We are the People, lets work together….

September 19, 2014

Human nature has given us the great ability to work together and be adaptive to changes in our surrounding environment since the dawn of mankind. Nothing new to this set of capabilities. Also we have been able to form uses of our common tools, so that we together manage to change society.

Citizen Participation

The tools have, and will be the foundation for innovation, and each new tool kit raises new challenges. Where we see new practices emerge, and craftsmanship to master them. In most cases, we have been situated in co-located uses, to form groups. The effort to coordinate that group, using different means to reach the set goals. Have bearing in the way we as humans communicate. Usually with a combination of spoken language and body language. In some boundary object interactions where we don’t have a common lingo. Body language have been a simple way to bridge between different communities. The communication tools used when we can’t see or hear each other have emerged over the years.

Today, our work conditions differ quite, from previous generations dependencies on co-located collaborative work. Due to the immense use of digital communication tools, and shifting focus from bodywork, to knowledge work. We simply engage in endless conversations on all levels, to undertake our daily everyday practices together. Some of these conversations have become routines, where we codify, store and use the outcome. Codified knowledge have been one of the key elements to run a large organisation, since cuneiform. Other conversations are just social-glue, to connect us with peers in order to solve the issues at hand. The problem in all this, is that the focus is more on the tools and means, and less on why we communicate and the need to coordinate our efforts in a group of people.

Trilingual inscription of Xerxes, Van, 1973.JPG
Trilingual inscription of Xerxes, Van, 1973” by John Hill – I took this photo myself using a 300 mm lens with 2X extender on a Pentax camera. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The other issue, is to find other groups of individuals to form emerging networks. Where our social ties are not so tightly knitted. But where the small world group acts in cellular fashion. The organising of resources, as humans working in different groups. The sharing practices, professions, disciplines and processes, is what we commonly call an organisation. With clear boundaries. Hence there are two dimensions to collaboration: in-bound to make the team work together, regardless if they are co-located or not. And second the out-reaching theme, connecting to the ecology where the group work and outcome signals to other parties and herds of people.

Managing the tool-kit

In my daily work practice either as researcher or information strategist I mix these two modalities of collaboration seamlessly. And I juggle around and struggle with a pretty hefty and complex tapestry of digital communication tools, since each facet of group work and context have different agreed upon tools and organising principles of information and data. And topping this, I also chose prefered tools of my own liking, that might divert from the commonly stated platform. Using these means anywhere, anytime and on any device, as stated in most digital strategies I have written or come across.

When organisation fast forward into digitally enhanced collaboration (just separating this for now from traditional group work without digital means), the most common path is to buy what all others have in their garage. “My neighbor just bought a brand new Tesla Car, and he seems to be very happy with his rather expensive choice.” Or just go for what we already have parked inside our corporate walls. Sharepoint is such a simple choice to make. It is a very capable software suite of things, that promise to solve all collaboration themes out-of-the-box. Or any other software vendor’s suite in the same ballpark.

A collaboration framework

Michael Sampson, have in his writing (books, blogs and lectures), pinpointed seven pillars for collaboration:

  1. Shared access to team/group information and data
  2. Location independence
  3. Real-time authoring and editing
  4. Group/team aware calendaring
  5. Social engagement
  6. Group/team task management
  7. Collaboration auto-discovery

The first 6 pillars, rest upon the in-bound teamwork. How to make a tightly knit group of people coordinate, collaborate in a smooth manner, so that they are able to reach their targeted goal. The reason why they start to work together in the first place. Be it a project, organisational bound unit, or learning network as communities of practice.

In a group of people, regardless if they are co-located, distributed or a mix thereof, they share the same goals. Hopefully? The social ties are pretty strong, and in some spaces they know each other in and out. In others they have been pulled together for a specific task, and have to agree on the game rules to work together. In loosely coupled communities of practice or networks, the ties are more related to profession, discipline or shared interest. Hence they might not know each other at all, but still share a common ground why the meet-up and engage in online conversations. For each different facet of in-bound collaboration, there might be nuances to what capabilities they need to become fluent in the use of either digital platform. My fellow researchers have pulled together a very nice recipe book to what ingredients is needed for a sustainable digital habitat, so I do not intend to elaborate more on this here.

My ambition is to further develop some thinking and tinkering around the second theme (seventh pillar), the out-reaching collaboration.

Out-reaching collaboration – Serendipity!

The promise from all visionaries, evangelist within knowledge management. Have always been this Connected Enterprise state. Since T Davenport’s and  Larry Prusak’s book Working Knowledge from 1985.

Serendipity in life, sometimes connects dots between people. I happened to share a taxi to Milan’s airport for 2 hours with Larry Prusak 10 years ago. From a Knowledge Management research conference we both had attended and done talks at. And during this ride we both shared stories from the trenches, and connections to friends and peers. Building the social tapestry, that still unfolds. When I meet people with the same aspiration and passion for communities and networks of practice as myself.

In large organisations, it is difficult to know what is going on, on a daily basis across all places and contexts. And connecting teams and groups separated by organisational boundaries, profession, locations, processes or practices have been the promise and peril for knowledge management. Early on the focus was set on codified knowledge, as record keeping. But the more control put into the stew to get people to codify what they were up to, the less things were then added to the shared spaces. This was simply, because this extra task, diverted them from their everyday work practices. Still 20 years further down the road, this shared view of our tools and technologies persists.

The question then is: What design imperative can we build upon, so that connecting people and serendipity happens, without a steep threshold of manual work of codification?

