Wednesday, September 29, 2004
I know it's coming... I know I'll get through... Still feels scary...
It's about loosing focus and finding it again. Not really loosing, but realising that my current scope is too wide and that I have to find a way to narrow it down.
To be more specific it's about finding out what shape my personal KM model should have:
who needs it: so far I was talking about contribution to the theory (which of course I need anyway), but I'm realising that my main driving force is about providing practitioners with a framework for thinking about knowledge work, their own or others', to be used to identify directions for change or technology fit
how deep/detailed it should be: how far should I go into describing specific activities and their relations? how do I know that I'm 'there' and the model is good enough to stop
what specific questions should I asked in my weblog studies to be able to integrate the results into the model
And - something else - if you are native English speaker and have time this Friday you can help me a lot by reviewing a paper I'm writing right now. It's an improved version of Discovering the iceberg of knowledge work: A weblog case... I was planning to take more time finishing it, but I just found out about paper submission deadline too good to miss, so time is short (as usual :)
So, in case you are ready to help and don't know how to contact me: email or Skype
Knowledge networker skills: 'getting more' and 'giving up'
One more piece from Mark Fletcher's blog
I haven't posted in awhile because I've been busy. Busy is good. As we continue to build out the team at Bloglines, I was reminded of something that first occured to me during ONElist's early days about starting a company.
As an employee climbing the corporate ladder at a company, it's all about getting more. More responsibility, more control, a larger salary, a bigger title. However, the exact opposite is true when you start a company. A big part of starting and building a company is about giving up. A founder is in a weird position. When you first start a company, everything is yours. You own all the stock, you make all the decisions. This point of creation is the only time this will be the case, however. Forever after, the founder must give up more and more control to other people and more and more ownership to employees, investors, etc. The founder must do this for the company to be successful, but at the same time this is the opposite of what many people are used to doing.
Made me thinking about "getting more" and "giving up" as important skills that a knoweldge networker should have as it's not only about being self-driven, but also about ad-hoc projects with others... Taking responsibility and delegating and knowing how to choose between these two :)
Bloglines web services and making me happy
Mark Fletcher shares Bloglines news that appear in their web services press-release a day later (thanks to Brian Dennis for the pointer):
Three leading desktop news feed and blog aggregators announced today that they have implemented new open application programming interfaces (API) and Web Services from Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) that connect their applications to Bloglines' free online service for searching, subscribing, publishing and sharing news feeds, blogs and rich web content. FeedDemon (www.bradsoft.com), NetNewsWire (www.ranchero.com), and Blogbot (www.blogbot.com) are the first desktop software applications to use the open Bloglines Web Services.
What does it mean in practice:
- eliminating RSS bandwith problem
- "Bloglines Web Services transform hundreds of thousands of existing feeds into "clean RSS" and insulates developers from the current blog syndication format wars"
- support for synchronisation between web-based and desktop aggregation (someone out there seem to listens to my problems ;)
Bloglines Web Services are free, open source and available at www.bloglines.com/services/ for interested developers wishing to work with on current and future projects.
Usually when I talk about blogging tools and some functionality that is not there yet I bluff saying "but given that in this community developers and users find ways to talk to each other some technology is likely to be there in half a year". In some cases it actually works :)
And, while I was at Mark Fletcher's blog I discovered that Bloglines now have 'Keep new' feature to mark individual blog entries as unread that I managed to miss (using Bloglines daily :). This is something I was dreaming about since I found that marking all recent posts unread in my case results in piles of unread stuff.
One more reason to like Bloglines...
Update: I guess I know what desktop reader I'm going to use next to Bloglines :)
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Blog networking, blogwalking and being a boundary subject
Just a few semi-related things:
1. For my thinking on weblogs in relation building (re: one-way relations and online/offline differences): links to AOIR stories about meeting other bloggers by Jill Walker, Torill Mortensen, Anders Fagerjord and Tracy Kennedy. It's a nice reading if you want to have a pause with a smile :)
I managed to talk to many others from AOIR 5.0 bloggers list, but my personal fun stories include:
- turning participant badge to see if someone I suspected to be Alex Halavais was him,
- discovering Axel Bruns because someone next to me was heavily typing on Tablet PC,
- jumping around impatiently before I could say to Jill Walker that I was "Lilia from Mathemagenic",
- chasing Eugene Gorny and Lois Ann Scheidt as I knew they were there, wanted to talk, but had no idea how to find them.
But to be fair I enjoyed most the moment when Alex said that my weblog was more serious than me :)
2. BlogWalk/AOIR intro experinces: weblog title may say more than your real name...
3. An observation: while on this trip I met two groups of bloggers (BlogWalk crowd and AOIR bloggers) that have some interconnections within they seem not to be connected. I experienced two different sets of references to blogging experiences and other bloggers... Doesn't mean that they do not have anything in common (they do, as bringing Alex Halavais and Matt Mower for a dinner shows ;), just seem to live in different parts of the blogosphere.
And, as I belong to both groups I could proudly call myself a boundary subject, which is a living version of boundary object :)
4. Of course, weblogs are good for relation building, but f2f is so much fun... What could be better than sharing food and BlogWalking around London? For those interested (before the official announcement ;) - next guided tour is November 11-12 in Umea, Sweden.
