Friday, September 30, 2005
In the train...
Just realised that it's been more than 3 months since I've been in the train… Although I'm not a big fun of travelling across the country (remember, this one is relatively small ;) for a meeting, I enjoy time in the train... So, things I did in the train today:
worked on finishing presentation for my PhD profs (the reason I was travelling :) – rethinking my PhD research again
tried to figure out why the colleague I was supposed to meet in the train wasn't there
read paper on fragmented work and interruptions (probably I should blog it, but given other commitments it's not likely, so just two things: "metawork" takes 7,96% of the day and rarely interrupted; and a funny quote - "One informant who begun work at 5a.m. was eliminated from the analysis as an outlier" :)
[met profs in the middle of the paper]
thought if I made right choices with this new version of PhD targets, PhD work to do and if I need to do a PhD at all [the meeting went well, this is meta]
ate chocolate bar and apple
read paper on information hub blogs: not particularly impressed (especially with stating that the major purpose of [analysed] blogs is to provide and to disseminate information), but it has ideas and results to take away (those related to categorisation of blog post content and types of links in posts) – btw, Sylvie and Seb, do you know your blogs were studied for the paper?
thought of types of links in weblogs, and ideas from our work on weblog communities (= community forming involves certain type of links), weblog metrics and Technorati
decided that blogging about things I do in the train makes sense – not only as a meditative activity suitable for the end of the (formally) working day, but as an artefact that could help some other researchers to find out what people like me do in the train :)
wanted to do work on the paper on weblog communities, but instead is looking out of the window, realising how strange and reassuring, sweet and sad is to see flat fields and low sky from the train instead of seeing car bumpers, sun reflections in the waters of lake Washington and ghostly silhouette of Mt.Ranier in the air...
thought of the dinner and papers to finish and watched more green fields
opened the paper draft and started to type...
Thursday, September 29, 2005
KM bloggers community
Usually Stephanie is the first to blog pictures like this one from our work on weblog communities, but this time I couldn't resist :)
Light green is me
Blue - KM blogs
Red - educational blogs
Orange - internet research blog
Green - A-list
All very subjective :)[Morning update] A bit more background: The data comes from 64 weblogs, spidered to extract full-text posts from 2004. This is semi-snowball sample; all 64 are 1-2 degrees from my weblog. The posts of all 64 were processed to extract links.
For this visualisation we used the number of posts from weblog A linking to weblog B in 2004 as a tie indicator (assuming that more posts linking to someone mean stronger connection). It includes 64 weblogs spidered + weblogs that are linked by one (or more) of those 64 in at least 3 posts.
[Joint work with Stephanie and Anjo (abstract, paper)].
BusinessWeek on stress, collaboration and work-life balance
Must read: BusinessWeek's The Real Reasons You're Working So Hard... (via Ingo Forstenlechner).
It's on many things: long working ours, information overload, overheads of unnecessary communication, social network profiling, knowledge mapping, an even blogs and wikis... A bit too much to mix, but definitely along the lines of the work we do, my PhD research and my personal struggles.
And a quote about things that I believe are behind many of those issues - knowledge work governance and knowledge worker flexibility:
...in terms of reducing work overload, perhaps the biggest and most difficult step will be for corporations to give their knowledge workers more freedom over their own time. "The Industrial Age approach to management dies a pretty tough death," says Babson's Davenport. "Even today people end up being evaluated not only on how much they produce but also on how many hours they are in the office."
Of course, there's one shiny new example of where output matters more than process: the Web. Nobody cares how long it took or what time of night it was when someone wrote a blog entry -- all that's seen is the final result. Similarly, the success of open-source development projects such as Linux and Apache, the most popular Web server software, rests on the competence of the programmers involved, not on how many hours they log.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
More happy :)
I'm alive and much more happy than yesterday:
...because of all people who sent their support via all kinds of tools
...because things seem to get more in order
...and because I booked tickets to go to Russia (found a nice combination of a few days vacation in St. Peterburg + family time in Moscow - all met mijn shatje :)
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
What I need most now is a vacation...