Some consultancy firms have a culture of sharing and codifying, and this practice is also what they promise to their clients. The problem is that the lego pieces in the box, all artifacts developed by members of staff, reflecting on their observations from the trenches. Taxes lots of resources, and also the half life is pretty short. Storytelling and compelling narrative, is what sticks. This is what I remember from the personal conversation with Larry Prusak. And still after this long time, I am able to reflect on pretty detailed parts of that conversation. Not codified, or recorded.

My own reflection to the out-reaching capabilities using collaborative technologies are:

  1. Profiling
  2. Semantic Enhancements and Links
  3. Auto-suggestions in real-time

Profiling and Personal Data

As users of a multitude of digital communications platforms, we leave a digital trail. In less good circumstance this might be used against our will and intentions e.g. the NSA and other authorities’ surveillance of our digital lives. Or in online services like Facebook and Google, intrusion into our privacy online. We sign a contract with the Devil, without reading the fine print, selling our privacy as the currency for free services.

In the 90’s when I both started my internet consulting firm and research, I came across a fellow researcher at MIT Media Lab,Prof. Patti Maes. She and set of colleagues founded Firefly network inc. Using their agent technologies and collaborative filtering algorithms. They were later bought by Microsoft. One of the foundations of their technology was dynamic profiles and a standard (P3P) to people profiles and segments, and attributes to this. These technologies in different incarnations are now omnipresent, and widely used by Facebook, Linkedin, and Google to name but a few. The main idea, was that the end-user fed the agent his or her profile and preferences. Sometimes it could be a manually-intensive process of record keeping, while at other times the use of any service could add bits and parts of the users behaviour as part of a digital trail – uncovering the “tacit knowledge” of the user, and his or hers networks in doing so. The keeping of user records is sensitive as it was with P3P and the like. It failed to get traction to a larger audience due to conflicts arising from privacy and intrusion issues. It is always a matter of whom you trust. Other technology companies, have tried similar paths, to tap into the tacit knowledge, like Autonomy have with their agent-profiles and so forth. Regardless of the success or not, profiling is key in delivering anything valuable to the end user.

Finding peers and friends (FOAF) through profile records and catalogs, i.e. Active Directory (AD), is probably the most asserted requirement in any digital workplace development. Social and collaborative platforms like Sharepoint, mix both the more structured elements to a user-profile derived from AD, plus the users’ contributions, and digital-trails e.g. connected friends, groups, social-tags and so forth, NB. Office Graph (Oslo).

But in a world where everything is not hosted in one to serve them all platform, and where users depart outside into other shared spaces for their collaborative work. These single platform profiles, are pretty useless. Most organisations try to build compounds and user-profile mashups, using profile segments from a diversity of information systems (i.e HR), and services. The most ambitious efforts combine user-profile records from the inside environment, with external social media profiles,  i.e. the users Linkedin profile.

Users do like to improve their profiles, if the value in doing so is in a direct feedback loop to the use of the platform. Here LinkedIn is a good example. In other online networks, the settings for your profile have become so complex, that users just ignore configuring them at all, i.e. in Facebook.

As with the now forgotten P3P standard, the user needs to be in control of his or hers Personal Data stored in the profile. And the negotiations between the user and the service who want to manage profile-segments have to be dead-simple.

The user-profile is still one of the most underdeveloped data-sets, and the privacy issues are certainly not ironed out. But without a decent profile, all other things will fall apart. It should not be a laborious process for the end-user to keep their records in shape, and the backing set of informations systems must interoperate or else the building blocks won’t match. For online services, they rely upon browser cookies. Where all of them leave identifications and signals to the back-end services. Since the HTTP standard is decentralised and decoupled, contrasting older architectures like client-server. For each service this set-up works, but for a user with many things, devices and spaces. None of these low-level means, build a personal data record that they are able to manage and control. Or connect between services and profile segment. In a easy to use manner.

In a utopian world – profile matching gives us serendipitous experiences and connects us with other people, that we otherwise would never have met or interacted with.  For now we just hope that we are being helped to find the people we know about through FOAF and graph search. Fingers crossed, we will soon get interoperability and new emerging standards, governed by all providers… where the balance of privacy, control and open interop, just work!

Semantic Enhancements and links

In the in-bound conversations for teamwork, the sharing space for collaboration has several well-known patterns. But in many instances, failure is omnipresent, regardless of the supporting platform, be it old CSCW as IBM Lotus Notes in the 90’s and later IBM Connections, or Sharepoint. To a large extent it boils down to the  organising principles for information and data, that all participants will adhere to, and follow, with pragmatic governance, and lifecycle in mind – not forgetting the culture of caring for the users, through adaptation strategies in order to get them into a comfortable mode, actually using the given platform.

The simplest structure, is to answer a set of very obvious questions before starting a teamwork space.

  • Why are we going to participate?
  • Who will be participating and who is welcome to join, and finally, who runs the show? i.e. Information Ownership and stewardship
  • Who will be interested in the outcome from our joint effort? Audience and Coverage
  • What is the general theme for our work? Title, Topics, and brief Description
  • What kinds of artifacts and spaces are we going to use in our daily work? Type
  • For how long will we be hanging out in this collaborative space, and what will happened after we close down the room we share?
  • Relations to other domains (projects, programs or organisations). Linking!

If one uses the inverted pyramid for communications, all these questions will be pretty easy to answer. For those who fail to answer these questions, they shouldn’t be able to start the teamwork at all if there is no targeted goal for participation.

