13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Mathemagenic
on personal productivity in knowledge-intensive environments, weblog research, knowledge management, PhD, serendipity and lack of work-life balance...


  Friday, June 30, 2006

  Defining expertise and messy methods

Via James Robertson - Expertise location without technology by Shawn Callahan. The piece I picked up was on defining expertise:

...expertise is more than simply possessing a skill. Klein describes eight aspects of expertise which I’ve summarised but would recommend you read Klein [Klein, G. 1998. Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.].

  1. Patterns: with experience experts can discern patterns that are invisible to novices. They have a good sense of what’s typical and can therefore detect the extraordinary.
  2. Anomalies: experts are surprised when a key event is absent while novices don’t know what is supposed to happen and therefore don’t pick up on the anomaly.
  3. The way things work: experts have mental models of how things work—how teams are supposed to work, equipment is supposed to function, power and politics is normally wielded.
  4. Opportunities and improvisations: Experts can imagine possibilities that contradict the prevailing viewpoint and data. They can also apply patterns from one context to a new situation creating new approaches and techniques.
  5. Past and future: experts can predict what might happen in the future. Just ask a grade 5 teacher about what the kids will be like at the beginning and the end of the year.
  6. Fine discriminations: experts can see differences which remain invisible to novices. Just think of expert wine tasters.
  7. Self aware: experts are aware of their own thought processes.
  8. Decision makers: experts can make decisions under time pressure.

Which in a funny way connects to my thinking of researcher's role in research - for example, differences that would emerge if a particular dataset is analysed by novice vs. expert.

And it comes back to my long-time burning question - what is methodologically sound way for recognising patterns, anomalies, opportunities, fine discriminations in an expert way?

If expertise is difficult to articulate, how would you specify (for example) explicit coding criteria to pinpoint patterns? How far the need to make things explicit, to categorise beforehand would ruin the richness of what could be found? How far the decisions on what are the patterns could be logically explained? How easily the process itself could be articulated for an examination by others?

How the world full of complexity and emergent things could be simplified to a clean-and-clear logic of a methodologically sound process?

Thinking of Making a Mess with Method by John Law and wondering why the hell I can't do something easy - focusing on content instead of methodology... I guess I'm still in search of that particular messy method that fits the way I deal with the world and of a scientific environment where I don't have to defend it...

  On publishing autoethnography

Something to read for those seriousely looking at autoethnography for their research - Representation, Legitimation, and Autoethnography: An Autoethnographic Writing Story by Nicholas L. Holt

Abstract: The purpose of this article is to critique representation and legitimation as they relate to the peer review process for an autoethnographic manuscript. Using a conversation derived from seven reviewers’ comments pertaining to one autoethnographic manuscript, issues relating to (a) the use of verification strategies in autoethnographic studies; and, (b) the use of self as the only data source are discussed. As such, this paper can be considered as an autoethnographic writing story. The problematic nature of autoethnography, which is located at the boundaries of scientific research, is examined by linking the author’s experiences of the review process with dominant research perspectives. Suggestions for investigators wishing to produce autoethnographic accounts are outlined along with a call for the development of appropriate evaluative criteria for such work.

Make sure you check references as well.

More on: ethnography methodology PhD 

  Wednesday, June 28, 2006

  My del.icio.us tagroll

Was searching for something else, but found this - del.icio.us tagrolls. So, an overview of my bookmarks

  Those who come here

Via Alex Halavais - experimental engine predicting the demographics for a given search query or URL from Microsoft.

My results are different from those of Alex - according to it people viewing my weblog are females between 25-34 years old...

Viewer demographics for my blog

More on: blog reading 

  Wednesday, June 21, 2006

  4 years of blogging random notes

So, it's 4 years already - feels strange, like looking at university photos and realising that it was a million years ago. Somehow, reading my weblog gives me two totally different feeling. One of progress - things change and grow; another one of standing still - core things are the same...

Anyway... It's feels good to be back to blogging again. Last year was so much about unsettledness, changing and search for balance going in the background that writing faded away. I missed blogging - on some days proudly announcing to Robert in the evening that "I wrote a post". But I also disconnected from it in a good sense - feeling liberated away from blogging, rediscovering independence from daily intake of information bits, from constant feeling of being in a conversation, from dependence on feedback to validate what I think and do...

Today, discussing some of my methodological struggles with a visiting professor I've heard once again "if you believe it should be like that just do it like that". I've heard it so many times during my research, but today I looked at it differently - as far as I'm my own source of doubts the process of looking for confirmations from others will last endlessly.