What I need most now is a vacation...
...and not paper deadlines (one done last Friday, but those still to go do not let me enjoy the sweetness and relief of submitting a paper)...
...and not workshop proposal due yesterday...
...and not travel arrangements for the next week (and can I have a vacation before that?)...
...and not feeling half-way sick and sleepy at 10 in the evening...
...and not all those emotions that have right to be there and decided to surface at the moment when I'm less capable of dealing with them...
...and not rewriting PhD outline that should be done long time ago...
...and not reshuffling my commitments in projects to have a bit less stress...
...and not crashes at my provider that wiped out my weblog and Radio not cooperating to get it back...
...and not having to wait for three more weeks before I can take a week off and escape somewhere nice and thoughtless without doubting if I should be in Moscow instead for a celebration with my family and friends - sweet and warm, but hardly thoughtless...
Developing stress management skills is the highest priority on my to do list :)
Monday, September 26, 2005
In case you were wondering - my server was down for a few days due to the failure on my provider's end. And it seems that all files are lost (wonder if they lost back up as well or never had it).
At moments like that I still think that may be Radio is not that bad - at least it's relatively easy to publish whole weblog again...
I don't know if it's stable and how much time it would take to recover - so please be patient.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Travel plans: Chicago 4-9 October
Something I should blog long ago (but it's easy to forget things in the middle of paper writing deadlines) - I will be in Chicago 4-9 October for Internet Research 6.0: Generations (speaking on 2 days - will dig out the details a bit later).
If you are there and want to meet - let me know.
Side note: have very mixed feelings about it - really wanted to be there for the people and the conference and wanted to be in Moscow at the same time since the number of years I spent on this planet is turning into a pretty round number on 7 October. Made the decision - let's see if I'm happy with it...
Monday, September 19, 2005
Studying weblogs at Microsoft: ethnography?
Can my study of weblogs at Microsoft be qualified as an ethnography? I had an interesting conversation with Jonathan about it while I still was there and I was thinking about it since then. Today, watching post-PDC reactions and ripples of comments on Troubling Exits At Microsoft going through Microsoft weblogs I thought I should write about it...
The starting points:
- The main data of the study comes from the interviews - 40+ hours of semi-structured conversations with bloggers and those who have to deal with bloggers in the company.
- We thought of observations and shadowing, but decided against them. Not because we had particularly good reasons for that, but mainly due to the time constraints.
However for me, those interviews represent only tip of the iceberg - there is much more to it...
Weblogs as a window: introduction. The study didn't start from scratch - Microsoft bloggers were part of my interest in corporate blogging for a couple of years. Apart from occasional links here and there and MSFT del.icio.us collection, a few (3 in July 2004 ;) weblogs by Microsoft people were in my regular reading list.
These "background" reading definitely helped - I knew a bit about the blogging culture, issues and people in Microsoft before getting there. This knowledge is different from what an ethnographer may get reading other ethnographic accounts about the culture to be studied - weblogs provide a window into first hands experiences that are up to you to interpret. In a sense I was there before I got there physically...
Meeting Microsoft bloggers. Participating in Social Computing Symposium 2005 unexpectedly came to be part of the study as well. During it I talked to many Microsoft people participating - I didn't know then that those who actually were there were among key people to talk about blogging in the company. I realised it later, when we started to work on the list of people who could give an overview picture of blogging at Microsoft - I had met them before. Earlier contact, even superficial and in totally different role made my first interviews much easier.
Figuring out how to be a Microsoft employee who blogs. Walking on ice not knowing how to start, searching intranet and bloggers mailing lists for answers, inquiring bloggers I knew about their experiences (not that much as a researcher, but as a blogger figuring out what are the risks), discussing rules around blogging with people supervising me, finding my own comfort zone in blogging about work and preparing armors to defend it...