The answers to the questions above will be added as resource descriptions to the collection (metadata). That will be useful patterns for information architecture and search patterns when the amount of collaborative spaces grow. And for connecting the dots? If you also use common standards, like Dublin Core, interoperability will follow. You could have bits of your shared space in SharePoint, Archive and final Documents in a Document repository, tasks and more open collaborative space, as in a enterprise wikis (Atlassian) and jira. Using OneNote, Evernote or whatever you have. And you will still then be able to keep track of findability across spaces, and devices.

When users start to participate and contribute with digital artifacts, the supporting platform will guide them, and auto-suggest both administrative resource descriptions and narrow and targeted vocabularies. Hence the formation of a pragmatic and useful organising model to all data. Without killing the users in their pathway of adding semantics.

A final note, is that the cross-linking and auto-suggested links. Is what we get, supporting the last pillar of the seven pillars for collaboration mentioned above? We are able to add metadata and search driven user-experience and information architecture elements, that connect and link people, content and collections all together, without having to manage this complex task manually.

Auto suggestions in real-time

Finding things and navigating in real-time. Obviously to work together we need to find things to be able to act in our enacted environment, and be aware of triggers in our everyday pathway that relate to our practices. These information flows, do have to be calibrated and nurtured to not overwhelm us with data feeds. So filters! But in same breath, they not be too narrow, so we fail to connect the dots in the overarching picture to things.

There are many fancy smart devices and services, that add context and triggers to autosuggest for you on your pathway of doing your actual work. These means, should be in the background and infuse correlations that makes sense. And that it not disturb, like the well know MS Office Assistant (Paper Clip).

A connected company, is a place where people are able to work seamlessly without boundaries, in-side out, or outside in. In all this emerging internet trend like semantic web and linked-data might come handy.


on Commerce: a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose!

May 10, 2012

The wheels keep on turning, and we as world citizens do embark into consumerism ever so eagerly. What to do with all the stuff we get in our daily foraging?

Digital Infrastructures have set the prefix of e- in front of every possible term, to emphasize the reasoning of electronic or digital. Question, does this really make sense today? The picture is really blurred. Where does the real world and the digital world end, where does means met ends? When we Internet savvy folks, speak of Internet of things do this echo in the minds-sets of our less connected peer human beings?

On a philosophical angle we buy things either to survive or to boost our personas with stuff related to who we think we are in the social fabric of life. Leaving a signal to other humans that I consume and because of this I am ;-)

Hence, Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce is a Commerce transformed from the simple but yet omnipresent poem by G. Stein 1913. When traditional retail, brick and mortar, meets e-commerce on the social battle field what is the outcome for the everyday consumer? Well one could name tag this x-channel commerce, where intertwingularity really starts to happen.

Anybody who either have undertaken some kind of business school or baseline marketing diploma knows for sure there are some elements that one just do not take away that easily to make an prosperous business. Same goes for us who have been engaged in entrepreneurship in a small retail or local grocery store. Know your customers! Engage with them on their grounds, invite them to a conversation so you as a provider are able to align your brick and mortar store front and shelves with goods (ends) that meet needs. Second to this, secure a feasible supply to have your store up and running.

The disruptive technology leap with the digital infrastructures, relates to information flows and the social life dealing with this information. Hence in a less open environment with constraints in the information supply, we just either had to comply with the options given, and trust the service provider. Or tinker to find pragmatic solutions to a broken system, as the folks in former eastern Europe had to do due to policy makers with twisted minds. Today in the modern big city life, we all have devices that gives us instant access to information when needed. An upper-hand for the consumer. Power relations have slightly changed the ballpark. Or maybe not? In a local setting with only one ‘Store’ the dealer had to know the demand and personally listen to all locals. We are rather getting back to business, as it emerged on the local marketplace or bazaar still omnipresent in many countries.

e-Commerce pains?
Well first and last… the churn rate to buy stuff when they have entered into the shop is between 2-4% on average. If they find the store in the first place that is! Many users do a quick search using either aggregation measure (Google, Pricerunner) where they get a decent overview, window shopping. All these aggregator services tries to tie some extra value with enhancements or schemas on-top of the unstructured world. Emerging ways of get semantics into this play have been in the loop for 15 years, and we are seeing this mashup economy growing daily and standards being put into action. Second how to curate a nice storefront that is compelling, easy to navigate and vibrant with goods and services to the users preferences and liking? When the information flow back-end with aggregation, integration more reflect staggering data mazes from all the suppliers? Topping this easy to pay! Here still many online stores have über-complex schemas. The x-commerce platform using Ebay/Paypal or Klarna from Sweden are some possible solutions to this threshold. And lastly the social interaction both in term of delivery, service provided and the show-off persona attribute ;-)  My mind started to remember the Internet bombastic e-commerce failures, like Boo. Where users hardly could enter the store due to UX from hell, and those who got to the cashier couldn’t pay. Lastly the few bespoken people who actually managed to buy  something had hard time getting their stuff!

Brick and mortar retail have not gone out of business, ask IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. If they had the same churn rate for all people driving to their sites and entering the store as the eCommerce folks have. He wouldn’t been on the list of richest in the world. Even the times you visit their site only to get your moneys back for a broken or dysfunctional goods. You can’t resist to take a peek-view into the store and find yourself buying even more. The same goes for food-stores. No one enters them without buying stuff! That’s why we spend time and effort to go there in the first place.

The frontier of eCommerce have realised this, and done their utmost to lure us firstly into the store through SEO, banners and whathaveyous. Second have a curation process that makes their store sticky, mimic real world experience.  It is not as simple as copy the IKEA model, given that you are virtually not present in their store. Lack of sensory triggers! Might improve in 3D worlds with extra-embodied gadgets in near future. The most engaging experiences have basically a content factory with people infusing contextual data to the goods. Improve the appearance and findability across both their own site and in their value network. As the i.e. the fast growing Nelly.com from Sweden.

