Festering lumps of postponed embarrasment: will Wave enlighten the CMS world?

October 18, 2009

The work practice amongst many Internet site-owners, intranet managers, content owners and communication’s professionals, tell the very same never ending story, that the prevailing CMS worldview is hampering their daily work practice. Why is this the fact still anno 2009? Independent of ‘brand of choice’ in the web content management sphere. Some better, some are less good, but the outstanding issues won’t go away that easy.

The work practice being a content editor cover three very simple steps: cope with the incoming business triggers that might become content or news [I,II,III], evaluate the story through social networking with peers and involved stakeholders [IV]; Second prepare the actual text, with good wordsmith practice including ‘clean up’ the incoming material from the providers. Usually through email conversations, using attachment and Word file, that needs to be run through the text formatting washing machine prior to entering it to the actual CMS editor environment. Topping this step comes the cumbersome process of putting the content into context with proper meta-data, tagging schemes and cross-linking before shooting it out into publishing mode [V]. Sometimes the techies have also added the workflow publishing purgatory before the editor actually will be able to view the content in context. Some less fortunate lost souls in the communicators/content editors network might even have to use user-unfriendly user-interface that stops them from actually ‘seeing/viewing’ the content before entering the workflow publisher purgatory. Not to mention, that cross-linking might be the content file share from hell quest, rather than easy link-in-context.  Linking is probably one of the most hot-topics to any site owner. Everybody loves a cross-linked web, internally or externally, or if you are a robot from a well know search engine. However, being content editor puts you in a conflict with your own backyard trying to finish your story timely and skip deep linking.

The three main problem domains, in any CMS relate to these steps

  1. Collaboration prior to publishing the content
  2. Putting content in context
  3. Findability, derived from poor information architecture and management practice

New ways/waves of collaboration/conversation

Given the in-built features to Google Wave there are several positive options (when Google Wave will finally will be released, I have only done early trials as all of us in this space). When you work within a large corporate setting the networking amongst your peers is really a problem, even if you work within one and the same CMS. Regardless of CMS backbone, the lack of easy collaboration prior to publishing is always done in environments outside the actual CMS (read email threads and attachments). From the editors position this co-ordination of entries to content and reviews of peers or stakeholders is time consuming to say the least, but the built-in ‘lock-in’ thinking with both the CMS world per se, and email and MS Office document increases the headache. In my research, with in-depth on-site work sitting co-located with editors in global large corporations the last 4-5yrs, this has become one of my main contribution to my forthcoming dissertation. Content or news provision will often be lost in transmission. Obviously there are times when content creation needs to address closed settings, given the sensitive nature of the actual information, but the bulk load of work do not fit into this space. Hence, there is a great opportunity to open up the collaborative environment using Google Wave/Docs tinkering, instead.

The two main contributions to the quality of the content provision relates to decrease of coordination work keeping track of versions of the text circulating in the process. Second, with proven poor deep-linking status to many intranet or Internet sites this will be enforced, since the contributors will be able to add links on the fly in the provision process. When all collaboration and work-in-progress development is set and the editors finally enter the content base into the CMS (preferable through simple integration from the Wave to CMS world).

Lastly the open collaborative environment will make this work more transparent to other peers in the network, which is one core problem. You do not always know who too invite into the provision process. Many stories uncovered in my own publications shows exactly this backdrop to the CMS world. If you have more than 2000+ editors on a global scale it will become impossible to keep social ties in all levels, even if you share the very same work practice. All clusters/networks of editors do serve different parts of the business. In stark contrast to other commentators into this debate, I think the Wave infused CMS world will showcase its best performance in large scale implementations. Not to say that we are going to see 2000+ edits into one and the same Wave, but the flat structure to document creation and the open structure will enforce an much more precise delivery. I dare to say, that if the CMS world don’t reformat the old file share, container document equivalent mind-set they will become obsolete.

Future post into this space will continue the last two hot topics, ‘put in context and my special interest in findability 😉

I will report on on-site implementations of Wave and CMS integration forthcoming, since several of my clients and research domains do undertake early trials as we speak. Moving away from the traditional CMS space? Why give an ‘old school’ and outdated CMS to so many editors, when all they might actually need sits in simple tools like WordPress or Google Docs/Wave? What is the cost benefit analysis to this? I have worked with the counterpart of BIG brands in the CMS world, and they all fall into the very same snake pit, sadly!

