Friday, December 30, 2005
End of the year thinking
This time of the year it's always about looking back and looking forward - thinking on things done and those to come. It's also about cleaning your house and your thoughts - to be prepared for the new to come. Somehow I really need those moments, and the symbolism of the year going away and another coming in works just fine.
Even my Tablet gets in this mood - a bit of fiddling with admin options, restart - and I can't login anymore. Funny enough, I'm not dissappointed a bit, even given that not everything is backed up. May be it's a sign that I don't need it during my days in Moscow? May be it needs time and will get fixed once I'm back in 2006? Or may be it also wants to start a year prepared for the new things to come? May be it needs clean reinstall? I don't know, but the whole thing reminds me of the interview with Pico Iyer telling about his feelings after his house burnt down taking away all personal posessions, family archives and work in progress:
I probably told myself that I fel liberation - in reality the only thing I missed was all my notes and the many books that were in progress or that were close to completion that were reduced to ash. And yet at the same time I probably did quickly see that as a possible liberation. I think one of the good things about being a travelleer is that you come to see every circumstance as a possibility. When any of us are travelling, especially in one of the difficult parts of the world, we know that in some ways the more things go wrong, the better the stories that we will bring back from it. [A sense of place, 179-180; more]
Anyway, it's funny how year plans turn to be true even if you don't think about them that way. It's almost a year since I wrote:
As the year before 2004 was a year of passion and no work-life balance, with blending fun and work into exciting and rewarding mix.
Funny enough, now I want more balance. It's not about "work-life balance" since my work is part of my life and I don't want to draw lines in between. It's about something else.
Passion can take you far away, shake your world and turn it upside down. Often between excitement of discovery and fun of making things happend there is no time for doing nothing, relaxing, slowing down, letting ideas submerge and transform, creating a space for silence, emptiness and things waiting to emerge.
This is something that I'd like to learn in 2005: not being driven by passions all the time, letting things go, slowing down and creating welcoming empty spaces. My own definition of balance :)
It worked that way. Not sure I found the balance, but I'm definitely learning to let things go. So, the highlights of 2005:
Reading and thinking on ethnography - as a research methodology and as a way of living. Starting from there and then rethinking "field - home" metaphor, shifting from building boundaries between experiences in different countries to blending them into a whole. Realising I grew up in a small place and learning not to be scared by the big world.
Internship at Microsoft. Discovering the people and the culture of US. Having fun travelling around and small discoveries on the way. Being able to focus on the work I love while being in a good company. Rethinking PhD focus as a result (wonder when this "rethinking" stops :)
Being stressed as I was never before and figuring the way out. Letting things go. Restoring the balance. Learning to focus and to make choices. Enjoying being slow. Reading good books. Letting things grow.
Buying a wedding dress (I'll need it in 2006 :)
It was a good year. Let's see what the next one will bring. Don't know how end of the year predictions work, but I can give it a try - I think for me 2006 will be the year of getting things done...
And for you all - lots of love, time to think, finding who you really are and becoming better in that, enough strength to change the world and dreams worth chasing...
Friday, December 23, 2005
Holidays between cultures
Things used to be simple, but not anymore. I'm spending Christmas with one family - European way, New Year with another family - Russian way. But there will be some work in between: since Russian Orthodox Christmas is two weeks later Russian holidays are starting only 31 December. A bit confusing :)
Anyway, happy holidays regardless of when/if you stop working!
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Topics and terms (categorisations and text analysis) for weblog conversations
Anjo, in What is a topic?
The most mysterious term that I encountered a lot recently is topic. I have no idea how to define it and, neither seem the weblog research proposals that suggest finding the topic of a post is something worth doing. Being on holiday currently, and given it was raining and snowing outside, I tried to apply the notion of "topic finding'' to weblog conversations (see also: here, and here).
Anjo goes on, providing an example of "unique" terms extracted from three weblog conversations (more details in the post). Although those provide a good picture of what conversations are about, they do not really answer the question of what is a topic of each of them.
Which makes me thinking of my own experiences around the issue...
One of the things we planned to do this year, but didn't get to do, was looking at personal categorisations. To be more specific the idea was to compare categories (~tags, ~topics) that a blogger assigns to her posts and the results of the text analysis of those posts to see if there is any correlation between the language used and conceptual categories. [I still think it's an experiment worth doing, but not sure I personally can devote serious time to it. Anyone interested?]
Thinking of my own weblog I can imagine that for some topics (I call them topics ;) that I use for my own weblog the correlation should be present (e.g. posts related to events are likely to be labelled with it and mention it in the text).
However there are others, those where I assign topic to organise my ideas on ill-structured themes (=I feel that those posts belong together, but I don't know why yet, or I don't have a good label for it). The examples of the second type are posts on life, knowledge mapping or transparency.
Which brings me to the reason I started to write this post. I think that topics are conceptual categories used to characterise a group of connected pieces (conversations with others, conversations with self, or something in between) and to give it a nametag. The common name makes sense - it makes it easier to remember those pieces belong together, to retrive, to communicate about.