When you navigate in the store as in IKEA you follow a known path. Well designed so your sensory wayfinding skills don’t make you feel lost. Navigate any eCommerce site that lacks proper and sound Information Architecture and you instantly feel stressed and usually leave before even reaching for the cashier icon. Ask my dear wife who really loves to ‘shop’ compared to me who get the same mall-lost-in-shopping-hell-syndrome in any brick and mortar setting. She trashes many sites within seconds! or rather milliseconds!! Non functional!!! even if she knows that the store hold the searched for goods.

What amazes me, is how bad many eCommerce sites have settled pragmatic organising principles to their content? Maybe a better Content Choreograph assigned to this quest? Derived from this is the insufficient information supply chain. Data from their origin have so poor quality that not even the best automagic data-laundry helps. Why not crowdsource this obvious constraint to a viable and scalable business model? Shared responsibilities amongst all actors? Maybe a intermediary-data-laundry-model for data-flows could be of some help?

Without refined and enhanced raw-data, next step is basically impossible. Cross-channel commerce have to have sound organising principles, if not considering stove-pipes of different content factories in the back-end to a great cost! The improved digital assets needs to be smarter in all possible ways. When we talk about Internet of Things, as with RFID, NFC and other emerging standards within the UbiComp arena. Mobility First raises the bar for simplicity, cut the crap. Get to the point and deliver now.

The Social Creature
Living in a world of social means to capture our attention, it is no reason for a commerce provider to stay with a stale, stigmatised old school commerce model without the flavor of social intertwined all through. Some genres of products and services, do have better social flows, given that they are things people happily share. The travel and tourism industry is one of the business arenas, where user-generated-content really makes-sense. No one books a hotel without first checking out TripAdvisor, google maps/earth and many more sites to get a more nuanced picture of the planned trip. And both during your travel users annotate, share, curate and socialise around their experience, with a final reporting while being back home again. Same goes with fashion, and similar goods and services. Food chains have recepies.  Whereas other stuff never have had any social sharing either in brick-and-mortar or eCommerce realm.

A greenfield commerce project
The notion of greenfield gives us a fun journey when we develop the cues for future commerce. No strings attached and build from ground-up with the soil and plants. Cultivate and nurture this new space. New entrants in the retail business have done some remarkable assertions. A people centric view to shopping, make the online and store visit a compelling journey that is seamless. C. Wonder have developed a new experience, where there are only personal shopping assistants, no cash register lines. The staff are passionate about the goods served, use mobile devices and pervasive and ubicomp setting to get handy information and data while guiding their clients in the store. All items sold have been enhanced with RFID. In the background there is a back-bone ERP, Supply Chain, CRM and whathaveyou cloud instance. That serves up real-time data and do manage the data in a completely new fashion.

What runs the show? DATA! all over the place but with a pragmatic, agile, and make-do feeling. Tinker, try, build and engage, review and improve. With proper organising principles to information and data. Here cloud service delivery models interplay with the ubicomp and mobile devices to create an ambient data service.
How to engage, well obviously social have been built into the spines of all core processes for the commerce set-up. As other retailers in this scene do. Have your Customer Service with Facebook feeds, and so forth. Online stores in any relevant social space. Basically let the users share their love (or hate!?) for the services and products. Have talented staff members intersected into the different levels of conversations. Social Business by design if you will ;-)

Intelligence – pick my brain!
With the abundance of data flows in such a business design, big data. Tools and metrics to quickly align the practices on the floor have to be real-time. Consumer behaviour in all domains leave digital trails, combined with ‘smart things’ (RFID). But intelligence also implies tapping into the social conversations online pre- , during and post physical in store experience.

Intelligence also have to be the tuner to competitive outlook. Even if person centric service and human touch have a great impact on revenue, consumers still do have choices to make. So intelligent price-modelling and scanning will be key. These data backbone algorithms produce prices in constant flux ;-) Higher quality and experience taxes a bit more pricey level to things, but it still have to be on the same ballpark as the most low-cost option online. As with the Bazaar, where local store owners do mutual adjustment to prices, but then in the sales-pitch ‘haggle;-)


Rebooting enterprise collaboration: the emerging Social Intranet

November 1, 2010
 

Social Intranet, originally uploaded by fredriclandqvist.

