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MILK: multimedia interactions for learning and knowing

My notes from MILK ForumSupporting virtual teams for innovation and competition – Keep in Touch and Be Aware – 9 July at University of Milan Bicocca.

MILK (multimedia interactions for learning and knowing) is a European project focused on creating a solution for supporting knowledge and working processes in knowledge intensive organizations:

The conference focuses on the main results of the MILK project and presents an innovative Knowledge Management solution. In particular, collaborative working environments based on large screens supporting informal communication and knowledge sharing within and among communities in different work practices situations will be presented and exhibited. The interactive large screens integrated with the mobile and office environments have shown a noteworthy raise of corporate awareness of what goes on and who knows what in the organisation.

The solution they presented is quite impressive. From their about page:

‘The MILK Solution Metaphor’

MILK is willing to support the current working place scenario where knowledge workers dynamically change between different working situations; they work in front of their PC in the office, they work with others in formal and informal groups often with little opportunity to have face-to-face meetings, they work frequently outside the office when travelling, or at a client’s site having only their mobile equipment with them.

In other words: this is a single environment that allows different uses from different perspectives… The MILK solution (.pdf) perspectives:

At the desktop

  • Promote publishing and sharing of documents
  • Promote discovering of related activities in organisation

While mobile

  • Make documents accessible when needed
  • Provide both Content and People information in an integrated way

While in shared office places

  • Provide support for on-the-fly communication even across sites
  • Provide an overview of ongoing activity in the organisation

All integrated

  • same information presented in different ways on different media
  • consistent interaction style to encourage cross-media usage

Desktop solution has a nice feature of adding new documents: when you create one you can add metadata (also by just drag-n-drop from project ontology displayed at the same screen), when possible related documents are shown. You can decide to keep document for yourself or to release it to the community.

Large screens are amazing. I’m big fun of shared artefacts (thinking of windows wiki 🙂 to support shared understanding, reflection and work. Large screens used in social spaces in the organisation can play an important role for sharing digital artefacts that otherwise hidden behind small – not shared – screens.

Uses of large screens in MILK is guided by a metaphor of interactive broadcast (zipped huge .pdf): screens switch between displaying several views. People near the screen can login and then have a bit of personalisation.


  • Thematic view presents a kind of knowledge map of the community
    • bubbles for projects and groups
    • when you zoom into a bubble it shows a selection of related documents (recent and frequently used) as well as their authors
    • each document you can bookmark, print, send by e-mail (you have to login and then select yourself to make sure it gets to you)
  • People finder presents a social map
    • people with their locations indicated by color
    • if you zoom in you can see current availability of a person and ways to contact him (e.g. see if person available by mobile or e-mail or stands in front of a large screen in another location, so you can start videoconferencing on the fly)
  • Meeting channel supports ad-hoc videoconferencing or other modes of contacting people (e.g. sending sms to their mobile)
  • News and notifications channel brings pop-up news and notifications; could be used to broadcast important message during specific time

Switching between views is guided by presence of people in front of a screen and their interaction with it, as well as a schedule that shows one or another channel depending on location of a screen, time or specific activities or events in a company (see huge pdf for more details :).

The whole solution is more or less component based, so you can plug existing systems (e.g. document management system) into it.

So far the system is implemented in two organisations. Some lessons learnt are this presentation.

The only problem is that implementing the whole thing costs 130.000 euro 🙂

I was impressed to see many KM ideas I believe in implemented. Of course, there are weak points as well:

  • costs
  • centralised architecture of the system
  • thematic views are representation of “group think” (recent and most used documents): good for developing shared understanding, but innovation happens on the fringes
  • ontologies are centralised: I wonder how far they would work in e.g. multinational cases
  • and, of course, I want more autonomy for an individual 🙂

As a bonus point: two presentations which are more conceptual then about the system itself:

MILK project will be featured at Knowledge Board in August, so you can always find out more if you want. Or check reports and publications on their web-site.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/07/09.html#a1274; comments are here.

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