. Finally, knowledge stances are illustrated with a case example.

Research by Jeremy Aarons. OKLC paper - The disunity of knowledge work

Abstract. This paper applies recent discussions about the implications of a disunified view of the sciences to the practical challenge of understanding and managing knowledge work in modern organizational settings. The main claim of this paper is that a disunified view will provide a rich and powerful analysis of knowledge work, and thus help provide the necessary guidance for the support of knowledge work in organizational environments. In particular, the disunified view can provide a methodology for analyzing knowledge work in a complex organizational setting, and can provide guidance on how to manage organizational change when it involved a fundamental shift in the nature of knowledge work.

See also by Jeremy: From Philosophy To Knowledge Management And Back Again and The Serious Procrastinator’s Introduction to Juggling

Later: Jeremy has started a weblog, Dubbings and Diversions

Papers to check

  Saturday, April 03, 2004

  OKLC04: selected papers

This is my selection of "OKLC04" papers (next to those I mention in other posts): mainly those that I was attending, so I'm likely to miss some great stuff. The proceedings are online, so you can make your own choice:

Exploring the Dynamics of Knowledge in Practice: Comparing Bundles of Knowledge of Experts and Novices by Bou Elena, Sauquet Alfons, Bonet Eduard

Note: I'll be adding a bit more...

More on: OKLC 

  OKLC04: on narratives

I'll write more about papers I liked, but these three made a good session...

Knowledge Creation and Learning in Translating a Novel into a Film by Bonet Eduard, Pons Catalina, Sauquet Alfons, Bou Elena

The paper is about a story of translating a metaphoric novel into a script for a movie, use of visual artefacts on the way and differences in interpreting them.

Thinking of:

  • finding the novel as it should be interesting to read (Snow by Maxence Fermine; at Amazon)
  • different ways to communicate tacit knowledge and ideas that can be hardly expressed in words
  • translations as a metaphor for knowledge creating and learning

Developing Organizational Narrations - A New Dimension in Knowledge Management by Schreyögg Georg, Geiger Daniel

This work looks critically at storytelling practices in KM and suggests that stories are perceived as positive when in fact they could provoke negative results.

The presenters gave an overview of the literature on narratives (re: sense-making (Weick&Browning, 1986), symbolic reproduction of culture (Czarniawska, 1996), knowledge generation and sharing (Orr, 1996; Patriotta, 2003)). I'm not an expert, but I was surprised not seeing the references to the storytelling KM literature I know (e.g. names of Dave Snowden and Steve Denning).

  • Narrations
    • natural non-reflexive/non-discursive
    • transfer facts, recipes, emotions, values and norms, etc. of communities
  • Problematic aspects of narratives (referring to the Shell story)
    • various stories compete
    • dysfunctional side-effects
    • far reaching consequences
  • Need for a transformation into a reflexive mode (re: Habermas, 1989), three steps of reflecting on a story (de-contextualisation, stripping off contexts)
    • step 1. does it fit other contexts of the same community?
    • step 2. could it be translated to other communities?
    • step 3. evaluation of content - reflection of assumptions and claims of the story

The presentation is good for mind-stretching, but I have many questions:

  • "stories always have a teller and a listener"; "stories are told in a community" - Where weblog stories with their "telling to the world" attitude fit?
  • "stories are not reflective" – Is it always like that?
  • I don't think it's a story anymore when you stripped it out of context... It loses it's power and becomes "best practice" that has lot of problems.
  • Why do you want to de-contextualise a story? Is there any other way to reflect on stories?

The bottom line

  • I guess weblog stories are worth looking at: they are told to the world, reflected upon and checked without de-contextualisation (or, they are re-contextualised in new contexts :)
  • I'm getting more convinced in the value of researching by experiencing rather than theorising :)))

A Narrative Aproach to Change Management by Bolin Maria, Bergquist Magnus, Ljungberg Jan

This paper is about using myths as a way to trigger changes. Just a citation: "Myth talks thought man without him knowing it" (Levi-Strauss 1995)

More on: narratives OKLC 

  OKLC04: my presentation

I was the last one to present in the session and the chair of my session wasn't organising it well: I had to fit in less than 20 minutes... So, I didn't have almost any questions and I'm a bit disappointed with that. Or may be I just have to stop expecting feedback during conference presentations :)  It seems that listening to others and talking during social events gives me much more ideas about possible improvements of my own work.