Collaboration runs the show in any business, since we all are social creatures and even if mechanical devices helps us to become more networked it all boils down to our inherited path of social constructs. Internet have been the melting pot of new opportunities, and lately with masscollaboration and macrowikinomics we see emerging new practices in basically any domain.
So why is still the Intranet such an difficult place to be in? Land of confussion!
Well from my researchers perspective, having the intranet as platform perspective it is all pretty clear. We lack the open tinkering and innovation of the Internet. Command and control still runs the internal scene, not only from a techie perspective, but even more in terms of governance of the intranet (instead of networked/community based intranet governance?) and use patterns. Business models and ways of working do not change that easy! All Enterprise 2.0 gurus share the same stories about angst to change, and user adoption of the emerging social collaborative platforms, regardless of brand of choice.
From the end-user perspective, we get disjoint end-user experience and clutter rather than slick, simple and seamless workspaces where we are able to contribute and share in the on-going conversations inside and outside the corporate walls. The traditional intranet that we all have used, do reflect top-down publishing metaphores and sometimes look like maze-like gigantic fileshares. Side by side to this creature we have also seen the growing use of collaborative (CSCW) platforms since the 90’s now reshaped in web collab workspaces, such as Sharepoint or the like. When the ambition is set to become the web desktop for any user, we also link to business applications that is supposed to support our daily work (tasks). Sadly the abundance of business apps really clutter the user-experience. Seamless is the last word the end-user use in my research. The remedy is then focused on knowledge discovery, or as the end-user puts it: I want to Google my internal work spaces, rendered as the intranet. Not an easy task, as we all know!
Rebooting the business? Why social web themes outside will drive change inside…
Intranet challenges derived from experience, research and elsewhere that any Intranet Manager needs to think about
  1. Findability
  2. Connectivity / Connecting People
  3. Interoperability / Integrated
  4. Ease-of-use
  5. Externalisation
  6. Mobility
Do these reflect your business challenges as well?
The 5 mega-trends in the intranet space, envisioned from Jane McConnell:
#1 The intranet is becoming the front-door into the “workplace web”, #2 team-oriented, #3 real-time,  #4 place-independent, #5 people focused
How to disenthrall the personlized one-stop-shop (portal) intranet paradigm
The last decade most organisations have joined the enterprise portal journey. The casualties, and wounded from the trenches with intranet-professionals tells a bloody story for us to consider going forward. Failures in enterprise portal implementation and governance, is one of the pillars in knowledge management research in conjunction with (CSCW) collaboration backdrops! Is it possible to address the challenges above from an different angle? Through the cues in emerging Collective Action with Electronic Networks of Practice, and new ways of working for the communications guild with tight intersection to everyday work, so things do not get lost in transmission!
What new intranet design implications decrease the portal-peril?
part #1
If you mash the 4 first challenges (ease-of-use, interoperable, connected and findable) into the stew. You have too spice the design with new social flavor (emergent social software platforms) and information-mechanical (semantics) devices. First one-size-do-not-fit-all, hence the one-stop-shop will always be problematic from a information architeture  perspective. (FYI I wrote this popular science printed matter 2006, What is the right information to the right person at the right moment?)
While using Internet you use Google to locate things, but this space has become more social with referals (social objects). Google’s business model to deliver all information to all anywhere, will inside the corporation become a similar claim for the Intranet manager: ‘The intranet will be the access to all information and people, anywhere, everywhere using any device.’ Pretty bold, but as Mark Morrell Intranet Manager at BT tells his story, this overarching perspective makes his Governance model actually more crispy.
The intranet with only one landing page, being a big search button?
In the best of worlds, the internal information environment consisted of well hyper-linked resources, where content provision practice flourished with world-class information management  and all things where open to anybody. Then this might apply! Sadly, most enterprises consists of closed silos, abundance of both structured data (hidden in information systems) and unstructured data ( all the rest!) Common sensical approach to information management and structure will obviously improve findability and emerging search patterns. This part of the cake, isn’t a redesign thing, it is a never ending story of refinement. With smart-mechanical-devices (info-flow and the meta-data gadget [1,2]) givin’ a helping hand in any content provision, to lower the threshold we will see improved intranet findability.
For all of us trying to find relevant and timely content on the intranet to solve our daily issues and pains, we frequently use social networks to make-do. Connected to the corporate collective intelligence is key. This is why emerging technologies that fosters and cultivate networking and participation thrive, such as Yammer (microblogging). Cross-talk in large distributed work environments is difficult, and the ol’ school CSCW, Document Management and work-flow paradigm didn’t fullfill the ease of contribution. Several of the large scale implementations of i.e. Sharepoint2010 sites I have used for my research, have seen a exponential growth of Yammer use, contrasting the management pref. choice being Sharepoint ;-) simply because it is easy. The same goes with other more open collaborative platforms, such as wiki or blogs. Where trad. CMS contrasts simplicity in Confluence Wiki or WordPress. Interesting enough is that the better user adoption we get from collaborative platforms (open) the better findability we get! People want to have their intranet as easy to network within as Facebook, and simple to contribute in as Wikipedia, or in the blogosphere, and simple social enabled organisation as Delicious.
Interoperability, the rope-trick to keep it dead simple, as with the use of rss. If we get the second wave of users in the collaborative environment to contribute according to our high information management standards and policies with good and helping tools. We get content chunks that will be able to mashup with simple means as web oriented architecture suggest. Contrasting more complex schemes as SOA! Simplicity works, and makes sense.
When we use mashup technologies inside the intranet, social enabled collaboration and pragmatic information management we actually get ease-of-use as the business value from start. The intranet moves away from being indifferent (top-down) to become everyday work. Hence the emerging social intranet. Not one-stop-shop but a web of things, places and people connected as with Internet. Obviously intersected with SSO and proper Identity Management tools (back-end portal services). Push, pull and real-time into one vidid, and living intranet conversation!
social intranet
part #2
Externalisation and Mobility challenges. The conversations within the corporation on all levels will prosper in the emerging social intranet, but what happends with all the daily conversations that we all engage in outside the corporate walls? Social Media is all over the place, and many knowledge workers do have extreme mobile workspace environment (inluding myself). The collective intelligence and participation on the Net through either stationary or mobile devices is already in action. Sanity check reveals that many times the ordinary business users, prefer to set-up simple collaborative environments such as Google Apps / Docs with their professional networks outside the firm, instead of using the internal platform. Why you might ask, well simplicity and easy access to connect and intersect in inter-organisational conversations. This challenge, will evolve into the open-intranet (which already some corporations use daily). At the fringe of the enterprise, we see new value networks emerge. Outstanding question, what will remain in closed silos inside the intranet? and how open and tranparent do the enterprise dare to become. Loosing control and behave according to the five principles for the age of networked intelligence (wikinomics and macrowikinomics) #1 collaboration #2 openness #3 sharing #4 integrity #5 interdependence.
How do we cope with this more complex semi-internal information environment?
Diversity of talent! Organic learning, flourish! Customize to the context

The pillars of the Earth: web squared a sanity check

August 17, 2010

We all get enlightened ideas, and creative innovative challenges popping up in our minds while being at ease. Not feeling the stress from everyday life, as i.e. being on vacation.