The problem is that conceptual categories are subjective. They depend on a person, group or even groupthink (as with pressure to use certain tags to appear at right places in Technorati and not because they make more sense than others). So I suspect that once we define a topic of a conversation there will be someone who would say that it's about something else (referring to Anjo's examples - it could be "not about Skype, but about presence").
That's said I still think that defining a topic of a conversation makes sense. Personally, I'd prefer to have a Sigmund picture (~frequent terms and relations between them) for a conversation, as some kind of ontological fingerprint of what the conversation is about. Or there is a number of ways to select one of the terms from the "unique term list" for a conversation:
- by further selecting "least unique" from the subset (i.e. terms used by highest number of participants of the conversation)
- by selecting terms that match categories some of participants assign to posts
- by selecting terms that match predefined ontology/folksonomy/keyword list
- by selecting terms most of the participants are likely to agree (don't ask me how to do that :)
- by selecting terms most closely resembling those of an external "customer" for the analysis or those that non-participant is likely to understand
Or we just have to find a way of matching personal caterogisations. Given there the tools are going this shouldn't be that far...
Monday, December 19, 2005
Communities of practice in Russian business settings
A bit more comments on the statement of my previous post:
Many KM concepts and practices still have not reached Russian business world (and academia as well) – apart from a few exceptions most of the KM talk there is still about why it could be useful to invest in something like that, rather then deciding what and how to do. Communities of practice, while there as a reality, is not part of conceptual thinking about management and not a format that organisations would deliberately support with some business gains in mind.
I had to talk on this issue several times while being in Russia, so I thought of sharing it here as well.
Communities of practice, as informal groups of people bounded by common problems, exist regardless of what we think or do about them. They support horizontal knowledge flows and idea generation across departmental or organisational borders, but they are not necessary recognised or supported by an organisation.
From another perspective, communities of practices could be a (knowledge) management instrument. In this case it's about an explicit effort of supporting and strengthening communities within a company or across several companies with some kind of business benefit in mind.
I tried to illustrate the difference in the picture. It's a bit straightforward, so necessary caveats:
Most likely the business benefits of communities of practice are not monetary ($), but in any case there is more or less clear understanding of a business value of it behind supporting communities as a management strategy.
By supporting communities I mean providing resources and developing processes and policies. I don't believe communities can be planned and managed; it's rather an act of nurturing a living organism (which still can have a lot of science and workflows in it ;).
It's difficult to predefine an impact of communities in an organisation, but from what I've seen in companies I would say that there is definitely some degree of steering communities by providing more resources to those of them that are better aligned with specific business needs of an organisation.
Coming back to the situation in Russia: many companies are only in the beginning of the process of recognising the business value of communities and developing an infrastructure to support them. Communities of practice are there, but they still have to become an explicit part of management practice.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Note to myself: think in terms of innovation acceptance stages for every new project
It could be amasing how easily you can get drawn into mistakes you made before while having necessary knowledge to avoid them...
Let me first tell you about one of the things I has been doing while not blogging :)
I'm coordinating a European project focused on supporting collaboration of innovative small and medium enterprises (iSMEs) in Russia (official title is RUSMECO - Enhancing Russian SME collaboration and business development through COmmunities of practice). It's two year project with business/academic partners in four EU countries and three Russian regions.
The first phase of the project is focused on understanding specific problems Russian innovative SMEs have and then figuring out which of them could be addressed in via "communities" (which is a way to address solutions on information sharing/ learning/ networking/ collaboration spectrum). The original plan was pretty straightforward – start from the literature and doing in-depth interviews with selected iSMEs, use insights to develop and run survey to reach a bigger group and then invite participants for the workshops that provide feedback on the results and discussion on solutions that could work (and then work on developing them).
It didn't work that way – we found out that it was very difficult to motivate iSME representatives to spend their time on interviews and questionnaires. Not only because they are busy anyway, manoeuvring in transitioning economy and changing regulations, but because it was very difficult to explain to them what the project is about because the whole idea of communities was new to them.
Necessary detour. Many KM concepts and practices still have not reached Russian business world (and academia as well) – apart from a few exceptions most of the KM talk there is still about why it could be useful to invest in something like that, rather then deciding what and how to do. Communities of practice, while there as a reality, is not part of conceptual thinking about management and not a format that organisations would deliberately support with some business gains in mind. [more on this]
While dealing with the problem I realised there is something we overlooked during the planning stage: the relation between the degree of understanding the value of communities in business settings and project planning we had laid out. At that moment I thought of a similar mistake I did 6 years ago while planning for e-learning introduction in a university. Similar to 6 years ago I thought of an instrument that could help to prevent it - stages of innovation acceptance by Diane Dormant.