This could be easy to discount as personal experiences, but as with other studies I do, I found out my personal experiences to be a good source of insights about the culture and questions to be asked. Not observing, but active participation that mixes things up and comes with a mix of ethical and methodological choices.
Reading Microsoft blogs. My regular reading list went from 3 to 30+ Microsoft blogs. And almost daily checks of sites aggregating external and internal blogs - to have a "headline" view of what's happening in the Microsoft blogosphere.
That was my observation - not the full-scale, standing behind bloggers' backs, but via a very special window that let's you see only what has been written and published for others to see. Hard to bring into the study in a systematic way, but a way to get to know the people I was going to interview, to learn about relations between them, to find out events and issues to ask about...
Part of it was also something that I enjoyed a lot - being a blog detective. At the certain moment I started to look for bloggers that were out of mainstream Microsoft blogging - those using blogs in interesting ways, blogging in other languages, not being high-profile, having multiple blogs - whatever "outlier" conditions looked reasonable given the data we had then. I did it via reading weblogs - looking for interesting and unexpected, browsing through blogrolls and links.
Meeting bloggers. I'm happy that I had an opportunity to be at several blog-related meetings and socialise with bloggers informally. Those are more than just the insights that I wouldn't be able to get otherwise - they grew into relations that made my time in Seattle more fun and friendship that I hope would last long after this study is finished.
Weblogs as a window: follow up. I'm still a bit there - reading Microsoft weblogs as a researcher and as a friend brings past experiences back and adds extra details to the portraits of the people I interviewed. And the blogs still will be there if I decide to compliment ethnography with archaeology of content and link analysis...
And just because I feel like sharing it - one of the things I discovered today that made me writing this post.
I'm sitting in Raymond Chen's "5 Things Every Win32 Developer Should Know" talk. Ray is one of those "oh my god" Microsoft big brains, however, his blog has definitely made him feel like an old friend. I always appreciate his perspective and expression of what he sees in the world. Whenever I get any type of Windows Error message, I *always* click on yes, I want to send this to Microsoft button because I think that it's going right into his inbox and I know it will get taken care of.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Public weblogs as a tool for (internal) knowledge management
A lot of discussions that I've been involved into about uses of weblogs in corporate knowledge management somehow assumed the distinction between intranet and external weblogs regarding it. External weblogs were considered great to connect with other professionals (usually outside of one's organisation) and (potential) customers, while internal weblogs thought of being one of the tools that could replace or complement knowledge sharing and expertise finding tools behind the firewall.
I'm more and more convinced that this view is shortsighted. Next to my own experiences (blogging as a coffee-table dialogue) this is something that came out in my study of Microsoft weblogs. I looked for examples documented in public - this is one from Josh Ledgard (next to serving as an example the discussion itself could be interesting for those thinking about interactions in forum-supported communities):
I recently posted my ideas for cutting off the duplicate questions in online web based forums. I'm enjoying all the feedback, but I was most impressed when Lee Holmes who took my PM art to the next level and created a functioning prototype to further the feedback process.
Side Note: Not to blog about blogging, but I've never met Lee or had any agreements with anyone that he would do this. Nor would I ever have been able to send mail to the right group of interested people that might be able to spend the time building a prototype. I simply blogged my idea, the idea found the right people, and we've made a bunch of progress that will help ensure the right feature is delivered to our users.
This brings me back to the discussion on recording and discoverability of knowledge traces in my previous post.
Recording. Writing about an idea in a public weblog makes much more sense than in the one with much smaller audience internally - it's just a matter of critical mass of people who can potentially see it and react to it. In my own case, I'd hardly write anything if this blog would be intranet-only, even knowing that my colleagues could be interested.
In addition there are more reasons to write externally - to get feedback from a broader audience, to provide information to customers, to connect with other professionals outside, to develop own reputation, while in the case of internal weblogs it's mainly about documenting work or sharing ideas within an organisation. Of course, all these doesn't mean that internal blogs do no have any value - they do - but only that in many cases writing externally may be more motivating.
