Thursday, September 30, 2004

The potential of Furl and tools like it in an organization's KM initiatives

I really like Furl. It's not just that I can save Webpages with comments and come back to them later. That part is great, and the software's benefits as a personal knowledge management tool are important.

But what gives the software its real potential is what I call the zeitgeist effect. On any day, you can go to the Furl homepage and find out what articles and Webpages are being saved by the most users. So, for instance, today I see that the most popular items are:

What the Bubble Got Right, furled by 34 members
The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities, furled by 18 members
Bush's Top Ten Flip-Flops, furled by 16 members
The 25 most difficult questions, furled by 16 members
TiddlyWiki - a reusable non-linear personal web notebook, furled by 15 members
Those Dark Hiding Places: The Invisible Web Revealed,furled by 13 members
...and more

So I can see not only the general issues that people are interested in today (politics, computers), but specifically what people are reading. Granted, these numbers are still low as the tool gains users. It's only been in operation for the past 9 months, so people are still finding out about it.

But I'm fascinated by the way a personal KM tool, by aggregating information, becomes a generalized KM tool. I can see what interests other people. And I often find out about articles that I missed this way. For instance, today there was a great set of resources on learning theories that was Furled by 8 people. I wouldn't have known about it had I not checked the list of popular articles today.

Social networking meets knowledge management in a way that's similar to blogging, except that the process can be as simple or as involved as the person wants. You can Furl something with two clicks of your mouse if you want, or you can take more time and add a category, rating, and comments.

Knowledge management software has long faced the problem of people having to take time to input information. With Furl, simply by hitting a Furl it! button on the browser and then the Save button, a person indicates the information's importance and then the info is automatically added to the collection.

What if Furl sold software that was specific to organizations? Then it would have some real KM power. I could go onto the tool and see what articles, resources, experts, etc. were Furled by my colleagues at my company. (It would be great if you could Furl a Word document or an email, or even an expert in an expert management system.)

The more restricted the use of the tool, the more relevant the info would be to me. So maybe there would be levels: one list would show me what was Furled by people at my company; another list would show by people in my business unit or department. The resources and articles could come from the Web in general or from my company's intranet, or even a specific person's own documents and emails on his or her computer. The more that people include comments or ratings, the more the KM power is increased. But the tool is still plenty useful without that, because of the way it aggregates information.

Furl also offers the ability to subscribe to a particular person's archive. That would be helpful as an expert management-type feature. For example, if you'll be working on a project about purple monkeys and you don't know anything about them, you could subscribe to the archive of someone in your company who works with purple monkeys regularly. Then you could see what information is interesting him and learn from his learning process.

Want to subscribe to my Furl archive? Feel free. I save pages for this blog's Best of the week, Learning Circuits's Try It column, T+D's Intelligence column, and various other personal interests. Go to Other's Archives once you've logged in to your account and enter in ekaplan for username. You'll be able to see in advance what I may be writing about in the future. (Note that I don't write about everything I save--I cull through later.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More free Webinars

Interwise has published a list of its upcoming free Webinars. Visit the event Webpage to choose the one(s) that might be helpful to you.

Topics include "Collaborative Tools in the Learning Continuum," "The Challenges of E-Learning Content Integration," and more.
Wednesday inbox tidbits

There are two interesting tidbits in my email inbox I'd like to share with readers.

--Generational Media Study. The report from this study was recently released by the Online Publishers Association. Granted, they have an inherent bias as they report which media are preferred, but the results are still worth noting.

The main headline? The Internet has taken the lead over television as the medium preferred by 18- to 54-year-olds. More than 45 percent of respondents said the Internet was their top media choice, while 35 percent chose television. Books were chosen 7 percent of the time; radios, newspapers, and videos/DVDs each 3 percent.

The figure for the Internet was even higher among 18 to 24-year-olds, with 51 percent choosing that medium. And the Internet is the only medium that showed a growth in time spent on it--across all ages. Almost half of the respondents said they spent more time using it than a year ago.

Keep these figures in mind when you're designing training, especially for young workers coming up in the ranks. They are digital natives and are extremely comfortable online. But even their more-experienced colleagues are showing a preference for the Internet in getting news and entertainment. That preference could translate over for learning--but only if the learning keeps them engaged the same way news and entertainment online does.

Read the press release or the full report.

--Shakespeare e-learning. Behar Marketing Ltd, a company describing themselves as "E-Learning Web Publishers," has published a set of 200 PowerPoint slides on Shakespeare's Hamlet. The slides are described as a storyboard of the play (including setting, characters, themes, the complete story, conclusions, and famous quotations).

