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KM vs. Social Media: Beware the Warmongers

In a stark example of ageist bigotry parading as insight, Venkatesh Rao is trying to instigate a war that does not, and need not, exist.  He believes that knowledge management (KM) advocates and social media (SM) advocates are at odds with each other.  His divisive post imagines a war between KM and SM.  Evidently, after encountering resistance to his polarized view of SM, he authored the dense tirade as a call to a war that does not exist.  His post brings to mind William Randolph Hearst’s quote, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” (Although that is history and Rao dismisses the importance of such institutional knowledge.  He’s doomed to repeat a great deal of history, I suppose.)
I see no reason why we should respond to Rao’s call to war.  His evidence in support of war are little more than petulant responses to people’s inevitable resistance to change.  He supports his opinions with fallacy in an attempt to create generational conflict.  My personal favorite: “…RSS and Mash-ups are culturally Gen X ideas…” I wonder how Dave Winer, the primary inventor/advocate of RSS, would feel about that statement since he falls solidly in the Boomer generation that Rao seems to disdain.  Statements like “The Boomers don’t really get or like engineering and organizational complexity,” beg a cultural flame-war.  But I will resist.  Instead, let me make a case for KM and SM peace.
A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch. All change champions encounter resistance – sad fact of the human condition.  And many entrenched incumbents can be especially resistant to the status quo.  But we paint with too broad a brush if we let a handful of stubborn dinosaurs define an entire group of people.  I have been in KM for over a decade and have been active in SM since the term was coined.  And amongst the advocates of both, I see many more examples of integration than I do of segregation.
Social media actualizes the idealism of KM. In the workshops I deliver on Enterprise 2.0, I often refer to it as “KM 1.53”  This alludes to the fact that the goals of E2.0 are nearly identical to the goals of KM.  E2.0 (SM in the workplace) delivers the platforms and tools necessary to reach the KM ideals we have sought for years.  While the inherent ungoverned disorder of social media seems radical to some KM administrators, most KM advocates welcome these tools in their quest to free information and improve performance.
Most KM practitioners recognize the value of SM.  I have presented keynotes and workshops on SM at KM Australia and KM Asia.  At both, I have found many more eager adopters than resistant dinosaurs.  Based on my experience, most KM practitioners are excited about SM tools and platforms and are looking for ways to incorporate them into the current KM strategies as soon as possible.  As for the less structured aspect of SM, the response to my “Abandon Your Content Management System – KM in the age of GooTube” presentation at KM Australia was very positive.
Rao ended his post with his prediction of how the war will end.  Please read it yourself, but I would summarize it as: the old resistant people will die and the young righteous people will prevail.  I will close with my prediction of how the peace will continue:  Our technology and society will continue to evolve; people will continue to be resistant to (but finally adapt to) change; youth will continue to disdain their elders until they become tempered by wisdom; and the opportunities to learn and prosper will continue to grow for those wise enough to do so.

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From Knowledge Management to Knowledge Ecosystem

This post is based on the keynote I delivered at Knowledge Management Australia this summer (I know – but better late than never).  I entitled the talk “Abandon Your Content Management: KM in the Age of GooTube”. When I developed it I was under the questionable influence of two books: Clay Sirky’s Here Comes Everybody and David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous.  But here I want to share the main premise of the talk: that we should focus less on managing our information and focus more on capturing it and then making it discoverable.
(A note before we begin.  I will be using the terms “information management” and “content management” in place of what many people would refer to as “knowledge management.”  I define knowledge as “information in action” – and that action can only take place in the human mind.  Since I’m not fond of the idea of mind management, I believe “information” is actually what we are managing, not knowledge.)
Most traditional information management or content management systems and programs follow a highly centralized model:

