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...


  17 December 2007

  My ideal day at work...

A few months ago I participated in a cultural probes study of communication at work. One of the things I had to do was writing about my ideal day at work. Found it in email today and thought of reposting - could be interesting to look back at it in 10 years :)


Ideally I would have a teleportation device. Something that would bring me closer to far away people I work with. Of course, we have all technology-mediated ways of working, all presence-awareness-ambient-intimacy tools, but nothing could beat having a lunch together. Even tea/coffee would do. Something "around work", not actually working on things (this we can manage in technology-mediated ways), but bits and pieces of connecting at more personal level in between.

I would also have a little babel fish in my ear, so I would understand those speaking other languages, without becoming stressed myself or making them uncomfortable.

And I would have a "Mary Poppins" bag - I'd put my office stuff in there - books, papers, gadgets. Then I'd teleport to nice locations and work there, taking breaks to do little sightseeing or to taste local food while continuing work conversations. I'd also have a foldable "awareness" screen in the bag. It would show in some easy to decode visual way when people I work with or those in more extended professional network do something relevant to my own interests.

And my laptop will be sand-proof with perfectly visible things on the screen while outside and it would fold to almost nothing. And it would work from sun or wind or rain or movement of the train and would have internet connection even in a forest.

Or, if I have to be more practical... I don't know... I'm working on changing things I don't like and try to be patient with those I can't change. I like having an office where I can put all my stuff around and work without too many interruptions. I like having opportunities to socialise if I feel like it. I could definitely do with better food, like a nice café downstairs with wifi, whiteboards and a projector. I'd book it for all my meetings and spend some other time with my laptop, piece of cake and a cappuccino.

  16 December 2007

  WikiDashboard: transparency, privacy and other consequences of measurement

Similar to Stowe Boyd and Jack Vinson I'm not a big fan of wikis: while they are good for collective writing when authorship of specific contributions is not important, there are much more cases where it's essential to know who makes what changes. Of course, the history of edits is there, but it's just too unhuman to be used systematically.

However, given that the traces are there getting tools to analyse them is just a matter of time. WikiDashboard (thanks to Jane McConnell) is a good example of what is possible: if you use it to browse Wikipedia, each page is enhanced with a visualisation representing top ten users who edited it.

Motivation: The idea is that if we provide social transparency and enable attribution of work to individual workers in Wikipedia, then this will eventually result in increased credibility and trust in the page content, and therefore higher levels of trust in Wikipedia.

I was curious to see how it works, so I used it to check who edits Knowledge_Management page:

Wikidashboard: Knowledge management

And then click on User:Snowded:

Wikidashboard: user:snowded

The second screenshot is more interesting: it's a user page that shows what pages he edits most. As I was suspecting, the user is Dave Snowden and you can see not only which pages he edits, but also that he seems to have given up editing KM page (or that visualisations are not up to date, since this is not the case).

Well, on one hand I'm happy to see tools that add transparency and give credits to individual contributors. On the other hand, I wonder what Dave thinks of it. It's not only about privacy concerns, but also about the potential of tools like this for messing up contributor motivations and all other consequences of measurement.

The people behind Wikidashboard are interested in the patterns that it might show, also inside companies:

We're curious of how the Web community will use this tool to surface social dynamics and editing patterns that might otherwise be difficult to find and analyze in Wikipedia. We are also interested in applying this tool to Enterprise Wikis.

I'm interested in those patterns too, but even more in the secondary effects of having tool like that in a corporate settings. I still remember the feedback we've got on our innocent prototype that visualised some patterns in a corporate discussion forum. Then I was surprised not that much with the "Big Brother" title for our application, but with a little detail: community members didn't want to have visible the number of messages they wrote next to their names, the feature that you can see often in public forums. Funny enough, they didn't mind having a list of messages they wrote displayed next to their names. Numbers are easy to judge and easy to turn into targets, while it's pretty clear that contribution it not about that.

See also: 

More on: privacy transparency wiki 

  08 December 2007

  Why it's good to be a digital immigrant

Two different streams of ideas from around Online Information:

  • First one, covered in the panel The Facebook generation and touched by other speakers is about digital natives, those who grow up online, and their differences from the rest of us.
  • The second one, outside of the conference, over food and walking with Matt is about cultural stereotypes so deeply engrained that we don't even know they are there until we experience something that triggers reflection.