The framework is simple and it's one of the most useful leadership instruments for me (I blogged it three years ago ;). It suggests that in their acceptance of an innovation people move through several stages and that if you want to promote new practices you need a strategy that corresponds to the stage where people are (check the original post for more details on stages and strategies):
In our project most of the planned efforts were focused on demonstrating-training-supporting communities for innovative SMEs while people in our target group were hardly aware of what a community could be for them. After bumping into a number of problems we had to adjust our strategies to advertising and informing, but it would be much smarter to think about it in advance.
So, given that it's a repeated mistake I should make a note to myself to think in terms of innovation acceptance stages for every new project I start. Hopefully it will become a routine while working on planning...
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Away from blogging
It has been almost two months since I'm away from blogging. Being overstressed with all things going in life and at work I just decided to take things easy, letting myself not to be worried about not blogging, hardly reading weblogs. missing all interesting things around... What is more important I also took a break from my PhD research, focusing on a project laying further from blogging than many things I did over last couple of years.
I guess it's time to come back. It similar to a feeling of coming back from a vacation that wasn't too short - feeling a need to go back to things rather than pushing youself with sad "I have to...".
Don't know how about blogging, but I definitely feel happy taking a break from my PhD research. I've got some distance, an opportunity to look from a bit outside at things that were so encompassing before. I guess it's time to come back - I actually feel like working on it :)
And, of course, some interesting things happened over time - will be blogging about them slowly...
BlogTalk reloaded: 2-3 October 2006, Vienna
In case you haven't seen it yet: BlogTalk is reloaded.
Why reloading BlogTalk!
Because it's time for a conference that slows down the speed of picking up memes.
What we need - I think - is time to develop a meaning and concepts of what's going on in our society in relation to the web and its tools.
We need to take a break from those 5 minutes of speed-talks about things that fascinate us but disguise themselves in the moment we kinda invoke them.
Thinking of BlogTalk (t d f) I imagine an inspired crowd of people on the panels and in the audience that reformulate the tools and the use-cases of it in those two days - we need to feedback from users to developers and vice versa.
To do that we need time to prepare for that.
Not quick shots.
Carefully drafted considerations, prototypes and cases.
We need to stop the time for 2 days.
Call for papers is online, submissions are due to 1 April 2006.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
CHI 2006 Workshop on Mobile Social Software, 22-27 April 2007, Montreal
Workshop on Mobile Social Software at CHI2006, Montreal, Canada, April 22-27, 2006 (organised by people I know well :)
Social software has seen a tremendous jump in usage over the past few years and looks to take another significant leap forward as it becomes integrated into mobile devices we carry at all times. As designers of social software systems, we can now design for typical users who want to “do”social computing while they are in their social environments.
Yes! We need more research on these things :)
The goal for this workshop is to explore the research questions, coming directions, and relevant technologies surrounding expanded adoption of mobile social software. We plan to address issues in the following areas:
- How will mobile social software change existing social dynamics?
- How will location services and other new technologies change the game? What are the privacy risks and research challenges of these technologies?
- Next generation of mobile social software: What is it and when will we have it?
- How can we build a coordinated, cross-cultural research effort?
This workshop seeks to bring together social and computer scientists, designers, and other stakeholders to address research questions, directions, and technologies involved at this critical juncture of rapid expansion of social software to mobile devices.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- Context sharing: Under what conditions are people unwilling to share context information (e.g. location, history, etc); how do factors such as privacy, reciprocity, and trust play into that?
- Incentive structures in mixed digital-physical systems
- Reputation systems in mixed digital-physical systems
- Who can, should, and will control location data?
- Capturing and visualizing time: When was I there? When were you there? When were we there together? When will I/you/we be there?
- Role of mobile social software in supporting or detracting from face-to-face interactions
- Incorporating social networks in areas like:
- Mobile dating systems
- Conferences and special events
- Ad-hoc meetings
- Avoidance services
- Recommending people, places, and services
- Media sharing and the particular relationship between mobile photography and social behavior
- Social software to support an aging population
- Mobile social gaming and other forms of entertainment
- Moblogging and flash mobs
- Research/evaluation methods and tools for mobile social software, e.g. evaluation tools for studies in context
- Applications of mobile social software (design/evaluation):
- Hardware and new sensing technologies to support sociability
3 pages position papers are due before 6 January 2006, more at chi2006mososo.telin.nl
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Life offline (.ru)
Back to Moscow from Ekaterinburg. Last two weeks were heavily offline, 3 workshops, one-thousand-project-talks, new people, new ideas .ru, lot's of travel and lack of sleep.
- lots of thoughts on innovations and communities - deserves a few posts (hopefully I'll write them)
- cultural translation is tough (and fun too ;)
- the dots are starting to get connected (thanks to urbansheep, moedusa and unlinked others)
- no (working) wifi in Ekaterinburg (netprovodov.ru is supposed to work if you pay, but it worked for some time in one place and had no signal in another), but human connections are easier than in Moscow
- may be I'll blog in Russian at the end
It feels that I'm a caterpillar turning into something else...