Traditional CMS Model

Think about those three verbs: Gather, Organize, Publish.  Those are the verbs of centralization and governance.  It implies one system (or group) is responsible for information management.  And often the majority of the resources within that system are devoted to “Organize” – organizing (and controlling) the information in the system.  In an age when search makes unorganized information easily discoverable, this is probably a waste of resources.
The focus on organizing grew out of natural human reaction to trying to understand an increasingly complex environment.  There was so much information available that we had to develop ways of organizing it in order to cope.  Over time, this resulted in what David Weinberger refers to as the “three orders of order”:

The three orders of order

  1. Organizing the objects themselves based on shared traits. This does have some basis in logic and is exemplified by placing flora and fauna into related Kingdom, Phylum, Class, etc. or in organizing a department store into clothing items, kitchen items, electronic items, etc.  But even this has its limitations.  Does an under-kitchen-counter TV go in the kitchen department or the electronic department?  This order of order is based on organizing the physical objects themselves.
  2. Organizing “pointers” that represent the actual objects based on some arbitrary system. This order of order evolved to address the sheer volume of objects that needed to be discoverable.  We could create new smaller objects that “point” to the real object and then organize those “meta-objects”.  The arbitrary way these meta-objects were organized (think alphabetization or the Dewey Decimal system) often removed any “natural relations” they might have.  And again, their use and discoverability were limited by the fact that they were still physical objects.
  3. Digitizing the objects (or meta-objects) allows us to return to the “natural state of chaos”. This new order of order reconsiders the reason we organized objects in light of our new digital world. The core driver of our past organization was to make objects easily (and hopefully logically) discoverable.  But in the digitized world, we can discover without the need for organization.  Search is the key that unlocks the chaos of information.  So, Weinberger’s (arguable) proposal is this: In a digital world power by full search, we no longer need to order (organize) our information to be able to find and use it.

If Weinberger is correct and we can return to chaos comfortably, it brings us to a more natural state of knowledge capture and discovery.  To illustrate this, let’s first consider a (grossly simplified) picture of an ecosystem:

Ecosystem cycle graphic

Within ecosystems, resources (food, energy) are circulated within the environment from producers to consumers and then (again, grossly simplified) back around to producers again.  If we apply this ecosystems model to our old information management model, we will see “Organize” drop out entirely, “Gather” become “Capture” and “Publish” become “Discover.”

Think about these new verbs, Capture and Discover.  These are not centrally controlled and they abhor governance.  Given an open system, anyone can capture information as they create it (or discover it) and then everyone can discover all that has been captured (via search – as well as links, recommendations, etc.).  And if the ecosystem (i.e., information management system) is designed properly, every act of discovery is automatically an act of capture that returns value to the ecosystem.  Let’s consider the ideal application of the two verbs in more detail:
Capture. All the content (information) in our knowledge ecosystem is generated by people (people who need people – sorry…).  We should design our work applications and procedures to capture everything that people produce as they work.  There should be no separation between the tools of production and the tools of information capture.  And, of course, those tools should have discovery built into them.  Imagine if every time information of value to the ecosystem was generated – whether in a spreadsheet, database, e-mail, conference call, IM or Tweet – it was immediately captured, indexed and discoverable through search, cross-linking, and extensions.  People working in that that ecosystem would thrive.
Discover. First and foremost, our information ecosystem must have comprehensive search.  In addition, it should incorporate every tool or process for improving discoverability such as tagging, syndication, linking, the “database of intentions“, and recommendations.  Moreover the system must recognize that the information is being captured and discovered by people (people who need people – damn! sorry…).  As we move from the information age into the connected age and the importance of social networks increases, the system must support the socialization of information.  Our ideas and information are satellites orbiting us just as the people in our social graph do.  The ecosystem must recognize that information and the people who created or discovered it should be inseparable.  We gain far greater value from social information than orphan information.
So how does one go about building a knowledge ecosystem? What are the basic requirements of a system to support the continuous cycle of capture and discover? That’s what the buzzword d’jour, “Enterprise 2.0” (aka “Knowledge Management 1.53”) is all about.  By applying the social ideals and platforms sweeping the Web to the enterprise, we can approach (carefully) a knowledge ecosystem.  One of the best (though techno-centric) models to capture the elements needed within a knowledge ecosystem is the FLATNESSES checklist created by Dion Hinchcliffe (based on the original SLATES checklist created by Andrew McAfee):

Hinchcliffe's FLATNESSES checklist

I encourage you to review it and the other “Enterprise 2.0” information out there.  Applying those ideas can help you begin to shift from knowledge management to knowledge ecosystem.