This post also appears on channels BlogWalk and AOIR
Time in blogging: writers time and readers time
This is the second piece on time in blogging and it's about time in reading weblogs (you may want to read the first one - Time in blogging: catching a moment to write).
To start with: a piece from our paper on distributed apprenticeship
Next to the real-time interaction and learning that weblog networks can facilitate, they have an interesting potential as a mean to "preserve" authentic experiences over time, so future generations of employees can learn from them. While real-time reading of a weblog seems to provide a good view of blogger practices illustrated with unfolding stories, it is not clear if these effects would persist while reading a weblog written several years (or even months) ago.
This question came back during Jill's talk on distributed narratives and made me thinking about (at least) two dimensions of time.
First, there is a writer's time: weblogs stories often do not come as one piece, but instead emerge as a results of narrating personal life, thinking, bits and pieces of conversation with self. Of course, you can make it more complex and add other dimensions of Jill's distributed narratives, distributed space and authorship, and then end up with conversations with others and blogosphere stories. In any of these cases writing is distributed over time.
Second, I'd think of a reader's time: time of reading a story distributed over time (by writers). Reader's time could be distributed and (almost) synchronous with writer's time: for example, me reading Jill's posts over months, almost as soon as she writes them, or following a weblog conversation as it is unfolds. But it's not necessary: I could go to the archives and read everything at once or (given tools that we don't have) go through a weblog conversation a few months after it finished, collapsing writers' time at a moment of reading, so it's not that distributed any more.
So, to be more specific, this post is about readers' time, distributed/synchronous or collapsed. I woke up with it today, thinking about differences between those two. So far I can think about two: gradual learning and participation.
It's not a secret that learning takes time, but in many cases learning also requires time distributed over time. For example, one week of intensive training in a gym wouldn't bring you the same results as an hour every other day for a year. I guess there are many other cases where you need gradual learning, so your brain or body has time in between to absorb and adjust.
Participation is another difference. Think of watching news vs. watching a documentary. Documentary is about history that you can't change (of course you can, but it's another story :), while news are about something that happens now, so it makes much more sense to do something about it. Or - as news is not an "actionable" example for many - there is a difference between watching your child putting metal in a microwave and finding it out (here) a few years later.
Coming back to weblogs. Regular reading of a weblog (distributed/synchronous time) is about gradual learning and opportunities for participation (that's why some people so addicted to their RSS readers :)
Of course, I can go on writing about implications it has for conversations, relation building and weblog research, but probably I have to take time to think of it making my writer's time distributed :)
This post also appears on channels weblog research and AOIR
Monday, September 27, 2004
Time in blogging: catching a moment to write
There is at least one nice effect of not being able to blog a conference: over time bits and pieces start to merge revealing underlying themes and turning reporting into reflecting.
This time it's about time. Somehow different things get together: BlogWalk discussion on a need for time to blog before getting new ideas, AOIR session on time and responsiveness, Jill's talk about time as one dimension of distributed narratives, time of not being able to blog, time to process blog post piling up in my news aggregator...
I guess I'll do a couple of posts. This one is about time in writing a weblog (see also Time in blogging: writers time and readers time).
Alex Halavais on not blogging (and go there to read the rest and to see new t-shirt of Professor Walker :)
During one of the sessions on the last day of the conference, Nancy Baym, president of AIR, suggested that someone was going to set up a web page with postings related to the conference. This followed her request at one of the keynotes that people write up their notes and post them to the AIR-L list. I noted that Lilia had already set up a Topic Exchange channel to collect bloggers' thoughts. At the end of the conference, I ran into Nancy again at Falmer Station. She noted that most of the posts so far were just complaining about the lack of access. "Don't worry," I said, "when people get back to somewhere with access they'll post." As I watched her cross over to the other platform, I thought: what a stupid thing to say.
When people get back to wherever they are going, chances are good that their minds will have switched gears and they will have more current things to post about. I am sitting on notes not only about AIR (which I will post since they are required reading for a class I'm teaching), but on notes from a conference on Informatics a week earlier. Blogging, as a practice, tends for many people to be off the cuff, and the values of timeliness that apply to journalists everywhere apply even moreso to bloggers; we operate on a 30 minute news cycle. I think it's fair to assume that under those conditions, most people won't post-post the conference.
Thinking about my own experiences I guess Alex is right: time is crucial. Being able to blog real-time (even almost real-time: no wifi, but connection during breaks) changes my motivation to write, adding a flavour of instant gratification of "serving the world" with current news that makes me writing a bit more, a bit better and investing in finishing posts.
It's different when I can't post. I still make notes, but do not spend time making them into something more or less finished, they pile up, I hope to work them out later, but it doesn't happen often. I guess there are two reasons:
- When "instant gratification" is not there it's about discipline it takes to finish notes (of course if there are no other "drivers" as Alex' example of his blog posts as required reading for a class).
- It's also about making an effort of delaying new things that come and wait for your attention. Like now, I feel like finishing and posting my notes from AOIR, but there are other things to do, so I'll be lucky if I manage to write an overview of most important things (fingers crossed: if it doesn't happen within next few days the time is lost).