The world is so multifaceted that there always be places of not fitting in, always a space for an improvement. If you write for a feedback there is always a chance of unhappy readers. Now I'm rediscovering in much broader context what I knew when I started blogging:

write where your heart is and the right audience will find you
do what you believe in and you will end up where you want to be

Simple. Sometimes it takes time to realise that the door is been open :)

More on: blog writing life passion PhD 

  Mangrove effect: the value of making things explicit

Jack Vinson in The value of making things explicit

But in other situations, getting things out in the open or down on paper are just as valuable as direct tacit knowledge transfer via conversation.  Jerry Ash of AOK just told this entertaining story about a state senator:

The senator stood and orated for an hour to an empty chamber.  When asked why he bothered, he responded, "I didn't know what I thought about the issue until I heard what I had to say."

Jerry recounted this story in response to my saying that I wouldn't bother writing this blog if I didn't think anyone was reading. 

In this sense, it is the very act of writing (or speaking) that is the knowledge opportunity.  Writing and drawing are geared around organizing my thoughts and getting them out into the world, so that I can "see" what I am thinking.  This can be in the form of text, mind maps, cocktail napkin drawings, or speaking to a crowd of one.  How many ideas do I have bouncing around in my head that never see the light of day because I don't articulate them in some way?

Which reminds me of a quote that I had saved in my "to blog" folder a year ago and recently rediscovered (Magic Words: How Language Augments Human Computation by Andy Clark):

Baby mangroveIf a tree is seen growing on an island, which do you suppose came first? It is natural (and usually correct) to assume that the island provided the fertile soil in which a lucky seed came to rest. Mangrove forests,{5} however, constitute a revealing exception to this general rule. The Mangrove grows from a floating seed which establishes itself in the water, rooting in shallow mud flats. The seedling sends complex vertical roots through the surface of the water, culminating in what looks to all intents and purposes like a small tree posing on stilts. The complex system of aerial roots, however, soon traps floating soil, weed and debris. After a time, the accumulation of trapped matter forms a small island. As more time passes, the island grows larger and larger. A growing mass of such islands can eventually merge, effectively extending the shoreline out to the trees! Throughout this process, and despite our prior intuitions, it is the land which is progressively built by the trees.

Something like the Mangrove effect, I suspect, is operative in some species of human thought. It is natural to suppose that words are always rooted in the fertile soil of pre-existing thoughts. But sometimes, at least, the influence seems to run in the other direction. A simple example is poetry. In constructing a poem, we do not simply use words to express thoughts. Rather, it is often the properties which of the words (their structure and cadence) which determine the thoughts that the poem comes to express. A similar partial reversal can occur during the construction of complex texts and arguments. By writing down our ideas we generate a trace in a format which opens up a range of new possibilities. We can then inspect and re-inspect the same ideas, coming at them from many different angles and in many different frames of mind. We can hold the original ideas steady so that we may judge them, and safely experiment with subtle alterations. We can store them in ways which allow us to compare and combine them with other complexes of ideas in ways which would quickly defeat the un-augmented imagination. In these ways, and as remarked in the previous section, the real properties of physical text transform the space of possible thoughts.

Don't know how it works for you, but in my case I really become to know what I want to say in a paper only once I sit and struggle on writing - even when I have a detailed outline before starting, writing is always discovering something that was hiding in half-baked thoughts before.

For more on that check Research on how artefacts support thinking and knowledge creation, How artefacts support thinking and knowledge creation (2) and comments to the second one.

And, something else (from August 2002 :) - Uncovering the implicit, on how blogging seem to fit well professions that involve turning implicit into explicit. What is funny, is that then I write about the mangrove effect of blogging, not knowing that it would actually turn into a line of theorethical inquiry later on:

For me, blog is something for articulating ideas. They get some shape once they get out of my brain, and it becomes easier to deal with them. Blog is something for catching those difficult to catch things...

  Tuesday, June 20, 2006

  Orange madness

Via Jonnie Moore's Branding without humour - World-Dutch fans watch match in their underwear since wearing orange lederhosen with Bavaria (Dutch beer) across them doesn't make Budweiser (German American beer, which is the official beer for the tournament) happy.

You don't have to leave the country to see the orange madness of Dutch football fans - it's everywhere - on streets, in the shops, clothes people wearing, haircolor and even our gym had girlands of orange flags everywhere.

