Tuesday, August 31, 2004

How Weblogs can help solve the knowledge management dilemma

A must-read paper by consultant Martin Roell, "Distributed KM - Improving Knowledge Workers' Productivity and Organisational Knowledge Sharing with Weblog-based Personal Publishing" crystallizes what a lot of people have been saying about the potential of Weblogs, but none so completely and with so much research to support the argument.

The paper asserts that while improving knowledge workers' productivity is key for businesses today, most knowledge management efforts are really information management. Then, it discusses personal publishing tools such as Weblogs as a way to support knowledge work and the knowledge worker, as well as to disseminate knowledge through an organization.

Roell defines these knowledge work processes:

--finding codified information
--organising personal information (PIM)
--making sense of information
--negotiating meaning
--"creating" new ideas
--establishing and maintaining a personal network
--collaborating in communities.

The uses for blogs in knowledge work, Roell says, include:

--personal filing cabinet
--knowledge journal
--means to get feedback on ideas
--conversations (especially using Trackback)
--networking ("personal presence portal")

He goes on to map the uses for blogs to each of the knowledge processes specified above, discussing individual and organizational benefits, as well as talk more specifically about uses for organizational learning.

I'm really glad that someone wrote this article. Some earlier postings from this blog on this and related topics:

Can blogs be KM tools?

Using a blog as a personal knowledge management system

Trackback as a learning/KM tool

Personal knowledge management tools (not blogs), part I

Personal knowledge management tools (including blogs), part II
A fun Tuesday link

Have you mastered the BBC Learning paper toss already? Then go try the card-in-a-hat-toss from Intercasino. Same basic idea--you're throwing and measuring angle against wind speed. The graphics in this one are more sophisticated and I'm finding it harder. But the same things keep you hooked--the desire to beat your best-in-a-row as well as the "world's best."

Repeat after me: "I'm doing this for e-learning game research."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Finally, a real best of the week/couple weeks!

I hope the wait was worth it. Here is a super-duper version of best of the week with the most interesting articles and resources I've found recently.


"Perplexing Problem? Borrow Some Brains." This excellent article from Harvard Business School discusses a new study showing that "the approaches and outcomes of cooperating groups are not just better than those of the average group member, but are better than even the group’s best problem solver functioning alone." That has important implications for leaders, the article says, who might try to solve problems without input from others. You might be tempted to say "duh" to the article's premise, but an in-depth look by the author sheds a lot more light.

"How to Manage Smart People." This essay from a technical project manager, software designer, and usability consultant makes a lot of great points, demonstrating that sometimes the best management theories come not from the academics but from the people down in the trenches, managing and being managed. (The author's favorite question for those he manages: “What do you need from me in order to kick ass on this project?”) The article is long, but stay with it and you won't be sorry. (Via the Fast Company blog.)

Working remotely

"Virtually There?" Managing Information Strategies, a global publication for senior IT professionals, says frankly that virtual teams usually fail. Employing as a resource Dr. John Gundry, a virtual teams consultant who has been in the arena since the early 1990s, the article offers assumptions, approaches, and resources, saying there is a growing body of research and knowledge on the topic. (Via Kolabora)

"Daddy's Home, With Kids." The Telework Times links to and analyzes an article from the Associated Press about fathers, telework, and the changes in culture this might necessitate. I wrote about father-friendly work policies (leave, flex-time, parent training) and culture change in July's T+D. Go to our July Webpage and scroll down to the Intelligence column, titled "Father-Friendly." The article is free, but you'll need to register to read it if you're not an ASTD member.

Meeting/collaboration tools (traditional and technological)

Meeting Tomorrow. The Fast Company Weblog offers a link and review of a new service that provides any materials you might need for a meeting, enables you to order online or by phone, guarantees delivery in time for your meeting, and makes it easy to return the materials when you're done. I don't usually profile any type of commercial services here but this looks like it could be a helpful resource.