There is another aspect of being able to blog. For me blogging is as much about releasing ideas from my brain as about reporting interesting news to others. I blog bits and pieces of ideas to get rid of them on the path to what I want/need/have to do in the moment.
For example, now I really want to work on a paper on personal KM, but I have all these ideas about time, weblog research and corporate blogging on the way. I don't want to lose them and I can't switch to something else when they are still on my mental radar (so much that I woke up with ideas for blog posts :), so I'm blogging instead of working on the paper. In this case blogging is pretty much similar to filing things into 43 folders (see also: Getting Things Done) so they get out of your way :)
This post also appears on channels BlogWalk and AOIR
Sunday, September 26, 2004
I'm on a flight back from London and finally I'm able to switch from intensive conversations to thinking and writing.
It was a good trip with a blend of fun and work that I like so much. However I had an underlying flavour of guilt building up. It's something to do with invisible work as Suw labelled it.
Talking about blogging at last BlogWalk we went into discussion of how "not serious" blogging and especially reading weblogs looks from outside, an attitude I encounter pretty often – "you are probably not that busy if you find time to blog".
Sure it doesn't look like work – browsing through a bunch of websites that doesn't look work-related and writing informal posts. Even when it is an important part of my work – a way to watch trends, to find references, to test my own ideas with a community of experts that you would probably pay to get into – even then it doesn't look serious for an outsider.
I guess it's something to do with expectations. For those who have work-life balance work is something you do in the office, sitting on your desk with serious face (even if you are actually checking for movies to go to tonight ;). Or, even better, work is about meetings that hijack you schedule, so you have to run around for the whole day. Even a coffee-table discussion looks good – everyone knows that a bit of socialisation with colleagues helps at work. Somehow all visible activities look more serious and more like work.
Having a work-life balance implies that you don't bring work home – evenings and weekends are protected and only emergency deadlines can break through. It also means having fun at courses and conferences – a way to get out of usual environment and learn new things without a pressure of deadlines...
So, here I am coming back after 10 days of travelling with that "guilt flavour" that comes not from feeling that I did something wrong, but from thinking that from outside it looks like I had fun instead of working in the office. Feels funny to be guided so much by my imagination of expectations of others, but at the end we are social animals, aren't we?
I know that most of work I do during travels is invisible. Like this time. Comments on my last paper over dinners that I probably wouldn't get by email, a day at BlogWalk that left me more exorsted as any day in the office would, 5 days of AOIR with sessions that saved me time sifting through the web in search of people, papers and ideas, meetings with London-based bloggers that gave away secrets of implementing blogs in companies and created ground for future joint work, writing in trains, and, of course, email at all brief moments when I got a connection.
I probably did more this week than I would if I would stay in the office. Being visible at work is a good shield for procrastination that hits me from time to time, while I feel responsible for delivering visible results every time I work in "invisible mode", at home or on the road. I know that the only way to deviate is to show that you do your job well :)
What strikes me is that I feel guilty, but also this strange paradox that in the era of knowledge work, era of invisibles and intangibles – ideas, trust, reputation – my work is still guided so much by "visibles" – being in the office during work hours, looking busy and doing something perceived as serious...
Discussions during this trip made me realising something that was implicit: my interest in blogging comes not from believing that this technology is better than others, but from sensing that it has a potential of changing working practices and workplaces to accommodate people with passion for work they do. Part of these changes is about learning to appreciate the invisible and to find a good ways to "manage" it. My quest for discovering the knowledge work iceberg is an attempt to make workplaces a bit friendlier to new ways of working, but it's also very selfish – I want to work in the environment where I don't feel guilty doing work I'm passionate about in a way that works for me...
Finally, after writing all these I feel peace inside instead of feeling guilty. I'm in a train half way home where I can finally unload my laptop from writing waiting to be posted, so I can think of my next paper, think of connecting the dots of knowledge work theories with my own experiences hoping that it would make work more fun. It means working on Sunday (again :), but ideas are funny creatures – they come to visit without thinking about appropriate time and place and they tend to choose moments when I'm relaxed and receptive – so I don't feel like respecting work-life balance instead of thinking and writing. Passion for work could be a curse, but I choose to believe it's a blessing ;)
This post also appears on channel BlogWalk
Monday, September 20, 2004
AOIR 5.0: Keynote by Ted Nelson,
Listening to Ted Nelson and to discussions about his keynote made me realized once again that I'm not well connected to the field of internet research yet: I had no idea who he was :) Anyway, he was talking about "my" things, so I was able to connect easily.
The main Ted's thesis is that "today's computer world is based on techy misunderstandings of human life and human thought…" He suggests that current computing is based on a paper metaphor of a document and hierarchy as a way to organize documents.
Ted says that "documents are representations of human thoughts" and that they are supposed to facilitate travel of ideas from one person to another, at the moment or over time. I can't agree more with my "artifacts as knowledge representations" :) Ted argues that using paper metaphor for designing how computers work with documents doesn't fit the way we think and communicate as "paper is a prison that holds thought". He talks about parallel thinking instead of hierarchy.
