Appropriate technology – Traeger’s pedal radio


I’ve used Question Box in some recent presentations as a example of appropriate technology. I’ve just become aware of this Australian innovation from the early part of the last century – the pedal radio. Invented by Alfred Traeger with the encouragement of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, it overcame the challenge of communication with remote homesteads that lacked a telephone or radio link. Traeger later improved this idea by creating a Morse keyboard.

The pedal radio solved three problems for users in the Australian bush:

  • It didn’t require a battery;
  • It could be operated by one person; and
  • With the Morse keyboard, it didn’t require knowledge of Morse code to send a message


Socialtext Government 2.0 event on 2nd Dec in Melbourne

During the past year, more government organizations have harnessed social software to make it easier for employees to share knowledge, expertise and ideas across organizational silos. In doing so, government organizations can improve the flexibility of their business processes, cultivate new ideas, and serve constituents more efficiently. In September, Socialtext was added to the GSA schedule, and we featured some of our government customers, including the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) .

But this “Government 2.0″ phenomenon hasn’t been just limited to the United States. In Australia, for example, we’ve been seeing a lot of traction for social software inside government agencies. On December 2, in Melbourne, we’ll be hosting a special event for government agencies in Australia looking to understand the benefits of social software. The event will feature a Socialtext customer, The Department of the Premier and Cabinet in South Australia, who will share their experiences using social software with peers in attendance. Their talk will be followed by a discussion and networking period.

We want to create an intimate setting for this event, where attendees can have candid discussions about their current or future use of social software. So please register as soon as you can as space will be limited.

I mentioned this example the other day. Unfortunately I can’t make it, as I’m at the 11th Participatory Design Conference that day, but you register here if you are in government and would like to attend.

How to do SharePoint right

At a technology level, I was impressed. At a business engagement level, I was incredibly impressed. What Jan and Carol have created, in conjunction with in-house developers, is impressive, but what really stood out was their deep knowledge of how lawyers work, and an almost obsessive focus on getting it right – through discussions, experimentation, trying things out, seeking feedback and input from lawyers, working with people through the change process, and so on. This blog post is my standing ovation to Jan and Carol – tremendous work!

You know how I said I’m not anti-SharePoint. Well, here is a good example of what it takes to use it well. And yes, as you can see it does take some effort and time. More organisations, particularly in government, could take a leaf out their book. Note: This is about using SharePoint as a document management solution.

I’m not anti-SharePoint


Some people have the misconception that I’m anti-SharePoint, but that’s really not the case. What I don’t like about SharePoint is how it is implemented in many organisations I come across. The typical implementation anti-patterns I’ve seen include:

  • We are going to deploy a “vanilla” SharePoint, so it will be easy to upgrade later.
  • We need something to do X and SharePoint lets us do X and more… we just haven’t worked out why we want the ‘more’ yet.
  • Switch on the social features in SharePoint? You must be kidding.
  • We’ve deployed SharePoint, now lets find out what users need it to do.

The first point is probably the worst case, because it limits your ability to do anything but train your users to work within the constraint of the vanilla experience. Yet, SharePoint is designed to be extended and integrated. And (just as with any complex enterprise product) you will need to do that if you want to work within SharePoint’s architecture, which has some limitations as a social business platform.

Case in point – I was recently asked by someone to help them explain why a particular social business software product was better than SharePoint. My response was this:

  • Why do they think SharePoint would meet user’s needs?
  • Why do we assume we have to choose one or the other?

Which brings me to this story in the RWW Enterprise blog which claimed:

80% of users with SharePoint access still chose to e-mail documents to necessary parties instead of using SharePoint.

There are – as the blog post and comments report – many possible technical solutions to this problem that can be plugged into SharePoint. Still, fundamentally the argument goes that email is so pervasive we need to fit new tools around the dominance of email. In effect, don’t change anything. Which leaves me thinking that some organisations just want to use SharePoint as a platform to augment email. And you wonder why I don’t work with organisations that use SharePoint that much…

BTW Headshift isn’t technology agnostic either – we have preferences, but we’re not aligned to a single product or vendor either.

Photo Credit: Sharepoint Design – 2 CC-BY

Plumbing the social enterprise with IBM Lotus Connections – user profiles and more


The Business Card feature in IBM Lotus Connections – explained in all its technical simplicity by Joseph Russo in his post on the blog – highlights one of the reason I think it is such an interesting piece of software. From one perspective, I see Connections is this amazing enterprise social engine interfaced through an open AtomPub based API. This make Connections as much a tool to integrate applications as it is an enterprise social computing destination for employees to use.

BTW This isn’t lost on other vendors either – from Attensa to Socialcast and also Socialtext, although each approach the opportunity slightly differently.

In related reading, Bertrand Duperrin talks about rich user profiles as an area that is currently being overlooked. I don’t actually think we lack the technology, but I agree we might be ignoring it at the moment while we get caught up with microblogging and wikifying the workplace.

My observations from the sidelines: Gov 2.0 Conference

I’ve heard some mixed feedback about the recent CeBIT Government 2.0 conference, which was held in Canberra at the beginning of the month. I think part of the problem continues to be the gap between the engaged (some of whom are also more than quite immersed) and those still exploring the topic.

Read the rest over on the Headshift blog.

BTW I’ll add a hat tip to Craig for giving Prezi rather than PPT a go! Always good to see someone trying something a little different.

Headshift event – Social Business Design: Pathways to Success on 23/11 in Sydney

Everyone is talking about social media, social networks, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter but not many people are discussing how to be a socially designed business.

A social business is one where we use the opportunities presented by new technologies to deliver business value – to reduce costs, increase effectiveness or mitigate risks.

Come along to this presentation to discuss a new perspective on being a socially designed business:

  • Customer Participation: Engaging with customers in ways that traditional one-way communication cannot support.
  • Workforce Collaboration: Meeting your workforce’s need to collaborate and coordinate efforts to effectively meet business goals.
  • Business Partner Optimisation: Rethinking value chain relationships, including connections like suppliers, distribution networks, and vendors/delivery partners.
During the presentation, the Headshift team will facilitate discussion and lead a brainstorming activity to help you understand the opportunities and think about next steps.

The Headshift team is running a short event on the 23rd November, here in Sydney. Hope to see you there!