Sunday, May 30, 2004
A bit of BlogWalk 2.0 reflections
BlogWalk 2.0 was a great company of people, beautiful city, sunshine walking and creative conversations. I was expecting some language problems as the majority of BlogWalk participants speak (or at least understand) German and I don't. Thanks to everyone for making effort of speaking English (and writing too :)
Now new blogs are added to my news aggregator, ideas are slowly sinking down and getting digested… Not sure I will be able to write much now, but just to note the emergent themes for later:
- Blogs as a community clue
- Relation between visualising traces of thinking and reflection (also: in connection with Mirror of danah boyd)
- Blog/wiki integration
- How to get out of the "train"?
- "Survival skills" for self-organised learners
I'm travelling againg (Lisbon, Knowledge Board meeting, till Sunday) and have some technical problems, so probably not blogging.
This post also appears on channel BlogWalk (check it for others!)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Monday, May 24, 2004
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Life of a PhD
I wonder how many can connect with danah's experiences. I can, although my expremes are a bit different. I wonder if there is another way and is it needed to be another way.
I know that I'm more productive under stress and my work always tends to pile up as deadlines are approaching... I guess it's not that healthy and there is a line that marks the move to a "quality goes down" path. Just wondering do I need to the stress of adding order to my life in order to fight the chaos of working under pressure...
Personal KM is all about chasing balance :) Off into sunshine...
Friday, May 21, 2004
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Trees vs. webs
My thinking about trees vs. webs was a bit implicit till I saw Clay Shirky pointing to A city is not a tree where Christopher Alexander talks about tree vs. semilattice structures. As I don't have a good mental model of semilattice (and Google doesn't give many pictures ;), I'll talk about trees and webs. Or, to be more specific about tree-structures and web-structures.
For me it mainly has to do something with classification. I believe that one of the reasons classifying information is difficult has something to do with the fact that in most cases tree structures are used for classification, so we have to find "unique folder" to put an idea or a document into it. And ideas never belong to "unique folders", they have multiple relations with other ideas, forming a web structure.
I'm thinking about tree vs. web structures in my own work:
About filers and pilers (longer abstract if you can't access it full-text) when it comes to sorting out papers.
About saving a file on my hard drive, where I always have to remember specific folder I used, vs. adding a document to Docushare (used as a document management system in my company), which allows "placing" one document into several folders (e.g. if you scroll you'll find out that this paper is available in four folders).
About using Favourites in IE vs. del.icio.us, which is free of "I have to decide in which folder it should go".
And finally about using categories vs. liveTopics to organise my thinking in this weblog.
It probably matter of personal preferences or thinking style, but I always have problems with tree structures. For example, I've got Typepad Plus account because it offers an easy way to put photos online only to discover that I can hardly use it because it forces me to organise my photographs into albums. And I always want to sort my photos by location, by date, by theme and by many other ways that I'll invent tomorrow.
Another example is about mind-mapping tools. Those that I tried force me to organise my ideas into tree structure. Of course, visualisation is nice to get an overview of ideas (especially if you use it for others), but forced tree structure makes these maps useless for (my) thinking. I tried to use mind-mapping software to structure my ideas for writing papers, but it didn't work. It's fine on paper for drawing a web of relations and thinking about steps of explaining them, but drawing a tree on my screen doesn't make any sense: I would rather start outlining directly in Word...
Tree-relations may be easier to grasp than more complex structures. They are also easier to unfold into linear structure (think how you were taught to write an essay: introduction - body - conclusion, body consists of X parts, each of them is subdivided...). Trees are easy to draw. Easy to program.
But for me ideas live as webs. Tree structure of a paper is good to help others understand creative mess of ideas in my head, but it pains every time I try to squeeze a web of ideas into a tree structure when writing (I guess that's why hyperlinks and cross-references were invented ;).
When I think about webs of ideas I associate a lot with Christopher Alexander talking about cities:
When we think in terms of trees we are trading the humanity and richness of the living city for a conceptual simplicity which benefits only designers, planners, administrators and developers. Every time a piece of a city is torn out, and a tree made to replace the semilattice that was there before, the city takes a further step toward dissociation.
In any organized object, extreme compartmentalization and the dissociation of internal elements are the first signs of coming destruction. In a society, dissociation is anarchy. In a Person, dissociation is the mark of schizophrenia and impending suicide. An ominous example of city-wide dissociation is the separation of retired people from the rest of urban life, caused by the growth of desert cities for the old like Sun City, Arizona. This separation is only possible under the influence of treelike thought.