Of course, Ted goes into discussing an alternative, talking about transliterature and showing a few prototypes (I'll dig out links once I get more time online). In brief it comes to "true hypertext", with bidirectional links and transclusions.
Although I share Ted's understanding of problems with current ways of organizing documents, I don't think that solutions that he envisions would work. He is criticizing tech-geeks developing interfaces too complex for a normal people, but he does the same in another dimension (I'd call him mind-geek ;) by proposing easy interfaces that require complex mental structures. For me it comes to the discussion with Adrian Miles in Lugano, where he admitted that not many people are able to appreciate "true hypertext" literature.
Ted suggests that he aims to develop a system that allows people to use computers to support their thinking and says that it would be flexible enough to accommodate as much structure as a user would want. Again, I agree with need for more flexibility, but I'm not sure how easy it will be for people to use: Word has enough features to be flexible, but most of the users use just a few, sticking to uses and metaphors they are familiar with.
One of Ted's demos allowed you to browse through multidimensional relations in a very nice way, but then (again :) those relations has to be defined by a user explicitly. I'd say there are at least two problems with it. First, explicit effort to define relation usually do not work (people do not add metadata). Second, most relations are not explicit, but fuzzy and multidimensional as well.
And, to finish with criticism, Ted haven't said much about social life of documents and how it could be reflected in the systems he proposes.
Despite all my disagreements I like it a lot. Ted is engaging and mind provoking speaker, so I'm going to look into his work more…
This post also appears on channel AOIR
Saturday, September 18, 2004
AOIR 5.0: Workshop on qualitative research
Just arrived to AOIR 5.0, at workshop on qualitative research methodology. There is no Internet connection, so these are "written real-time, but edited and posted later" notes ;)
Have a strange feeling… Although I do internet research, this is not (yet?) my scientific community – unfamiliar names, methods, frames of reference… It feels like discovering the whole new world. What, btw, was my main reason of coming here.
I'm really happy that I'm not the only blogger at the workshop: Theresa Senft is blogging it, so I can be a bit more relaxed and stop being afraid of missing something. Theresa will be posting (remember, connection is not easily available ;) a summary of the session, so I'll just highlight some specific points.
The discussion was floating around several themes: field boundaries, ethics, researcher role and methods and tools for data collection, analysis and representation, so I'll try to put my bits and pieces that way as well.
- Wouldn't say that I 100% understand what is meant by that… I treat it as a question about defining what is in and what it out your research focus.
- Being practical (re: publication) it's not about telling truth, but about creating a persuasive case… We are studying dying technology (re: it changes faster than we can understand it). Either you rush to get it published or you say that you study prototypical behavior and functionality (but: there is a difference between early adopters and majority). Or: It's not about technology, but about practices and social processes behind it (re: "so what?")
- One of the topics relevant for me was a discussion about online/offline components in the study.
- If online doesn't answer your question, go offline.
- "You don't have to go to offline for data collection, but you are likely need to include data about their offline life as nobody lives online".
- Why? Use each one to contextualize the other…
- Different behavior online and offline à use as part of the analysis
- What is being risked? What do we loose if you establish offline relations?
- Re: defining specific categories: Different definitions of multitasking: for students using IM eating or browsing wasn't multitasking… only paper writing and multiple IMs
- Sometimes getting permissions from participants could be only a part of the solution: what if they talk about other people?
- Private spaces in public. Although in many cases (e.g. specific communities or weblogs) online communication is public, participants always perceive it as private space, so general view is to treat it that way and to ask permissions for studying and (especially) referencing to specific examples. But there is an alternative view of a danger of honoring people's sense of privacy where there it doesn't exist, instead of educating them about risks of these views.
- Taking care of ethics can enrich your research: asking for a permission to quote resulted in rich feedback from participants
- Re: how interesting are your results if you are anonymising which group you are studying: "I'm anthropologist studying a country in South-East Asia"
- Differences between virtual ethnography and real ethnography. From one side it's easier to observe online ("for a ethnographer it's difficult to lurk"), from another participating in a community you study provides an access to richer data, helps to interpret and analyse results and doesn't cost much ("I don't have to drive, it's really easy to get there")
- How do you acknowledge changes in a community that could be a result of your participation in it?
- People do not realize what we are doing...
- Do we have responsibilities to the community beyond our research?
(Methods and tools for) data collection, analysis, representation
There are no universal answers; there is no "the toolkit". It's about your research question and tools that fit. If you are guided by established research procedures there is a risk of overlooking insights coming from your data.
Programs for qualitative analysis: they do not do analysis for you, just make some things (e.g. coding) easier.
How to get what we really want without influencing behavior?
And - if you are writing about AOIR 5.0 please notify http://topicexchange.com/t/aoir/
Friday, September 17, 2004
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices
Efimova, L. & de Moor, A. Beyond personal webpublishing: An exploratory study of conversational blogging practices. Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38), IEEE Computer Society Press, 3-6 January 2005 (forthcoming).
Abstract. Although initially developed as low-threshold tools to publish on-line, weblogs increasingly appear to facilitate conversations. The objective of this study is to identify practices of conversational blogging. This paper presents results of an exploratory qualitative analysis of a weblog-mediated conversation case, focusing on participation rhythm, media choices and specific linking practices. Based on our findings we propose attributes of conversational blogging: linking as conversational glue, tangential conversations and interplays between conversation with self and conversations with others. Finally, future research directions are discussed.