"Collaboration Software Clients: Email, IM, Presence, RSS & Collaborative Workspaces Should Be Integrated for Business Communication." Michael Sampson, an analyst with Shared Spaces Research and Consulting, offers this whitepaper that examines various types of collaboration tools and their strengths and weaknesses. (Don't miss the great grid of shared capabilities on page 24.) Sampson proposes that tools should be integrated into one "super-client." A part II of this paper, “Architecture and Key Capabilities of the Super-Client," will be published in September. Look for notification on Sampson's Weblog.


"Tricks of the Trade." A fun piece from The Morning News giving away various industry secrets, such as desktop support technicians (IT folks), who use the acronym PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair) on reports when the problem is the user. Some of these seem tongue-in-cheek but a lot are legit, I think. (This editor has heard the one for proofreaders--read upside down to keep your brain from skipping over words--before, so she can attest to its accuracy.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The future of workplace simulations

The fascinating article "The War Room" in September's Wired magazine shows the present of military simulations (or the near future) and the future of workplace simulations. A lot of this parallels what I've been saying about how augmented reality will affect certain types of training. (See this entry from June and this entry from April.)

As the Wired article describes, Pentagon experts, videogame developers, f/x artists, and research scientists have partnered to create the Institute for Creative Technologies, a r&d group at the University of Southern California, to help better prepare military recruits for the front lines.

Flat-panel displays, sub-woofers, and computers running Windows and Linux help create the immersive environment that will be launched in September among a group of Army, Marine, Navy, and Air Force personnel at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Picky note to Wired writer and editors--corpsmen are Navy personnel who serve Marines' medical needs. Marines are just called Marines.)

The military will save big bucks with this technology. A three-week live exercise in 2002 costs $250 million. The total price tag for ICT for the past five years was $45 million. But, this kind of immersive training isn't being implemented just because it's cheaper or because it's cool. It's because the military needs to do a different kind of training. Instead of rote learning, Wired says, the Pentagon now needs its recruits to learn higher-level thinking and decision-making skills. Diplomacy is needed in the middle east, not just shoot when you hear gunshots.

I think the discussion of the military's new training needs is really important and useful, not just for those of you involved in military training but also anyone who needs participants to learn thinking and decision-making skills rather than memorize facts or definitions and so forth.

The article goes on to say, "To teach recruits how to navigate complex situations, ICT's virtual training packages are built around the oldest form of immersive experience: storytelling." The head of the Army's simulation office, Michael Macedonia, talks about the importance of this: "The big challenge isn't getting the technology right...We're almost there. The challenge is, Do we have the right story? Does it map to reality? Are we teaching the right thing?..." These are the same questions other types of trainers are asking. (Here's a blog entry I wrote on storytelling and games.)

Training via immersion in simulated environments has been shown to increase learning speed and retention, Wired says. This immersion is different than accessing a simulation on a computer screen at a desk. Simulations via immersion, or augmented reality, is the future of many types of workplace learning, in my opinion. What might it be able to do for your learners?

Monday, August 23, 2004

My digital content article and a field guide on Web conferencing

Here's the link for my article, "Content Copyright, the Commons, and the C Generation." Although the article isn't yet up on the Learning Circuits homepage, the link was published in the Learning Circuits Express e-newsletter on Friday. If you want to be among the first to know about new free content on Learning Circuits (ASTD's e-learning Webzine), follow the instructions here to sign up.

Another good link in this issue of LC Express is the new field guide on Web conferencing written by Learning Circuits editor Ryann Ellis. You'll need to register to read it if you're not an ASTD member, but registration is free. Chock-full of information, the Web conferencing guide lists pros and cons, costs and pricing models, best practices, suppliers, and more.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Interesting...but perhaps not best

OK, mea culpa. I'm falling down on the job. I promised a double super-duper best of the week and here it is Thursday and I'm off tomorrow again--I have some links for you, but they may or may not be the best ones, since I'm behind on my reading.

What can I say other than apologize that I'm behind because of this 3000 word Learning Circuits article I just finished writing? Go to www.learningcircuits.org and look for my Trends piece on "Content Copyright, the Commons, and the C Generation" in the next week. I'll post the direct link when I have it. In the meantime, here are some interesting articles I've collected this week and last. Things should be calmer next week--I promise!

