Knowledge, convenience and findability (thanks @KerrieAnne)



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 😉

Annalie Killian … a woman Catalysing Magic

Here is another post in my series on inspiring women.

This time it is my friend Annalie Killian, who is also known as Catalyst for Magic (yes that is really the job title on her business card) or as @MaverickWoman on Twitter.


I’ve known Annalie for many years and have always been inspired and energised by her. Over the years she has evolved as an organisational change agent (catalyst) and intrapreneur. Yet several constants have remained with Annalie over the years, for example, her:

  • passion for change,
  • generosity of spirit,
  • extreme curiosity, and
  • deep joie de vivre.

Here is a bit of insight into the life journey of this woman who has challenged stereotypes and travelled far. In her own words:

How/Why I’m doing what I’m doing now?

Let me start with what I am doing now, then I’ll try and cover the how and why.

Since 2000, when I moved to Australia from South Africa, I have worked as “Catalyst for Magic” at AMP, a large iconic Australian Financial Services brand. My role is Director of Innovation, Collaboration and Communication, and I see it as championing the spirit of “ubuntu” – a Zulu word referring to our inter-connected Humanness” – in all its rich and imaginative and complex essence- and directing that magic towards meaningful and purposeful work and business outcomes. Call it culture, call it engagement, call it creative collaboration, collective intelligence– it’s all of that, and it’s what sets one company apart from the next.

Why I am doing what I’m doing now?

My best friend, who unfortunately died of cancer at age 33, sent me a card after a particularly trying incident working for an extreme bully, GM of Human Resources at the time at the Bayside Aluminium Smelter in South Africa. She said: “You will outlive him…you are a survivor- it’s inevitable”. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now….and I think the essence of what she was referring to is my resilience, resourcefulness and extreme adaptability.

So why do I do what I do? Maybe it was inevitable…I thrive in it! As a corporate maverick, I dodge, weave, swim upstream and take a lot of set-backs but keep on purpose when it comes to innovation and bringing others along. And yes, it is unsettling for some who want to cling to the status quo or the past.

How do I do it?

If “life is what happens when you are making other plans”, then I guess I don’t make too many plans but rather find ways to apply my strengths to opportunities I spot and shape my work that way. I have an insatiable curiosity and am highly attuned to faint signals that others often don’t notice. Believe it or not, these skills were forged in childhood by personal circumstances and it taught me to pick up on almost imperceptible signals and anticipate scenarios- giving me the best ability to cope and navigate through challenges. And I am

Who would have thought that this was preparing me to become a change agent, working in innovation in a large corporation, nurturing the adoption of ideas and collaboration among many to anticipate disruption, embrace change and overcome threats?

My proudest breakthroughs include facilitating the first democratic elections in South Africa in the Zululand region to a peaceful outcome in 1994, establishing the first Community Foundation in Africa and building that into a powerful transformational agency, and establishing + producing the AMPLIFY Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival since 2005. The latter two were the result of spotting signals early and converging many ideas into a powerful vision.

What is the best piece of advice you have ignored to get where you are?

Sticking to the straight and narrow road! I have always meandered down ally-ways and side-streets, and these have yielded the richest discoveries and sometimes set me on a totally different trajectory.

How many times did you nearly give up when things went wrong & what kept you going at those times?

Know that cartoon about the frog trying to strangle the Pelican that’s eating him? That’s me. I can be almost compulsive-obsessive when I want something. I NEVER give up. I just find a different way. And, I have learnt patience…I can bide my time. This is the hardest of course, but I have been rewarded more times than not by letting go of something and then revisiting it at a later time when circumstances caught up. Ideas can be way ahead of their time and one must be willing to cultivate the eco-system to prepare it for an idea. (This feels counter-intuitive because we know how slow organisations can be to change- but there’s no point forcing something so hard that it forces YOU out!)

Are you actually happy?

Yes! Unequivocally yes! I don’t have a perfect life, or actually perfect anything…but it’s sort of all working and there is harmony most of the time. I still have lots of ambition that I hope to realize and it would be great to really push my talents to see where the limits are. There are a few big dreams still looking for a physical manifestation- I’d like to play in a larger international arena and I would also like to help my 2 daughters achieve their dreams. One wants to be a musician and learn Mandarin so she can sing in China, and the other one wants to be a fashion stylist/ editor. I’d like to study Alternate Health like massage therapies as a hobby. (I love spoiling people!)