This is my second paper with Aldo de Moor. You can check our earlier paper An argumentation analysis of weblog conversations, but it's probably more fun to read my struggles with thinking on weblog conversations (and hopefully I'll fix topics fast enough, so you can actually do it :)
I probably shouldn't annouce a paper in a post dated almost two weeks ago, but it was drafted there and anyway I will return to it often enough to get you bored :)
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
How using (or not) a particular technology influences content of a weblog and social dynamics around it
This is a piece from a paper, slightly edited, on how using (or not) a particular technology influences content of a weblog and, as a result, social dynamics around it. It's a bit strange out of the context, I know :)
One of the ways to identify if there is a connection between two weblog authors would be to analyse blogrolls or link sidebars. Does link in a blogroll indicate a connection between bloggers? Not necessarily.
First, links in a weblog text could indicate a connection between bloggers as well and including them into the analysis gives totally different dynamics.
Second, not all weblogs have blogrolls or sidebar links. Does this indicate that a weblog author does not have relations with others or do not read other weblogs? Not necessarily. Bloggers could be connected via their RSS reading lists, as this quote from Jim illustrates:
Seems to me that blogrolls made sense in a time before RSS aggregators. If you use other blogs and sites as triggers for your own writing, then a blogroll serves as a useful way to organize your surfing. When you shift to an aggregator driven strategy, your subscriptions file becomes the equivalent of your blogroll. Of course, your subscriptions file is invisible while your blogroll was public.
In many cases links are not just pointers to additional information, but also "currency of the web" that helps to improve visibility of a page being linked to or, especially in a context of weblogs, signs of value and personal recommendation. In this case understanding why specific weblog or group of weblogs do not include sidebar links changes the way how readers interpret links and may change, as a result, the dynamics of interactions.
Another example of dependencies between (often invisible) uses of specific tools and blogging dynamics includes awareness of a blogger about incoming links. For example, if weblogs linking to each other have trackbacks enabled, bloggers and their readers have a visible trace of connection between posts. Although there are a variety of tools for finding incoming links, being aware of them and using them can change a way a blogger interacts with her audience. Finally, using news aggregator to monitor weblogs of others changes the awareness about their contribution as well.
Weblog as a pen
A piece I guess I have to cut out from a paper I'm trying to finish:
Weblogs serve many purposes. Like a pen could be used to write a diary, a novel, a letter to a friend, or just a shopping list pinned to a fridge door, weblogging tools can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, they can provide a venue for self-expression, serve as a community space or be used to publish formal corporate news.
That was my reaction on the whole "weblog as a genre" discussion. Do you study "pen as a genre"?
See also: blog research issues
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Of course my commenters are right - I stretched it too far (not the quote, but the commentary ;). Weblog is not a pen, but blogging software is.
Still you don't study all what is written with a pen as a single genre (at least according to my not professional understanding of what genre is :)
Monday, September 13, 2004
Soon in UK: BlogWalk 4.0, Internet Research 5.0 and ?
What am I going to do after I'm done with my current deadlines? A bit of travelling :)
17 September, London - BlogWalk 4.0
After many uncertainties it is confirmed: BlogWalk 4.0, 17 September, London, UK. The focus this time will be on the future of work under influence of social software, e.g. blogging within the firewall.
If you think you should be there, please, contact me or Ton.
18-22 September, University of Sussex - Internet Research 5.0
Internet Research 5.0 is a 5th annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (of which I'm a proud lurking member :)
23-26 September - ???
Don't have return ticket yet (love budget airlines :), so would consider opportunities for meeting f2f people from UK weblog crowd or discussing/presenting work-related stuff (social software/(personal) knowledge management and whatever other topics you've seen in this weblog ;).
Any suggestions are welcome...
It's going to be a nice trip: UK was my first trip abroad more than 10 years back and I haven't been there since...
This post also appears on channels BlogWalk and weblog research
On the bursty evolution of blogspace
Kumar, R., Novak, J., Raghaven, P., & Tomkins, A. (2003). On the bursty evolution of blogspace. Proceedings of the twelfth international conference on World Wide Web (pp. 568-576). Budapest, Hungary.
Abstract. We propose two new tools to address the evolution of hyperlinked corpora. First, we define time graphs to extend the traditional notion of an evolving directed graph, capturing link creation as a point phenomenon in time. Second, we develop definitions and algorithms for time-dense community tracking, to crystallize the notion of community evolution. We develop these tools in the context of Blogspace, the space of weblogs (or blogs). Our study involves approximately 750K links among 25K blogs. We create a time graph on these blogs by an automatic analysis of their internal time stamps. We then study the evolution of connected component structure and microscopic community structure in this time graph. We show that Blogspace underwent a transition behavior around the end of 2001, and has been rapidly expanding over the past year, not just in metrics of scale, but also in metrics of community structure and connectedness. This expansion shows no sign of abating, although measures of connectedness must plateau within two years. By randomizing link destinations in Blogspace, but retaining sources and timestamps, we introduce a concept of randomized Blogspace. Herein, we observe similar evolution of a giant component, but no corresponding increase in community structure. Having demonstrated the formation of micro-communities over time, we then turn to the ongoing activity within active communities. We extend recent work of Kleinberg  to discover dense periods of "bursty" intra-community link creation.
