Thursday, July 20, 2006

Green Chameleon

OK - so I'm in Singapore this week & I finally got to meet Patrick, Paolina & Edgar from Straits Knowledge / Green Chameleon (thank you for lunch, people). Goh Su Nee (thanks for the lift home) of NTU / IKMS & Denise Quay (thanks for making it happen).

Given that 4 of us are (or have been) librarians, the conversation get a bit old skool (ah MARC, AACR2).

It was in the restaurant where we went to dinnerr that I encountered the story of the Samsui women for the first time.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Simon Reynolds points to an article on happiness studies in the New Yorker. And a Princeton study tells us that Happiness & Money are not linked.

I think most people pursue cash for reasons other than the pursuit of happiness. We are not hard-wired by evolution to be happy but to survive & reproduce. These activities involve competition for status & resources. I don't think we can ever escape that.

As for happiness, as Darrin McMahon observes, the expectation that we have a right to be happy is a comparatively recent one.

What does this mean for organisations? Should they spend time trying to ensure that their employees are happy?

Concept of the week: Astroturf

i.e. fake grassroots organisations. Article from Trevor here.


Euan on levity

My sense of the ridiculous gets me into trouble. Many people have a hard time understanding that you can be funny & serious at the same time. It's one or the other.

And business is serious. And I am important.

Oh Yes.


David Rymer talks about passion.

Lots of business people talk about "passion". Passion for the customer, passion for excellence, passion for innovation. Passion all over the place - apparently. Do we believe them?

Passion has its positives (joy fulfilment) & negatives (obsession, delusion). If organisations say they want passion, do they mean it? Are they prepared to deal with the consequences?

I have met lots of genuinely passionate people in businesses. I have also met many who could not give a toss. The small-minded would say that Australian passion did not allow the team to win the World Cup...

Monday, July 10, 2006


No, not a Fleetwood Mac reference. This post from Trevor has got me thinking. Whilst the report is OK, it assumes that 1. rumours are bad and 2. the key reponse of management to rumours is to squash them.

Whilst there is some very sound advice here (e.g. if you tell the truth regularly then people might trust you more) there is a missed opportunity. Does the nature of the rumours circulating through your organisation tell you anything about values, culture, employee attitudes, etc? Should not be trying to systematically understand what drives rumour patterns in you organisation without being invasive about it?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blogging not "a nightmare"

Enraged by a potent cocktail of crappy weather & Alan Kohler's article in the SMH as referenced by Trevor Cook, I fired off an intemperate email to author. To his great credit, he replied that he might have been excessively negative...

Apart from the blogging diss, it's an interesting PoV on Aussie TV.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Headphones...

Success by The Winnie Coopers - downloadable here - catch the video...

Jesus Walks by Kanye West - Yes, yes, I know it's been around for a while but still, it gives me goosebumps...

Pretty much everything from Radiohead's tour...


The joint session with ISPI I referred to earlier went very well.

Robert Perey & John Loty did a fantastic session based on Appreciative Inquiry around the topic of "Marriage".

N.B. Altho everyone walks away from an AI session feeling sunny & happy, it did not lead to me getting hitched. So a 50/50 on the success score there...

Strategic Questioning

The Facilitators Network ran a session on Strategic Questioning. The focus was on big questions about things rather than questions about big things (if you see the distinction).

Fran Peavey asks on the page linked to above: "Were you ever taught how to ask questions?"

If you were a researcher in the social or natural sciences then the answer is "yes". However, you are taught to ask a very specific kind of question - the testing of a hypothesis.

In other walks of life, we are not taught this skill. Which means there are vast tracts of our lives we do not approach properly because we either ask the wrong question or none at all.

Feel free to post questions you find interesting in the comments field. Here are a few to kick things off:
- What would it take to make people as excited about their local environment as their national football team?
- Why do businesses downsize employees & not shareholders?
- Why don't public relation people ever talk to the public?