What do you wish you hadn’t sacrificed to be such a success?

It’s a flattering question, though I don’t think of success as a destination, more as a work-in-progress.

I have not been balanced at all times…favouring the mind and not honouring the body equally. I don’t sleep much…there’s so much living to be done! But no, I have never regretted not sleeping more!

I think my daughters have missed not coming home to cookies and milk served by me, but I don’t do guilt. I know they have gained in many other ways through the way I parent them, like a belief that being deeply immersed in doing something you love and becoming good at it is one of the most pleasurable things in life, and that all mastery requires effort. It’s very funny when I hear them sharing these thoughts with their teenage friends!

What mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

I make mistakes all the time…it comes with taking risk and learning. But it’s crucial to be very observant and spot a mistake quickly, then fix it immediately. It helps to have low ego and attachment to a process so you can amend it without feeling like it’s a loss of face!

Outside of a criminal offence, there are few mistakes one cannot overcome professionally or personally. But some mistakes can shadow you throughout your life. One of those is choosing a partner that is not right for you- and being tied to a bad scenario for a lifetime until your children are adults. That’s about the only warning I can give! And…mistakes should not be wasted, they are vessels of personal growth.

What would be the point of a mistake-free life? Can’t think of anything more boring!

OMG the Onion is right about social networking – IMHO it changes nothing yet it changes everything

This post was inspired by a humorous post on The Onion, titled:

“New Social Networking Site Changing The Way Oh, Christ, Forget It: Let Someone Else Report On This Bullshit”

It was shared by my friend Mark Pesce via Twitter this morning and gave me a chuckle while I was on the train. But then it reminded me of the well known Christian/Jewish scripture:

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Which is the ancient wisdom that explains why 1980s fashion is trendy again. However, it also gives us an insight into humans. While we change the tools – from stone axes through to guns and computers – it is hard to change the fundamental architecture of humans and their behaviours.

We’ve all seen the breathless announcement of yet another innovative/ groundbreaking /game-changing/ revolutionary /cool /[insert appropriate PR buzzword] social networking application. But what does it change really? Certainly not the people who use it.

However, what it does change is the affordances available to the person. For instance Twitter enables almost instantaneous broadcast communication around the world (of course that is when the API is not down). Thus a cranky comment, that would once have traveled all the way across the office without that technology, can now annoy someone in London quite easily.

Thus it never fails to amuse and annoy me in equal parts when people act just like people do everywhere on social networks and it is reported as if this is some special property of social networks. 

Those people who are ill informed idiots were like that before they ever defaced a Facebook memorial or something similar. These behaviours do not arise ex nihilo in a person just because they signed up to a social network. But the social network context might help to amplify that behaviour.

The case is well argued by Tom Stewart in his post Don’t blame social media for bad behaviour.

The technology creates new affordances for people. It amplifies any behaviours and actions far beyond what used to be possible. Thus my comment that “it changes nothing, yet it changes everything”. We as a society will have to find new ways of dealing with this amplification of normal human behaviour and actions. I suspect it’s the beginning of a long journey.

Leadership – it is hard to define but I know it when I see it

That heading was inspired by the well known saying regarding pornography by Justice Potter Stewart:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]”

by Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.

I was reading this case recently and it occurred to me that leadership is a bit like that too.

There are a myriad of management texts and cases that seek to define and categorise leadership. In the end leadership is hard to define at a purely theoretical level. But when I see it in action is blindingly apparent. And as an interesting corollary its absence is also apparent. Two cases illustrate this point:

  1. Christine Nixon in the 2009 Victorian bushfires
  2. Tony Hayward in the BP oil disaster of 2010

In each case the leader demonstrated by words and/or deeds that they were not fully on the job while their people were dealing with a desperate situation. They were not present in various ways to guide, reassure, direct, console or otherwise interact with workers, participants, victims, and other stakeholders in the particular situations in which they found themselves.

I know that these actions or words don’t look like leadership. Perhaps it is easier to describe leadership by what it is not?