Very interesting and pretty technical (for me) research showing that evolution of the blogosphere is not a result of random connections between weblogs. Very much in line with Emergence. Now I'm even more curious to discover those simple practices that lead to self-organisation...
Thanks to anonymous reviewer (who seems to be well informed about weblog research and had good suggestion, so I'd love to talk :)
This post also appears on channel weblog research
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Personal KM model: new version drafted
I had a growing dissatisfaction with the way my 3 circle personal KM model (one of drafts, final version is here) represent my ideas, so the discussion on it during my PhD presentation last week was the last drop...
One of the problems with current representation seems to be the fact that this is a Venn diagram (didn't know it was called that way, thanks to Jonathan for alerting), which is supposed to represent overlapping sets. I didn't intend to use Venn diagram for my model, it just came to be an easy way to organise my ideas. Last few days I was playing with some other ways of stucturing them. This is what I've got so far:
It describes what is managed within personal knowledge management (or functions of one-person enterprise). I'm aware that 'managed' is a wrong word - many of activities happen implicitly - but I don't have a better one yet.
Still not happy. Some concerns:
- Don't know if I should keep individual as in the earlier version.
- I'd talk about knowledge here, but it has too many contradictory definitions.
- Also use of knowledge would create a problem with the whole model as, for example, relations include knowledge about another person and awareness could be defined as knoweldge about contexts.
- Have communities & networks in the earlier version. Not sure what is better: of course, one can think about relation with a community, but it's more about one-to-one relations.
- Actually here I think about knowledge representations, but this label has the same problem as knowledge.
- Also has something to do with information, but more of "information in a specific form" as knoweldge representation
- One more problem with artefacts: they could easily be pieces of conversations (e.g. e-mail) or relations (e.g. business card). Same as with knowledge...
- Not sure it's a good word anyway. Sylvie is looking for synonims too.
- Simply defined awareness is knowledge about context. Critical for knowledge work, IMHO.
- Awareness is even less likely to be 'managed', most of it is about implicit learning and picking cues from the environment. More on it to come - I'm digging out relevant research.
Your comments are welcome (I know that posting it on Sunday doesn't help getting feedback, but I have to get it out to be able to focus on other things :)
Friday, September 10, 2004
'Trying to be a researcher' confession.
When I was in school I was always more interested in finding a way to solve a math problem than in documenting and justifying the solution.
The same with doing research: I have more fun connecting ideas into a whole than proving them with carefully designed, carefully implemented and even more carefully documented studies. I tend to take shortcuts and it takes a lot of discipline to explore and connect all the loose ends.
Useful as an exercise, but don't think I'll enjoy doing it for the rest of my life. Hope I'm patient enough to finish my PhD :)
See also: PhD: experiential research and everyday grounded theory
Role of RSS in weblog conversations
Paolo on keeping RSS traffic in control:
There seem to be an idea in the air which I absolutely don't like: aggregate feeds only once per day.
Quite often weblogs host conversations and in conversations timing is important. I want to know asap when people I often have conversations with post something to their blog, it can't wait 24 hours because it would make my reply old (let alone further replies). I also use my aggregator to be up-to-date with my colleagues, and even in this case I need to be updated frequently.
This quote and me picking it up illustrate well a few things about weblog conversations:
- timing is important; a conversation can develop fast
- notification about contributions is important; RSS subscriptions seem to play an important role in it (are there alternatives?)
- conversations may easily develop in not intended directions: Paolo's post is about possible solutions for RSS traffic problem (e.g. Peter Breuls continues this line), but I picked it up to illustrate totally different idea
Successful conversations: visible conventions and social visualisations
Thomas Erickson (2004). Designing Online Collaborative Environments: Social Visualizations as Shared Resources (.pdf). Proceedings of the 9th International Working Conference on the Language-Action Perspective on Communication Modelling (LAP 2004), New Brunswick, NJ, 2-3 June 2004.
Abstract. How might online collaborative environments be designed so as to better support coherent interaction amongst their users? Drawing from a case study of an example of coherence in an online system, I argue that one way to improve online environments is to provide visualizations that depict the presence and activities of their users. I discuss our approach to creating such visualizations using the concept of the social proxy—a minimalist representation of people and their activities in a particular context—and describe systems we have designed and deployed. I conclude with a series of concept pieces that illustrate the breath of the concept.
Came across this paper a few weeks ago and loved it. The case presented by Tom (a game that involved collectively generating limericks) is an example of long-running, productive conversation. Tom attributes the success of the conversation to the well-defined nature and visibility of it conventions (conversation rules).
Next to the case there are examples of social proxies (visualisation that make collective activity visible); those are good for thinking as well.