It not only takes from the young the company of those who have lived long, but worse, it causes the same rift inside each individual life. As you pass into Sun City, and into old age, your ties with your own past will be unacknowledged, lost and therefore broken. Your youth will no longer be alive in your old age - the two will be dissociated; your own life will be cut in two.
For the human mind, the tree is the easiest vehicle for complex thoughts. But the city is not, cannot and must not be a tree. The city is a receptacle for life. If the receptacle severs the overlap of the strands of life within it, because it is a tree, it will be like a bowl full of razor blades on edge, ready to cut up whatever is entrusted to it. In such a receptacle life will be cut to pieces. If we make cities which are trees, they will cut our life within to pieces.
Site note: Thinking about writing texts, I think about stories that somehow fit linear format without breaking a web of relations. For me there is a lot to read and to think about to understand how stories emerge from webs and is there "tree" stage in between...
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Monday, May 17, 2004
Finding in-house knowledge: patterns and implications
And one more paper for I-KNOW04 :)
Finding in-house knowledge: patterns and implications written with Janine Swaak, Masja Kempen and Mark Graner
Abstract. In this paper we present the results of two studies aimed at understanding how employees find knowledge available in their organisation. Data about knowledge awareness and knowledge finding strategies were collected in two research organisations using interviews and on-line questionnaires. The results of the two studies demonstrate interesting patterns. First, we found that although people say that they are aware of knowledge in their organisation, they also indicate that the same knowledge is developed at different places in their organisations. Second, asking others and searching own mailbox and other own digital and paper archives – and not organisation-wide repositories – are most popular ways for finding in-house knowledge. The results are discussed in terms of implications from the perspective of employees and from the perspective of organisations.
This paper opens a bit of our research on knowledge mapping. This work is behind most of my thinking about information vs. knowledge, searching, sharing and asking questions, the role of context and awareness, and effects of transparency...
If you want something shorter than 8 pages long text :), there is a small essay in 5 May issue of AOK EZine (thanks to Jack Vinson for inviting) - The need to know . It is based on some of our research findings and touches my favourite asking questions theme...
And - promise - I don't have any more hidden papers to reveal within the next month :)))
Sunday, May 16, 2004
PhD: experiential research and everyday grounded theory
[This text was drafted a couple of weeks back, but I didn't have time to finish it…]
Recent discussion on weblog research ethics made me thinking more about my own ways of researching weblogs.
The first thing is pretty obvious: I'm not an observer, I'm a participant. Not sure what would be the best "research methodology label" for it. I would think about action research, but I'm far from pushing any specific actions in my blogging community (or, may be, there is an element of provoking a bit more reflection :)
At OKLC I had an opportunity to talk with Jean Lave (she was giving a keynote). We talked about ways of studying practices and choices about degrees of a researcher involvement. I was sharing my concern of not being "objective" by being part of the community I study and then found out that we both appreciated how rich could be researchers' understanding of a phenomenon if they experienced it. I feel more confident now trading objectivity for richness and depth :)
Talking about weblog research: I'm a bit sceptical reading research papers by people who are not blogging themselves. I value their contribution a lot, understanding that taking different approaches we are more likely to get a richer picture of this whole thing, but I'm still very happy being on another end. Some people would think I'm addicted so much that I can't step out for my research. I think differently: I'm experiential learner (or experiential researcher, if you want).
Next point is about data collection and analysis. My main method of studying weblogs is not scientific at all. I call it "everyday grounded theory" (more on grounded theory):
- I read weblogs from my usual reading list and spot interesting themes.
- I start collecting examples or illustrations of these themes. Now I mainly use del.icio.us to collect relevant pieces and "code" them. For example, I pick up posts that indicate something about blog writing or blog reading.
- I think of interpretations and connections between themes. Usually I think in public, so my interpretations end up as posts in my weblog.
- Then collaborative part comes in. My interpretations are discussed (or not) and developed by others around me. They evolve and mature.
- Once in a while a pick up the matured ones and I write a paper pretending to be a researcher :)
Of course I use more "traditional" data collection methods (e.g. interviews) as well, but sometimes I feel that this is just to confirm/clarify/develop ideas that I've got from my "everyday grounded theory".
