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.

Company Directors conference 2010 – day 1

I’m lucky to be attending the Australian Institute of Company Directors 2010 conference DIRECTORSHIP:10 Ahead of the Curve in Christchurch this week.

Sessions today included:

  • Australia and New Zealand – performing in the global arena
  • Is the current system broken?
  • Challenges and opportunities in the global economy
  • March to modernity – Asia tomorrow and the rise of the global south

A recurrent theme is the issue of gender equity and boards. Every panel has women participating. Perhaps a valiant attempt to stave off quotas for Australian boards?

But there are some good initiatives in the area of gender equity. For example, a mentoring program for ‘board ready women’ by Chairmen of ASX200 companies.

David Hale gave a whirlwind tour of the global economy and outlook. This included some gems:

on current trends “we could by 2050 have a world in which there are more Australians than Canadians”

Spain next domino? “the problem in Spain is the economic leader is a total idiot”

“Greece has been an accident waiting to happen for a long time” – apparently poor tax collection is part of the problem

His general outlook was fairly gloomy for most of the world, especially UK, Europe and Japan. With emerging nations plus Australia/New Zealand as only

David’s key message was that governments really need to reduce debt and there is going to be a lot of pain associated with that process.

Avril Henry did some straight talking to the assembled (mostly Boomer) audience about the expectations of the GenX and GenY people their organisations need. She outlined how much the next generations expect technology as part of their life and work expectations.

She outlined issues of network amplification effects of social networks and their impact on business environment and culture. Avril’s points about how the forces of fear and command and control are driving away potential employees really resonated for me.

I really hope the leaders at this conference heed her call for greater focus on ‘soft’ skills in management for Australia’s sustainable economic advantage.

Loved how Avril called:

“generation Y – generation WHY? because they always ask this question”

Some good stuff here! Looking forward to tomorrow.

The Digital Revolution and the Educator’s Dilemma

The digital revolution is already here and it is changing the way people expect to communicate or share knowledge and information. Educators are facing technology changes together with changing expectations from students about the use of technology in an educational context.

A key challenge for teachers is also the delivery of personalised learning. This is happening the context of the growth of social and collaborative technologies, that reach outside the traditional walls of educational institutions.

The digital revolution has seen a shift in communications technology that has even begun to engulf the traditional book. Newspapers as we knew them are a dying breed. Television is now mobile and digital, and we can consume it wherever we like in the western world.

We are seeing a shift in communications from the old style broadcast towards an interactive and mobile style. Advances in mobile technology mean that handheld devices like iPhones and Android mobile phones often have just as much computing power as desktop PCs. Once these devices proliferate the ability to deliver localised, customised and personalised content to users regardless of location will be generally available.

Traditionally education was a teacher centred process with the teacher in the role of an expert who delivered objective information in a linear fashion. The teacher was the owner of the privileged truth and the role of the learner was to acquire the knowledge and demonstrate via exams their successful acquisition of knowledge. Teachers were in control and learners were not in control.

For 21st century education computers are the norm. But also the notion of education taking place in a particular fixed location is becoming irrelevant with proliferation of mobile computing and wireless broadband. It also means that collaboration does not need to be confined to a group who are physically co-located. Learners can collaborate with people all over the world using cheap and accessible technology. It also means that teachers are liberated from the tyranny of place too.

Over the past few years the social web has built up a value system that is quite different to the educational and business value systems of previous centuries. This shift is now flowing out into general society and influencing news media, social interactions and education. It informs the expectations of students in both explicit and implicit ways.

networked-teacher1-300x2251This new digital world looks very daunting to most of us. I love this picture by Alec Couros that shows the teacher at the centre of this bewildering new world (it applies just as well to other knowledge workers).

The teacher is at the centre of all of these new technologies, expected to master new technologies as well as their specialist knowledge domains.

But that is old world thinking. Because in the old world the teacher had to be the expert in every sense. But now the teacher is liberated to be the expert in narrow areas and facilitating the learning experience. Thus the picture above is not so daunting at all. And, most of all, it is not about the teacher as entertainer. It is about using the technology resources available so as to engage the attention of learners enabling them to discover information and build appropriate knowledge sets. The role of educators in this model is that of facilitator, as a guide on the journey.

The problem is that we’ve all been educated to know the answers. And we feel bad or inadequate when we do not fulfill that image. But knowledge today is so vast that even experts of have huge swathes of things they do not know. The leadership that our learners need is for us to model the behaviour of discovery rather than knowing in many cases.

While there are simple things we can know (multiplication tables are a good example) there are many more things for which knowing how to find them or how to derive them is more important. Thus educators are moving from purveyors of facts into facilitators of discovery.