There is another paper with more details on the "limerick game" case - Erickson, T. (1999) Rhyme and punishment: The creation and enforcement of conventions in an on-line participatory limerick genre. Just a quote from there:
One of the intriguing features of this conversation is that even though it has a very clear and simple set of conventions, participants have to do quite a lot of 'work' to support those conventions. Even the basic set of conventions that make up the raison d'être of the limerick topic need some enforcement. And, even more so, some participants need to be shown how to follow the conventions.
Meta-blogging note: I was in a middle of writing the post that is coming after this one and then realised that I had to write about the paper first :)
Personal KM: one-person enterprise
Still thinking of personal KM... There is a very funny analogy here with KM in general: some people are fixated on PKM technologies and others saying that this is wrong (next to it, of course, there is a whole discussion on using the "wrong" term to label the phenomenon :)
For me the truth is somewhere in between. You can hardly think about successful KM initiatives that do not employ any technology at all, but at the same time it's almost obvious that technology is not the solution, but only part of it and, probably not the most critical part. It's about why and how you use technologies and, most important, how they fit working practices and social fabric behind them.
Explaining my PhD research and ideas behind personal KM I find one-person enterprise metaphor useful (please, note that I stole this idea and some others from time management book by Gleb Archangelsky).
So, think of yourself as about a knowledge-intensive company:
- What are your main products?
- Who are your customers and suppliers? How do you manage relations with them?
- What functions do you have? Which departments? Do they work well with each other?
- What technologies do you use to support your work? Do they integrate well?
- How do you optimise your work?
I'd say that my PhD work is mainly about functions/departments of one-person enterprise and their relations...
Unrelated note: there are several blog discussions on PKM that I'm following without being engaged much because of time constrains... Hope I'll be able to add soon...
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Micro-content dinners with Marc Canter
I had a pleasure of joining two micro-content dinners with Marc Canter (one and two). These dinners are part of Marc's summer04 Roadshow (not finished yet, so you can catch up with Marc on 11 September in Trieste and 13 September in London).
Being familiar with Marc's online personality I was curious to meet him in person. That was worth it :)
Marc is here on a mission: making Digital Lifestyle Aggregators real. It looks a bit complex once Marc dives into technical details of specific projects, but the idea is simple: turning technologies we use into "an open, decentralized, semantic, service oriented, fun world". Think of the blogosphere and aggregation as a model...
Next to good food in a good company and unexpected connections I found one more side of these dinners fascinating: meeting Marc's family, Lisa, Mimi and Lucy, and observing Marc weaving tech-talks and singing with his daughter into a coherent whole. It's pretty much about digital lifestyle :)
And - Marc, Lisa, thanks for hosting me!
Monday, September 06, 2004
Defining personal KM
I haven't posted anything really provocative for a while (if at all), so here goes:
My suspicion is that there is something seriously wrong with the recent fad of interest in Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). At the least it is of minimal importance to KM as I understand it, because it is of little use for supporting the majority of knowledge workers.
- "discussions of PKM emphasise the importance of technologies such as email, weblogs and wikis" and "these technologies are really just a form of information managament, not knowledge management"
- "claiming that PKM is the best way to improve knowledge worker productivity [...] is quite wrong"
- "it seems these technologies would be of little use to the majority of knowledge workers"
Provocative enough to get me writing :)
For me PKM is not about technologies, but about awareness and practices (same as KM :). With all my interest in weblogs I don't consider them as THE solution for improving knowledge worker productivity. In my PhD research I study weblogs because they provide a context where personal knowledge management practices become more visible and easier to study.
To make life a bit easier I posted my personal KM Q&A (originally written as a contribution to PKM article in KM Magazine). It's still work in progress, but it says something about my ideas...
One of the things there is my definition of PKM:
For me PKM is a mix of activities contributing to personal effectiveness in a knowledge-intensive environment. It's not only about creating, sharing, acquiring and applying knowledge, but about supportive activities as well. Effective knowledge development is enabled by trust and shared understanding between people involved. For an individual this means a need to establish and maintain personal network, to keep track of contacts and conversations, and to make choices which communities to join. However, developing knowledge also requires filtering vast amounts of information, making sense of it, connecting different bits and pieces to come up with new ideas. In this process physical and digital artefacts play an important role, so knowledge workers are faced with a need for personal information management to organise their paper and digital archives, e-mails or bookmark collections.
I'll try to return to it and reformulate things properly, but so far I'd like to ask Jeremy what are the alternatives for improving knowledge worker productivity if PKM is not the best way to do it :)
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Personal KM at KM Europe
It's time to start preparing for KM Europe. This year it's in Amsterdam again, 8-10 November. Apart from keynotes and specific workshops the conference is free, which turns it into a good networking event since it's easy to join.
Talking about personal KM at "BlogWalk3", Piers Young, Ton Zijlstra and me discussed an idea of organising a session on pKM at KM Europe. At this moment I'm talking with organisers to see if something like that would be possible...
So far the idea is to talk about:
- value of personal KM
- relation between personal KM and KM initiatives organisation-wide
- pKM how-to - methods and tools (talking about weblogs between other things)
So, if you are
- planning to be at KM Europe and interested to join the session
- have ideas how to organise it or want to speak
- have any connections with KM Europe organisers or host a session there
please let me know...