"E-Learning and Language Change." This article from Internet journal First Monday "discusses the globalization of e–learning, changes in languages as an effect of distance technologies and the lingua franca of modern times, English, and its effects on other languages."

On The Wisdom of Crowds. Here's a good review of the hot book The Wisdom of Crowds, by How to Save the World blogger Dave Pollard.

Billionaire best practice: think weeks. This entry on the Fast Company Weblog tells how taking think weeks like Bill Gates could pay off for you--or maybe your staff or learners.

"Finding Content Pearls Within Your Organization." Another good posting from Amy Gahran on her Contentious Weblog. It tells how to find the content in your organization that people will want to read.

"Turning Slackers into Workaholics." This study wasn't really designed for the purpose of creating workaholics, but its results are interesting from a workplace standpoint. Blocking cells from receiving dopamine made monkeys work harder.

From Failure to Famous. This Webpage offers inspiring stories of people of renown who almost didn't make it. May be good fun facts for learners.

"Tweaking your Tech Etiquette." A short but interesting article about consultants who advise business people about how to use cell phones, laptops, and other electronic devices politely.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Don't miss Google's Olympic art

If you're like me and have a Google toolbar (here's the official one and here's one for Firefox) right on your browser, you may not often visit the Google homepage. But you should make a point of dropping by each day during the Olympics.

Google's Dennis Hwang is doing a different Olympic drawing each day, with a person in a toga engaging in one sport or another. Yesterday was a swimmer in a pool, I believe, and today it's an archer. Very cute and clever. Read this posting on the newish Google blog to learn more about Google art and its current artist. And here's a display of all the 2004 art.

Doing something quirky and engaging like this is a good way to keep people coming back to your site.
A good list of links

Jay Cross has posted some of his favorite links online. They include links on collaboration, design, meta-learning, and more.
Hotel Chatter

I came across the Hotel Chatter site this morning. (Sorry, I forget which blog had the link--I was behind on my reading and read through a lot of entries today). The site offers tips, news, celebrity scoops, and more about hotels around the world. But my favorite sections are Hotel Hell and Hotel Heaven, where people post honest, real-life reviews of various hotels. If you're traveling frequently for training, this site could be very useful.

I think it's interesting from a customer service standpoint. I've written several customer service rants for T+D magazine, and the most recent one just happens to have been about a horrific hotel experience. Go here to read it; you'll have to register if you're not an ASTD member.

Think makeup on the pillow, hair in the bed, and a hotel manager who actually accused us of planting all this ourselves. Although often annoyed or frustrated by bad service, I've never been more outraged. So, I think I'll write up a little tidbit for the Hotel Hell section of Hotel Chatter when I get a chance. Maybe you have a story to contribute of a negative or positive experience during a training jaunt?

Friday, August 13, 2004

Best or not-best of the week, depending on your perspective

Today is a special, bittersweet day and I want to take the time to recognize it here on this blog. Today is the last day of T+D editor Haidee Allerton, who is moving on to new opportunities after 14 years here at ASTD. She will be sorely missed among her staff, who have flourished under her wisdom and humor.

ASTD has launched a search for a new editor of the magazine. In the meantime, our vice president of content and former T+D editor will head our team.

Change is always hard, but Haidee's future will be bright. We'll miss her but we are glad others will have a chance to benefit from her hard work, insight, and vision.

Stay tuned for the regular best of the week next week--either delayed a few days or as another double super-duper version. I'm knee-deep in writing a Trends feature article for Learning Circuits , proofing the dummy (sort of mock up) of the September issue of T+D, and saying goodbye to Haidee.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Wednesday fun: games for a work break, or for research

For your mid-week hump day, here are some games to play at work. (Thanks for this link, Boing Boing.) Try them out just for fun, or to get some ideas for simple e-learning games that will keep people engaged.

