Presenting with power means PowerPoint must not be a crutch

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We are currently planning the next Social Innovation BarCamp for 6 Nov 2010 in Sydney and I’ve just written a post about it called 4 Principles and 2 Laws of Social Innovation BarCamp.

Thinking about the state of conferences over the past few years I have become enamoured of unconferences. In the case of Social Innovation BarCamp, the sessions are facilitated conversations. That is, there is no speaker at the front of a room in a traditional sense, nor is there an audience per se.

Instead there is a facilitator or session leader who frames and encourages a conversation about the topic that they have proposed. Participants come along ready to get involved and not just sit back as an audience.

This is similar to the process Dave Winer outlines as used at the well-known BloggerCon and updates it here:

“…there is no audience, there are no speakers. There is a discussion leader, a person responsible for the flow of the discussion.”

I have concluded that the old conference model with experts out front and a passive audience is no longer sufficient to grapple with the big ideas that we must confront in business and society today. The old conference model harnesses only a small fraction of the brainpower, passion and intelligence in the room.

Further, I have come to realise that many of us are not focused on communication any longer . Instead we tend to  focus on the presentation itself. This is because the presentation tools we use – things like PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi – tend to conform our communications to their own patterns.

I realised how much of a communications crutch that PowerPoint had become for me while delivering a talk at Parliament House earlier in the year.  At the last minute I discovered that it was not possible to use my carefully prepared PowerPoint slides.  It was a cathartic experience in many ways.  It also led me to define the following law for the next Social Innovation BarCamp:

“The Law of No PowerPoint, which states simply, we know you’re used to the crutch of PowerPoint (or Keynote or Prezi, etc) but you need to leave it behind for the day. Instead use other forms of communication (perhaps draw a poster or write on a whiteboard?) to help get your message across.”
Source: Kate Carruthers

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens without the comfort of a data projector and slideshow. Now is as good a time as any to re-discover the joys of communication without relying on technology to mediate our ideas.

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Call for Papers: Haecksen Miniconf LCA2011

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The folks over at LCA2011 are running a Haecksen miniconf and have issued a call for papers closing on 24 September 2010 …

 

“The Haecksen miniconf is on again! This year, linux.conf.au is going to be held in sunny Brisbane, and we want to invite women who develop, administer and play with FLOSS to come and join us again at the miniconf.

Important: The CFP closes at midnight 24 September 2010. Selected talks will be announced early in October. That’s not much time, so get cracking!

We’re attempting to mix it up a bit this year, so we’re looking for people willing to give long talks like normal (20 or 40 minutes), but we are also after lightning talkers, panel experts, and hands-on demos.”

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Sydney’s inaugural Social Innovation BarCamp #sibsyd

Social Innovation Sydney
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Sydney’s inaugural Social Innovation BarCamp went well yesterday.

The day kicked off with an opening talk by the Hon. Bob Carr, who kindly gave his time to support this event.

Throughout the day we had some amazing networking and discussion sessions focused on creating sustainable futures and directing innovation towards social good.

We also had a lovely lunch sponsored by Cisco and coffee sponsored by AskHer.

I’m very grateful to everyone who helped out to make this event work, in particular my co-un-organisers  Selena Griffith and Michelle Williams.

There are already some amazing photos up in the Social Innovation BarCamp group on Flickr:

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Knowledge, convenience and findability (thanks @KerrieAnne)

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This amusing cat picture was suggested by my buddy @KerrieAnne as a Caturday candidate – it’s from a post by Nick Milton titled You wont use it if you can’t find it – findability in KM.

This struck me as:

(a) one very cute cat;
(b) one very important issue; and
(c) one of the age old problems of business.

On all counts, there is good reason for making this more than a cute picture to share on Caturday.

Findability is one of the biggest problems we suffer from regarding information, in particular digital information.

How often have we tried to find that thing we saw yesterday on the intranet but now cannot locate it for love nor money? How often have we tried to find that report on the shared drive that we know we wrote last year? How much enterprise disk space is wasted on storing data nobody ever uses because nobody knows what’s there?

None of these issues is new. To my knowledge we have been discussing them since the arrival of word processing and server based storage. Yet we seem no closer to an effective solution than ever. There are entire departments now devoted to knowledge management, yet our knowledge (let alone information) is still (for the most part) a semi-chaotic mess.

As Nick noted:

Your knowledge assets MUST be findable. They must be ambiently findable (which means that by their very nature, they pop up when you start looking). As knowledge managers, sometimes we spend far too much time creating usable knowledge assets, without thinking about creating findable knowledge assets (actually, we often spend too much time on capture, and ignore both usability and findability).