ISPI Sydney ran a session on sustainability last night. As advertised, it was something of a mixed bag.

Andrew Ashner's talk on green manufacturing was fascinating & depressing. He went thru Industrial Ecology, Cleaner Production, Eco-Efficeny, Lifecycle Management & a host of other initiatives.

Paraphrasing his conclusions:
- If we carry on they way we are going we are screwed.
- There are lots of fine words about sustainability but comparatively little action.
- The methods & frameworks are good but too complicated for business people to get their heads round.

The Megaplanning approach to strategy also looked intriguing.

I suspect that Sustainability will have a similar role in the next decade to the one that globalisation has in this one & technology had in the 90s. Whether we can meet that challenge or not remains to be seen.

Why KM is hard to do

A Green Chameleon posts on why KM is hard to do.

The issue they focus on is that of "infrastructure" - systems & institutions that simultaneously enable & constrain.

The answers they come up with are:
- Consult intensively, but keep decision-making simple
- Establish and maintain clarity of purpose
- Acknowledge the baggage
- Manage the timeline
- Shorten and leverage learning curves
- Use social networks
- Provide for habit-changing strategies
- Demonstrate impact to stakeholders

Now there is some good stuff in the article - esp. observations on the nature of infrastructure. And the recommendations are solid & commonsensical.

KM is simple. Yet KM is hard. Reasons why this might be so have been occupying my thoughts recently.

As practical as the article is, I think it leaves out some key reasons why KM is hard to do:
- We think more is better. More knowledge is better knowledge. This assumption rarely holds.
- We have trained each other to be uncooperative from an early age. There is another word for collaboration at school... cheating.
- Most organisations begin KM programmes because they are responding to a traumatic change in their internal or external environment. However the result often ends up reinforcing the pre-change organisation more than the desired end state. It becomes a conservative part of the infrastructure that Patrick describes, a hindrance rather than a help.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cognitive Edge

The Artists Formerly Known As Cynefin has a new home...

Real-Life KM Book for free

Real-life KM @ KnowledgeBoard. Check it out...

Feeds for Speed

I've started using Rojo as my RSS feed reader. Seems to work quite nicely, thank you. The extra interesting functionality is that it allows you to tag entries and then share these tags with your contacts. I'd love to do this but I don't know any other users. Anyone fancy volunteering?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Old vs New Media

The Economist had a good survey on New Media. It quotes a media consultant as advising newspapers & magazines to make their content linkable rather than wall it off. I'd like ot link to that quote but The Economist has... walled it off. That aside, it's actually pretty good stuff.

And it relates directly to a recent post by Ross. There are two criticisms of the new media environment most frequently made by Trad Media pros:
1. No one reads blogs.
2. It's all nicked from mainstream media anyway.

Both of these are valid but miss the point.
1. Most blogs have a small number of readers - but that's OK. Most of the conversations I have are with small numbers of people rather than huge auditoriums. And a pub/cafe debate is a better metaphor than a news article for a blog.
2. Most bloggers will utilise whatever news sources they have. And those often happen to be from trad media. But most bloggers I know do not want to replace the BBC or the Wall Street Journal. The point for the blogger is what they add to the story. It's what you do with it that counts.

Sydney Inner West KM Conference 2009

Speaking of conferences, I posted this to the ACT-KM list last year - which earnt me accusations of sillines & negativity from other posters. These accusations are, of course, absolutely correct but the post did actually deal with lots of issues around conferences that annoy people.

Dear Sir, I have discussed your kind offer to keynote with my fellow Conference Committee members and we would like to assess your appropriateness in more depth. If you can answer "yes" to the following questions then we can take this further:
- Is your paper a spiteful & thinly veiled attack on your enemies* posing an intellectual treatise?
- Was it assembled by a poorly-paid postgrad researcher on your behalf in less than one week?
- Does your seminar consist of not of actual case studies but projects carried out by others you read about in discontinued journals or ones you hallucinated after a bottle of claret too many?
- Do you remind seminar attendees how fortunate they are to be in your presence at least once every 10 minutes?
- Are crucial parts of your seminar only available in your book?
- Are crucial parts of your book only available in your seminar?

