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...


  Wednesday, December 20, 2006

  Selective early adopter

It feels that everyone around is experimenting in Second Life. I'm listening to the stories with lots of interest, but I don't have any inclination to go and play myself. Feels really strange (as I'm old and outdated :). One more lesson learnt about myself - it seems that I'm very selective early adopter ;)

  Thursday, December 14, 2006

  On knowledge management and learning again

Tony Karrer (via Edu RSS):

Interesting discussion going on with contribution by Luis Suarez, Jay Cross, David Wilson - around the distinction between Knowledge Management and Learning:

Knowledge Management and Informal Learning
Knowledge Management and Learning - Separated at Birth? - Where They Really?
KM & learning: separated at birth?
KM and Learning

Sometimes it's funny and a bit frustrating to see the discussion coming back to the same issues... I guess this is because where I started myself, moving from HRD/training/(e)-learning to KM 5 years ago: from recognising similarities between those fields and from disappointments that they are hardly connected when it comes to shared language and practices. This is also where my PhD has started (I'm far away from there now :) - from fascination with informal learning and recognising the potential of integrating HRD and KM thinking to support it better...

We did some work trying to figure out the overlaps and gaps between KM and learning in theory and practice (mainly focusing on corporate settings) and looked for directions for integration. I have some bits and pieces in my weblog, but it probably makes more sense to look at the papers since they document things in a more coherent way (both are based on the data from interviews and workshops with practitioners):

Efimova, L., & Swaak, J. (2002). KM and (e)-learning: towards an integral approach? "The new scope of knowledge management in Theory and Practice", proceedings of the 2nd EKMF Knowledge Management Summer School (KMSS02). 2-6 September 2002, Sophia Antipolis, France.

Efimova, L. & Swaak, J. (2003). Converging knowledge management, training and e-learning: scenarios to make it workJournal of Universal Computer Science, Vol. 9/6 2003, pp. 571-578.

More on: KM&learning papers 

  Wednesday, December 13, 2006

  Personal vs. business dimensions of employee blogging: affiliation and attribution

Just came across and couldn't resist quoting :)

Alex Barnett on why moving his blog from Microsoft blog server to his own:

Well, there's something about knowing that your thoughts are hosted on your employer's infrastructure that I think has tended to constrain my writing somewhat - not much, but enough to be aware of it as I blog. And not because of company policy (i.e. 'blog smart').

While on MSDN, I always got a slight guilty feeling whenever I posted about purely personal or technical but non-Microsoft related stuff. I know there are bunch of posts I've written or wanted to write but didn't because I'm on 'official' territory.

Does that mean that my personal thoughts to be published on my new blog can't be intepreted as the words of a Microsoft employee, just because they live on my personal domain? No, I'm not thinking that at all.

If there's one thing we're all learning as 'Microsoft bloggers' is that what you write is considered a view of a Microsoft employee and therefore is quoteable and abusable as evidence of Microsoft's position on a matter. It doesn't matter how much you point out disclaimers (ah, that reminds me! I should add one to my personal blog...) that "your views are you own and not those of your employers' ", that fact it is that it is the perception that counts. Even as I write this post and know that I'm publishing from my new blog on a non-Microsoft-owned site, I am aware of my contractual agreement with my employer, I am aware the information that I know of but can't share publicly and the conversations with colleagues that cannot be made public. While at Microsoft, Robert Scoble and others regularly reminded us of that. This exit video of Scoble on Channel 9 is must-see viewing for any blogger in my view (most people are employed by somebody) - he talks about the fact that everytime he blogged he was very aware of the associated risks. I was sad to see him go - he taught me and the rest of us a lot about this topic. The fact that you might think that I'm writing 'on behalf of Microsoft' (which is not the case :-P ) is a fact that any blogging employee of any company needs to be mindful of. Blog smart in other words.

In relation to several things: the importance of weblog location, affiliation and attribution in Personal vs. business dimensions of employee blogging, ongoing thinking on how to incorporate quotes from weblogs next to anonymous interview quotes and an abstract for Methods of blog research: Behind the scenes - possible panel(s) for AoIR 2007.

  Tuesday, December 12, 2006

  Explaining 'why'

Raymond Chen has written a book on the evolution of Windows based on his weblog. What I find interesting is how much this quote (I guess from the book introduction, here) is similar to some of the reasons to blog I heard from other Microsoft bloggers:

What will the reader get out of this book? As noted above, the primary goal is to convey the philosophy and rational behind what might at first appear to be an irrational design. The reader will also understand that when something can't be done in Windows, it's often for a good reason as well as appreciate the lengths to which Windows goes in preserving backwards compatibility (and why it's important that it do so). And if nothing else, the reader will be able to tell amusing stories about Windows history at cocktail parties. That is, cocktail parties thrown by other geeks.

  Monday, December 04, 2006

  Dinner with Robert Scoble in Amsterdam tonight

Robert Scoble is in Amsterdam and inviting for a dinner tonight. I'm afraid I can't make it - would be really nice to talk, especially in respect to my recent "coming back" into business blogging issues...

