Thursday, January 31, 2008

don't look in my freezer

So I'm at the Comedy Store with some mates to see Gina Yashere and we end up in the front row. GY is very funny but you wouldn't cross her. Anyway for some reason she gets into her head that I am serial killer*. Probably because I was looking at her funny. I have been told before that I do that - look at people in an unnerving, calculating way. Not all the time, obviously, but sometimes. It's not something I am aware of. I think I'm trying to look thoughtful or like I'm paying attention. Turns out it looks like I'm considering whether they'd go well with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Ultimately we only have so much control over how others take us - the presentation of ourselves in everyday life. I wonder how concerned we should be. I don't want to end up practicing expressions in the mirror. Sorry.

*She also accused me of having a thing for ladyboys. Which is obviously absurd. I mean, obviously. Er...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

stacked! the social software experience

Many people have pointed towards Thomas Vander Wal's social software stack. I like it and I think it can be interpreted in a couple of ways:
  • As a set of functions that a social software offering must provide to be of use and succeed.
  • As a description of the social software user experience.

The two are not necessarily identical. A function can provide different experiences and an experience can involve multiple functions.

Each of the active elements involves interaction between identities using an object or objects in potentially different way. An important thing to remember is that while TVW provides an order to the active elements in terms of functionality provided, multiple active elements may be occurring at the same time in terms of user experience - e.g. I may Share as the result of a Relationship and build my Reputation.

what do i want to be when i grow up?

Back in September I asked a question about the mission of EwF. And more broadly, I've been thinking about what I want to be doing for the next 5 years. This is somewhat unusual for me as I'm a bit happy-go-lucky but hey, may be I'm just getting old. And talking to Brad over coffee this morning, I realised that everything that interests me is actually connected. So I created this concept-map-type-thing. Unlike most concept maps, it's not hierarchical but you get the general idea. I can see it really annoying a lot of people and it's not 100% complete but you have to start somewhere (click on the image for more detail). If I had to explain what I want to do to a future employer/client/spouse, this is what I would start with for the visual thinkers... (click on image to see bigger version)

the andromeda strain & business requirements

The problem with the andromeda strain is that by the time you've figured out what it is, it isn't that any longer. Any resemblance to other issues is purely illusory.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

hairball orbits

Orbiting is following your bliss

So I got a copy of Orbiting The Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. It's a beautifully made book - full of cartoons, doodles, memorable images (GM started off as an artist at Hallmark Cards). Above all it's messy. None of the perfectly drafted diagrams that sit in business books as tasteful conversation pieces. And the writing is great. GM's style (stories, parables, reflections) falls just the right side of folksy. The humour is self-deprecating. And how can I not love the passion for experimentation, exploration, to innovation? The right for each of us to try something a bit different sometimes.

I won't tell you what the hairball is. You'll have to get the book to do that.

P.S. I just found out GM died in 1999. Hot damn. Thank goodness he wrote this book when he did.

Monday, January 28, 2008

they amputated my dreams

I'm in a pub on Friday night and I start talking to my urbane, intelligent, charming drinking companion about Annette's commission and disappointment in general. And I ask him what he could do if he could do anything. And he finds it really difficult to answer. And this would be OK if he was totally satisfied with his current life but I don't think he is. He finds it hard because he has lost the capacity to dream. Thinking about what else might be is too painful. Too much time owed to a career and money owed as a mortgage. There is no other reality than the one that is present and correct.

Don't make me cut off my own fantasies so I lie at wake at night with only the agony of phantom ambitions for company.

the sound of my own voice

This may come as a surprise to many of you but I hate hearing my own voice. I literally tense up into a tiny ball of embarrassment. I find doing the mp3 recordings extremely painful but it's something I'm going to have to get over.

What do you hate doing?

art life stuff

Thoughts on the offer & the various conversations I have had with others (not necessarily commissioners). Three things have struck me.