Well, those two connected to today's talk with Robert about our fist computing experiences. For me it personal computing started with AGATs and black-and-green screen Robotrons. We had a Robotron at home for a while and I helped my mom with her NGO work by doing some database programming. I also remember my dismay when my university freshman programming course was scheduled in a class full of Robotrons and not in those with newer and fancier PCs (of course I wanted newer and fancier machines to play with ;). The teacher then said that "if you can program on Robotrons, anything else will be peanuts".

Now, looking back at my personal computing history I'm thinking that he was probably right. Not that I can program anything now (I've learnt that being good at programming doesn't mean loving it :), but I'm happy having all those "old computing" experiences - text only black and green screens, points-and-nodes BBS culture, disconnected emails, fascination with those magic WWW letters... Those are not just romanticised memories - I'm happy to have those experiences as they help me to understand what new technologies bring (and what do they take away). It helps to make conscious choices about the aspects of digital cultures I want in my life, rather than growing with them and may be never discovering that some cultural stereotypes don't serve me well.

Ewan McIntosh said he didn't like the whole digital immigrants/digital natives terminology. I like it, exactly for the power of the metaphor. A piece from Watching the English (discussed in another context) on the Englishness of natives and immigrants:

For those of us without the benefit of early, first-hand influence of another culture, some aspects of Englishness can be so deeply ingrained that we find it almost impossible to shake them off, even when it is clearly in our interested to do so [ ]. Immigrants have the advantage of being able to pick and choose more freely, often adopting the more desirable English quirks and habits while carefully steering clear of the more ludicrous ones. [p.18]

The metaphor also brings other concerns - those of inclusion and exclusion, integration and cultural diversity. I hope that at least I can teach my own little digital native some of non-digital cultures :)


  07 December 2007

  What I want to do when I'm done with my PhD

Back from Online Information. Hopefully I will find energy to post on all kinds of insights from it once I'm done with the introduction chapter that was patiently waiting for me. Only one thing before that - various conversations at the conference helped me to formulate what I want to do when I'm done with my PhD:

  • studying specific cases of Web2.0* in companies (what people are actually doing with those tools and why)
  • and then translating insights from those to
    • introduction/facilitation/governance strategies
    • technology requirements

Not that far from what I'm actually doing with blogging in my PhD research :)

*The main reason I want to study Web2.0 is that the values behind it and the change it brings at a workplace correspond well with what I believe in. Technologies will come and go, but some of the lessons they teach stay - it's those that I'm curious to discover.


More on: blog research future PhD 

  05 December 2007

  Online information 2007: my talk on weblogs and KM

The slides from my talk at Online Information today - Getting value from employee weblogs: A knowledge management approach



More on: blogs in business 

  03 December 2007

  Knowledge work framework (PKM + tasks)

Something that has been in my "to blog" list for a while - the current reincarnation of my personal KM models, turned into a knowledge work framework.   

Knowledge work framework updated

The left part of the framework represents personal knowledge management activities that inform and support performing specific (content-related) tasks, which in turn provide direction and focus for PKM. The distinction between tasks and PKM could be clarified using one-person enterprise metaphor: tasks would represent its core business, while PKM - its overhead activities.

New ideas and insights are often developed in the social context, hence conversations are in the middle of the framework. This sector incorporates a spectrum between passively followed conversations to collaboration with others focused on performing specific tasks.

The lower sector represents the domain of relations, since effective knowledge development is enabled by trust and shared understanding between the people involved. For an individual, this means a need to establish and maintain a personal network, to keep track of contacts and conversations, and to make choices about which communities to join and which to ignore.

The top sector represents the domain of developing ideas that requires filtering vast amounts of information, making sense of it, and connecting different bits and pieces to come up with new ideas. In this process physical and digital artefacts play an important role, so knowledge workers are faced with a need for personal information management  to organise their paper and digital archives, e-mails, and bookmark collections.

The scale from left to right represents a continuum between non-active awareness of a specific domain, its players and social norms and active, usually purpose-focused, tasks. As the focus increases from left to right, the number of specific ideas one can actively pursue, conversations to participate and close relations decreases. The scale reflects the process of legitimate peripheral participation, moving from being an outsider in a specific knowledge community to a more active position. Awareness, as a starting point of this process, comes through exposure to the ideas of others and lurking at the periphery (observing without active participation) in order to learn about professional language and social norms.

© Copyright 2002-2007 Lilia Efimova Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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: 17/12/2007; 09:39:56.