The press release continues, "Each PowerPoint slide is captioned and illustrated in order to render it interesting and memorable." Hmm...I tend to think that Shakespeare's Hamlet itself is interesting and memorable. But then again, I was an English major.

The press release said that the e-learning tool will help students reduce study time, teachers communicate complicated concepts, and playgoers appreciate their viewing by being informed before watching the play or movie.

I predict many students (and perhaps others) not feeling the need to read the play. I guess this isn't much different than Cliff Notes, but just in a richer media. Still, I tend to think, et tu PowerPoint?

There's just something really wrong about a work of great literature being reduced to an illustrated PowerPoint presentation.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Best of the week

I'm short on time this week, so I am going to provide the interesting and intriguing links I found but no summaries of their contents.

By the way, this was the first week I used Furl to collect these links. I used to cut and paste the addresses into a Word document. Furl is much easier! I have a button on my Web browser and when I see a page I want to save, I just hit "Furl it!"

I can designate various categories so I can separate out Webpages I save for best of the week, my Learning Circuits Try It column, my T+D Intelligence column, and so forth. I can also make notes about where the links originally came from.

Business/traditional training

"Back to the Drawing Board: Is the Traditional Theory of the Firm Obsolete?" from Knowledge@Wharton.

Study: Security Measures Often Overlook Human Factor, from CNET.


"Bush Floats New E-Learning Plan," from eSchool News.

"Asynchronous discussion groups as Small World and Scale Free Networks,"
from First Monday.

Specifications for Accessible Learning Technologies

E-learning products of the future will operate in an interconnected world, from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.

"Mobile Learning Attracts High School Students," from The Korea Times. (Thanks, SmartMobs.)

Technology/Beyond e-learning

"When Search Engines Become Answer Engines," from Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox. (Thanks, Contentious.)

Blogs for Workflow Management, from MasterNewMedia.

"Campus Life Comes to Second Life," from Wired News.

CEO Bloggers, from the Business 2.0 blog.

"When Bot Nets Attack," from Technology Review.
Another personal KM tool

I just tried out the Blinkx software for Learning Circuits's Try It section (look for the review to go up in about two weeks). It's a pretty neat idea, although the beta version definitely needs perfecting.

After you install Blinkx and allow it some time to index your system, it searches for other emails, documents, and Webpages on your computer that relate to an email or document you're writing or a Website you're surfing. You can also initiate searches yourself and it can look on the Web, but currently only 20 percent of Webpages are indexed.

The tool often returns some strange results but it's a good start at another personal KM tool (see this and this previous entry on personal KM), which help a person organize and share the information that they find most relevant to them.

The twist with this tool is that it can be automatic, so it's not the information that the person finds most relevant but that the software does--based on other information that the person is working with. That takes a lot of the burden off of the person--this push versus pull model has been a holy grail with many knowledge management initiatives.

Often, KM software just collects information and then the user has to sort through to find what's relevant. A tool such as Blinkx makes that unnecessary. Now we just have to wait for the technology to develop to a point where it's all exactly relevant.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

More free content on the T+D Website

I've just finished fiddling with the archives on the T+D magazine Website so that there's now more free content (albeit with required registration--not my decision).

There are certain articles and columns that we sell on the ASTD store each month. But I figured it made sense to open up the articles we don't sell.

You'll have to register to get to them (the exceptions being the Digital Beat and Working columns), but once you do, you'll be able to read my Intelligence column, Books, Concept, Human Side, E-Learning, and the free feature from each month even if you're not an ASTD member.

ASTD members can read all 2004 articles for free on the Website and then the 2003 articles we don't sell on the store.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Entry-level selection tests

I received an interesting press release from Competency Management Inc. describing its new tool to assess entry-level job applicants. The company says its test can reduce turnover by making sure candidates have the necessary skills before they're hired.

According to the company, CoreCompetency Valuator assesses not only basic skills such as reading, ability to learn, and flexibility, but also "will do" competencies such as attention to detail, honesty, and customer service. The tool was designed by a team of Ph.D. psychologists and scoring is said to be 100 percent accurate.

I don't know about you, but I'm a little skeptical about how well a test like this can assess soft skills like ability to learn, honesty, and customer service. I'm curious enough to request a demo, so I'll report back if I get one.

What do you think about competency tests for soft skills in entry-level jobs like this? I know jobs requiring higher-level skills do at times require tests--for example, I had to take a copyediting test when I applied for this associate editor job.

But copyediting is, in my opinion, a much more quantifiable skill than ability to learn. So what can companies do for entry-level jobs? Behavioral interviewing may be a better option than competency tests for soft skills.