The interesting question is how can we make this happen? From past experience we know that asking people to add metadata to content is a hit and miss approach.

From my perspective, the most interesting candidate to help solve this problem at the moment is enterprise search technology. Sure this technology works on the findability issue and does not take care of the usability factor.

But I reckon findability is more useful at a business level. Realistically, if we could find stuff, we could improve its usability later. However, at the moment we can’t find stuff at all.

In the meantime, that’s one cute cat 😉

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Ownership, new ideas and openness

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We see much discussion of the openness and collaborative nature of the web 2.0 world. However, many of the challenges facing us as a result of this new world relate to ownership of virtual goods.

There are longstanding conventions that enable us to sort out who owns property in the real world and some of the traditional principles of property rights include:

  1. control of the use of the property
  2. the right to any benefit from the property
  3. a right to transfer or sell the property
  4. a right to exclude others from the property.

[Source: Wikipedia]

But as we move further into the digital revolution then issues of ownership regarding digital assets and virtual goods comes to the fore.

However, some of the traditions of the web – such as openness – seem to be at odds with this notion of ownership. Also legal definitions might not be keeping up with the developments of these new digital and virtual goods. For example, what are the rules around a virtual good that I give away? What jurisdiction does it live in? How does title to the virtual good transfer?

These are all the questions facing the modern music industry with the shift to digital music. Locking down access does not seem to be working. Perhaps it is time to think about this from a fresh angle?

Other related issues are copyright and defamation. The old rules often seem very clunky and difficult to apply in this new digital world.

Some interesting questions for us to sort out. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

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Libraries for the future

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I spent most of my youth and childhood hanging about in public libraries and reading their books. In fact I blame libraries for most of my quirks these days, since it was there that I was exposed to dangerous ideas from philosophers, historians and fiction authors. The local, school and state libraries provided a welcome haven away from my rowdy siblings at home and the somewhat unpleasant school bullies of my youth.

Last week I was lucky enough to join a distinguished panel at the State Library of NSW to discuss the future of libraries. The event was the Futures Forum 2010 (PDF of media release available here).

The panel and assembled librarians were considering the possible futures for libraries in NSW – looking at these via the The bookends scenarios : the future of the Public Library Network in NSW in 2030 (PDF copy of the scenarios available here).

The booksellers on our panel were very worried about the impact of e-books and readers such as Kindle or iPad on their existing business of selling physical books.

This concern is no surprise with the rapid shift of consumption towards virtual rather than physical media for both books and audio. It seems very clunky to buy a CD for music now when I can just download the music I want to my mobile phone. It’s not hard to imagine the same scenario for books once equivalent reading devices are more widely available.

Another feature of the shift to virtual goods instead of books is the growth of recommendation engines and the ability to share our enthusiasms widely and immediately via social networks.

Thus if I love a new book, article or song it is easy to share it was all my contacts via Facebook or Twitter with a click or two. And interested parties can acquire it almost immediately based upon my recommendation. Thus the role of the mediators (like booksellers) is being replaced by the broader community of my social connections.

The growing hyper-connectedness facilitated by the internet and our connected devices make sharing of media a communal thing. In the same way that we pass physical books and CDs around amongst our circles we are sharing our passion and interests for virtual media.

Libraries are either going to adapt or go the way of the dinosaur. Judging by the level of thinking, debate and discussion I saw last week, my money is on adaptation.

Of the future scenarios considered, the one I see as most probable is that libraries become shared community spaces providing a hub for local activities and collaboration.

Have you been to your local library lately? Why not get along and check it out?

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Being real

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As a child I read a story where the main character wanted to be a ‘real boy’ and not just a wooden puppet.

And this choice between being a real person – who connects with other people and things in an open and organic way – and being a puppet – driven by fear and striving and struggle – seems to be facing us all today.

Social media is merely speeding up the process.  It is helping the real people find each other and create sustaining communities.  And it is helping the others to find like-minded desperate souls.

We are at a crossroad in the future of our world.  Which group have you chosen to join?

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Real world social values and social networking

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Social media and social networking do not reduce the need for good social skills. Rather, the disconnection from physical presence in online communication makes social skills (what some call EQ) even more critical.

Some of the recent fracas rebounding across Twitter are a good example of this – covered well by various people including @kimota and @mUmBRELLA.

