Christmas reading

Happy Christmas and best wishes to all my ChiefTech blog readers! I’m on holiday at the moment and I’ve taken the opportunity to do a bit of reading, including the following books:

Both books are about the history surrounding the development of two “technologies” that today we take for granted (chronometers for plotting longitude and the Oxford English Dictionary or OED).

Longitude in particular highlights how a mix of politics, bad luck and different perspectives can impact on technology innovation – so good reading for anyone trying to innovate with information technology today. The longitude story continues even today, with the launch of the first European Galileo satellite which they hope will eventually crate an independent GPS service.

The effort of volunteers who contributed to the creation of the OED also reminds me a little of Wikipedia – I wonder how much quicker it would have been to create the first edition if the Internet and tools like wikis had been available to them? BTW You can still help contribute to the OED (an early social technology then?).

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Visual tag cloud

Care of Anecdote, 10×10 is great almost real-time information visualisation of the top 100 keywords in the world news (based on analysis of RSS feeds from Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and )New York Times International News).

It works a little like a tag cloud, but so much better. You can also click on an image in the 10×10 grid to see the recent headlines and the click through to read the article. Very cool!

The creator of 10×10, Jonathan J. Harris, also created a version of this to celebrate Yahoo’s 10 year birthday.

This sort of thing would be great on a company intranet too. Anyone out there got an API we can mash?

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New twist in the Wikipedia debate

The debate about the quality of Wikipedia content isn’t quite dead just yet with heavy weight scientific magazine, Nature, claiming that the wiki-based collaborative knowledgebase is no better or worse that the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Andrew Mitchell also reports that information professional magazine, Online Currents, makes “the excellent point that not all print publications are error or bias free“.

However, the really important point, is made by “Michael Twidale, an information scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who says that Wikipedia’s strongest suit is the speed at which it can updated, a factor not considered by Nature’s reviewers.

So, when we criticise either social software or traditional media, what we really have to think about is what kind of information trade off are we willing to accept? For an alternative perspective, have a look at this 2004 Factiva whitepaper (PDF) that “considers the quality, availability and value of information on free Web sites, fee-based Web sites and value-added information services“.

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Time, money and technology-driven productivity?

Ross Gittins writes an interesting opinion piece in today’s SMH about how we’re trading more of our hours for money – but at what personal cost?

Gittins talks about the oppourtunity costs associated with money and time. He makes an interesting point that we should think about from a knowledge worker and technology perspective:

Much technological advancement, including the growing number of ‘mod cons’ in the home, is intended to save time. But while it raises our productivity – the amount we’re able to produce or get done in an hour – it rarely leaves us with time on our hands.

Apparently compared to the 1830’s, 1 hour’s work today is worth 25 times what is was then but we still work as much if not more.

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Pizza, salad and a side of blogging

We had a great first get together of our very informal enterprise blogging and social software interest group yesterday. Over some excellent pizzas and salads at GPO Sydney we talked about our experiences and interests in this area. In particular there was a lot of discussion about the barriers to greater adoption of these technologies by corporate Australia, such as:

  • Technophobia – there is a lot of tech jargon floating around and overlapping terms (e.g. RSS, XML, feeds, etc) that puts people off
  • Overstated bad publicity about public Weblogs damaging the reputation of blogs generally
  • Lack of awareness of the value, benefits and drivers for businesses adopting these social technologies

However despite all this, our feeling is that as Australia typically lags behind the US by a few years we predict that the time is right for this to change in 2006.

In the meantime we’re all looking forward to meeting up again next year to keep this conversation going and to hopefully flush out some local success stories. So if you’re in an Australian organisation that’s blogging or using a wiki etc internally and are prepared to tell your story, get in touch and we’ll invite you to lunch with us next year.

PS Both Trevor Cook and Ross Dawson both joined us for lunch and you can check out their predictions and comments. Unfortunately Frank Arrigo couldn’t make it but has still added to our online conversation.

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Another E&Y KM Case Study

I know that a lot of people stumble on to my blog and Website from search engines because they are looking for case studies on Ernst & Young‘s (E&Y) approach to knowledge management. Well, you might be interested in the new case study (PDF) from Factiva on how they have integrated their electronic news resources into KWeb, E&Y’s global knowledge intranet.

The case study I’m pleased to say is written from the perspective of the Australian E&Y practice and features Brigitte Wharton, the local Knowledge Deployment Manager.

PS Some of Factiva‘s other case studies and whitepapers are also worth a look.

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