*real or created by your paranoid imagination

Let me assure that the venue will be the finest location in Sydney's Inner West willing to offer kick-backs to the committee.

Delegates will have maximum opportunities to suck up to potential employers & clients. However we can only guarantee that vendors will be muzzled & leashed until 8pm - after that, delegates are advised to either return to their rooms or seek sanctuary in the hotel bar.

The draft theme is: "Knowledge Management - Flogging A Dead Horse". At the end of Day 1, delegates will have the opportunity to literally flog a dead horse - which will then be lightly grilled on a barbecue for dinner.


On the new Green Chameleon, Patrick Lambe bags conferences and Vivian Kaye expresses her own doubts.

As a sometime organiser of the NSW KM Forum, I constantly struggle with how to make these sessions more participative vs. getting enough people through the door to make it worthwhile.

We have had some big-name speakers in the last few months and they tend to draw the crowds. However I have a problem with just getting in big names & letting them speak. It's not that they don't have anything to say (they do) or that attendees don't learn anything (they do - or so they tell me) but it takes attention away from the abilities & experiences of the practitioners in the room. It's a "broadcast" model of learning rather than a peer-to-peer one (think CNN vs. Bitorrent).

So how do we generate interest as well as increase participation? One option is the "guest facilitator" idea. David Rymer did this well at the Feb session. And our next session (this Thursday) is both facilitation-based & also introduces something else I'm keen on this year - liaising with other groups. The cool thing about KM is that it overlaps with some many other disciplines - it's at these fault lines that you tend to get the exciting possibilities. So this session is a joint event with ISPI.

Cooperation Commons

Brought to you by the Institute for the Future & Howard Rheingold: The Cooperation Commons...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Processes & Stories

I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Tregear last week. Roger is something of process improvement guru with an interest in storytelling. Roger will presenting on using storytelling to support BPM later this year. I for one am waiting with interest.

Learning To Fly

So we had Geoff Parcell at that there NSW KM Forum last Thursday. And fantastic he was too.

Best bit: Geoff spent a lot of time talking about "knowledge-based benchmarking" - which sounds a bit shandy but is really about creating a common framework for conversations & learning. Geoff's work with BP is COOL. But his work with the UN around AIDS is COOLER...

Hello Stranger

Yes, it has been a long time since posts. I've been busy n stuff. I still love you. Really, I do...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Decision Styles Revisited

Cast your mind back to a previous post on the variability of decisions styles as compared to organisational seniority. Well those wacky folk at Decision Dynamics have published evidence in the Feb 2006 Harvard Business Review pretty much saying the same thing.

Only with actual data & proof.

Also check out the interesting distinction between private & public decision styles of senior execs.

A fourth metaphor

KM databases as dustbins.

Sometimes it's true. Database managers are dustmen. Users are scavengers. And content. Well, your content is...

KM & Learning: a match made in heaven?

Based on a question asked by Kaye Vivian on ACT-KM.

Having worked in this group for over 3 years I will make some observations:
- The training/learning/education space has been going through some changes. Traditionally, its methods were classroom training & textbooks. And its focus was around role-based skills development with side orders of career development & compliance (esp. in heavy industry & then financial services). Then in the 90s, computer-based training or eLearning became big news.
- However, most of those involved in learning have a shameful secret. We know that most learning does not occur within classrooms - but rather on the job. Coaching & mentoring programs can help here but increasingly they are looking to knowledge management for support around "just in time" learning programs.
- Some do claim that KM should be owned by learning. If the organisation perceives KM as primarily being a technical fix (e.g. a database or a portal) then the neglected "people" side of KM may be open to this.
- The actual ability of the learning function to take this on will be varied. People tend to fall back on what they know and if you are a fantastic workshop facilitator or a great instructional designer then nuturing a community of practice or running lessons learned activities can be an alien experience. The tensions between JIT Learning & prescriptive curricula are also becoming apparent.
- Most organisations manage where the cost goes rather than where the value is added. Training & education budgets tend to cost several times that of a KM program - so KM may end up a poor cousin.
- There is a lot of value to be had in linking F2F training with Community of Practice development and integrating eLearning with other content-based approaches to KM.