Here’s a few of my thoughts:

  • Leadership is not walking away for recreation when your people are working through a crisis
  • Leadership is not complaining because people are angry with you (even though what they’re angry about might not be your direct fault)
  • Leadership is not whining
  • Leadership is not finding excuses
  • Leadership is not running away from problems

So who do I think is a good leader? One person that stands out for me is the Captain of the local Rural Fire Brigade – an unassuming chap whose name I shall not reveal (as he’d be a tad embarrassed). He does the opposite of the things listed above. He’s a steadying influence in a crisis and is there when we need him. Pity someone like him was not on duty with BP for their crisis.

Marysville, bushfires, cooking and rebirth

This recipe was shared by my buddy Heather for an upcoming barbecue that I’m planning.

The story behind this cookbook is sad but heartwarming all at once. As Heather explains:

Saturday 7th February 2009, now known as Black Saturday, saw the state of Victoria devastated by uncontrollable bushfires. Many towns were wiped from the map, thousands of buildings were lost and 173 people perished.

The devastation of Marysville was almost total.

The township needed something that was theirs and theirs alone. So I created the “Cookbook for Marysville”. Almost 300 copies were printed and given to the residents of Marysville with a message of hope and of thanks to emergency personnel.

Many people wanted to buy the book. I commissioned a second print run and the book is now for sale at $30.00.

$10 from each and every book, will be returned back to the town through various community ventures. I shall publish updates on sales and where the money is going, along with recipes from the book, at the Marysville Cookbook blog.

This book is 165 pages, including 28 pages of photos of the old Marysville taken by residents both past and present.

This recipe is an ideal dessert for a BBQ:

Baked Oranges

Serves 6

6 Oranges
60g of Butter
3 Tbspn of Brown Sugar
Grated Rind of 1 Orange
1 Tbspn Orange Liqueur (Optional)
¼ Cup of Orange Juice

Cut the outside skin and all the pith from the oranges and cut so the base will sit flat. Cut the oranges across into slices. Carefully put the whole oranges into individual foil squares which are large enough to enclose them. Mash the butter with the brown sugar and orange rind. Dot the top of the each orange with this. Fold the packets up but don’t seal the top yet. Mix the orange juice with liqueur and divide between the packets. Pinch to seal. Bake at normal heat over an indirect fire in a kettle barbeque for

15-20 minutes or in a moderate oven (180’C) for 15 minutes. Open carefully so as not to spill any juices.

Why not order a copy now at www.marysvillecookbook.com and help this community to rebuild?

Perhaps progress on the Telstra ADSL front?

Received an email from Telstra Bigpond as follows the other day:

“Telstra realises that there has been a delay in responding to your enquiry and we would like to extend our apologies. Your email has now been received by our department and we have included a response to your email below.

If you would like to supply us with the phone number, including the STD area code, that you wish to have BigPond Broadband ADSL connected to, and address, we will be able to advise of ADSL availability on this line.
Yours sincerely,
Rick Palma
On behalf of Justin Milne
BigPond Customer Service Team”

I am waiting to see if anything positive comes of this, will continue to note progress here.

The digital revolution is not going away

The following post is from a talk I gave at the Gov 2.0 lunch on Monday 31 May 2010 at Parliament House in Canberra.

The internet is a strange beast; it is everywhere and nowhere all at once. Unlike traditional media – with its registered offices, chief editors, and boards of directors etc. – the internet is amorphous yet powerful – and it is still only a teenager. And it is changing the face of human communication in ways we are only just beginning to understand.

As a business person and former public servant I can see the organisational challenges thrown up by the digital revolution. As marketer I adore the power of the digital revolution for marketing and communications. As a technologist I find the democratisation of technology world-changing. And as a citizen I wonder how this will all affect my world.

The digital revolution is manifesting changes in social behaviour and consumer expectations and this has implications for service delivery and communications in both business and government.

Let us firstly consider how the rate of technology change is increasing and how adoption is becoming faster. We can see that the rate of change is increasing in these examples [1]:

  • Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users
  • Television took 13 years to reach 50 million users
  • The Internet took 4 years to reach 50 million users
  • The iPod took 3 years to reach 50 million users
  • And the iPod reached 1B application downloads in 9 months .