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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!


Enterprise Inferno, are you Content?

August 28, 2009

There is a big divide in how the internal information environment, e.g. intranet, we use daily in any work practice works compared to our external use of Internet services and resources. Being a researcher with focus on enterprise content management, knowledge management and social networking this becomes the beacon and most obvious reply I get daily from respondents in either surveys or in interviews.

Enterprises do emerge, and grow into the big corporations over time, depending upon the business climate they act within and time. Enterprises are social constructs, where our inbuilt behaviour of using tools will be the competitive advantage if the human actors will be content with their task.

Being social implies that we act with different facets (mind-sets) depending in what network our interaction takes part. Our minds share ideas, interests or other relational aspects to life. The outfit we carry relates to our perceived role in the network, e.g. while at work we have assigned roles and responsibilities that come with expected outcome, look and feel. Our experience and know-how is embodied in the craftsmanship, in how we act and solve problems at hand. We all depend upon given infrastructures in life, as traffic rules, or shared spaces like Intranet, cities or houses. We walk around in this maze of defined or undefined infrastructure. In our quest to reach out to our networks and engage in conversations, we have always used different communication tools, today reflected with Internet use. Media is our storytelling techniques to share insights stored on papyrus scrolls or multimedia spaces like YouTube. Lastly we hang out in groups/networks, like to play different characters in these settings, either being within the family, with friends, co-workers, or neighbours or fellow citizens.

being social

being social

The business environment that we all act within stresses new options to solve our daily tasks at hand with our peers and with good leadership (if possible). The problem is that size doesn’t always matter if the counterpart of competitive advantage lies in the hands of human’s social behaviour. Obviously some businesses have very expensive tools (resources), and in the industrial era the access to these resources gave an upper hand.

How to cope with this inferno? The answer might be within reach, when corporations turn into networked entities within their realm and embrace the emerging collaborative opportunities outside the company walls. Not invented here, might be the key to future success, if cultivated into the spines of culture of the enterprise. If corporations don’t accelerate and become more adaptive and agile, they will become yesterday’s news, and left over’s in the trash bin of the enterprise world. Simply put, end-users realising that their internal information environment won’t realise good enough findability, will refocus outside the company wall. With despair reaching out to the larger community living on Internet.

A Healthcare & Lifescience scenario

What is the enterprise today? It is all about networks! A very recent and hot topic, that will be useful to illustrate the new tapestry, is the healthcare and life science space.

There are obvious actors in the network, but they fail to converge into a coherent semantic space, where the citizen and patients will be tightly intersected. The bolts in this meccano are the enterprise applications supporting the process, to either provide efficient healthcare, or develop new treatments that will improve life for us being humans. All supporting information systems within the work practice have grown out of proportions, and now when national or international actors try to harmonise the structure. They fail to see the crispy and clear picture! Focus should be set to the edges and use interoperability as one building block, combined with social constructs and behaviours deeply embedded into the pragmatic work practice. Instead the technology and deterministic worldview still prevail: lets build ONE system (large scale)

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

All available research within the domain enterprise wide system, enterprise architecture and the diffusion of technology, shows with thousands of academic papers and best-practice and valued data that this path will only lead to failure.

Crowdsourcing and inviting the citizen and patients to a co-creation of better healthcare and life science is the only feasible route. The national imperatives should only state traffic rules, improve network infrastructure, such as interoperability means and reach for open innovation spaces where practitioners will be able to create common good. One outstanding critical issue relates to new identity and security management standards to be able to be more open without loosing credibility. Patient data shouldn’t be widely open!

Emerging Architectures will rule

It is all happening as we speak that new value networks create both greater speed to change and real value back to the end-user community than traditional value chains ever have. For IS/IT professionals one have to cope with the perpetual beta and technology drifting as the building block in the architecture. Good examples with Twitter ecology, or Facebook and Google Open API Lego pieces. The enterprises that release to power in ‘emerging architecture‘, and open innovation in their value network will get content end-users. And the inside-out picture will be blended into new ways of doing business, e.g. enterprise 2.0 thinking. The culture of change is represented by for instance Cisco, as Tom Malone, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, sees Cisco as a pioneer for a larger trend. Traditionally, he says, management was about “command and control”. Now, as technology makes communication much cheaper, bosses should move to a more flexible view, best described as “co-ordinate and cultivate


Combatants: on eachothers turf, surfin’ the waves or another ‘blingbling’ bing?