External weblogs may not represent company's confidential knowledge (those who write about it are risking being fired), but they still may have many ideas that could add value if shared internally and they provide good visibility for finding in-house expers.
Discoverability. So, it would be stupid not to use external weblogs for internal knowledge management purposes, but this is not easy if they are treated as an external resource - in this case chances of discovering knowledgeable colleagues and relevant resources are left to chance encounters. I'd think of ways to bring this "external" knowledge back into intranet. For example:
- including external blogs of company's employees into intranet search
- syndicating them in the relevant intranet sections (based on topic? person? "all people working in this project blogged yesterday"?)
- creating a "weblog of the month" column in internal newsletter featuring ideas from external employee blogs
- facilitating employees finding and subscribing to relevant blogs of their colleagues
At the end why not use knowledge traces that are already there? :)))
Unexpected knowledge sharing: on recording and discoverability of knowledge traces
[I actually started to write it as a part of the post that will appear next, but thought that it makes sense to separate these two :) ]
In many companies usual communication evolves around joint work and on "need to know" basis. For me some of the greatest challenges of knowledge management are about tapping into knowledge which is not part of existing workflows: would it be about disconnected groups learning from insights of each other, discovering like-minded others where you wouldn't expect or serendipity that gives birth to innovations.
However, there are obvious problems with knowledge which is not part of existing workflows: we don't know if our ideas have value at all, who would be interested to hear them and what are the good ways to connect. So, the question is - how to motivate people sharing knowledge in this case?
I'm thinking of two complimentary strategies:
Making demand side visible. I strongly believe that knowledge flows are powered by questions and that most of the people are eager to help if they see someone in trouble. So, making questions and problems of others visible helps sharing insights across organisational silos. Of course asking is more difficult then answering and reinventing is more fun then reusing, but I wouldn't go into details now since wrote a lot about it :)
Another way would be to motivate recording and discoverability of knowledge traces (if you want more context on knowledge animals and their traces see Survival in the knowledge economy (.pdf) by my colleague Janine Swaak who is unfortunately stopped blogging).
Would it be nice if experiences and ideas of others in your organisation are magically recorded and pop-up in front of you each time you struggle with something where they could be of a help? (Of course in a way dramatically different from MS Office Clippy :)
In this case there are two important things: leaving traces of your knowledge in public and ways for others to discover them. For the time being I'd leave the discoverability issue aside and think about leaving traces.
Our work is increasingly digital, so we leave digital traces anyway. Some of them are already accessible to others (e.g. documents on intranet), others are locked in private collections. Many of those kept locally could be shared with (selected group of) others without much problem, but we need right motivations and tools to do so (think of your bookmarks that probably migrated to del.icio.us).
Some traces could be recorded automatically. For example, I don't mind if articles I ordered or conferences that I registered for will be recorded and available somewhere where my colleagues could easily find it.
If we have enough reasons we can document those that are hard to record automatically. Think of blogging (and my next post is on that as well :)
I probably should write about the privacy issues around all these, but I really would like to finish another post before dinner :)
Also: for another angle on this - Legitimised theft: distributed apprenticeship in weblog networks
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
My boyfriend or why I don't make things instantly visible
It's so funny that I couldn't avoid blogging about it - Ton tells me on Skype that he saw in his referrer logs someone searching for "lilia efimova" boyfriend. I checked mine and it's there as well...
I guess none of the pages in this search actually answers the questions that the person who searched for it could have :)
Which brings me to the interesting bunch of questions about privacy and choices people make around it.
As for me - I'm not comfortable making things too explicit in my blog. Explicit link gives things away without any work - just one look and you know my bio and demographics and how I look and what is my phone number. Somehow I''m not comfortable with having all that information instantly visible.
However all of it is online in public. It takes slow uncovering, time and effort, but you can find all that... I'm not hiding it, but somehow I feel much easier if it's not on the surface.