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Photo Blogger 2.0

This week I delivered a two-day masterclass on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 in Singapore.  As always, I had a host of interesting participants, one of which was Reeda Malik, Brunei’s top photo blogger.  Reeda was nice enough to take some shots during the class, both from the first day and from the second day. I’m grateful to Reeda for posting the pictures for me and all the participants to enjoy.
The class went extremely well and I thank all the participants for everything they taght me.  And now it is on to deliver a keynote and workshop at KM Australia 2008.

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The Road to Singapore (and Australia)

Just wanted to post a note that I will be on travel the next two weeks, so the posting here may be even slower than usual.  I will be in Singapore delivering Web 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0 Foundations masterclass July 17-18 and delivering a keynote and masterclass at KM Australia July 21-23.
My keynote at KM Australia is entitled Abandon Your Content Management System: KM in the Age of GooTube.  I hope to get a synopsis of it up here as a post soon.
I’m looking forward to being down-under and I hope they are having a mild winter so I can enjoy some of my short stay.  If you will be in Singapore or Australia, it’s not to late to register (I think).  See you there?

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Steve Ballmer Made Me Wear a Tie

Steve Ballmer at MIX08 in MilanToday I had the great pleasure of presenting a session on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 at MIX08 Italy in Milan. I was there as a guest of our strategic partner in Italy and Germany, Reply. The day was kicked off with a keynote by Microsofy CEO, Steve Ballmer (see videos here). There are other posts about his comments on Yahoo! So I thought I would just share some of my thoughts on the other parts of his talk (and the follow-up Q&A).
Content + Community + Commerce was the mantra for the talk. This seems to be there way of recognizing that software is not the main driver in IT any longer. Now it is all about getting people what they want (content) in a social experience of their choosing (community) and, of course figuring out how to monetize that (commerce) so you can stay in business. The one thing that struck me from the talk was that the only monetization model he talked about was advertising. While I’m sure they are considering service subscription models as well, he didn’t mention it. During Q&A the theme came up again when he said the reason they were after Yahoo! was that they were a advertising and marketing platform that was already at “critical mass.”
Software + Services is the solutions theme for Microsoft. This is there take on how they will help us serve the C+C+C from above. Despite Ray Ozzie’s release of Live Mesh and some observations that MS finally sees that software is dead, Steve stressed the continued importance of software. He described how software will evolve in an environment that wisely balances desktop, Web, enterprise, and devices. Seems to me the “software vs. services” debate is semantic posturing. In either case we will still need engineers writing code that moves bits.
“Consumer, consumers, consumers.” That quote and his discussion of consumers was the only part Steve’s talk that made me cringe and think they still don’t get it. In this day and age, no business should look at their users/customers as consumers. I agree with Matt Jones’s definition of consumers. The people who use our products are our partners, not mindless consumers. Empowering people to partner with us to make our products better is at the heart of Web 2.0. If Microsoft does not get this, they are going to have a tough row to hoe.
Looking foward five years. Finally, perhaps the most animated and interesting part of his talk were his visions of the future of computing. They really were about services (supported by software) that reflected the pending convergence in media and technology. To paraphrase badly, he told a brief story envisioning a future when he is golf watching “TV” and shouts “Hey Bill, did you see Tiger sink that putt”. His intelligent “TV” would recognize that Steve wanted to say that to Bill Gates and would instantly find if Bill Gates was available for Steve. Bill’s “cell phone” would let Bill (sitting on a beach somewhere) know that there was a message from Steve and play the audio of Steve’s comment as well as the video of Tiger’s putt. Steve would respond, “that was nice – what kind of ball is he using?” Steve would rewind the video, zoom in on the ball, click it and get instant information about it and a link to buy it. He would tell Bill the brand and order two boxes for them. This was just one example of his crystal ball gazing – he also discussed ePaper and projectable surfaces.
Overall, his talk was interesting but didn’t break any new earth. But it did make me wear a tie. I try to avoid wearing a tie like I try to avoid root canal surgery. When I asked my Reply hosts if a tie was required for my presentation, the response was something along the lines of, “we know Americans don’t really wear ties – let’s wait and see what Steve does…” So, I was counting on Steve to go tieless. Wisely, he chose to show respect for the host culture and he wore a tie. So, I followed suite.  The most difficult part of the whole day was remembering how to tie my tie…