KM people have a lot to learn about the presentation/packaging/facilitation from the training community. In turn, trainers can gain a far broader insight into the lifecycle of learning & knowledge from KM folk.

I know of other organisations where these discussions are happening - e.g. a sales CoP at Roche Australia is being established by an eLearning expert.

A joint event around "Social Learning & Collaboration" is being planned between the eLearning Network of Australasia and various regional Aussie & Kiwi KM groups for the second half of this year. Stay tuned.

NSW KM Forum March Event - Karl-Erik Sveiby & Euan Semple

Treading Lightly - The Hidden wisdom of the World's Oldest People - Karl-Erik Sveiby, Professor in Knowledge Management, Hanken Business School

Followed by

Social Computing For The Business World - Euan Semple, Head of Knowledge Management, BBC

WHAT: Karl-Erik asked Tex: 'What is the word for knowledge in your Aboriginal language?' 'We don't have a word for it,' Tex replied. Tex is a Nhunggabarra man, painter and storyteller from northwestern New South Wales in Australia and Karl-Erik is a Swedish professor in knowledge management who currently lives in Finland. This was the first time they had met, and Tex's answer was so unexpected and so intriguing that Karl-Erik immediately became interested in learning more about the Nhunggabarra Aboriginal people. Karl-Erik was quite surprised when it turned out that the Nhunggabarra principles for organising society were context-specific leadership and knowledge-based organising; everyone in society had a leadership role in a specific area of knowledge and the leader role shifted depending on the context and who was the most knowledgeable.

WHO: Karl-Erik Sveiby is often described as one of the "founding fathers" of Knowledge Management. In 1986 he published his first book in Sweden, in which he explored how to manage "Knowledge Companies". His 12th book "Treading Lightly" is a celebration of, and a thank you to, Australia, the country where he lived nine years till 2004. It is a story about the oldest sustainable society on Earth and how they created value from their intangible assets. He is currently based in Helsinki, Finland where he is Professor in Knowledge Management at Hanken Business School. He is also Honorary Professor at Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Griffith School of Management, Brisbane and Polytechnic University, HongKong.

WHAT: The internet enables "globally distributed, near instant, person to person conversations" - are you enabling such conversations inside your organisation? Are you interested in helping your people find each other, learn from each other and to use these connections to improve your efficiency and increase your ability to innovate.

WHO: In addition to 21 years culminating in a senior position in the BBC, Euan Semple has four years of unparalleled experience learning how to make the most of this wired-up world of work and how businesses can prepare themselves for the challenges and the opportunities they represent. He is highly connected to the most influential movers and shakers of this new environment and his workshops, which have often been described as inspirational, have already been experienced by many diverse audiences worldwide.

WHEN: 5.30 for 6pm Tuesday 7th March

WHERE: Standards Australia, 286 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

HOW MUCH: Free! If you plan to attend, please RSVP by e-mail to:

To Summarise

3. And finally... The Warehouse

If you have knowledge workers then they must make and ship knowledge (or so the manufacturing analogy goes). So they need parts to do that - which they get from the stores (after all, there are plenty of data warehouses) to assemble into product. And these parts need to be stored somewhere.

The part of this metaphor that is often forgotten is that inventory depreciates over time. The goal of many organisations is to carry as little physical inventory as possible. The lifecycle for documented experience is rarely considered. We talk about knowledge assets - over what period of time do you depreciate a knowledge asset?