The average person confronted with the plethora of social media and social networking sites is confused. And educators are being asked to assess which of the many platforms available they should incorporate into their classes. It’s enough to make the average person break out in a sweat.

The transparency enabled by web 2.0 is also enabling comparisons to be made more easily. And, while we all love it for shopping, it is not so much fun when you’re the one whose performance is being publicly monitored and compared with your peers. Looking on the bright side, it is happening to many others (even kittens).

Some people talk about the new pedagogies of engagement or inquiry but I prefer to think about it in terms of attention, engagement and discovery.  Teachers have moved into the engagement economy.

TAFE Showcase – some cool use of technology in education

I love going along to the TAFE NSW Western Sydney Institute Showcases because they always have demonstrations of innovative uses of technology. It is great to hear practising teachers share how they are using technology to improve outcomes for their students and also to make their own jobs easier.

Often with limited budgets these teachers are being extremely creative, sometimes without much prior technology experience or skills. Today I saw an excellent implementation of moodle in an automotive parts course; good use of wikis for delivery of IT, fine arts and hospitality/tourism courses.

One really nice feature of this Showcase is the humility and openness to new experiences these teachers demonstrate. They appear to have a genuine lifelong learning style approach to their craft. I learned a lot today from the sharing of their real life adventures, tips and lessons learned.

I’d love to see more things like this happening in business.

The slides from my presentation this morning follow. Any questions please let me know.

Ada Lovelace Day 2010: call for women’s history #ald10

Today is Ada Lovelace day, the day that women around the world celebrate the achievements of women working in technology.

ada-300x234While I could write about a woman in technology – there are many whom I admire here in Australia – instead I am putting out a call for documentation of the achievements of Australia’s women pioneers in technology.

It saddens me to discover that I can find little record of the achievements of Australian women in technology online. We have lost contact with our heritage of Australian women pioneers in technology – I know from anecdotes that women worked on many seminal technology projects.

My recent investigations have found lots of information about US women in technology but little equivalent information for Australian women.

There is the Timeline of Geek Feminism (HT: @piawaugh) and I do recall seeing some women in technology history on an old incarnation of the Australian Computer Society’s website (but that seems to have disappeared in a site restructure over the years).

Recently FITT celebrated their 20th anniversary and posted this slide show.

We need to capture these stories and celebrate the history of the women who made our current achievements in technology possible. We need to uncover the stories of heroines who challenged the status quo and made the idea of women working in technology commonplace. We need to discover the barriers and challenges these women faced in order to pursue their passion for technology.

If you know a story or have a link to a story about Australian pioneer women in technology please add a comment to this post.

realtime really? my slides from #media140

Spoke during the last session of the day at Media 140 Perth about realtime web and how it might evolve into an internet of connected people and things. Our evolution towards a networked and hyperconnected society is under way.

The slides might be somewhat opaque without the commentary but please feel free to ping me with any questions.

Why I’m probably not a social media expert and neither are you

Over the past few years a plethora of Social Media Experts* have cropped up and their tweets, posts, podcasts etc serve up a cacophony of advice and pontification.

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the matter, from the perspective of someone who sees herself as an apprentice on a learning journey.

Anyone who claims to be an expert in social media is probably talking through their hat.

Social media has been with us for only a few years. Expertise is not developed overnight.

Deep knowledge is founded on a basis of research and experience. Lessons learned, especially from failure and pushing of known boundaries, are key to development of expertise.

But research has shown that expertise in a particular field is achieved over many years of research and practice. Since social media has been with us for such a short time it is unlikely that any of us have gleaned more than primitive insights as yet.

As Wikipedia notes:

Some characteristics of the development of an expert have been found to include

  • At a minimum usually 10 years of consistent practice, sometimes more for certain fields
  • A characterization of this practice as “deliberate practice”, which forces the practitioner to come up with new ways to encourage and enable themselves to reach new levels of performance
  • An early phase of learning which is characterized by enjoyment, excitement, and participation without outcome-related goals
  • The ability to rearrange or construct a higher dimension of creativity. Due to such familiarity or advanced knowledge experts can develop more abstract perspectives of their concepts and/or performances.

Some people may have expertise in other areas that gives them unique insights into the possibilities inherent in social media. They may be able to fast track the development of expertise in social media by building on their previous knowledge and experience.

Further, social media is just media and communications on a new platform. I’m not quite sure if that fact privileges social media in some special way?

Rather it seems that what we are undergoing is experimentation with the new media publishing platforms – from hard copy to soft copy, from television to online, etc.