I haven't played them all (I do occasionally try to get some work done around here), but one of my favorites is the very simple yet very addictive paper toss from BBC Learning. I actually wrote about this game way back at the beginning of this blog. I was thinking more about it as I was playing yesterday, pondering what made it so addictive and whether that principle could be something e-learning could copy.

I think there are several things. The simplicity is important; users don't have to try hard to figure out the rules or how to play. In fact, the instructions are summed up in one sentence that is listed briefly on the main screen. Also, there's the element of competition--both with yourself and others. I don't think the game would be nearly as fun if it didn't include the listings of your score, your personal best, and the global best. (I think this last one is a new addition.) I keep playing because I want to beat my personal best--if I ever got good enough, I'd keep playing to beat the global best.

The BBC game is an example of a simple game done right. The unstoppable filing game is another example of a game used as advertisement, but it's not done as well. The game is simple, yes, but repetitive and it doesn't challenge you enough.

So go ahead, test out all of those games and tell your boss you're doing research for your next e-learning project. See what you like and don't like about each one, and think about what techniques or aspects you can steal for an e-learning game or training advertisement.

Futuring update

I wrote about futuring back in June, including the upcoming conference in August. Well, that conference was last weekend and I was unable to make it due to other obligations. But the conference Website is being slowly developed with copies of the presentations. The offerings are thin right now, but more are promised.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Best of the week

Believe it or not, I'm off again tomorrow. Lest you think I'm shirking, I'll explain that during the summer we have the opportunity to take every other Friday off if we make up the hours with longer days during the two weeks. So here is my list of the most intriguing articles this week a day early again.

Can telework save your family? The founder of StaffCentrix, a company that trains the spouses of military personnel to start businesses as virtual assistants, thinks that telework can help save the American family. Here's a link to a previous article on the virtual assistants training as well.

"My Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy." A professor of psychology and winner of the 2003 Sloan-C award for Excellence in Online Teaching shares his thoughts. Each principle includes several practical examples. Although his background is in higher education, the author's ideas and tips are applicable to corporate e-learning as well.

How Fast Do You Read? This Web tool enables users to measure their reading speed and could be useful for e-learners. The instructions state, "Press the Start button and begin reading. Read at your natural pace. Do not skim. When a minute has passed, you'll hear and see the alert on your screen. Stop reading. Press OK on the alert. To see your results, click the last word you read when the alert appeared."

Brain Hacks. From Boing Boing, the "directory of wonderful things," comes this description of a new book that tells you how to push your brain further. The book is co-written by an engineer and a cognitive neuroscientist for the O'Reilly Hacks series, which usually covers strictly techie topics like Linux, Google, Mac OS X, etc. Go here for the Brain Hacks co-author's first-hand description of what the book will cover. (Matt Webb writes that it's "100% practical and understandable probes into the design quirks of the brain, concentrating on the sensory and motor functions and their coordination.")

"Cellphones Becoming a Pocket Boss." The International Herald Tribune reports on the trend of cell phone services that enable employers to monitor remote workers. 1984, anyone? It seems as if these services are based mainly in Europe, but their spread to the United States can't be far behind.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Personal knowledge management, part II

(See part I.)

A few more thoughts:

Here are more links on personal knowledge management from Contentious: http://blog.contentious.com/archives/000295.html#more. Especially check out the top of the list entry. Seems like a chorus is forming around this idea.

I left out an important category in talking about personal knowledge management filtering tools--RSS. Here's my article on RSS, which includes a lot of additional links.

Google itself can also be viewed as a personal knowledge management filtering tool. I've seen the search engine called an informal learning tool several times and in several places, because it's just that good.

(And Google right now has few peers. The Web search tool on the latest version of Internet Explorer I'm using is absolutely useless. I Web search constantly throughout the day. Google gets the site or information I'm looking for as the number one result 99 percent of the time. That's why I'm using Mozilla's Firefox, which gives me back my Google search box right on the top of my browser.)