One thing that I like about my "everyday grounded theory" is that it’s effortless. Not that I don't spend time doing it, but I don't do that on purpose. It's so much part of my everyday reading/thinking/writing routines that it doesn't feel like work. I guess if I would structure it just a bit more (select proper sample, select more objective set of themes and not only those that interest me, clarify intermideate results of each iteration, etc.) it would be "scienfic" enough to present in papers. But I guess once I do it it will become "not so natural" and embedded anymore, so I'll end up putting much less effort into it. I think Jill is right, blogging is researching, but we have to find a way to make it rigorous enough to pass in the academic world...
But even when rules change don't think I'll ever become proper academic. I guess I'll end up doing reflective practice on the edge of research (you may ask - why do PhD then? - but this is another story :)))
PS Thought that I invented "experiential research". Found, as usual, that there is difficult to invent something really new: Google on "experiential research". And that grounded theory is pretty much grounded in everyday practices :)
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Friday, May 14, 2004
Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks
As promised: Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks (written with Sebastian Fiedler, Carla Verwijs and Andy Boyd)
Abstract. In corporate settings one would like to enable employees to learn from each other even if they are distributed: ideally access to experiences of others should be available at any place (e.g. another part of the globe) and at any time (e.g. after the expert retires). In these settings traditional apprenticeship models do not scale. In this paper we describe a case where technology seems to provide a window onto practice, creating an environment where people can observe and "steal" practices of each other, engaging into distributed apprenticeship relations. We explore how weblogs can support apprenticeship-like relations between their authors by distinguishing between processes of articulating, "stealing" and refining practices one can observe weblog networks on Internet, and then reflecting on possibilities of replicating these experiences in corporate settings.
This paper will be presented special track on Integration of Knowledge Management & (e)Learning at I-KNOW04 conference (30 June - 2 July, Graz, Austria). It landed in a good company of Gabriela Avram and her colleagues presenting on weblogs and some people I don't know yet presenting on wikis (see the progam).
To make choices more difficult there is a parallel track on Hybrid learning with presentation of Priya Sharma and Sebastian Fiedler (guess the topic :) and a couple of other tracks with few interesting papers. You can see the whole program (and if you look carefully you'll find another paper I'm going to present :)
The bottom line: I-KNOW may be worth visiting, especially given that it's two days before BlogTalk and Graz is very close to Vienna.
See also: earlier abstract for the paper, more thinking about apprenticeship and previous posts about I-KNOW and BlogTalk.
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Thursday, May 13, 2004
PhD as jigsaw puzzle
Thinking about my PhD approach... Some people do their PhD research in a very systematics way - going through well articulated steps and designs. Somehow I don't feel like doing it this way. My way of doing PhD is similar to how I would solve jigsaw puzzle:
- First I look at border pieces and try to make a frame out of them.
- Next I find pieces that stick together and make small "clouds" of them, trying to connect them to the frame if it is possible.
- Then big picture starts to emerge, "clouds" get connected with each other and with the frame.
- After that there are just a few empty spots and I fill them in with pieces that left.
Currently in my PhD research I'm iterating between 2 and 3, while focusing mainly on making "clouds". I use my 3 circle personal KM model as a frame (see the paper for academic description) to work on my "clouds". My idea is to work on relatively independent studies of different aspects of blogging and then triangulate them to re(de)fine the initial model.
So far the studies I'm planning/doing are an attempt to look at weblogs from different perspectives (btw, this is described in a more systematic way in my PhD outline):
- me - weblog writing - understanding the activities around blogging and their value for an individual
- others - weblog reading - understanding effects of other weblogs (e.g. work for Ed-Media conference)
- ideas - weblog conversations - understanding how ideas develop in conversations (e.g. argumentation analysis of weblog conversations)
- corporate context - corporate weblogs - understanding how far all the nice things above would (not) work in corporate settings
Of course, when it comes to writing papers I also do something in between. For example, weblog apprenticeship paper is a way to connect all four perspective around one practical idea of using weblogs.
Ah, still much work to do before I'm at the stage 4 of my PhD puzzle :)
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Sharing perspectives, quality and KJ-technique
Why blogging is about quality? Because perspectives are shared:
Back in the late 1970’s, the US government commissioned a study to look at effective group decision making. In the study, they asked 30 military experts to study intelligence data and try to construct the enemy’s troop movements.
Each expert analyzed the data and compiled a report. The commission then “scored” each report on how well it reported the actual troop movements. They found that the average military expert only got 7 out of a 100 elements correct.