Now let us consider Facebook [2] , which is probably the most mainstream of the social networks in the western world. If Facebook was a country it would be the fourth largest in the world:

  • Facebook currently has more than 400 million users
  • About 50% of those users login each day
  • The average user has about 130 friends
  • There are approximately 500 billion minutes of time per month spent on Facebook
  • More than 70% users are located outside the United States
  • More than100 million users are currently accessing Facebook via mobile devices
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is women 55-65 years of age

Don’t forget China has Qzone (from Tencent Inc.) which is growing at a similar rate to Facebook on their first quarter report [3]:

  • Active Instant Messaging (“IM”) user accounts increased 8.7% QoQ to 568.6 million
  • Peak simultaneous online user accounts for IM services increased 13.2% QoQ to 105.3 million
  • Active user accounts of Qzone increased 10.4% QoQ to 428.0 million
  • Peak simultaneous online user accounts of QQ Game portal (for mini casual games only) increased 9.7% QoQ to 6.8 million
  • IVAS paying subscriptions increased 16.1% QoQ to 59.9 million
  • MVAS paying subscriptions increased 14.8% QoQ to 23.3 million”

The behavioural changes that sites like Facebook and Qzone are creating in ordinary people are vast. Everyday large numbers of non-technically skilled people are actively engaging in the online social communication and sharing of images, links, and videos with friends, groups, and events. They are engaging with software and becoming skilled at use largely without the support of technical support. They are using technology to mediate their social communications in a way that was not possible only a few years ago. The technology has become democratised and the barriers to participation lowered drastically.

Now let us consider Twitter [4]. While it is much smaller than Facebook, Twitter does have a very different focus and its use case is very different. While Facebook is about who you already know, Twitter is about who or what you don’t know yet.

Some basic facts about Twitter [5] include:

  • Twitter has more than 75 million users
  • It distributes more than 50 million tweets per day
  • And there are between 10-15 million active users

Increasingly Twitter is the home of breaking news – some good examples of this from 2009 are the place crash in the Hudson River in New York, the Chinese earthquake, and the Iranian revolution. Journalists are now lurking there instead of the pub to get tips. All around the world Twitter is becoming entwined with mainstream news providers, with tweets showing on screen during telecasts (for example, the Q and A program Australia’s ABC).

And some more interesting facts that demonstrate how intertwined social media platforms and technology are becoming into our everyday lives include:

  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world
  • Wikipedia inadvertently crushed earlier competitors and now has more than 13 million articles with 78% of those non-English languages
  • 80% of companies in the United States use LinkedIn to find staff

Another feature of social technology is that it is not tied to the computer; it is becoming mobile. For example, Generation Y and Z do not use email except to talk to old people like us (as my university students told me so kindly) or to institutions like school or university. Their preferred medium is text messaging via mobile or instant messaging via data networks.

What we are seeing is a shift in behaviours – it is not that certain behaviours are ceasing. Instead they are moving into a social networking context. For example, social network traffic now exceeds traffic to adult sites[6]; it also exceeds email traffic . Not because either adult content or email are disappearing, but because these activities are moving location into a social networking context.

Additionally, we are now seeing the emergence of physical location based social networks. Grindr, Gowalla and Foursquare are some new entrants. Also sites like Facebook are working on adding location based functionality to their offering. This is bringing physical presence into the social network experience enabling serendipitous meetings in real life. Thus physical presence is now becoming part of our digital matrix. And this leads to the new digital divide. As I’ve said for a while: “The willingness and desire to be hyperconnected via technology will become the new generation gap.”

This is a social media ecosystem that is interlinked and hyperconnected in ways that old media did not enable. The desire to connect was always there in humans but the technology did not support the desire. Now people can be connected constantly and ambiently – and this continuous electronic presence is a new stage in human relations.

For each of us there is a myriad of data points about us out there on the internet. It’s like an impressionist painting, one dot tells nothing but many dots create an artwork, or in the case of our data many data points tell the story of our lives.

As with many other innovations the social web is here and now we’re trying to work out how to (a) Use it; (b) Regulate it; and (c) Police it.

We’ve made good progress on how to use the social web from a personal perspective. But business and government are just starting to understand how it might be possible to use it. However, regulation and policing of the new social web is under fierce debate around the world. For example the various internet censorship moves in Australia, France, China, and North Korea. Also, as Danah Boyd commented[7], Facebook is a utility and that those tend to get regulated.