(Now several folk have promoted Just In Time KM in various forms - incl. Tom Davenport & Dave Snowden. One question I would put to them is: JIT supply chains are efficient (& effective) but fragile - if the flow of materials & information in them is broken then there is no inventory to pad this out. Are such JIT KM approaches similarly fragile?)

In manufacturing your parts belong to a bill of materials that make up specific products. Documented experience rarely fits together like this. Without this bill of materials it is difficult to see how individual artifacts relate to each other.

2. The Bank

This one is a little less intuitive than the library but still common. Put your intellectual capital in a knowledge bank just as you would put your financial capital in a bank. This metaphor has two parts: i. safety & ii. growth. You don't want to leave your capital hidden under your bed where mice or thieves can get at it. Put it in the bank and not only get peace of mind but a healthy rate of interest as well.

Managers have a perpetual fear of their key people walking out of the door and taking their knowledge with them. The KM database as bank calms this fear. It also equates knowledge with value - which was an exciting idea in the 90s when KM databases became popular. Whatever it may be, knowledge isn't the same as money. But the bank metaphor does provide some food for thought. The reason a bank can offer interest on deposits is that it loans out your capital to others at higher rates of interest - or invests them in some other fashion. Very few owners of KM databases sort to actively reinvest their intellectual capital elsewhere to generate additional value.

1. The Library

The library has long been associated with learning & information. Until the 90s this largely meant printed matter – papers, journals & especially books. In linking a KM database to a library the inference is clear: Just a library is a repository of human experience made accessible, so the database contains the experience of that particular organisation made accessible.

One aspect of libraries that is elided in this comparison is the importance of human interfaces. Most libraries have reference desks & front-of-house staff to assist users. These librarians must have a good knowledge of their collection plus the interviewing skills to find out what people want.

The metaphor breaks down when the relationship between users & content is examined. In most libraries, the content is owned by the library and the user borrows it and returns it unaltered. Writers & readers are clearly separate groups. In a KM database, the user may also be a creator. You would hope that users improve & update content to keep it fresh – writing comments in a library book is bad but this ain’t necessarily the case for project methodology. In short the library metaphor stresses a unidirectional flow between content and user.

KM Databases

If George Lakoff is correct that the primary human tool for understanding the world is the metaphor then knowing the uses and limits of the three metaphors that individuals and organisations use to understand KM databases is important.

I would like to suugest that these are:
- Database as library
- Database as bank
- Database as warehouse

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Subject Matter Experts (2)

There was one critical area I forgot to discuss in the last post: SME availability.

If your expert is good & their subject is in demand then you can guarantee they will face a million calls on their time - of which yours will be just one. So how do you avoid getting sidelined?

Some suggestions:

Agree with the project sponsor upfront how much SME time you will need & when in the project you will need it. If you are an external provider, get it written into the contract.

Remember that you will need SMEs to check the final outputs as well as for initial information gathering. Do not be stingy in time allocation for this as it will take longer than most expect & will almost certainly be subject to cuts.

The best way to get an SME's attention is to lock them in a room with an instructional designer and their mobile phone turned off. If the SME & the design team a re not co-located then expect to double or triple your allocated development time. If they are not in the same time zone then increase it by 5.

You may have to "sell" the development project to the SME. Take time to understand what motivates them and link this to your training development project. Motivators can include:
1. "I understand that a lot of yout time is taken up with answering simple questions & providing informal training. Invest your time in this project and we can reduce the time you spend on the simple stuff so you can focus on things that are more interesting"
2. "This project will raise your profile within the organisation"
3. "Here's some money" (works with external SMEs)

Know who the SME reports to. If it's your project sponsor - fantastic! If not, you not only have to know what motivates your SME but also what motivates their manager - and have a benefits case for them as well.

Be flexible. If your SME can only spare 3 hours on a Sunday morning then you may have to go with that.

Do not overload your SME with tasks that could be done by someone else - and do not allow them to take on those tasks if they are under pressure. If you can only get an hour of their time then they shouldn't be spending half of that spellchecking.