June 2, 2009

The last two weeks have been very promising with new launches and sneak previews into what the giants are up to while old enterprises are going down (GM). Google strikes its first really vital attack to the one pillar in the Redmont Castle, being MOSS by launching its amazing waves concepts. I truely like the freformedness and streamy spirit to collaboration and conversation, that might overcome the knowledge sharing problems from the past. From the other side of the ring, we get a airy punch from northwest reaching for the findability organs. First impression from the search experts is pretty lame. Bing will evolve into semantic and a structured data exposé and I reckon there are some real Norweigan Wood built into the house to make-do.

Emerging technologies like wave, WolframAlpha and Bing fuels the Enterprise 2.0 scene. Outstanding questions raised, is when will these things go live in reality inside and outside the corporate environent. My humble answers, sooner than later, given the speed of change we all are undergoing. Business need to be reshaped to value networks and reach for new open innovation spaces to get profitable. The end-user community, you and me, demand simplification and interoperability. Hence firsts trials will probably be in the crossroads where different business ecologies meet and re-invent new networks, as in the intersection for Lifescience, Healthcare and citizens/patients. Each vertical have their own spices to the stew, but it will all become new semantic meaning to our daily lifes on the net.


Hitchhiker’s Guide: the ‘collective mind’, your new travel companion?

May 26, 2009

With vacation soon within reach, one starts to reflect upon ‘travel experiences’. In the hay days being youngster and backpacker late 80’s and early 90’s, before the omnipresent “Net” you travelled the world with pocket travel guides, and the serendipity of meeting new friends along the road.  Yellow notes in youthostels told you true storytelling from travel-companions, cues on what goes and what sucks… Go with the flow, and enjoy!

Since the event of the web in mid nitties, we have never seen so much content and web services dealing with travel/tourism experiences: both business travel, and true leisure. Virtual travel, is something my son (six years old), enjoys in his mind boggling journeys using GoogleMaps and GoogleEarth 😉

Dad, lets visit the Grand Canyon again before departing to Münich to glanze at ‘his’ cousins house….

What strikes me and others[swedish] is the lack of simplicity when being in pre-travel modality. You have a hunch or a gut feeling on what you are getting at, but fail to be on spot. Almost every travel site or booking site on the web use the very same trope: Business Travel! You know when you are about to depart; where you are going to have your meetings and when you are about to travel to your home sweet home. While being in travel mode you might even use some spare time to recreation? events or whathaveyou. Best Practice amongst the travel & tourism business community, have picked up some early on success stories from business travel sites, and the road have eroded ever since…. For us being in leisure less well planned travel mode. This state of affairs don’t match at all. A ‘Human Companion’, that guides you please? and you reach for the phone to call the travel-agent instead. The problem with the agent, is that he or she have to cope with the very same difficult end-user experience, and in many cases even worse ‘terminal based’ access to pre-Dinosaur relics, while keeping you in the conversation to make the reservation. The incentive! And not to mention, she/he only give you the experiences she has an incentive to book. No kidding 😉

Simple everyday scenario (me and my beloved wife in conversation about possible nice places to pay a visit):

wife: wouldn’t it be nice go to some warm place in the autumn?

husband: huh! (trying to evaluate the cost benefit analysis of continuing the dialog, having ‘credit crunch’ news stories crispy and clear in mind and with sanity check to the family expenses)

wife: can’t you find a set of ‘affordable travel experiences’ to pick from ( somewhere, in a undefined timesphere? being rainy season here in Sweden)

husband: well I could try Google….(after hours trying different travel portals, and booking sites, he fails to please the wife and her less well defined question to get a nice vacation)

Why don’t we add a ‘smart’ decision support system to help us? It is not information overload, it is filter failure!

The data about world travel, bookings and statistics are all there in the cloud, in conjunction with the ‘storytelling’ from the social media. Heureka, WolframAlpha might be the future solution to our quest? If mathematica have the ability to answer simple questions like ‘San Francisco to Tokyo‘ with simplicity, why on earth not make an investment to infuse all travel and tourism (pre-dinosaur) information systems with brilliant algoritms to compute the question raised from my beloved wife above…..