More on: face-to-face time 

  Saturday, December 02, 2006

  Generalising from own experiences when talking about weblogs

Another piece of thought triggered by reading Uses of blogs (Posting with passion: Blogs and the politics of gender by Melissa Greg and What's next for blogging? by Axel Bruns, expecially in respect to interview with Clancy Ratliff).

In Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs Susan Herring and others discuss the differences between actual blogging practices (in respect to weblog types and weblog author demographics) and representations of those in public discourses on weblogs:

Quantitative studies report as many (or more, depending on what one counts as a blog) female as male blog authors, and as many (or more) young people as adults (Henning, 2003; Orlowski, 2003), suggesting a diverse population of bloggers as regards gender and age representation. At the same time, as will be shown, contemporary discourses about weblogs, such as those propagated through the mainstream media, in scholarly communication, and in weblogs themselves, tend to disproportionately feature adult, male bloggers.

[...] Specifically, we propose that the apparent gender and age bias in contemporary discourses about weblogs arises in part as a result of focus on a particular blog type, the so-called 'filter' blog, which is produced mostly by adult males. We argue that by privileging filter blogs and thereby implicitly evaluating the activities of adult males as more interesting, important and/or newsworthy than those of other blog authors, public discourses about weblogs marginalize the activities of women and teen bloggers, thereby indirectly reproducing societal sexism and ageism, and misrepresenting the fundamental nature of the weblog phenomenon.

Not being closely involved in the discussions on gender politics online, I would leave the complexities of it to the experts. Instead, I focus on one of the explanations behind the differences on what weblogs actually are and what is presented in the media, namely the tendency of human beings (when not writing scientific texts :) to generalise from their own experiences. For example, I can easily imagine how a business/technology analysts would write about blogging having in mind examples of bloggers he knows in the industry without realising that there is a whole different world just next door. Same is likely to be true for bloggers themselves :

Bloggers [...] are presumably not intending to exclude women and youth from the definition of blogging. Rather, they are defining the weblog based on their own activities and those of the people they know, and extrapolating back in time to the antecedents of those activities.

I have admit, I went through that myself, although to a lesser degree. Before another paper by Susan Herring and others came to my attention I didn't fully realise that the blogs that I wanted to study (those of knowledge workers and connected with work to a degree) were a tiny minority in the blogosphere. At that time I became much more careful about positioning and generalising the results of my own research.

I also experienced the issue from another side, realising that others might have their own vision on what weblogs are that exclude blogging as I know it. A reviewer of the paper on blogging conversations commented on our findings suggesting that they were "so unlike the blogging that everyone else has written about that I'm not sure where the authors are coming from". Since then it became even more important for me to put blogging as I know it on the map, even if it looks pretty different from what research of other types of weblogs says.

Finally, another example, to move the discussion a bit out of the research domain. While doing interviews in Microsoft I realised that the same "generalising from own experiences" trend came out there. Public image of blogging in the company is pretty much about external customer-oriented weblogs and the value of those (reflected to a degree in Naked conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel). During the interviews with people responsible for supporting or promoting weblogs in the company the discussion was often focused mainly on those types of weblogs, once taken to the extreme with a statement that "there is not clear business purpose for [internal weblogs]".

However, our interviews with more bloggers in the company suggest that while external weblogs are definitely in the majority and while customer-related benefits are probably most relevant business-wise, other types of weblogs do exist and weblogs could be useful in a variety of ways next to those well advocated publicly. Some of it is in the paper with the study results, but I guess I could do more work to articulate those "non-mainstream" uses more explicitly.

So, given all these, my own approach would be more like this:

  • don't believe anyone as they may generalise from their own experiences;
  • be especially careful with those in power (given by media, published research* or business authority) since their generalisations could be amplified enough to hide the diversity of what is actually happening.

*Ideally, this shouldn't be the case in research, but, although theoretically researchers should make grounded claims, there are all sorts of biases coming from theories, methodologies and methods used, as well as a space for an error and personal beliefs.

  Friday, December 01, 2006

  Differences between publications on academic and business blogging

[Inspired by an abrupt switch in reading, going from business blogging papers to blogging in academia chapters by Alex (Scholarly blogging: Moving towards the visible college, pp.117-126) and Jill (Blogging from inside the Ivory Tower, pp.127-138) in Uses of blogs.]

Just a very subjective observation (=may not be true :): the issues I'm interested in respect to employee blogging (e.g.) seem to be better covered in publications on blogging in academia rather than those on blogging in business settings. I wonder why...

Business blogging papers seem to be aiming at explaining where and why weblogs could be useful in a business context and how to make them work. They do not necessarily speak the language that managers would understand, but they seem to embrace an organisational perspective as a starting point when discussing weblogs.

Academic blogging publications are different - they seem to be written having in mind fellow academics as potential readers. They often describe blogging practices from personal (rather than organisational) perspective even while positioning them in a broader context of academic practices.

Given what I have observed so far I'd think that the tensions between a blogger and an organisation she works for are much harder in business (academics seem to enjoy relatively more degrees of freedom at work), yet the authors discussing blogging in academia are more likely to talk about those tensions. I wonder if it is exactly because those more 'degrees of freedom', tensions are more apparent to or more likely to be discussed in the papers aimed at academics...

Or it's just my own filters :)

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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: 1/11/2007; 7:55:51 PM.