Actually I like orange - not because of national associations, but because of the color :)

The photo is by Kees de Vos

More on: fun life 

  Public, private and controlled spaces

Reading a talk by danah boyd on Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace. Besides fascinating insights into online youth culture that danah brings so well, I find something that connects well with my own work - a piece on public, private and controlled spaces for adults and teens:

In this context, there are three important classes of space: public, private and controlled. For adults, the home is the private sphere where they relax amidst family and close friends. The public sphere is the world amongst strangers and people of all statuses where one must put forward one's best face. For most adults, work is a controlled space where bosses dictate the norms and acceptable behavior.

Teenager's space segmentation is slightly different. Most of their space is controlled space. Adults with authority control the home, the school, and most activity spaces. Teens are told where to be, what to do and how to do it. Because teens feel a lack of control at home, many don't see it as their private space.

To them, private space is youth space and it is primarily found in the interstices of controlled space. These are the places where youth gather to hang out amongst friends and make public or controlled spaces their own. Bedrooms with closed doors, for example.

Adult public spaces are typically controlled spaces for teens. Their public space is where peers gather en masse; this is where presentation of self really matters. It may be viewable to adults, but it is really peers that matter.

Reading this helped my framing my research interests in yet another way - I'm interested in uses of technology on the intersection between private, public and controlled spaces in a case of knowledge workers.

However, before getting furture with the disctinction I have to figure out from there it comes. Any references to other work?

  Sunday, June 18, 2006

  Stretching academic conventions, me-as-an-author and rare rushes

Three fragments from a post by Bev Trayner on Reflexive project of the self 

In our work we are purposefully stretching and crossing academic genre conventions by, among other things, presenting a paper [more here] in conjunction with a Wiki. The Wiki will be an ongoing text about remembering and forgetting in communities and supported by collaborative web2.0 technologies. It's a text that walks the talk as we remember and forget in our own community, supported by collaborative web2.0 technologies. The Wiki is an invitation for readers and reviewers to become collaborators of the text.

Somehow, thinking of similar "stretching and crossing" while writing my own papers I frequently end up doing things old-fasioned way (writing in private, only late drafts/final versions in public - usually after review). Instead of doing things in a way I believe they should be done, I start to thing about problems any public coverage creates for douple-blind reviewing or possible copyright issues arising from having most of the work online before it gets published.

Which reminds me on reflecting on why I don't bend the rules instead of bending the rules during my first days at Microsoft. It seems that you have to be  confident in a particular culture to make choices that are likely to cross the boundaries of what is safely acceptable and what is stretching and crossing. In a sense it's about certain degree of maturity. As my mom used to say during my teenage wars for independence - you will know when it's ok to come home late when you don't feel a need to ask permissions.

Inspired by the work of Carolyn Ellis we are using autoethnography as our research method. In the meantime I'm interested to trace my interest in autothnography which began last year when Lilia Efimova recommended a book by Ellis and where I went through the steps of being: curious, inspired, stimulated and resolved. Read Ellis and it's difficult to go back to being the same author you once were.

Strange and funny how our own words start travelling and grow into something totally unexpected :) Aactually, while reading other books of Carolyn Ellis I missed this one. But I agree that "it's difficult to go back to being the same author you once were" - writing-wise I feel so much in between "old" and "unknown" (or "not yet confident enough to jump into"?) me-as-an-author.

As I'm writing I am also cruising (again) through Anthony Giddens "Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age" His words resonate with our conversations about our process of writing the text:
'In the post-traditional order of modernity, and against the backdrop of new forms of mediated experience, self-identity becomes a reflexively organised endeavour. The reflexive project of the self, which consists in the sustaining of coherent, yet continuously revised, biographical narratives, takes place in the context of multiple choices as filtered through abstract systems.' (p.5)

And my body tingles as I get one of those rare rushes where everything in life all falls into place!

So familiar :) But this time it feels like a lot of work between now and next one of those rare rushes...

  Friday, June 16, 2006

  Private, public and selective sharing

Jill, in between the lines:

I love reading between the lines of blogs - though sometimes I’m completely wrong about things! So it was fun to see an interpreted and confirmed version of what went on behind the scenes of Jason Kottke’s and Meg Hourihan’s blogs in the last few years:


Me, I’ve gone a bit quieter with my own between the lines. Realising that a lot of students and colleagues and bosses and journalists sometimes read my blog has got me drawing sharper lines between public and private. I’ll let you know when I get married, though :)

This echoes my own struggles. When preparing for our wedding I was drawn between desire to share and need for privacy.