And - I also started KM Europe TopicExchange channel, so make sure you notify it if you post something about it.
See also: notes from KM Europe 2004 by me and others.
This post appears on channels KM Europe, knowledge management, BlogWalk
Saturday, September 04, 2004
On being a geek (2): WiFi, Tablet PC SP2, SkypeOut and Bluetooth headsets
As there is no way I can pretend I'm not a geek since I've got my TravelMate TabletPC, I'll write more about technical stuff :)
First thing I found out that learning "how-to" WiFi goes very fast when you actually have something WiFi enabled :) Going through the process of getting connected to Wireless LAN of University of Twente (largest hotspot in Europe, btw :) I've learnt about all kinds of settings and security protocols...
I managed to get connected, so now I'm enjoying WiFi connection at home, in the office and in between (actually I still have to walk outside and find areas with a good signal in a green between buildings :).
And because my employer is a member of EduRoam network I can use WiFi in some other places in the Netherlands (may be in other countries too, but still have to find out how it works). This is especially fun since there is a selection of WiFi pubs in university towns; I tried it in our unofficial corporate drinking place in Enschede and it worked.
Tablet PC SP2
Since there was a lot of discussion about problems with WindowsXP Service Pack 2 (which is supposed to enhance security), I was a bit afraid of installing it on my Tablet PC. After browsing around I found out that in a case of Tablet PC it comes with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, so I decided to take a risk.
It was worth it. Next to the fact that I didn't experience any software conflict and feel better with firewall enabled, I've got small, but really nice enhancements of hand writing input (and I also installed a dictionary for hand writing recognition). Still haven't tried to write long pieces by pen, but at least it works fine for browsing and adding del.icio.us tags to interesting sites.
I guess I'll write more about my Tablet-specific experiences, but if you don't want to wait you can spy on my via my Tablet resources at del.icio.us.
Having discovered Skype long ago I wasn't using it much. The reasons were quite trivial:
- It's not that easy at work since usually there are things to do and I don't want to bother my office roommate with too much talking (either by phone or Skype).
- Due to some mysterious problem my machine at home doesn't support microphone.
- Lots of people I wanted to talk are Mac users.
Now life gets much easier: beta for Skype for Mac is out and my TravelMate doesn't have any problems with microphone.
I was also waiting for a moment to try SkypeOut, paid service of calling to a normal phone from Skype. I use international calling cards to call Moscow and they direct phone traffic via Internet anyway, so I though this would be a good alternative (especially given that I always forget to buy those cards :)
So, I tried it. I had some problems with authorisation of my credit card payment, got nice chat with Skype live support, got the problem fixed and finally managed to pay.
I loved it. Great quality and very good price (1,3 Euro for 1h15min talk with a landline number in Moscow; see costs for all destinations).
Talking for one hour with my current headphones was not that comfortable, so I decided to find out if there is something better around. And it was logical to look for something wireless since I'm getting spoiled with anytime/anywhere Internet access, so I looked for Bluetooth headsets.
After some surfing I found something I really want: Bluespoon headsets. There are too models, Bluespoon Digital and Bluespoon Chameleon. Digital is lighter and advanced, but costs quite a lot, while Chameleon should be good enough, costs less and looks much nicer. With my birthday in one month I'm really thinking of it :)
Friday, September 03, 2004
Layers of cottons
I must admit that I had no idea who Enzo Baldoni was, not until a few days ago, not until the news of his kidnapping in Iraq echoed through the blogosphere to me.
It's strange to know new things from blogs:
on one side, they seem as coming through layers of cottons, they come somewhat filtered... but when you try to understand what this "filter" is, you see that it's just the lack of the kind of amplification from the mass media we are used to, and that with just a few clicks you can actually access and open up a true hurricane of details, points of view, gossip and anecdotes about it.
That's one of the features of blogs. Bad? Good? Sincerely I don't know, and it won't be today the day to judge that.
What I know now is that Enzo Baldoni was Italian, was a journalist, a pacifist, that was kidnapped on August 19th and executed a few hours ago.
...and that he was a blogger too.
I don't watch TV and don't read newspapers. I do spend a lot of time online, but go to check news only once in a while. But there are different days.
On these days you can't avoid news, they get to you, they suck you in and then you follow, get all the details on your fingertips, wanting to know, not wanting to know, zooming in, drowning, feeling it so real, trying to escape, hide in layers of cottons, try to focus on work, things to be done - because with all those details terrorists get into your room and then it becomes too real, too personal and too much...
It gets personal anyway... Those things happen in my country. And in my city. On the metro line that connects my home with the city center... My mother is a school principal. I worked in school for 5 years. Have memories of the First September celebrations - being a schoolkid, teenager, teacher... I was in Beslan with my classmates at 13. After a few days hiking in the mountains we were happy to see civilisation. We slept in a school - lots of sleeping bags on the floor...
But it's too much living with terrorists in my room, so my mind escapes focusing on other things. Life goes on...
And once life comes back I start thinking - is there anything I can do?
Update: at least I can start here - The International Foundation for Victims of Terror Acts (also: press-release)
It's events like this in the world that make me want to crawl under my bed and ignore the evil world around me...
Wednesday, September 01, 2004