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Microsoft MIX08 in Italy – See You There?

Steve BallmerJust a quick note:  If you will be in Milan on March 23, drop by the Crowne Plaza Hotel for MIX08 Italy.  Steve Ballmer and his Microsoft crew will be giving the Microsoft spin on what is hot in Internet development in the morning.  I will be joining a host of colleagues from our Italian partner company, Reply, for additional presentations on delivering Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 solutions in Italy in the afternoon.  So, if you decide that Milan sounds like more fun than another year of Web 2.0 Expo in San Fran, drop on by!

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Web 2.0 in Italian and German

reply_banner.jpg

This week I have been in Milan delivering train-the-trainer for our Web 2.0 University™ (W2U) partners at Reply. Reply has license to exclusively deliver the Web 2.0 Executive Bootcamp, Enterprise 2.0 Bootcamp, and Ajax Bootcamp in Italy and Germany. It has been an exciting week working with the dedicated and experienced folks at Reply to localize our learning content for their target audiences.
Reply E2.0 TTTDuring the training we discussed how many of the Web 2.0 ideals and applications play out differently in Italy and Germany. From the legal restraints that make music sites like Pandora impossible to the generally more conservative attitude toward social applications, Reply is customizing the W2U content to deliver outstanding learning to their clients. They have become quite Web 2.0 savvy and I’m sure they will do a great job leading the 2.0 revolution in Europe. So, if you want to leverage the competitive advantage of Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 in Italy or Germany, visit the Reply W2U site.
Unlike most trips abroad, I took some extra time to enjoy Milan. Friday evening I had the great pleasure of being treated to dinner by Piero Rivizzigno, the CEO of the soon to be released, Glossom.com. (This social website will focus on design and fashion – link to come soon where you can learn all about it.) Piero took me into the city center for the best fresh mozzarella I have ever had as well as traditional Naples pizza that was fantastic. Piero mentioned that the owner of the Buffalo Ristorante (I think that was the name – confirmation to come) is hoping to open a restaurant in Georgetown in DC. That would be a wonderful development! Piero was a great host and our discussion of the future of social applications was illuminating. We discussed data portability and Piero was spot-on in his observation that website-owners who benefit from the content we provide need to do a better job of sharing their revenue (at least a small portion) with us.
Saturday I got to play tourist in full glory and traipsed all over Milan city center. I visited the Parco Palestro, the Castle of Milan, and the Milan Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Sadly, the battery on my camera bit the dust at the Duomo, but here are a few pictures:
The Palestro in the Parco Palestro…

Milan Palace

The drawbridge at the southern “Little Bridge” entrance to the Castle of Milan:

Milan Castle Drawbridge

Inside the Caste of Milan (or as it should be called – the castle of cats – they owned the moat):

Milan Castle

Approaching the Duomo Church (both inside and out, it is simply magnificent):

Milan Duomo

My personal favorite: A beautiful fountain fighting the unbelievable moss that it swallowing it with the Duomo behind:

Milan Fountain near Duomo

Now it is on to the butt-busting flight from Milan to Frankfurt to DC and back to my family (hopefully my son will look up long enough from Adventure Quest to notice I’m home ;o).