This is no different from the platform change that ensued with the move from radio to television. I wonder if there were a bunch of Television Media Experts running around back in those days too? And I suspect that those experts of olden times would have known just as much as the average Social Media Expert today.

Perhaps rather than being social media experts we are social media learners? If indeed social media is a real thing we should even consider in and of itself (but that is a topic for another day)?

* Updated: OzDJ also reminded me of the various “social media ‘luminaries’, ‘mavens’, ‘gurus’ et al”

7 questions to ask re new technology for your business

These questions apply for all kinds of technology decisions including hardware, software, or even social media and social networking technologies.

Business people do not want to spend money on unnecessary or unhelpful technology, yet are often ill advised when they make technology acquisitions or expenditure.

I often see businesses, both large and small, acquire unnecessary or inappropriate technology for which they will never achieve the projected return on investment. Or, even worse, the ROI is based on the capital costs alone without factoring in other costs such as staff time.

New technology is often proposed by someone you know – a friend or family member, or a business acquaintance or sales person.

Here are a few questions I always ask about new technology before acting:

1) What is it and what does it do?

With this question you can find out how much the person recommending it actually understands.  If someone can’t explain what the proposed technology is and what it does in plain English be very suspicious.  Seek alternative perspectives if they are unable to answer this question in a way that makes sense. I always say – “if you can’t explain it to someone’s grandmother so she can understand what it is and does then you don’t understand it properly yourself”.

2) How does it work?

Don’t be afraid to openly ask “Can you explain to me how it works?” It is similar to the previous question but digs in more on the functions that it can perform and how it does so. Uncovering assumptions – such as that the proposed technology assumes access to high speed broadband – is critical.  These assumptions generally add unanticipated cost to implementation of the solution.

This question also uncovers information about potential extra costs. For instance, if an application is hosted in the cloud (a.k.a. software-as-a-service or SaaS) then you will need likely need an extremely reliable and robust internet connection.

3) How does it make or save money for me?
This is an important question. Often the person suggesting technology for your business does not correctly understand its profit model.  The revenue model for your business in relation to the new technology needs to be clear, otherwise calculating the payback period is impossible.

4) How long is that payback period?

Strong and confident off-the-cuff answers to this question are invariably wrong. A sensible answer to this question will depend upon a number of variables, some of which are particular to your business, time and place.  I have seen more dodgy payback assertions than I’ve had baked dinners.  It’s worth digging into this question and doing a proper ROI analysis.

5) What are the indirect costs of this technology?

Often the focus is on the capital cost of the technology and little consideration is given to the total cost of ownership during the life of the asset.  Indirect costs include:

External costs: hardware and software maintenance (a good rule of thumb is 20% of original capital cost annually adjusted for CPI), additional support, ongoing minor enhancement requirements

Internal costs: this is usually the cost of time for staff to look after or use the technology; sometimes the technology adds new tasks that must be considered & often these tasks require some level of technical skill; also often overlooked is the possibility that you will need to take on new staff to run the technology

6) How updateable is this technology?

This is a big question. If there are improvements in the technology will you have to buy a new model or can the existing model be upgraded?  Given how fast technology innovation cycles move these days, being able to upgrade or expand the technology is key to having a decent useful life for the asset.

7) Who else uses it & how do they use it?

If nobody else is using the technology yet then there needs to be compelling answers to all of the other questions. Further, if there are no other local users (i.e. in your country) then the support infrastructure might not be there ready to offer effective support. There is nothing worse than the support help phone line being in a timezone that is opposite to your own.

The few times that I have implemented either a beta version or version 1 of a technology in business there was a bad outcome due a variety of problems. Usually this manifested itself in the form of cost and time overruns on the project. Consequently, unless there is an extremely compelling business driver, I tend to avoid betas or version 1 of anything.

Ada Lovelace Day 24 March 2010

Last year many of us supported Ada Lovelace Day, the international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology and science.

ada-300x234It’s now time to pledge your support once more for Ada Lovelace Day, 24 March 2010.

To sign up, please go to and add your details to the brand new pledge!

If you’re not sure who Ada was I really encourage you to find out a bit more about this remarkable woman here or here.

National Growth Summit 2010

I’m speaking at the National Growth Summit 2010 in Sydney this week about engagement marketing and running a workshop on Technology to drive Growth.

The line-up includes a number of international luminaries along with local experts, gurus and knowledgeable people such as: Mick Liubinskas, Stephen Collins, Mike Walsh & Stephen Belfer.

There’s also workshops available on day 2 of the conference – for a special discount on the Technology to Drive Growth workshop use this registration form (opens pdf)