Often it's all about negotiation (see the reference below for Getting to Yes).

Subject Matter Experts (1)

Adam Shapiro from MCQI posted the following question on ElNet about working with subject matter experts for training materials development.

Having had some discussion of the role of subject matter experts, I'd be interested in hearing your strategies for ensuring that you get the best value out of your SMEs. I don't mean how do you flog them into a work frenzy, but rather, what are your strategies for ensuring that:

1. You have a good SME who knows their stuff to begin with;
2. You create an environment in which they can contribute to the best of their ability.

Also, what do you do when 2 SME's disagree and you're the piggy in the middle?

Just addressing the first question, a lot of this depends on the nature of the subject matter.

If it's widely understood, well documented & stable then finding an SME shouldn't be too difficult & neither should getting their work checked.

You will face more challenges if the subject:
- Is a niche area.
- Has a small or non-existent literature.
- Is changing rapidly.
- Has several divergent (& mutually hostile) approaches.

Some comments:

Trust & personal recommendation can play a key role. Is this person respected by their peers & by your colleagues?

Who is the ultimate decision-maker / stakeholder - i.e. who is paying for course development? What are their opinions of the SME or the SME's approach? And what does the SME think of them? Ideally, these two should be aligned.

Most experts have egos. These need handling. Some think their expertise expands beyond their actual domain areas - into things such as instructional design. How much you massage these egos vs. battle with them is a moot point. Establishing your own credentials as an SME in your space is crucial. Getting to Yes & Dealing with People You Can't Stand have some useful things to say here.

Some SMEs are highly articulate. Others seem to spout pure gibberish. Your own interviewing & communication skills will be therefore be crucial.

A final word about scope & audience: Pitching material at the right level of understanding is a fine art. If you are unclear about the needs of your audience then do not expect to get the best out of your SME.

Ideally your expert will be well-respected, modest & a good communicator (and I have been blessed with those). But do not rely on this.

Regarding Piggy-in-the-Middle. The critical thing is to get out of being in the middle. Depending on context you can:
- Lock them in a room until they come up with a single point of view.
- Present both points of view in the final deliverable.
- Get the key stakeholder to make the final call (if it's a major content point).
- Agree an objective criteria for deciding between the two.

Do not let them wage proxy wars through you or slip through changes on the sly. After many painful experiences I have learnt that you can never avoid conflict, only delay it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Maister Plan

Ross has drawn by attention to David Maister's web site. Several of my colleagues hold him in awe as the consultant's consultant so I rushed to check out the site. And it's a delight. DM seems to have taken up blogging & podcasting, he "gets" RSS, there are articles, seminar handouts & videos. The content itself is rock solid - including an article with the title "Marketing is a conversation"...

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Disappearing email lists

The Yahoo-based ACT-KM list abruptly & mysteriously disappeared about 2 weeks ago along with 2 other KM lists. It has been restarted here. Props to Mark Shenk & Ron Rogers.

Yahoo did not state why the list was terminated.

Until today.

A Yahoo representative contacted the ACT-KM moderator and stated that the group was shut down due to complaint about violated trademarks owned by Hudson Associates. According to an article, their president likes to dress up as Attila the Hun - a role which may have gone to his head.

I would like to know the full list of terms trademarked by Hudson Associates. I pray that it includes "Knowledge Management" - that way we can finally ditch the term & do something more interesting.

Dan Kirsch has yet to provide an answer but I suspect that ACT-KM was caught in a cross-fire between rival US KM professional organisations. Which is akin to being savaged by consumptive sheep.