Some of the key issues that need to be debated and resolved include:

  • Ownership of personal data
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Transparency
  • Law – copyright, intellectual property, defamation

These are all important from a personal, business and government perspective. Without clarity on these issues we face continued debate and uncertainty and this is never a good thing for business or government.

Another key thing is infrastructure – that is why Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is a brilliant thing. For those who can’t see why we need one it is worth remembering that nobody could see the purpose in having a fax machine before it was in use, and in the early days of computing some people saw the need for only a few computers in the world. If we build it, then the business and commercial opportunities will come. And not to build it means that Australia will become the digital poor relation in Asia.

The internet is now the largest word of mouth transmission mechanism humanity has ever seen. It amplifies communication in ways we are only just beginning to understand. And its immediacy and reach have irrevocably changed the communications landscape. Some of the changes in consumption patterns that arise from the digital revolution are about realtime expectations.

Changes in consumption patterns mean that we no longer consume media when publishers want us to. We do it when we want, on whatever device we choose, and on our own terms.

Let’s also look at some simple everyday behaviour. Who reaches first for the hard copy phone book to find a business anymore? Hardly anyone uses their old fashioned paper phone directory anymore.

Where are all of your personal contacts stored now? For many of us contacts are stored in our mobile phones or in our email accounts. But also many people are finding that their personal contacts are in their preferred social networks, and for many sites like LinkedIn or Plaxo store business contacts.

Social networking is crashing the degrees of separation between individuals. Even between the governed and their governors the degrees of separation are being crunched. People are having conversations with the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, State Premiers, and their local councillors via social networks such as Twitter. This unprecedented access to people in authority is changing the demands on the organisations that support them. Previously letters went to a Minister and into the carefully crafted ministerial system. Responses were considered and carefully crafted according to predetermined service level agreements. Now the potential response needs to be turned around within minutes. This is a seismic shift in communications and in the demands upon organisations.

Expectations of response times are dropping. Have you ever had a phone call or text message asking why you’ve not responded to an email that just arrived? That expectation is now on steroids due to the growth in realtime web. Delayed gratification is becoming a thing of the past.

We are moving into an expectation of realtime responses from service providers. This is evident in TV shows – now we no longer wait until a show arrives for showing in Australia, we just download it and watch it whenever we want. Anyone who has teenagers has seen their internet download limit chewed up via this kind of immediate consumption behaviour.

The technology (including mobile) is shifting the notion of what form an acceptable communication takes. Now people receive confirmation of bill payments made or alerts about bills due for payment via text message to their mobile phones. Businesses are now embracing these new channels, with banks and airlines sending information via SMS as well as email. They are also building iPhone applications in their droves – for example most Australian banks have either launched or are building an iPhone banking application.

The modern Australian user is increasingly consuming media on a mobile device. The shift will continue as lower cost devices become available. Apple changed the game entirely with their iPhone and now the rest of the pack is playing catch up. There are also new entrants to the mobile game like Google.

The social web is not going away. It is going mobile. It is going realtime. We need to find ways to engage and deliver services using the social web that work for our constituents.

NOTES

[1] Source of these statistics is http://www.youtube.com/user/Socialnomics09 video dated 30 July 2009

[2] Source of the Facebook data is http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics at 30 May 2010

[3] Source Tencent Inc. 2010 First Quarter Results http://www.tencent.com/en-us/content/at/2010/attachments/20100512.pdf at 30 May 2010

[4] Tweet statistics are from http://blog.twitter.com/2010/02/measuring-tweets.html at 30 May 2010

[5] Twitter user numbers are from http://themetricsystem.rjmetrics.com/2010/01/26/new-data-on-twitters-users-and-engagement/#more-1430 at 30 May 2010

[6] Source Hitwise http://weblogs.hitwise.com/robin-goad/2009/01/social_networks_overtake_adult_websites.html and http://weblogs.hitwise.com/to-go-ap/2008/05/social_networks_the_new_email.html at 30 May 2010

[7] Danah Boyd, http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2010/05/15/facebook-is-a-utility-utilities-get-regulated.html at 30 May 2010

Ownership, new ideas and openness

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.