From one side, I've learned so much about bringing different cultures together in a wedding while reading stories of Wendy and Joey getting married - I'm grateful they blogged so much of it. I felt like doing something similar for unknown readers (anyone needs help regarding paperwork to marry a foreigner in Moscow?). And I also wanted to share the fun with those friends who do not come for dinner often enough to hear the stories.

From another side, I wouldn't be myself doing something like that - I close the curtains so strangers on the street can't peek into our living room (and if you walk in a residential neighbourhood in the Netherlands you know how uncommon it is). In same way - I’m not comfortable making things too explicit in my blog.

We tried to figure out something in between for our wedding - figuring workarounds, mix of technologies and practices to share and to keep it private at the same time (I was close to reposting here "wedding blogging policy" from our private blog, but then did a check and figured out that having a quote here makes it too easy to find ;).

I just hope that one day I will need less workarounds for selective sharing - deciding for a piece of information how far it should do - to the whole world, to friends, to family or to my personal online space, visible only to me. It works now in many bigger group spaces (e.g. Flickr and LJ), but I want it to work in my own space and I don't want to depend on the registering all my friends in yet another online something.

Fingers crossed. We've got so many buddy lists around that they should turn into something really useful.

More on: identity transparency 

  Thursday, June 15, 2006

  International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media

Brian Dennis:

Speaking of the AAAI Weblog Symposium, some organizers from that meeting and the WWW '06 Weblog Ecosystem Symposium have banded together to launch a new standalone weblog conference: the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (site down as of this writing). The conference will first meet in March '07, with a submission deadline of November '06, if I remember correctly.

Wonder how it would relate to Blogtalk. Probably American/European, bit more academic/bit more "trends in practice"? We'll see.

See also: later comment by Brian about ICWSM probable nature and focus.

More on: blog research 

  Papers from AAAI 2006 Symposia on Computational Approaches to Analyzing Weblogs

Another set of papers, from Computational Approaches to Analyzing Weblogs. It's pretty annoying that they don't have links to the papers there - I had to dig them out manually via Google, so the list includes only those papers I found online (and I didn't try to search for posters).

More on: blog research papers 

  Papers of WWW2006 workshop on the weblogging ecosystem

Papers from 3rd Annual Workshop on the Weblogging Ecosystem (see also papers from 2004 and 2005 workshops).

I seriousely considered going, but it would cut a week from my honeymoon... At least now there is nice collection for reading.

  Wednesday, June 14, 2006

  Travel plans: UK, mid-July

If nothing (visa paperwork) goes wrong we are planning to be in UK mid-July (around the weekend of 15-16), visiting friends in Cambridge. I'm thinking of adding a few days to it to meet people - at least for sharing conversations and food, but we can add some work to the mix as well.

Any suggestions? Let me know.

Pinging MattRickHeadshift guys, Piers, KatSteven and others around...

More on: travel 

  Tuesday, June 13, 2006

  More on Microsoft: aggregation and feedback loop

Just have to do something with all those open windows before continuing working :)

On Robert Scoble's role as an aggregator:

Nick Bradbury: Now, once Robert moves on, what single source are we supposed to read when we want to find out about new stuff that Microsoft is doing, without all the marketing?

Niall Kennedy: What does the news mean for Microsoft? More people in large companies now realize the value of an information aggregator for internal and external communication. In a 60,000 person company you need some internal connectors to help keep teams and projects working together and benefitting from the work and knowledge of others. If Microsoft does not already have a team or teams dedicated to internal corporate development, hopefully they'll realize the value and create such a team.

And an example of a feedback loop via blogging:

Yesterday I got cranky with Microsoft about a long-standing bug in a Microsoft library that was causing problems for some FeedDemon customers. As you can imagine, I was frustrated that my work was being compromised by a known bug in code I had no control over, so I was feeling a little punchy when I posted yesterday.

Of course, I hoped that posting about the bug would get it the attention it deserved (which it did, btw). But I didn't think about how my cranky post would affect the Microsoft devs responsible for tackling the bug (yes, folks, they are human!). I know it's no fun to wake up and find some blogger just made your day harder.