The emerging information shadow of intelligent things, combined with our social fabric will change the perception of everyday life. Augmented Reality has changed the way we look at real things, and get new lenses. Hyped to far reaching crescendos, but still in its fancy! Stepping back into more useful challenges, we realise that the apps we are about to try out do reflect more common grounds, such as shopping helpers to do well informed choices based upon both referral social constructs, as well as pricing and location angles.

This summer, I embarked into a very nice visit to Sicily with family and friends, and while being abroad I realised a few things:

  1. The lack of connectivity, due to stupid roaming deals amongst telecom operators. While at home, you use your mobile device daily to look-up things relevant to where you are, and what you are up to at the moment. Held back by costly data-traffic deals, you feel held back by the opportunity to be connected as a tourist. Trying to locate a WiFi hotspot….. Why can’t one buy a travel-pack from your telecom operator to a specific destination? I would be happy to pay a fixed price for the ease of use….
  2. Shopping, as a nice treat when being a tourist! Ask my wife ;-) How do one compare the things available in the local setting with a global networked manner, to do well informed choices?

Web Squared do hold several options, to bridge smart things and places with mobile devices and the Net with its ever-growing social scene. Who wouldn’t be happy to raise a question about a shopping choice, and get advise from both comparison services and friends!

With all emerging web services, and mobile devices and smart things we have now a scent of what will become a reality sooner than later.  Given that I am ‘trigger happy’ when it comes to early adapter of technology, I recall one of my first mobile video encounters, sharing my experience from Milano at the Dome with the family. Crappy lo-fidelity and high-cost! Second, my first cracked iPhone that my beloved kids nicked at pool site in Turkey viewing YouTube clips from Donald Duck. The result a phone bill from hell. Lastly a recent real scenario: my wife finds a very nice product on site in Sicily, and I realise that I would like to compare both local and other on-line options to compare the product at hand. Challenged by the in-built constraints with both expensive mobile data price models, and a less coherent and seamless, easy to use service pack. My mind started to wander, if this wouldn’t be a perfect mashup social and networked business model? In its simplest incarnation, a bar code scanning app for the iPhone and an SMS-service, while being abroad. At home with fixed mobile data cost, a more seamless app with connections to Google Product Search and social consumer networks.

Coming back to work reading my flooded reader-feed finding a on-spot article, I started to use an app called Bakodo (bar code in Jap.), and it works ;-) Well it have obvious drawbacks given that it still is mainly focused on US, and do not hold a good back-end data raw material. I used my summer reading, Pillars of the Earth and got a quick response.

Bakodo iPhone AppBakodo ScanBakodo iPhone App, result listView Result in Amazon

Other bar codes didn’t match due to the constraints of raw data in the information shadow. Building a Cathedral takes craftsmanship, time, resources and effort, given the book  I read, and the same goes for the information shadow.

Similar, experience with Foursquare, WikiMe and several other location based thingy’s that I use daily. I am thrilled about how this set of services, apps and uses will meld into seamless everyday solutions.

The mashup economy, and future business networks will strengthen the consumers and improve the services, and product we use daily. Buying groceries and get detailed information about how sustainable choices you make daily, to well advised choices being in travel mode.

Our kids take this for granted, and my son (8yrs) who is a knowledge seeker, do expect my iPhone with all the apps, provide him with timely and well-matched knowledge discoveries(i.e. Wolfram Alpha my most expensive app). Drop any subject, and you will get the information handy to answer your kids.

Wolfram Alpha iPhone App

Or as Shazam looks-up new music you hear, since my doughter wants her dad to update his preferences from the Beatles?!, and connect to new vibrant youngster music ;-)


Panopticon or Beacon revisited: What’s the currency of your digital trails and social graphs?

April 24, 2010

The network society have never been more connected, and intertwined and every day we take gigantic steps into unknown territories and the philosophical appearance of ‘you/me’. In my quest, being researcher within knowledge networking in the era of Internet use, it is truly fascinating to sense this adaptive environment. Two well-known Internet brands (Google and Facebook) compete at the frontiers to learn all about the collective mind, and in their ecologies we see several symbiotic application spaces (Twitter et.al.).

Prior to the event of web 2.0 and social media and more specifically Facebook we have never had the opportunity to connect all our facets of ourselves and the networks we act within. The ease of sharing and contribute, is the main motivation for people being engaged online, since it strengthen our self-esteem, self-manifestation and persona amongst our peers. Recent emerging technologies from either Google (Buzz) and present also Facebook (Open Graph API) stress the privacy issues into new terrain. Before the event of Internet where we expose our everyday life into the digital trails of our information quest, and social networking, we didn’t have to tailor our privacy settings [1]. Some countries use surveillance on their citizens (panopticon)……are we heading the very same path on Internet? Many Internet savvy peers, who question the ‘good’ of letting your digital trails and contributions to become the currency for large brands, will reinvent tools and practices to act under the radar of corporate surveillance, no doubt about it. Whereas the crowd, not being Internet savvy stay put!

Social Mashup- here comes everybody – into one space?

