Will the real Charlene Li step forward?

I’m not sure what worries me more in Charlene Li’s post about Facebook’s new Beacon advertising system – the problems with Facebook Beacon or the fact that Charlene has two Facebook accounts, one for her analyst persona and the other for her (apparently) real persona:

I’m not sure of all of the details, but I suspect that if I had logged into my “personal” Facebook account first (yes, I have two Facebook accounts and unless you know my personal email, you won’t find my truly personal Facebook profile), that Overstock activity would have been logged to that Facebook profile.

On the Facebook issue, I can see some value in Beacon if the user has the right level of control over privacy. On the other hand, the cookie-based approach sounds a little clunky. But the persona issue I find more interesting. Now, I know you shouldn’t throw stones in glasshouses because like Charlene I limit the personal information I publish on the Web but in terms of my online identity there is only one. Maybe I’m being a little naive but I’m a little more disturbed about the impact of people developing fake relationships with fake people in Facebook than I am by a clunky marketing system that needs some fine tuning. In that respect, that’s the really compelling reason for Facebook to get its marketing systems and privacy control working right and working together just so we can keep our online relationships – professional and personal – real.

BTW Some of the comments in a reply to Charlene’s post are worth reading – you have to feel sorry for the guy who bought an engagement ring and Facebook then announced it to his friends (ruining the surprise).

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Living Information Systems

I’ve talked about spreadsheets in the past – they interest me as one of the earliest forms of user-generation applications so this article from Forrester, titled Ouch! Get Ready — Spreadsheets Are Here To Stay For Business Intelligence, caught my eye for a number of reasons:

For years, IT practitioners and vendors have tried to develop and implement applications that would eliminate spreadsheets from mission-critical processes… But that battle has been fought and lost. Rather than fighting the use of spreadsheets, application developers, information and knowledge managers,
and business managers must embrace them — but in an environment that provides much needed functionality while treating every spreadsheet as an important enterprise resource.

Despite the availability of a modern enterprise-grade Business Intelligence (BI) stack, the spreadsheet wins out because of its ease of use, flexibility and availability. There are some strong parallels here with the drivers behind enterprise social computing – in fact, the solution to the spreadsheet “problem” put forward by Forrester very much reflects an Enterprise Web 2.0 philosophy of social and technical controls, and pragmatic risk management that recognises that some spreadsheets are more important than others.

But this future state isn’t one in which spreadsheets are absorbed into a better BI solution, instead Forrester starts to describe a vision of a “holistic environment” complemented by other technologies like enterprise content management. And I don’t think its a big step to see how this vision might become one for an enterprise-wide living information system where structured, formal systems not only coexist with, but provide a supporting infrastructure for working with dynamic, informal social tools.

BTW You can currently register to download the full paper for free.

Enterprise RSS moves information

There have been quite a few responses to my post about the state of enterprise RSS. Off blog Scott Niesen, Marketing Director for Attensa, has a go at articulating the value of what he calls a “managed RSS ecosystem”:

Let’s start with a blinding flash of the obvious. Information Moves. It moves markets, innovation, time to market, price, profits and productivity. Enterprise RSS moves information

Simon also adds his two cents worth, and also makes a similar point about how RSS moves information, and not just blogs and wikis:

RSS is raising its head as part of the conversations going on around social software adoption within the enterprise. This is not necessarily a bad thing, syndicated content is certainly key to these tools and their success. But why are RSS and ATOM not been given more attention outside this context, as part of more strategic thinking? There is a lot more they can be used for than just blog feeds!

And on blog there are whole bunch of more great comments.

BTW along the way I also discovered a couple of RSS-related bits and pieces:

I’m wondering, do we need to organise an Enterprise RSS Action Day or something to help kick start things?

Knowledge Management: Results may vary

Hmm. It would appear that most of the Knowledge Management community is still sleeping, however David Snowden at least passed his critical eye over the Knowledge@Wharton article from the other day.

Mostly his doesn’t like this kind of academic research approach, but he makes a valid point that is applicable across the whole of the Knowledge Management domain:

In any knowledge sharing environment you are dealing with a complex system so the creation of survey instruments with dependent and independent variables is in appropriate. It gives a happy appearance of order and structure, but in reality there are too many factors (or better modulators in play). Five minutes reflection produced those listed above and it would not be difficult to create more.

Or, in the interests of simplicity, I summarise this as:

Remember, its Knowledge Management and results may vary 😉

Wollongong: Mostly Harmless

Its the little things that count – while signing up to Dopplr (care of fellow CSC’er Mark) I was asked to enter my Home City – all I typed in was the word “Wollongong“. Dopplr replied:

We know about just one place in the world that matches what you’ve typed: Wollongong, Australia.