As you can see from the comments to my post, Microsoft is on the ball - they jumped in, asked for more information, and reactivated the bug after being able to reproduce it. I have to agree with Andy Herron that Microsoft's reaction was impressive. So, thanks for taking my criticism in the way it was intended and for taking the time to look into the problem. I look forward to seeing this bug fixed :)

  Employee blogging: managing dangerous connections

Robert Scoble is leaving Microsoft. I watch the ripples as I'm still interested to follow things happening in the company - understanding what was one of possible futures at the moment I did my interviews helps to interpret the past.

Between other things my brain picks up a quote from Robert:

Will I lose my audience? That's a question I've seen on the blogs.


Huh? You will unsubscribe if I don't give you a payoff. For many of you Microsoft was that payoff. Yes, Microsoft is still an interesting company for many many people in the world. When I was at my mom's funeral, what did we end up talking about at lunch afterward? Microsoft. Everyone had an opinion about Microsoft. Everyone knew who it was. What it did.

For me it correlates with things other people I interviewed said: being a Microsoft employee you never know if your readers are there because of who you are, what you write or because of the company you work for. Actually, they assumed that certain part of the audience is there for the last reason.

Why it is important? Because it provides context for judging what you say. Same things said by an average blogger and by a Microsoft blogger would have different weight.

I also saw different strategies of dealing with it - embracing the affiliation as there is no way to hide anyway, making a good use of it for promoting specific ideas (why not benefit from that extra attention) or intentional hiding by blogging on independent servers using first name only.

Whatever the specific choice is, one thing is pretty clear: if you work for a company that deserves even a bit of media attention you forced into making choices on how explicit you want to be about the connection and on how you are going to balance your own blogging voice and public image of your employer.

As for Robert Scoble - I think he figured out how to manage dangerous connections gracefully. I guess his new place will be full of new challenges and new insights.


Also,  an alternative complementary perspective:

We're paying a lot more attention to people, particularly to people speaking in 'open, natural, uncontrived' voices (thank you, Cluetrain), and a lot less attention to companies striving to communicate with us via press releases and other degraded forms of marketing-speak. That's one reason why Scoble was so influential, and it was to Microsoft's credit that they saw the value of bringing him on board and turning him loose. But now that Scoble's gone, he's taking a lot of our attention with him. We'll hardly ignore Microsoft (or their network of 3,000 other bloggers), but Scoble's attention-getting ability made him a star that transcended the company's brand.

[...]more than ever, companies will need people speaking in authentic voices to capture and maintain our attention, and that process will turn those people into stars. The real question is how a company finds the right balance so that our collective attention is divided between their stars and the company itself.

  Monday, June 12, 2006

  Reboot circles

The best feedback you can have as an event organiser - Ton on his experiences at Reboot 8:

On the way to the after party, someone asked me what I like to do in my spare time.

I planned to go initially, but had to make choices. Now, like circles on the water, I see the circles of photos, notes and reflections in online spaces around me.

More on: face-to-face time 

  Location-aware future

By coincidence I found out that Nancy is coming to Europe in a near future. Wonder, why it always have to be like that?

We have many location-aware tools, but those I know are pretty much about now and past: showing where people are or where they've been. I want to see the future.

I'm ready to share my travel calendar with my friends. I guess many of them would do the same. I'd love to have some tool that would allow me to:

  • share selected events from my Outlook calendar with my online friends (ideally using my friend lists in whatever tools with friends I specify instead of making another one)
  • have a notification tool saying something like "Nancy is coming to Europe - may be you should check if you can be around" or "do you know that X are coming to the same conference as you do" or "three of your contacts are going to be within 20 km range from that meeting in Germany next week"

It shouldn't be that difficult. And we need something like that. In the world where far-away-very-close-friends make us looking at any chance for a meeting it doesn't make sense to leave it to coincidences...

  Monday, June 05, 2006

  Stop apologising for knowledge management

David Gurteen has a nice piece at Inside Knowledge - Stop apologising for knowledge management!

I wonder if they really think that there could ever be a short two or three word phrase that could adequately described this discipline we call knowledge management.

And yes it’s OK to make the point that we cannot really manage knowledge but do we really need to attack the name by referring to it as an oxymoron?

To my mind, there is no need to apologise for the term. It is just a label. A label does not need to be descriptive. If you really choke on the words ‘knowledge management’ then use the shorter label – just call it ‘kay-em’. It is then so much more obviously just a label and, if needs be, you can go on to describe it.

This is pretty much the position I take myself, but I'm glad David raised the issue in a public venue. Wonder how people would react :)

More on: definitions KM 

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This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Last update: 6/20/2007; 10:57:08 PM.