Monday, January 30, 2006

NSW KM Forum: Communities & Serendipity

Good CoP, Bad CoP: Are Communities of Practice a Structural Panacea or Essential Component of the KM Toolkit? Mark Andrews, National Knowledge Manager - Corporate, Freehills
Conversations on Serendipity: Management nightmare or hidden power shaping organisational agility? David Rymer, Thinker-In-Residence, Intuosity

WHAT: The last five years has seen a concerted shift from a technology to people focus in KM, with organisations setting up Communities of Practice (CoPs). However, little consideration is given to the role of alternatives.What can be done with more formal structures? How we can effectively tune an organisation to increase knowledge sharing? Mark Andrews will draw on experience from Capgemini, Sydney Water and Freehills to offer some answers to these questions.

WHO: Mark's KM experience spans Ernst & Young, Capgemini, Sydney Water and Freehills. He also lectures in Knowledge Management as part of the UTS MBA program. His background includes management consulting, HR management and IT project management.

WHAT: Agile organisations centre their knowledge on value creation. Agility (responsiveness, flexibility, and innovation) determines how successfully organisations meet their customers’ needs. David Rymer will draw on real world experience including The Israeli Air Force, venture capital start-ups and The Coca-Cola Company to examine how surfing serendipity shapes knowledge futures, sparks organisational change, fosters innovation and delivers economic outcomes.

WHO: David has enjoyed an eclectic career spanning marketing, technology, innovation, KM and organisational change in Australasia, Asia and the United States. David is the inaugural Thinker-In-Residence with Intuosity, a private Think Tank tasked with exploring the world of ideas, inspiration, intuition, curiosity and innovation. David is also Deputy Chairman of the Standards Australia’s Knowledge Management committee.

WHEN: 3.30 for 4pm until 5.30 pm Wednesday 8th February

WHERE: Standards Australia, 286 Sussex Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

HOW MUCH: Free! If you plan to attend, please RSVP by e-mail to

Innovation - Think Play Do

Read or hear the recent ABC programme by Mark Dodgson on innovation.

- Innovation as outcome vs process.
- Importance of play within innovation process (and a reference to Michael Schrage).
- A reference to one of the world's least boring economists.

More Evil

More breaking news of the fight of Good vs. Evil. Danny O'Brien of NTK tells us the epic (and funny) battle going on in the open source software environment.

See No Evil.
Hear No Evil.
Speak No Evil.

Cheers to Boing Boing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Prediction Markets

The KM cluster is running an event in NYC on Prediction Markets hot on the heels of a West coast event.

John "KM Cluster" Maloney has recommended Chris Masse's site as a source on Prediction Markets.

I am not aware of much work in prediction markets in Australia - Andrew Leigh has co-written a paper on betting vs. polls and the 2004 Australian election.

Anyone got any ideas?

Melbourne Lunch redux

Monday's Web 2.0 / any old excuse lunch is blogged about here by Andrew Mitchell.

I got to meet Andrew Rixon which led to an enticing but abortive conversation on representing social networks. Andrew namechecked Space Syntax. The standard node/edge visualisation of an SNA breaks down when you have to handle 100+ nodes. Andrew suggested a "streetmap" visualisation for social networks.

I think he's onto something.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Talking about Pictures Part 2

And that other place entirely is: process

There has been some recent blogospheric discussion driven by Ross Mayfield's declaration of the end of process. In fact, what Ross advocates is:

At best, a process should serve as a reference model. Something that others can reference when completing a task. Something that can be leveraged for innovation, a boundary condition for experimentation at the margin.

They are the rules in stone that innovative types must always battle against.

Brushing aside whether the constant recreation of process is always a good idea ("Hey, screw the manual, we're going Open Source on the operation of this nuclear power plant - who wants to start a wiki?"), this position assumes that the processes in question are clearly documented and well understood by those involved in them.

This is not always the case. Rarely are we mindful of the processes we forge or follow.

We need to be able to describe it and/or visualise. If this sounds like I'm getting Buddhist on your ass - well I am.

Now, there is veritable tower of Babel of process description languages - ADF, UML, EPCs, CUL8R (I may have made that last one up). An attempt to forge an Esperanto (altho one that people actual use) of process mapping can be found in the Business Process Modeling Notation project.