What I'd like to see: a Google RSS feed that tells you what new items have been added that day in categories you select. This would be pretty close to the Google Alert tool I discussed in part I, but it would be made by Google and it would come via RSS and not email, as Google Alert does. And it wouldn't give me old Websites I've seen already by mistake.

Blogs are, of course, personal knowledge management tools of the creating knowledge variety. But they can also be viewed as PKM tools of the filtering and sharing variety when they're used to publicize links the author views as important. This effect is heightened when posts are organized into categories so you can see all posts on a certain topic (stay tuned for more on that capability with this blog), as well as with Trackback, which lets you see the conversation continue across blogs.

OK, I think I'm done for now. Gotta go get some other work done!
Personal knowledge management tools

In Amy Gahran's posts on "Knowledge management in human terms" and "How arranging ideas spawns new ideas," she does a really good job of boiling the KM issue down to a basic definition, which is often hard for those intimately involved in the field to do, and then adding her own thoughts generated from her work in the content field.

Gahran talks about knowledge management in terms of
"--recording your thoughts in useful, creative ways that yield even more interesting ideas, context, and insights
--organizing and storing your thoughts with tools that help you easily retrieve, juxtapose, compare, or combine specific ideas
--sharing your ideas and observations."

I think Gahran has hit on a trend--in my research for the Learning Circuits Try It column, I've been seeing many tools for what could be called personal knowledge management, i.e. tools that help a person organize and share his own knowledge more than an organization's. But I would expand the definition of "own knowledge" to mean not just the thoughts that a person generates on her own, but outside information that she chooses to be most relevant to herself personally.

In this age of information overload, selective filtering of information for personal or group relevance can be just as important as creating information. Here are some examples of what I mean. I've profiled these tools on the Try It page already. (Scroll down on the page to find the full reviews.)

--Cartagio. You can make Cartagio your standard Web browser and you’ll also get advanced features such as the ability to add comments, keywords, and passwords to your bookmarks; save text from Webpages, emails, and Word documents as snippets; organize resource files of images, documents, and PDFs; and more.

--The Google Alert Web tracker wasn't developed by the company but works with Google search to keep tabs on topics and keywords you select. You'll receive automatic, daily updates of the links it finds, making it not only a good research or learning tool, but also a way to keep up with what people are saying about you or your company. I use the tool to find out who's linking to my articles.

Here are some tools that I haven't tried out yet but that are in my folder for consideration. Some are free, some are not, and some have free demos. Some are just in testing, some are fully developed. Remember, I haven't tried these out yet so I can't vouch for their quality.

--Rocketinfo Desktop brings thousands of news Websites, corporate Websites, Weblogs, financial documents, and more to you with its news search engine that filters what you want to read by parameters you select. You can then annotate items to share with others. Here's a review by ClickZ.

--Frassle. This tool "helps you read and publish weblogs, track bookmarks, and find relevant content organized your way." It uses social networking to help organize content. This is a very preliminary version; the software is still in development (not even in beta).

--Hyperlinkomatic lets you "grab links, make notes, set multiple categories, search links, import links from Webpages, upload bookmarks, create bookmarks files, share links, publish links. It is, in short, a place to keep your links."

--Amplify was profiled on Robin Good's Weblog as a "personal knowledge management tool and an online information collecting community." You install a toolbar that helps you capture images, text, audio, video, and more from the Web.

--Seruku is another Robin Good resource. He writes that the application is "a toolbar-based application that helps you find and access ANY and ALL Webpages that have appeared in your browser." The difference between this and similar programs such as Furl (see below) is that this one is automatic--you don't have to decide to save the page.

--Net Snippets is "online information management made simple." The tool lets you drag and drop to capture content; everything from images to PDF files can be saved with source information, comments, keywords, and more. The company emphasizes that not just capturing the info but also sharing it with others can be achieved with just a single mouse click.

--Furl has been written up recently by Gahran in several postings (this one links to them all) and Jay Cross (here) on his Weblog. The tool lets you save Webpages to refer to later.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite personal knowledge management tool, either for creating knowledge or filtering it? Add a comment and let us all know.