Why, is something we all question in our everyday life online? It feels strange to share conversation space with relatives, peers, co-workers, customers, friends and family (including mother-in-law, and kids… expanded family).  One has to consider who will be presented with your status updates, and sometimes-different networks simply do not comprehend to messages sent. In my case, who is über-social-networked compared to many peers this happens daily.

It isn’t difficult for me being a frequent user of social media; too see these changes as disruptive to the web per se, but also too future business models. Obviously Facebook wants to tap into the knowledge about Us as Google have been doing in a very prosperous way. A snippet of Adsense success and cashflow! 10 reasons why Facebook focus on Facebook and not the open-web ;-) = $!

I really like the idea of making things easy to share, and too network with my peers to connect, and for me the web isn’t the corporate BS stuff that have been flooded since 1995 with indifferent corporate web sites. The frustrating theme in all this is that these emerging standards to do mashup, aren’t interoperable. Open Social and Facebook Connect and Open Graph do not act seamless.

Internet in either modality, stationary or mobile needs to nurture the open arena, open innovative and emerging standardisation efforts to build new application layers upon previous efforts, with no proprietary owner of one protocol. My hope is that Open Social and Open Graph use will merge into a more coherent social networked space. We all need filters to cope with information overload issues, and in that social search and social networking becomes our most tangible use patterns (Search Patterns, Design Patterns for Social Web). RSS, Twitter and future use of Open Graph will evolve in this individual channel and conversation filtering. But it won’t erase my need to embark into different search patterns. My social networks gathered in i.e. Facebook do not always match the everyday needs I have, so I don’t think Facebook will eat the whole cake from Google or similar places.

Facebook Beacon revisited, or a Google Buzz big step-into ‘social-surveillance-shit-creek’ ought to be learning spaces for these innovative brands, but still they sometimes act in such a hyper-speed manner without consideration, reflection and thought through mind-sets. Yes, innovation – but to what cost? In the best of worlds we get crowd sourcing and knowledge networking for the common good, the flip side of the coin is mobs where ignorance shows its ugly face. The ease to lever in the social contribution value chain from viewer, listener, to lastly become curator is a good thing, since the more people share the closer we get in some sense. Smart-mobs taking the means at hand to change the power relations overhaul countries with less transparency and democracy.

Lastly a reflection about the conversation about Enterprise 2.0.

I have been engaged to many different arenas to talk about the change, and what strikes me is the lack of overview perspective. IT-folks do get hooked upon the emerging technologies, but fail to go beyond the developers’ backyard. PR/Media/Marketers gurus do build early adapters networks of in-breed conversations.  But neither of these practices builds cohesive groups with mixed resources, since they have different quests to the business landscape. All reflect early adopters that test and develop the maps in the new human social terrain. Meantime everyday users contribute daily, without tag themselves as social media savvy or gurus. This later mass of people reflects all other areas within our corporations of today.

If leadership want to build future Enterprise 2.0 business, they need all of the corporate clans to collaborate and coordinate their conversations. The problem is that we are living in two different time zones, since change on the Net is in hyperspace speed, whereas internal enterprise change takes much longer time. Still intranet is a poor reflection of Internet behaviour, and usually way behind in ease of use. Mashup of our daily lives will continue, no doubt, but consider the less than zero business model always have a flip side of the coin. Your Privacy – the most tangible asset of our time.


Coaction and apophenia: patterns of the collective mind

March 28, 2010

The act of participation and collaboration is one deeply engraved pattern amongst us human beings. Our brain capacity is far reaching when it comes to adaptation. The senses we use to communicate remains the same, but our tools change as well as our everyday pursuit. Teamwork is a well-researched area, as well as knowledge management but I would like to give some cues to future networked coactions, from two similar but still different experiences. Both cases do reflect the need to coordinate, collaborate with a specific outcome and timeline. Highly time-stamped, as they both represent live events for knowledge creation. Both cases have co-located and distributed networked resources, where the first all participants work at the same enterprise and the second case several actor networks contribute in the collaboration.

Themes on knowledge networking

  1. Intra-organisational
  2. Inter-organisational

When pulling together a teamwork effort, to create any information and knowledge to be shared we all agree that being co-located will the best way to deliver. But one cannot squeeze all resources into one spot, without a great effort and to a high cost, so we daily rely on distributed networks to get things going.

How do we get knowledge flows seamless with different modalities to interaction, prior, during and after an event?

Case I: Intra-organisational. A consultancy firm with a Community of Practice, being experts within enterprise content management.

How does one expand a live event experience into a multichannel knowledge flow?

The setting, 150+ in the CoP and a corporate body with 1300+ in several countries, but mainly Swedes. A two days event off-site and a nice location with invited guest artists with fixed theme. Prior to the event a wave conversation emerged to develop the agenda, shared ideas to our joint outcome after the event. The internal SharePoint collaborative space and a Yammer mixed the channels, but the main contribution in Wave to trial multi-user-wiki experience, and to expand the prior-event conversation to the guests as well.

At the event, a live HD-Video broadcast were set-up to capture and stream the guest artists to everybody not being on-site. Collaboratively participants contributed to the vivid and lively wave conversation, and posting internal tweets using Yammer to get cross talk within the whole corporate body. The idea generation from the event, used a tailored Moderator series, were distributed resources could add questions to the participants, while listening to the video streaming experience and following the simultaneous contribution channels.

Outcome? Well, it took awhile to get all accustomed to Google Wave (well documented drawback), but when 90+ peers work from one highly connected place, in time and space. Things do emerge and new ways of knowledge contribution in a never before seen fluid way, really made the event a success. The distributed approach to invite people to an onsite experience while being away, really worked well and we got several ‘spot-on’ questions in the idea-generation in Moderator that converged well into the stew. Good quality streaming and video/sound and fun new conversational spaces enlightened all participants. The art of community is a social construct, and the digital habitats needs stewardship.