In addition to asking applicants how they used a specific skill in the past, some companies are putting people on the spot at the time. IT companies have been giving applicants brainteasers to solve for a while--Microsoft may have popularized the practice. See this article in CIO magazine.

Other companies put people through a day of tryouts. As I wrote about in my August Intelligence column (requires registration), requires applicants to work for a day under observation.

To me, this kind of approach makes a lot more sense than some kind of test that attempts to measure and quantify such squishy soft skills.

Side note: Google has been taking an unusual tack recently by posting billboards with a difficult math problem and ".com." No other info is given. If the person solves the puzzle and goes to the Website, they find another, more difficult, puzzle. Eventually the person is led to a fast-track recruiting page for the company.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Best of the week

Here's a question: how does one cite Weblog entries? Should they be in quotation marks like articles? (But the line between what's an article and a blog post on the Web is becoming increasingly blurred.)

I think I've gone back and forth on this blog and I'm looking for consistency. Blogs aren't mentioned in my Wired Style guide, published in 1996. I'll have to do some online research, but if readers have a source in the meantime, let me know.


Using the Wisdom of Crowds in Business. Another insightful post from Dave Pollard, applying the principles in the book The Wisdom of Crowds. (Also see his review of that book.)

Lifestylism: The Coaching of the All. Life coaching is a growing field and a possible new career path for workplace learning professionals. This in-depth post takes a frank look at the phenomenon and examines its pros and cons.

Test your courage in leadership. Take this quiz from the September issue of Fast Company. (Unfortunately, it hasn't been adapted for the Web so you still need to add up your own score.)


"Growing Virtual Communities." Another excellent article from the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning examines the definition of a virtual community, ways to grow one, the stages in the life cycle of a community, and more.

E-Learning without literacy. An German e-learning program works without learners being able to read. The tutorial at the site reads the instructions and text out loud. There's also a telephone advice line and a forum for learners via voicemail. (Thanks, Smart Mobs.) More on literacy from this blog here.

"Moving From Theory to Practice in the Design of Web-based Learning Using a Learning Object Approach." A paper from a Ph.D. and assistant professor of educational technology at Memorial University in Canada. A Web-based learning module was designed to "operationalize the concepts of granularity, reusability, scalability, and interoperability..."


Nurses Bid Online for Extra Shifts. To address the nursing shortage, a new program called eShift facilitates online bidding (at the lowest hourly rate) to match hospitals and nurses who want extra work. Is this a great idea or a horrible one? (Thanks, Smart Mobs.)

It's Not Just Usability. A great post from the blog Joel on Software about usability in general and social software interfaces in specific. Good information put in a humorous way makes good reading.

"Presence Applications Poised for Takeoff." An interesting article on what's coming down the pike. You may have heard some of this before, but this article talks about specific companies and uses, as well as some cultural implications. (Thanks, Telework Times.)

Two intriguing initiatives

There's more good stuff to post on this blog than time to post it...playing catch up. Also, trying to write shorter bytes for consumption, based on the findings of the Eyetrack III study.

1. Challenging corporations to improve online education. U Share - U Learn is a new corporate alliance program for organizations with online learning programs, announced by the Online University Consortium, a U.S. network of accredited universities and online degree programs.

The initiative will help companies benchmark themselves against other companies to create standards for online education and university-to-business alliance programs, says the press release.

Companies that would like to participate should contact Greg Eisenbarth at You can learn more about the Online University Consortium at

2. Anarchist University. Is this the future of learning? Anarchist U is a new model of university: non-hierarchical, self-organizing, blending online and in-person elements. The Website is used in combination with in-person meetings and learning sessions.

Anyone can propose a class at an in-person meeting, then once agreed on by consensus decision-making at that meeting, the Website helps sign up learners and organize curriculum using a wiki.

Then, learning sessions take place in-person at various sites around Toronto. Classes are on a variety of arts and science topics (with a definite progressive leaning) and last ten weeks. There are no fees or grades. Teachers are resources, not authority figures.

Will this approach replace traditional schools? Probably not, but there's a lot we can learn by watching how the experiment grows. Future of learning? More the past--think Socrates teaching under a tree, asking students questions rather than lecturing, not charging for the privilege.
Two more free Webinars

New Research on Learning Management Systems. Presented by Brandon Hall, this session on September 30th at 12 p.m. EDT will discuss LMS trends that may affect your buying decision, the most frequent characteristics in RFPs, questions to narrow your search, and more.