What has this got to do with character? Well, process models are all about decisions. Here is one for Sydney cab drivers: "If the traffic light is green keep going. If the traffic light is yellow, then accelerate wildly in attempt to beat it. If the traffic light is red then hit the brakes and swear loudly".

Or as Robert McKee calls them: choices.


Social Software & Web 2.0 Lunch in Melbourne - Monday Jan 16th

Following on from the Sydney Social Software lunch & gossip session, there will be a rematch in Melbourne on Monday 16th. Location as yet undecided. If you are interested then post a comment to register interest and more details will appear anon.

***UPDATE. Location will probably be Regina Pizzeria in the QV precinct.

Communities, SNA & Personality Types

There has been a recent discussion on the Communities of Practice discussion list about personality typing and activities within communities.

Are specific personality types likely to perform specific roles within a community?

There has been some conjecture from proponents of DISC and Myers-Briggs as to which personality types might gravitate to which specific roles.

Another framework to use are Belbin's team roles. Rather than say: "Your presonality is structured in this way" (which Myers-Briggs definitely does and DISC does to a lesser extent), Belbin says: "These are the roles you find in a team - which ones are you most comfortable with?"

If you have a stable model for the roles in a community, then presumably you could create a set of questions that might identify the suitability of individuals for each of those roles.

As several people have pointed out, such personality profiling systems do not take account of the development of individuals - i.e. they tend to be static rather than dynamic.

In the course of this conversation, Valdis Krebs alluded to an informal study by an academic acquaintance that looked at correlations between Myers-Briggs types for students and SNA metrics (e.g. centrality) for their positions in their study-related networks. Interestingly, no correlation was found...


Thanks to a prod from Andrew Mitchell, I have changed the settings on my "Comments" function so now posters do not have to register to post a comment - but I get to moderate them first. I want opinions & insights - not offers for low-cost extensions to various parts of my anatomy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

An Ear For The Crowd

Many people I know are scared of public speaking. So they go to Toastmasters or on presentation skills courses.

There are plenty of role-models in the public speaking arena: politicians, preachers & poseurs.

Fewer people are worried about their listening skills. Which is odd - because most of us will do more listening in the course of a day than public speaking. And most of us are pretty bad at it.

So who are our great public listeners? As listening tends to be a private & personal activity, there aren't that many.

There are plenty of entertainers masquerading as interviewers.

However, there are a few that do it well. Denton has his moments. As, in a very different way, does Parkie.

There situation is unnatural in that they are not just listeners but intermediaries on behalf of an audience (some of whom are present in the studio and most of whom aren't). But there are some things that carry over.

One critical issue is attention. With a good listener, you know that this person is listening to what you say. Now some recommend that 100% attention is critical. However, it is possible to "over-attend" to someone. Some people do not actually like eye contact. I am odd in that I find it very difficult to share potentially embarrassing information over the phone (altho it's less difficult in person) - I prefer using instant messaging if possible.

Another is silence. Silence can be scary in conversations. But it can be a good thing. It's s sign to the speaker that the listener is paying attention - and is happy to wait for them to find the words they need to say. I think we need to have silence practice more regularly.

Which reminds me of a Steve Wright joke.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Talking about Pictures Part 1

It's a truism among writers that character & characterisation are two different things.

Over to Robert McKee for a moment:

CHARACTERIZATION is the sum of all observable qualities of a human being, everything knowable through careful scrutiny: age and IQ; sex and sexuality; style of speech and gesture; choices of home, car, and dress; education and occupation; personality and nervosity; values and attitudes – all aspects of humanity we could know by taking notes on someone day in and day out. The totality of these traits makes each person unique because each of us is a one-of-a-kind combination of genetic givens and accumulated experience. This singular assemblage of traits is CHARACTERIZATION. . . but it is not CHARACTER.

True CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.

We'll come back to Robert later but first we need to go to another place entirely... (TO BE CONTINUED)