In pre-booking mode you only need rough guides to what fit for purpose, and when different travel destinations would suite your vacational dream, romatic weekend or whatever you are looking for. If you also added ‘the stream‘ to get the ‘collective mind‘ as your travel companion, boosted with  a similar end-user experience as WolframAlpha, combined with GoogleEarth (virtual travel)?! To develop this master travel experience, the travel and tourism industry need to embrace ‘open innovation‘ and release their internal data, work coherently and networked with service providers like WolframAlpha to unleash the beast. In the best of world we would see a change towards simplicity and ease-of-use, where each and every node in the network worked with great interoperability (sharing data) and use similar services.

When being in transactional mode, doing the actual booking: the scenario is pretty much straight forward eCommerce, but there are options to add temporal and contextual experiences from the Net. Similar to Amazon and the world famous cross-linking. Bare in mind, this would best be rendered in a ‘sites network ecology’, not ‘a site’ tinkering.

When you finally do travel and enjoy the treasures of the world of tourism ‘the stream’ will feed you with temporal, spatial and timely triggers to your mobile ubicomp devices.  I wrote about  similar scenarios in earlier research papers, with the case story for VisitSweden and now the social media extention CommunityofSweden (both being award winners).

If we don’t get killed by the stream I hope that Steven D. Levitt will develop some comprehendible Freakonomics story to make-do to convince the travel and tourism industry to behave more like our travel companion. I wish you all joyful journeys going forward.


42: interoperability and computational knowledge a fun early ride….

May 18, 2009
Ever felt happy using your computer? Well today I had one of those rare moments, when my face smiled from ear to ear while tryin’ the infamous new quest to human knowledge. WolframAlpha, is still in the first crawling modes, but computational knowledge have never been so easy to reach [intro-show]. WA won’t answer all my questions to life, universe and everything [D. Adams], but you bet I will be unbeatable in any Pub Quiz going forward using Cuil, Blinkx and WolframAlfa in a nice combo of Question:Answer sessions, topped with a pint of Guiness.

If the answer is 42 ( my age very soon, still being a man in his prime, 41), we all ask ourselfs what is the question?

Well, in my practice working with information management issues, I pretty often ran across interoperability problems when diving into the wast informtion environment of any large scale corporate landscape. Business Intelligence crowds, wish their cubes and datawarehouse binary & digits filled respositories could be as fluent as WA to the end-users never ending quest to make up new possible matchmaking efforts. Even before getting there, we need to take all the data to the laundry. From my very narrow perspective, I forsee WA-fused apps in the corporate landscape where internal data will be matched real-time with WA engine public domain knowledge. As intel inside logo, we will get apps all over the place with WA enabled.

Math will be the most sexy major subject of them all: imagine a classroom at University crowded with newly enlighted pupils, and equally gender based 😉

I wish I had a snippet of brain capacity from Dr Wolfram, but hell no. I am a mediocre ‘wannabe’… Well in times of crowdsourcing You don’t have to be the smartest IQ wise person. Good enough will do, and adding time and spritit and networking skills to the pot, will give even you a taste of knowledge/expert amongst peers and friends. This is why I found it a bit strange that, apart from the community at the site, there were no visible way to connect users using the WA-engine? and by that visualise new ground breaking ways of constructing clever questions…. well I am pretty sure that this will be amended in WBeta or even before that.

Well now I gotta invent ‘clever’ questions, and that isn’t all to easy. I have the answer, 42 but will I do with that? Friends, that is what we all will see in the future that is a bit sunnier today.


Citizen (in)sanity: What Enterprise 2.0 unleash into the E-Government Mash-up Soup?

March 30, 2009

The expectations too forthcoming e-government is huge! As citizen we expect the different ‘service bodies’ that is reflected as the state, region/county, city or neighbourhood to act in a new agile and flexible manner. Transparency to the public sector is by all means something we see as a true democracy milestone. This new agenda for the public sector, regardless if it is police, hospitals, schools or other domains unleashes pretty obvious glitches in the tapestry. In many cases we as citizens fail to reach out to the service providers, simply because we don’t know or care how they are organised and whom is set as responsible and who to contact. Many everyday needs from us citizens, reflect end-user scenarios where we would like to have a public sector that acted as one layered service provider with simple and easy access, but reality check show us it is truly a maze we enter. Inter-organisational relations and shortcomings into the well-known social norms of power and knowledge sharing, stresses that we as citizens fall in between different service providers.