The basic skills for building relationships include reciprocity, negotiation ability and sharing. Also critical are the skills of walking away gracefully from an issue or staying to fight with dignity.

For many people these are skills that were learned in the playground. But what happens when people have missed these important lessons?

What happens if the person who’s been asked to run your firm’s social media activities never developed those skills in the playground? And what are the essential skills required for effective social interaction?

It seems to me that we’ve been putting up with a paucity of social skills in the workplace for a long time and it is only now that there is traceable evidence we’ve noticed that it’s a problem. Social media merely provides us with documentary evidence of the kinds of human social interactions that have been happening for aeons. The problem is that this documentary evidence now gives these unfortunate social interactions a much longer lifespan than a cranky comment in passing conversation.

Evidently on a quick shot medium like Twitter it is easy for a grumpy day or lack of coffee combined with quick fingers to lead to an explosive incident for your brand. Then the Streisand Effect can amplify the incident so that it resonates for days or weeks afterward. And, as an added benefit, the whole thing will get indexed by search engines and be findable for ages.

Social media is now providing us with tangible evidence of how many people lack (or fail to demonstrate) the basic skills required to get along well in the playground. And these are the same skills we need to work successfully with other grown-ups, both online and offline.

Goleman, one of the gurus of emotional intelligence, offers twelve questions to assess emotional intelligence. Answer ‘yes’ to half or more, (and if others who know you agree with the self-rating) then you are apparently doing okay.

The real question is how can we apply this to social media and learn how to channel the best of ourselves rather than the worst?

Goleman’s 12 Questions

  1. Do you understand both your strengths and weaknesses?
  2. Can you be depended on to take care of every detail? Do you hate to let things slide?
  3. Are you comfortable with change and open to novel ideas?
  4. Are you motivated by the satisfaction of meeting your own standards of excellence?
  5. Can you stay optimistic when things go wrong?
  6. Can you see things from another person’s point of view and sense what matters most to that person?
  7. Do you let customers’ needs determine how you serve them?
  8. Do you enjoy helping co-workers develop their skills?
  9. Can you read office politics accurately?
  10. Are you able to find “win-win” solutions in negotiations and conflicts?
  11. Are you the kind of person other people want on a team? Do you enjoy collaborating with others?
  12. Are you usually persuasive?

[Source: Goleman, Daniel. “Working Smart.” USA Weekend, October 2-4, 1998, pp. 4-5.]

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International Women's Day 2010 #IWD

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It is fascinating to note on this International Women’s Day that one of our major newspapers has an article titled “Gender pay gap shows no sign of abating

The gender pay gap can cost women up to $1 million over a lifetime

* Women earn 17pc less than men
* Pay inequality worth $1m over lifetime
* Women have more self-managed super

WORKING mothers and daughters can expect to be $1 million worse off during their lifetime, compared with fathers, as pay inequality and financial bias keep their incomes and assets low.

By Karina Barrymore
March 08, 2010 6:34AM

What does this tell us?

It tells us that even on International Women’s Day and even in Australia, the right of women to a fair go and equal treatment still has a long way to go.

It tells us that women’s higher participation in education still does to not pay off equally with men’s participation in education.

It tells us that women still need to strive together to achieve parity with men in many areas of life.

The recent Febusave campaign by ANZ also highlighted the need for women to take control of their financial destiny. Better finances are an important component of choice and freedom for women.

But these are all first world problems.

There are terrible and sad situations with women in many developing parts of the world. In those places women suffer physically and mentally due to oppression, violence and war.

On this IWD think about how we might help those women too. There’s microfinance ideas like Kiva or Unifem.

Why not reach and help a woman in developing world this IWD?

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Not just Twitter, most conversation is meaningless babble

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It’s not really meaningless babble anyway! And this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Most conversation is not important for the words we speak. Instead it is the act of being present to the other person and giving attention that gives most conversations their true value. Some experts term this social grooming.

It also enables the growth of social bonds by means of the time spent in relatively trivial communications.  These seemingly unimportant communications are what makes dealing with bigger issues between individuals and groups easier.

How much easier is it to ask for help from someone you’ve known socially for a while than a stranger? How much easier is it to know the best way to phrase a suggestion or request to someone if you’ve chatted with them before?

The important thing that social networking tools like Twitter or Facebook  (or newer tools like Google’s Buzz) enable is non-localised proximity. No longer do you need to run into a person in the office kitchen each day to build up informal social ties.  Now we can do it from half a world away in real-time.

It’s also worth checking out Dunbar on this kind of thing.

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