Nice, very nice.

Every Web 2.0 service out there please take note, I might not live in North America, but I am still part of the known universe rather than the mystical realm of otherland or the kingdom of noneoftheabove 🙂

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Connections + Information = KM?

I really do hope this research paper form Knowledge@Wharton, Different Knowledge, Different Benefits: Toward a Productivity Perspective on Knowledge Sharing in Organizations by Martine Haas (Wharton management professor) and Morten Hansen (professor of entrepreneurship at INSEAD), will cause a bit of stir in the knowledge management community – in K@W‘s summary of the paper the authors comment that:

We find that using codified knowledge in the form of electronic documents saved time during the task, but did not improve work quality or signal competence to clients, whereas in contrast, sharing personal advice improved work quality and signaled competence, but did not save time,” Haas says. “This is interesting because managers often believe that capturing and sharing knowledge via document databases can substitute for getting personal advice, and that sharing advice through personal networks can save time. But our findings dispute the claim that different types of knowledge are substitutes for each other. Instead, we show that appropriately matching the type of knowledge used to the requirements of the task at hand — quality, signaling or speed — is critical if a firm’s knowledge capabilities are to translate into improved performance of its projects.

In the actual paper [PDF}, the authors also put forward the suggestion that:

firms that primarily compete on quality can benefit most from emphasizing personal advice usage (and perhaps downplaying electronic document usage), while the opposite holds for firms relying on efficiency.

If not the paper, then read the rest of the summary for yourself as there is also a discussion of the factors the authors found were important to productivity that Knowledge Management should make a contribution to:

  • work quality;
  • time savings; and
  • signals of competence.

They also mention factors, based on earlier research, about the factors that influence the ability of teams to get value from the external knowledge they obtain:

  • slack time;
  • work experience; and
  • decision-making autonomy.

They make this interesting comment about slack time:

Teams with insufficient slack time may download large quantities of documents from a database without checking their quality, skim the papers on their desk superficially — missing important information — or fail to solicit sufficiently diverse views by only consulting close colleagues who will return their phone calls promptly.

Does this sound familiar?

I’ve always maintained that in knowledge management, the combination of people, process, technology and content (information, if you like) should support goals that link to business problems or objectives, and this drives the selection of the mix – in fact part of my masterclass talks about using theories like Porter’s Five Forces model to help understand what knowledge strategies an organisation might need. Its neither a case of just building document libraries or just connecting people, but getting the right balance. And the by the way, you may need a little bit of process too.

Picked up by Mike Gotta.

UPDATE: Fixed and added links to the paper.

Why aren’t we getting enterprise RSS yet?

I thought it was interesting that two PR people contacted me in response to my post about enterprise RSS. First, Janet Johnson, representing Attensa, said:

why do you suppose the adoption of enterprise RSS (and associated benefits available today) is so slow?… I shake my head on the lack of institutionalized adoption all the time.  Help me understand – thank you.

Jennifer Gazin from LaunchSquad, representing Newsgator, also emailed me talking about NewsGator‘s participation in OpenSocial – she also pointed me in the direction of Newsgator’s blog on Enterprise RSS where this post caught my attention about Gartner’s magic quadrant and they commented:

The Gartner view of team collaboration and social software, and this is just an observation and not a judgement, is still rooted in the blogs and wikis mindset, which is not what we do so according to how Gartner is segmenting the market there really wasn’t much upside for us.

We believe the market is much broader than Gartner is allowing, encompassing content relevancy, discovery, and surfacing (what you need, when you need it, and in an app that can use it), user profile data, user initiated action, such as sharing and tagging, coupled with user generated content.

I think this comment points at a symptom of why the adoption of enterprise RSS is so slow – and that is RSS is still very much misunderstood by the corporate computing world, Gartner included. I’ve actually had comments from other IT professionals that RSS is “flaky” in comparison to other types of Web-delivered content and email, which is disappointing.

The other big issue is that for enterprise RSS to work you need both RSS content and RSS readers in place. From a technology point of view neither issue is difficult to overcome but we run into the old chicken and egg problem of supply and demand for RSS – It departments won’t invest in RSS if there is nothing to consume, and if there is no way of consuming then why create RSS content?

The other issue is that if you can overcome this first problem, then it would appear you don’t need a enterprise RSS system in place, however the problem I have is that I (and I think most knowledge workers) want an integrated RSS experience.

Hopefully its just a question of time and getting people to evangelise RSS? What do you think?