Online Usability: Best Practices for Applying Online Usability Testing. This Webcast, sponsored by the Usability Sciences Corporation, will take place on October 12th at 2 p.m. EDT. Participants will learn how to incorporate usability testing into Website development, technologies that can help measure and improve customer (or learner) experience online, best practices for usability testing, and more.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Free knowledge

This week only, until the 19th, the Journal of Knowledge Management is offering free access to the past three issues. That's a steal, because a subscription costs $1400 a year. (Thanks, Fast Company blog.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Presentation resource and cool tool

A new email newsletter for presenters and trainers, MasterViews, offers "selected solutions, how-to techniques and resources on effective presentation-making, information design, presentation technology, and delivery approaches." Subscribe at the MasterViews Website,, either with your email address or via RSS feed. The Website also provides an archive of articles and additional links and RSS feeds.

A new cool tool for presenters: The Optechcom wireless presentation remote comes with a 64 or 128 MB USB drive so you can take your presentation with you wherever you go and you don't need to lug your laptop. As long as there's a computer somewhere in the room (the remote works up to 100 feet) that you can plug this into, you're good to go. The device also comes with presentation software and 100 PowerPoint templates.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Super-duper best of the week

Wow! Lots of great content this week making up for the light-and-fluffy week last week.

Cool tools

Marconi's virtual presence application. The Telework Times reviews this new tool for multipoint videoconferencing. It has some nice capabilities and just looks neat.

The Literary Machine. The e-Learning Centre points out this software, which can be added to my list of personal knowledge management tools.

A new blogging tool. The Kolabora Website offers this review of Qumana, a new tool that should make life easier for power bloggers.

Workplace skills

An alphabet-full of creativity techniques. A long list of creativity techniques is offered by a small company in the United Kingdom specializing in creativity and innovation.

"Do You Know When to Delegate?" A good article from Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge says the keys are to make yourself let go, ask don't tell, match tasks to people, cultivate independent thinking, and link people with resources.

The Value of What You Do. A company has developed a proprietary platform that aims to gauge the worth of people's contributions at work so they can get justly compensated, the Fast Company blog reports.


Eyetrack III. The findings of this study on how people read news Websites may help you design e-learning. Interesting stuff, tracking the movement of eyeballs around the screen. Here's an interview with one of the project managers.

"Sleeping on the Job." Thirty percent of people have their best ideas in bed, compared to 11 percent who have them at their desk, says BBC News. The number of companies that offer nap rooms may be growing.

"Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses." An interesting study and report completed in the higher education world but with definite applicability beyond. From the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning.

"Workplace IM Showing Growth." Clickz Stats reports that 21 percent of respondents to their study use instant messaging in the workplace. Is it a helpful tool for productivity and collaboration, or just a distraction? Forty percent say it's improved teamwork; 41 percent says it hasn't helped collaboration.

The future of work and learning

Department of social capital. The Future of Work founders Jim Ware and Charlie Grantham offer their thoughts on a department that would link what kids learn in school and the jobs they get when they graduate, help determine what kind of businesses are profitable and sustainable, and more.

"Reusable Media, Social Software, and Openness in Education." This PowerPoint presentation from Stephen Downes is a rallying cry for some of the new, cool technology that's being used for learning--some of which Downes is creating. (For more on what he's been up to, see my RSS article and my content article.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Quote of the week

Another great quote from HeartMath's daily mailing might help put things in perspective.

"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal
with, but whether it's the same problem you had last year."
-- John Foster Dulles
September free Webinars

Here's another installment of your free Webinar listings. As always, I'm just providing the info, not endorsing.

Executive Development: Market Overview and Trans-Atlantic Considerations. Taking place TOMORROW (September 9th) at 11 a.m. EDT, this session will provide information from the report "Transforming Corporate Leadership: Best Practices in Executive Education." Also, a former VP of management learning from Siemens will talk about the differences in executive development among European and U.S. organizations.

The Power to Translate. This Webinar on September 14th at 2 p.m. EDT will help t+d professionals learn how to speak to executives and gain a place at the boardroom table. The speaker, Theresa Seagraves, is the author of ASTD's recently published Quick! Show Me Your Value. After the session, participants should be able to create 30-second statements that communicate business value, gauge perceptions of the value and adjust their communication strategy, and ensure that their value is communicated to the right people at the right time.

Distance Student Support: How Far Do You Go? On September 15th at 2 p.m. EDT, this seminar will discuss technology support for higher education distance students, providing a case study from the University of South Dakota. Presenters will answer the question, When do you tell students to seek a technology expert?

10 Steps to Creating a Wow Online Seminar. On September 22nd at 1 p.m. EDT, you'll learn how to attract the right audience, keep that audience engaged, present confidently, make event management easy, and evaluate the effectiveness of your seminar. This is the first of what will be a two-part series. Presenters come from Koretsky Communications Group and ViewCentral.