It's like any relation - the more time you spend together, the more you know about each other. The closer you are, the more you know...
Some of my blogging friends met my boyfriend, some know all kinds of details about him and where to find him online, some could connect the hints and links from different online spaces, over time, and get the whole picture... I'm fine and happy with that, but I'm still not comfortable advertising it (as well as all other personal things) on my homepage - somehow the time needed to find things out gives me a sense of privacy...
And, of course, I know that the tools to connect the dots instantly will be here sooner or later. And I'm thinking of what happens then and how this could be useful for knowledge sharing (see posts on transparency and knowledge mapping)... I guess those tools will redefine our thinking of what privacy is and our practices around it.
But so far - my own definition of privacy:
a lot of my life is online, but you'll have to read the whole story to discover
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Blogging as a coffee table dialogue
Ages ago I wrote a post explaining why I blog that between other things said:
I also blog to keep a feeling of "coffee-table dialog" with my far-away colleagues: "You know, I've just read this article and was triggered with these ideas. What do you think?"
That time I didn't know that it works with near-by colleagues as well :)
When my colleagues started blogging I discovered that even if we work closely together and meet almost every day reading their blogs adds something special to it. Those "special" things are not work-related, but they are often "around work" - types of things that may come up in a coffee table discussion - books just read, vacation stories, research ideas that doesn't seem to fit existing projects, personal news... Those things are small, but important - they turn into stronger personal connections and unexpected ideas (and they are substitute for a coffee when I'm far away :).
I wanted to write about it for quite some time and today's post of Rogier finally triggered it. It's my first day at work and I haven't seen him yet, but I already know what he is doing on Saturday.
[Went to say hi because it's stupid to blog about someone when you can actually go and talk :) ]
Monday, September 12, 2005
Sunday, September 11, 2005
So my US summer comes to an end. It was a great learning experience - professionally, culturally, personally... It still sinks in - too early to transfer into words - but it definitely changed and clarified many things.
Living abroad is a transforming experience. Funny enough living in the Netherlands doesn't feel like "abroad" anymore - it became home - not as much as Moscow, but half way there...
I have changed - in invisible and subtle way, becoming richer with insights and relations - so many things to treasure... And I have photos to look back at and smile.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Studying weblogs at Microsoft: almost done
Just finished presenting still a bit raw results of my study of weblogs at Microsoft. It's recorded, but available only to Microsoft employees - link to the video and slides on Microsoft intranet. Eventually it will be published, but I guess I'll find a way to blog bits and pieces of it before that...
The most interesting things for me are:
- general patterns of weblog adoption - factors, forces and speed
- certain patterns of blogging overepresented in internal "media" + big number of people who blog on personal and not work-related stuff
- dynamics around product blogs
- "passionate" blogging getting integrated into workflows and power games - including blog metrics
And - just one day left and lots of things to sort out...
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
BlogWalk Seattle: conference attention modes
These are more "notes to myself" from the discussions at BlogWalk Seattle on the nature of (un)conferences; not a coherent text.
The world is changing:
- opportuniy to connect with and to meet far away people
- being there (physically or online) costs more (energy, time, money) - also because now we can connect with those far away
Getting together f2f:
- critical mass is important to make sure interesting things happen
- you want to be sure in that to get into what it takes to be there
- it's more about opportunities, than problem, which is always difficult to justify
- so, what are the attractors powerful enough to attract "right crowd"?
- shared goal / topic
- strong connections with others
- authority trusted enough to rely that the previous two will be there
Events attention models
- centralised/authority - "star performers" who can hold attention of big groups with finely crafted messages and engaging interaction style
- distributed/community - "open space" - designed so everyone can attract as much attention as it's worth in a particular group
Backchanneling - something that happens during an event designed with the centralised model in mind, but without "star performers" who can hold attention - so it's diverted into other channels. Those "other channels" would be legitimate conversations in the "open space" case, but they are not in the centralised model - hence authority challenges and resistance.