Anyway, useful links:

This post also appears on channel weblog research

  Friday, April 02, 2004

  OKLC04: useful links for KM PhDs

A couple of links for KM PhDs:

More on: OKLC PhD 

  OKLC04: PhD workshop notes

My notes from OKLC04 PhD workshop.

Three out of four workshop facilitators (Sue Newell, Maxine Robertson & Jacky Swan) are the authors of Managing Knowledge Work book, which I consider one of the best introductory textbooks on KM. See also Innovation, Knowledge and Organisational Networks research group and Knowledge & Innovation Network practitioner community.

Sue Newell started with talking about key features of knowledge ( which is a smart way to establish a common reference without going into discussion of what knowledge is ;)

  • knowledge is
    • distributed
    • ambiguous, indeterminate, people have different thought worlds
    • disruptive (radical changes don't align with existing practices)
  • cognitive (k as an entity one possesses, could be passed) vs. community (knowledge is socially constructed and situated in practice) modes in KM (see the book);
    • article by Cook and Browns  - those don't contradicts...
  • knowledge as a tool that needs practice to be used...

Maxine Robertson & Jacky Swan on critical issues and challenges in KM research

  • defining common terms and perspectives is not easy, but at least make your own definitions clear
  • one can't research knowledge, but just proxies of knowledge - stories, artefacts, incidents, networking behaviours
  • clarifying ontological and epistemological assumptions (positivists and intepretivism)
  • getting access to case-studies
    • important to identify gatekeepers
    • clarifying expectations: "you have to appear to know exactly what you are doing" and find out what they want in return
  • key informants
    • lots said and observed can be ambiguous and complex - then you don't understand, ask
    • there are people who are very interested in what you are doing and contribute a lot. Ask why, as there is a risk to become part of power games...
    • personal relations - e.g. you can call people after formal data collection is completed
      you can ring  them up after
  • a bit of discussion on keeping your focus and cutting things that do not fit out of the dissertation
  • just a citation - "academics don't have time to reflect..."

Break-out group discussions on PhD research

After presenting my PhD research I realised that I've got trapped in "evangelising" mode of talking about weblogs. Each time I present on a topic I try to help people understand what the whole things is and why it could be interesting. This activity is valuable by itself, but given short presentation times at conferences it didn't allow me to dive into the core of my research and to get a feedback I need. Or, alternatively, may be it's not a point to expect a serious feedback on "weblog part" of my research at general conferences, as it simply takes too much time to get into the topic. I also need to rethink how far I should go into weblogs (can I do without it?) when presenting "knowledge work" part of my work. Hope my presentation on Saturday will be more rewarding in this sense.

I've got more from this session (related research and reading suggestions), but will be posting on it later.

Probably the most useful session of the day was the talk of Bob Galliers on strategies of publishing in a journal

  • before you start think of
    • are you going for academic career
    • what is required in your current organisation
    • what you may need in your future organisation (especially if it's in another country)
  • a good journal to publish could be
    • from the A-list of your current/future organisation (and there are no easily accessible lists of "good journals, it's more about tacit knowledge of those in the field)
    • where the key articles you use were published
    • you usually like articles from there
    • where your favourite authors publish
    • your literature is frequently cited there
    • look for the one that fits your topic, style of writing, research methodology
    • you may contact the editor (check also if someone on editorial board you may know via your network) before submitting with your abstract and ask if it's interesting
  • submit
    • read author guidelines and make sure to comply
    • sometimes you may suggest people to review your article, check guidelines for it
    • be very patient
  • reviews
    • associate editor collects reviews, comments on them and then it goes to editor for a decision
    • "revise and resubmit" is a very good result
  • resubmit
    • be prepared to be confused: if there is contradictory advice you may ask editor for a direction
      try to resubmit reasonably quickly
    • when resubmit add covered letter with explanations how you took (or why you didn't take) reviewers advice into account and don't forget to thank reviewers (it will be send to reviewers and they may not even read the whole paper again)
    • be prepared for more iterations (there are cases of 7 rounds!) and don't think that they are less seriously than first
  • when it's accepted - be very patient again, it can be anything between few months and few years
  • the bottom line - it's about stamina

The presentation was a good journey into the world of academic publishing. What I found out a bit frustrating is its focus on getting your work accepted and published, not on getting your work accessible. No (before I asked) mention of open access journals (they are less good for your reputation), importance of publishing drafts online and presenting at conferences. It's pity to see how the "ivory tower" mindset is reinforced without any questioning...

Later: for an alternative see for example access to the literature: the debate continues

More on: OKLC PhD research 

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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: 4/10/2006; 4:01:41 PM.