A Great Distance: Using a Live Virtual Classroom in Developing and Industrialized Nations. This Webinar on September 22nd at 3 p.m. EDT will examine the use of a live classroom solution by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of International Health, in order to train public health epidemiologists in China, Jordan, and Central America. The speaker will "discuss planning and developing strategies for using a live classroom in challenging non-corporate environments."

Engaging Students by Engaging Faculty: Planning for Educational Excellence in Distance Education Courses. Another higher education-focused Webinar (but probably one that would have transferable lessons for the corporate world), this one on September 28th at 3 p.m. EDT will examine "(1) stages of faculty participation (2) student instruction evaluation and course standards, and (3) the development of a course revision and peer review process to enhance student engagement in distance courses."
International Literacy Day

Today, September 8th, is International Literacy Day, declared so in 1990 by the United Nations. Go here to read about the background of the day; see literacy statistics in various countries, states, and towns; and find links to more resources.

In January of 2003, the United Nations launched the Literacy Decade, which will aim at increasing literacy levels by 50 percent by 2015. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is advocating closing the education gap, calling it "a fundamental inequality in our globalizing world."

He said in 1996, "Those societies that, over the past decades, have invested most heavily in the education of their citizens have been the ones that have advanced most rapidly and where the conditions of life have been fundamentally transformed. A literate a world in which the human potential has been liberated and placed in the service of progress."

Although in the United States there are fewer people completely illiterate than in some other countries, up to 20 percent have low literacy skills. That's 40 million people, who may end up in your training classes or e-learning programs.

More on literacy and education from this blog:
The written word is dead. Long live the written word.
Written word update

Friday, September 03, 2004

Best of the week

Here in Alexandria, Virginia, it's a beautiful, sunny, cool day right before Labor Day weekend. I'm leaving early today, and I'll be going to a cookout and a crab feast this weekend. I hope you all enjoy the weekend, whatever you do.

Here are the articles and resources I found most interesting this week. Although I always try to bring you articles you may not have seen in other learning publications, these articles seem more tangential than usual. Maybe all the writers have their minds on vacation. Call this the light-and-fluffy Labor Day edition.

"Children From Tidy Homes Could Grow Up More Intelligent." Chaos and mess in a home can have a negative impact on a child's intellectual development, according to this article in a Scottish newspaper. On the other hand, a home that's kept compulsively clean isn't so great either. Could problems your trainees have grasping material be due to a disorganized home in their childhood? Food for thought.

"Paper or Mouse Click? What's on Computers is Easier to Find, Study Shows." Respondents in a University of Washington study say they're much better able to manage electronic files than paper, but only 10 percent were "extremely satisfied" with their ability to manage information on their computer. Better tools are on the way, being developed in a project called Keeping Things Found. (Think Google for the desktop.) Possible knowledge management implications.

Google grants. Speaking of Google, a new program by the company everyone's talking about these days gives non-profit companies free AdWords advertising. After applying for and receiving a grant, an organization writes an ad and targeted keywords so that the ad appears only on those Websites that relate to the ad in some way.

Ehow. This Website says it provides more than 15,000 how-to solutions. The short articles are organized into categories--the finance/business and careers/education ones may provide some useful information. Each short piece is similar to a job aid and then readers can annotate them with additional tips. Judge the quality of the advice for yourself. Probably not better than real experts, but good in a pinch.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Two events

Here are two noteworthy events coming up. They're not free, but I thought readers might be interested in hearing about them since they're beyond some of the usual conference fare. (I don't have any association with either of these groups or get any kickback in any way.)

1. The Collaborative Communities of Practice conference, subtitled New Approaches for Fostering Learning and Knowledge Sharing, is sponsored by iCohere and takes place completely online. It runs from September 14th-16th; if you register before tomorrow (guess that would be today) you get an early-bird discount. The Website says that by participating, you will "learn the latest trends in communities of practice, learn from practical, real-world case studies that demonstrate best practices, receive practical tips and tools for creating and leading your own communities, connect with leading experts, get questions answered and network with others in the field."

2. The European Mentoring and Coaching Conference is taking place in Brussels in November. (See the press release.) In addition to keynote sessions, there will be "case studies, cutting-edge research and practical examinations of a range of useful and exciting coaching and mentoring techniques and methods." Speakers include David Clutterbuck, founder of The European Mentoring Centre; Professor Kathy Kram of Boston University School of Management; and mentoring and storytelling expert Dr. Bob Garvey. The event is put on by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.