- Centralised attention events are easier to plan
- Distributed attention events are challenging - how to make sure that those who have something to say have an audience?
- Enough attractors (critical mass)
- Visibility of attractors (knowing whom to talk/listen to)
- Movement around (being there at the right moment)
Technology actually enables a lot of that :)
Technorati: BlogWalk, BlogWalkSeattle, unconferences
Monday, September 05, 2005
Small discoveries on the way
It's been ages since I travelled alone - I almost forgot how meditative it could be...
This time I was hesitant - scared by the great distances in Olympic peninsula, "what if I miss that ferry", shower forecasts and lots of work that could be done over the weekend to make my last week in Seattle easier... I'm glad I went.
It was between wandering through driftwoods and sand of Dungeness spit, clouds of Hurricane Ridge, showers on the way, rocks of Cape Flattery, sunset tide pools of small beaches along the North coast, and miles of winding roads... Somewhere in between the stress and anxiety of past weeks escaped, giving the place to the quiet readiness for things to come...
I had some unexpected discoveries on the way as well.
The Dauntless Bookstore in Port Gamble - small, cosy, inviting to sit and read, full of unexpected findings. Who knew that City: Rediscovering the Center would be waiting for me just when I go through my discoveries of urban ethnographies? That We've got blog would be sitting between just a few computer books as a reminder of the reasons for me to be here?
Then Angeles Inn B&B - a place with great hosts, wifi (not that I wanted to work, but just for skyping home :), tasty food and stories of WWII veterans who stayed there on a way to their reunion.
And then The Makah Museum in Neah Bay, letting me in for free because I was there almost before the end of the day, a very special blend of history and current days, science and stories, sad, proud and full of respect (did you know that research actually helped negotiating the tribal rights to use fishing nets proving scientifically that they were used long before white people came?). The voices, singing and conversations, were following me as I went through the rooms, until I discovered the source - invisible, but present elders in the long house... So much unlike the feelings I've got in other reservations...
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Shout if you want to be heard or Technorati blog finder
For all the unhappy ones: Technorati performance and scalability improvement progress and Technorati blog finder (via David Sifry).
Things to know:
1. You have to categorise your weblog manually:
By default, the blogs are presented in order of authority, which means highly-linked blogs appear first. So each of these Blog Finder pages is like a mini Top 100 for any topic you can imagine. You can also sort each tag by how recently the blogs have updated, or alphabetical by title.
And for all you bloggers out there, this is a great opportunity for your blog to get found. If you're already a Technorati member with a claimed blog, all you have to do is visit your Configure Blog page to choose which tags you want to use. You can add up to 20 tags per blog.
2. It's prepopulated based on existing tags:
We kicked off the Blog Finder by auto-classifying blogs based on the tags they use in posts most often. But you can list your blog under any tag you like, up to 20.
Of course I went to check for my weblog and didn't find it under KM, "knowledge management" and "learning". Not surprising since I don't really use Technorati tags (necessary mark-up is not produced by LiveTopics and I'm too lazy to add tags manually next to adding topics).
Clearly that those users who don't know or don't care about tagging especially for Technorati are out of the system (which reinforces "shout if you want to be heard" behavior with all its implications).
- May be some kind of extrapolation could work - if top blogs on a topic link to the specific blog frequently it could be included into the topic list.
- Wonder how tagging at post level (curent auto-classification) would intergrate with blog-level tagging that is asked for.
- If auto-classification stays (which makes sense) and continues influencing one's inclusion into the lists - how this would influence post-level tagging (e.g. adding unnecessary tags).
- First though of spammers, but then realised that it's more or less covered by sorting based on incoming links (of course, untill someone heavily linked in one domain starts adding tags for another domain that has nothing to do with the blog focus).
And, an example of overcoming being lazy and conforming to "shout if you want to be heard" practice Technorati+Blog+Finder :)
Thursday, September 01, 2005