In a world prior to Internet and ‘Googlish’ instant access to information and services, this would still hold up in court. Bureaucracies have this inbuilt aura: hence Franz Kafka’s very illustrative and still vital trilogy, the Castle, the Trial and America. Now we as citizens don’t accept these loose ends and no means tinkering: We want perfect information delivery instantly regardless of were about we are, being at office, at home or moving around.

Findability is key to all this, from an E-Government perspective. If we as citizens can’t find the information needed to act coherently with the service providers and other citizens the trust decrease rapidly. In many cases E-Government have focused on perfecting the ‘work-flow’ and business processes behind the scenes within different silos of organisational units. Before we as citizens transcend from information seekers into transactional modalities to “ask for a specific service delivery”, we need to find the information. Or cues to interaction with the service providers…

The new transparent open public sector behaviour is something that we as Swedes have set as one of the key take a ways of being citizens in one of the most open societies on earth, but the truth of the matter is that we in several occasions through out our life journey get Kafkaian public sector experiences 😉

A very tangible scenario is emergency response where several different actors need to coordinate their effort to save lives amongst us citizens. Recent research from my fellow researcher (Jonas Landgren) at the Viktoria Institute, and practice have shown obvious glitches that might be solved using open arenas, emerging technologies with a ubiquitous information environments where we as citizens ‘co-act’ in time-critical actions. The term that reflect this emerging social networking is ‘smart mob‘.

There are a set of key elements to future design, one have to consider regardless if one have responsibility to a city web site portal or other more local/specialised information services.

  1. Information interoperability within the network of actors and the ubiquitous information environments. Mashup technologies and simple web oriented architecture (WOA) and to some extent service oriented architecture (SOA). The later hampered with way to complex integration schemes compared to WOA.
  2. Spatial (geographic), and temporal (time) navigation and pathways to information and humans
  3. Genre as means to lever ‘wayfinding‘ in all digital domains. Language constructs, like metadata (i.e. Dublin Core),  controlled vocabularies, ontologies, taxonomies and folksonomies (social tags) are the building blocks to the information architecture, and future semantic web. Healthcare have one very active interest group to cope with these central issues, and more groups do emerge within e-government/public sector.
  4. The need to reach for levels and granularity in information delivery: most users need very local/individual information that is bridged to global information.
  5. Guided Classification and inter-linking in all content provision, to improve information quality and findability.
  6. Decentralised and dispersed governance models, where we as citizens collaborate, have conversations and co-act with service delivery actors. Social Media integrated into daily practice. Transparency stress new ways of working!
  7. Portal top-down tinkering will fail, act in a networked manner. No service stands in the “top”, since end-users will dive into the details and not start their journey in a expanded file-share from hell click trip!

Obviously technology is one mean to this, but most of the design criteria is sound “common sense” human social norms. Lastly do not re-design, refine…. Act in everyday use, and have the word pragmatic as the standard.

All in all many of the search patterns give hands-on fixes, such as the use of facets, best-bet and other means to guide the citizen.

Concluding remarks

Wayfinding and navigation being a citizen is very individual: we start our journeys from different perspectives and with  different levels of knowledge. A ‘Google start’ with a explicit quest in a query, or guessing a “top-node” starting point, i.e the local hospital, city, region or whatever granularity we reach for. Any ambition to make-do of one ‘costume for all purpose’ will be destined to fail! This mash-up behavior unleashes the urgent need to collaborate, and open-up a mixed experience. When we as citizens finally get a clue on to whom we need to engage with to get the set of packaged services needed. There are outstanding and unresolved patterns of integration and disconnected none inter-operative supporting service. In this complex scenery one should apply ‘good enough’ and ‘dead-simple’ integration (i.e RSS, Widgets) to not reach ‘dead-lock nirvana’ with power relations blocking any feasible way of make-do. Here we see notions of future intermediary such as Google Health that takes on the individual/personal health records (PHR).

If the public sector manages to re-format its daily everyday practice to become more Enterprise 2.0 oriented, the emerging citizen social networking and knowledge sharing will be traces of collective action to create innovation commons.

May the force be with you!

Further recent post within Government 2.0: partI & partII leaves a few hints, but my own reflection is that public sector can only act as one with a networking practice across boundaries with all involved actors!

Note: Other related topics, such as Usability, End-User centric development (UX) and participatory design and accessability to name a few have been take for granted!