Case II: Intra-organisational. A live Tech Business Case Competition, with students, University and Corporate resources co-located and distributed

Will open-spaces and Internet based (i.e. ‘social media’) collaboration improve knowledge sharing?

The setting, 16 teams from top Universities from all over the world were invited to a 24h race, where they would develop a tech business case and present it to top-corporate management. Winner gets 25 000 USD. The joint taskforce from the corporate world and University, wanted to tap into the collective mind and the stream (‘social media’ use amongst smart MBA students anno 2010), to capture the vivid online conversation. This years quest ‘Navigating the sea of Connectivity‘!

Prior to the event several different means were used to collaborate, Google Apps/Docs, Wave, email, teleconferences, and inside the corporate walls SharePoint spaces. Different means to develop a coherent plan of actions and activities, simply put distributed-teamwork. To engage the students before arrival Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Linkedin, and a Univ. Blog and corporate dot com sites where used. At the event a very distributed team from both the corporate and university worlds acted both co-located at the university site and on the Net. All competing teams were given a twitter accounts, and shared principles for participation and contribution were used. To glue all channels together a social tagging scheme were proposed. Given that the teams managed to aggregate the online conversation regardless of contribution space in a coherent way, using Google Reader, Twingly, Tinker and Yahoo Pipes. This mashup tinkering and pragmatic approach delivered a very comprehensive and easy to use flow. During the 24h race the tweets from the different actor networks melted into one social tag space, and cascaded into live-blog entries and Facebook page updates. The same path emerged from video, sound and picture uploads. The co-located competing teams used many different tools, such as DropBox, Google Docs and Slideshare in their knowledge creation before presenting to top-management.

Post event, the ambition is set to develop a collaborative story telling based upon mashup technologies and i.e. Wave conversation (to be told in future posts)

Apophenia, the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things

Traditional collaborative spaces, i.e. old school Notes used during the 90′ and today’s corporate use of SharePoint have well documented draw backs, so will new emerging technologies in the social media and mashup spaces (Enterprise 2.0) unleash new ways of knowledge sharing internally or externally? Given these two very simple cases, there are some tangible cues:

  1. Mashup, bringing all channels together and all actor networks. Filtering is key, since we all act as individuals in the ecosystem of our everyday life. Simple integration works.
  2. Being social! Well, network effect runs the show! Constraints given the mission impossible to squeeze everybody into one room, will find its remedy using social media tools.
  3. Open collaborative spaces unleash innovation. Serendipity will be a beacon when we all connect. Cross talk inside the corporate walls or on the Net glues the collective mind into an emerging tapestry.
  4. Simplicity rules, low-cost and fast deployment of context specific collaborative spaces. Technical infrastructures and information interoperability between platforms, a modular architecture. Disruptive Technologies runs innovation.

These new tool-kits to undertake teamwork as in both cases; do give us new means to solve the problem. A richer experience! But one obvious warning to all this, it is not about the tools. The social fabric will emerge, and we do not always know which tool kit that will fit for purpose. The answer to the questions raised based upon the experience from these two separate events is:

  • To get knowledge flows seamless, one have focus on simplicity of contribution and integration
  • To expand a live event, one have to have orchestrated and well governed approach, spiced with loads of pragmatism
  • Emerging technologies for collaboration do improve the outcome

Are there any patterns of the collective mind? Yes, make-do and pragmatic tinkering works regardless of technology. We as humans adapt!

A fun notion to all this, is that prior to the events in the two cases, SharePoint worked pretty good to capture the preparation, but ones the event went live the distributed teams needed to mix modalities from being mobile (using Facebook, twitter, flickr, youtube and texting) and stationary producing blog entries, content and presentations. Micro-coordination had to cope with this multitude of channels and modalities. By no means this happened to be workflow, or traditional document management. Having SharePoint on your mobile device yet? think not! but a set of social media tools….future posts will continue these early thoughts.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: augmented reality or death by information overload?

September 7, 2009

Remember a day in life, when ‘triggers’ didn’t disturb your ‘thinking’, and you got the treat to think all through and possibly solve this issue or task at hand? Well,  I rarely do these days, being engaged into new related themes all through my working day. The stark contrast to reality when your iPhone is dead, low on battery, and you do not have any network at hand ;-) Information addicted as anything, yes I confess, this is me.

Well the theme, isn’t by any means a new one, we cary a big load of stored memories and stories easy to retrieve and read, and even act upon, but interseption of ‘friends’ connect is a new one. Who doesn’t like to be friendly and polite, responding to a email within the blink of an eye? The death is the final curtain, so death by information overload might come sooner than you think.

Filters, do matter: this is the simplest coping strategy of them all. Lay down your weapons, and face the fact, you can not address all incoming messages, read all possible rss feeds and be all around educated in all possible angles to life, universe and everything. Cherry picking, and refined and well sought for friendly tweets might be good enough.

When reading the first edition of ‘Smart Mob’ by Howard Rheingold, I got bewildered by the ‘fun experience’ to get augmented reality, and now this is in my hands as we speak. The improved reality if you will, does it make life more beautiful? well I think it surely will help a lot in many spaces, especially spiced with the ‘collective mind’ and the stream we all follow. Obviously the marketers want to tap into your brain to do major brand surgery to this space as well. Refined social filters will still rule the game. Enjoy our new improved reality, with a sanity check ones in awhile. Don’t walk into the information shadow!


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