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The Future of Enterprise Computing – UVA School of Commerce

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of presenting at a great day of learning on The Future of Enterprise Computing at University of Virginia. The seminar was put together by Professor Ryan Nelson, the director of the Center for the Management of Information Technology (CMIT) in UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. Ryan pulled together a great panel of speakers:

  • Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business School, the person who coined the term “Enterprise 2.0”
  • Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s Chief Technology Architect
  • Jeff Kelly (yours truly) representing Web 2.0 University(tm)
  • Lewis Shepherd, CTO at Microsoft’s Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments

The audience consisted of about 70 graduate students in UVa’s MS MIT program and about 30 members of UVa’s Center for the Management of Information Technology. We were fortunate to be one of the first groups to present in the newly remodeled, state-of-the-art facilities in Rouss-Robertson Halls. I’ll give a brief recounting of each presentation, but I’m hoping that soon I will be able to edit this post to add links to videos of the presentations (3/17 update: it turns out the videos can’t be released – sorry about that).
Andrew McAfee at UVAAndrew McAfee led off with a great 60-minute summary of Enterprise 2.0 and it’s implication for enterprise technologists. I’ll briefly mention two points he made that I thought were intriguing. The first was his discussion of the underlying trends of E2.0 which included “lack of up-front structure” and “mechanisms to let structure emerge”. Those two trends align with the “freeform” and “emergence” concepts that Dion Hinchcliffe added in his FLATNESSES checklist – which is an extension of Andrew’s original SLATES checklist. We discussed it briefly over lunch, and the E2.0 trends that Andrew is encountering are congruent with what we have been seeing. The other interesting idea Andrew introduced centered around the value of weak ties in a social network. He mentioned Mark Granovetter’s The Strength of Weak Ties from 35 years ago and the Web as platform for social network is reproving how accurate Marks isights continue to be. He postulated – and I agree – that the people with whom we have weak social ties may be more valuable than the people with whom we have strong ties. That idea supports the research I have been doing about the importance of diverse and inclusive groups as the greatest driver of innovation.
Paul Dugherty at UVAPaul Daugherty was the second presenter and he provided very rich insight on the future of technology and what it means for the enterprise. Accenture has surpassed IBM as the world’s largest systems integrator, so Paul certainly has a keen perspective from which to predict future trends. His presentation was full of rich insight. While there was too much great content to review here, I will share his list of the eight power shift trends that will impact enterprise technology:

  1. Cloud Computing & SaaS
  2. Systems Integration – Regular & Light
  3. Enterprise Intelligence at Scale
  4. Continuous Access to People and Content
  5. Social Computing
  6. Explosion of User-Generated Content
  7. Gradual Industrialization of Software Development
  8. Green Computing

Jeff Kelly at UVAJeff Kelly – I designed my talk to give the audience of technologists insight into the requests they might see coming from the business line. I based it on the platforms and strategies that resonate the most with the audiences we have at our Web 2.0 University ™ learning events. I provided a very brief summary of our two most popular learning events and then the topics that resonate the most with the business leaders who attend. You can see that list on slides 13 and 18 in the presentation deck linked here:

UVA Presentation Slides

uva_shepherd.jpgLewis Shepherd gave a great capstone presentation that illustrated the practical application of the ideals and theories covered earlier in the day. His perspective was that of someone who came to DC from Silicon Valley after 9/11 to help devise ways for the US intelligence community to better gather, share and collaborate on various intelligence sources. So, much of his presentation focused on implementing Enterprise 2.0 platforms in a ultra-secure environment. His insights were excellent and provide great fodder for countering security-veiled resistance to E2.0. (It gives us the ability to say, “well I’m sure the information sharing your employees will do does require the most robust security available – let me tell you how the US intelligence community uses to wikis to share top-secret information…”). Lewis walked us through the evolution and success of Intellipedia as well as covering some other federal E2.0 projects. He also pointed out that my alma mater, EPA, is doing some great Web 2.0 work at epa.wik.is. I encourage you to read the EPA Web 2.0 Whitepaper – grand kudos to Brand Niemann and everyone else who is finally getting EPA to the level of public data exchange the Myles Morse and I (and many others) were hoping for 14 years ago when we worked on Enviro$en$e.
The day wrapped up with a panel moderated by Stefano Grazioli where Lewis, Paul, and I (Andrew had an early flight) fielded questions. The entire day was a great learning opportunity and I look forward to delving deeper into the wealth of information that was presented.
Thanks much to Brian Weston for posting pictures from the event!