Each expert then reviewed all of the other experts’ reports and rewrote their initial assessment. The average accuracy for these revised reports was 79 out of a 100.
What was different between the first report and the second? The experts didn’t have any new information. All they had were the perspectives of the other experts. When they added those perspectives to their own, their accuracy increased ten-fold.
The quote is from The KJ-Technique: A Group Process for Establishing Priorities found by James Robertson. This technique seems to be interesting to consider in a combination with Open Space method for BlogWalk meetings (pinging Ton and Sebastian).
One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in the lives of people
If you want some inspiration read My Life as a Knowledge Worker by Peter Drucker about experiences that taught him how to grow (found via Gurteen Knowledge-Letter).
Just two quotes. The first one is about perfection:
It was at about this same time, and also in Hamburg during my stay as a trainee, that I read a story that conveyed to me what perfection means. It is a story of the greatest sculptor of ancient Greece, Phidias. He was commissioned around 440 b.c. to make the statues that to this day stand on the roof of the Parthenon, in Athens. They are considered among the greatest sculptures of the Western tradition, but when Phidias submitted his bill, the city accountant of Athens refused to pay it. "These statues," the accountant said, "stand on the roof of the temple, and on the highest hill in Athens. Nobody can see anything but their fronts. Yet you have charged us for sculpting them in the round--that is, for doing their back sides, which nobody can see."
"You are wrong," Phidias retorted. "The gods can see them." I read this, as I remember, shortly after I had listened to Falstaff , and it hit me hard. I have not always lived up to it. I have done many things that I hope the gods will not notice, but I have always known that one has to strive for perfection even if only the gods notice.
The second is about conversation between Peter Drucker's father and Joseph Schumpeter who were old friends:
By 1949 Schumpeter had become a very different person. In his last year of teaching at Harvard, he was at the peak of his fame. The two old men had a wonderful time together, reminiscing about the old days. Suddenly, my father asked with a chuckle, "Joseph, do you still talk about what you want to be remembered for?" Schumpeter broke out in loud laughter. For Schumpeter was notorious for having said, when he was 30 or so and had published the first two of his great economics books, that what he really wanted to be remembered for was having been "Europe's greatest lover of beautiful women and Europe's greatest horseman--and perhaps also the world's greatest economist." Schumpeter said, "Yes, this question is still important to me, but I now answer it differently. I want to be remembered as having been the teacher who converted half a dozen brilliant students into first-rate economists."
He must have seen an amazed look on my father's face, because he continued, "You know, Adolph, I have now reached the age where I know that being remembered for books and theories is not enough. One does not make a difference unless it is a difference in the lives of people."
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Personal knowledge management in KM Magazine
Just to let you know - April issue of KM Magazine features personal knowledge management. While most articles are subscribers only, this one you can check for free - Your say: Personal knowledge management by Sandra Higgison with contributions of Mick Cope, Tom Davenport, Jim McGee, David Skyrme and me (delighted to be in such a great company :)
While it may be not much new in this article for KM bloggers it is a good sign that personal KM is getting mainstream. And of course I'm very proud :)))
And an extra: full text of my answer to Sandra about personal KM challenges
To a great extend PKM is about shifting responsibility for learning and knowledge sharing from a company to individuals and this is the greatest challenge for both sides. Companies should recognise that their employees are not "human resources", but investors who bring their expertise into a company. As any investors they want to participate in decision-making and can easily withdraw if their "return on investment" is not compelling. Creativity, learning or desire to help others cannot be controlled, so knowledge workers need to be intrinsically motivated to deliver quality results. In this case "command and control" management methods are not likely to work.
Taking responsibility for own work and learning is a challenge for knowledge workers as well. Taking these responsibilities requires attitude shift and initiative, as well as developing personal KM knowledge and skills. In a sense personal KM is very entrepreneurial, there are more rewards and more risks in taking responsibility for developing own expertise.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Back from Venice
Was lost in the magic of Venice... Had it all - sun and rain, light and darkness, sweet and bitter... Sure I'll be back one day - this city doesn't let you go.
Monday, May 03, 2004
Taking a week off
Leaving for another trip, this time to Italy (love my job!). First a few days working in Ferrara and then sightseeing in Venice till Sunday. If you are around and want to meet, let me know, otherwise I'll enjoy it by myself :)
And - as Radio behave strange again and probably needs reinstalling, I rather switch it off and take a week off blogging. I guess you have enough to read ;))