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Enterprise 2.0: The Three-Legged Stool Revisited

In my role as Director of Education Solutions at Web 2.0 University™, I recently updated our outstanding (if I do say so myself) Enterprise 2.0 Bootcamp to include a model I used in earlier knowledge management learning products. I can’t claim the model as my own – it has been around for quite sometime – but I wanted to update it for E2.0. The three-legged stool model is designed to reinforce the importance of processes and culture in the success of E2.0 implementations. Because the technology is primarily “what’s new” in E2.0, it gets most of the attention. But processes and culture are just as important. All three must be balanced for the stool to work properly. So, let’s briefly review the Enterprise 2.0 Three-Legged Stool.
Leg One: TechnologyThe first leg is technology and it has been the primary topic of E2.0 discussion. The innovative platforms and tools of Web 2.0 are being carried into the enterprise. Wikis, blogs, social networks, prediction markets, open APIs and mashups empowered people on the Web and now people want that same power at work (for more info, Dion Hinchcliffe has a great post how E2.0 technologies may fare in 2008). And while we focus much of our discussion on technology, you cannot just “build it and they will come.” You must have the other legs in place for the stool to stand.
stool_two_legs.gifThe second leg is processes. Though usually emergent phenomena, E2.0 solutions needs to establish standard process and procedures in order to be successful. Employees must understand how each of the E2.0 tools works, how it interacts with other tools, and how they are expected to use it. E2.0 tools should be easy to use by definition, but employees will still need to be educated on “how” “why” and “what”. The “how” is an understanding of the tools’ function and features: “How do I use this to be more successful at work?” The “why” is about understanding the benefits to themselves and the larger organization: “Why is it worthwhile for me to use the tool?” The “what” is about understanding what the tool should be (and should not be) used for: “What would I use this tool to do?”
Leg Three: CultureThe third leg is culture. For E2.0 to succeed the organization must value collaboration and knowledge sharing. This is often the most challenging of the three legs. If your organization does not already have a culture that values collaboration and information sharing, it may be impossible for your E2.0 implementation to be successful. But cultures can be changed. Before we consier changing a culture, let’s be sure we agree on what a culture is. For our purposes, I will define culture as: “The behaviors and values characteristic of a particular group.” Within a culture, we have “mores” and “taboos” (and many other things we won’t go into). Again for our purposes, I will define mores as: “Accepted traditional customs and behaviors of a particular group” and taboos as: “Behaviors proscribed by a group as improper or unacceptable.”
So how do you create a collaborative culture? The group (especially leaders) must adopt the values and behaviors that foster collaboration and information sharing. Leaders must establish mores by modeling and rewarding collaboration. For instance, they should use the blogs and wikis themselves and they could make active collaboration an integral part of the organizations annual performance reviews. The entire organization can use taboos to encourage collaboration. Consider this chastising praise: “That was a great analysis paper you wrote, but why did you email a copy to everyone instead of just posing it on the wiki?” From a leader or a peer, that sort of feedback will help mold a culture of collaboration. Of course cultural change takes time. Take that into account when plan your E2.0 implementation and set expectations accordingly.
The Enterprise 2.0 Three Legged StoolSo there you have the three legged stool of Enterprise 2.0 (or any type of collaboration/knowledge sharing system). Successful E2.0 implementations assure that all three legs of the stool are strong and balanced. They also recognize that a change in any one of the legs may require changes in the other two to keep the stool balanced. To close with a blatant plug, I encourage you to join us at a delivery of the Enterprise 2.0 Bootcamp to learn more about the three legged stool and successful E2.0 implementations.

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