1. Art in everyday life. In some senses, our lives are saturated with cultural products - TV, music, pictures, architecture. We often only allow ourselves to occupy the role of consumer. A lot of this mass-produced stuff is actually very good but we fall into the trap of thinking that the creation of these cultural objects is done by "someone else". I'd like us to emphasize a world where "art" crops up everywhere. The explosion of new media content creation technologies (digital cameras, video, sound recording) and sharing environments (Flickr, YouTube) give us an opportunity to make this a reality. I love the idea of commissioners requesting something connected with their everyday life and being able to reincorporate the output back in normality.

2. Demystifying creativity. If "art" is done by "someone else" then that person must be "creative". And of course, we are not creative. Those beautifully composed photos? Oh, just something I did to relax over the weekend. But that's not proper art because art is only done by creative people and I am not creative. One major rule of improv is that you should never try to come up with the perfect response. You just need to do something. Now. Because now is the right time to do it and whatever you do is the right thing to be done. In some ways, the profusion of high-quality cultural products is an inhibitor to local creative acts. Few of us will ever paint something as beautiful as Van Gogh's Sunflowers. And yet that image is everywhere. I love the idea of commissioners sharing their own creativity at every stage of this process (but I am not going to insist that they do so).

Several people have decloaked as past or present poets when I've brought this topic up. A couple of people have even sent me their stuff (ta).

We need to acknowledge that creativity is fundamentally collaborative & social.

3. The role of technology. As mentioned earlier, I think the new media have a major role play. This role is subtle however. I've been using tech because the commissioners so far have not been based in Sydney - not because I especially want to use technology, just because it's helpful. Visual artists are way ahead of writers in terms of using new media tools but I think it's time we imagine a world where the novel, the short story and the poem are only three of many textual things to be worked on. There was a big, self-conscious rush into hypertext in the mid-90s which then died a death. People got bored with it. There needs to be more exploration of digital media as vehicle for language-lovers (of whom I count myself one).

gsoh essential

In personal ads, a good sense of humour (or GSOH) is normally considered essential. I find this request very annoying because it is rarely clear what constitutes a good sense of humour for the writer. Humour is important because what we find funny is tied up with who we are, what we value, what we think of ourselves and others. I might think my darkie and fag jokes are absolutely hilarious but you might think otherwise. Unless people say what GSOH means, requesting it it pointless. The writer is basically saying that "I like people with a similar worldview and values". Like, duh!

It kinda reminds of organisational value statements that refer to "excellence" or "a customer focus".

Who doesn't think they are funny? And who doesn't think they value excellence?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

djehuti deal - for lauren brown

Djehuti deal

Thoth shuffles the deck.
His feathered thumbs
interlace each card with its twin,
base pairs of my story.

The corners of the cards are bent.
This deck has been used before
so my story is not new.
I find that comforting.

Thoth does some flashy tricks.
The cards catapult from one hand
to the other across the gap of a lifetime.
I think he’s trying to distract me, bless him.

“Pick a card”, he says
fanning the deck before me
like a peacock buzz saw.
“Any card”

My fingers touch one card then another,
flirting with a fate
they must unwillingly consummate.
They stick to a card.

I have seventy six choices,
arcana major and minor.
Three score and ten and six,
more than a lifetime.

The horse is as white as the rose
on the black standard,
as white as the skull of the rider
with the gotcha grin.

Seventy six choices and I get this one.
“Thoth, is the deck loaded?”
“Yes but don’t take it personally.”
There is a pause (for dramatic effect).

Thoth pulls a coin from behind my left ear
and another from behind my right
and places them on my eyes.
I ask him how it‘s all done

and with an ibis smile he tells me.

Get the mp3.

I have a confession to make. I didn't come up with the mix of Thoth and the tarot. This piece owes a big debt to Hot Head by Simon Ings - which is a awesome book that you should all read (if you can find it).

creating death and magic with lauren brown

I met Lauren at Interesting South back in November where she not only designed the stage and presented on How To Not Feel Like A Twat When Looking at Modern Art but also made the tea. Lauren is doing a show on Death & Magic later in the year and requested a poem for inclusion in the catalogue.

I asked Lauren to do 2 out of 3 possible activities for the research process. Despite being an artist, she avoided the one art-focused request and went for the musical and writing ones instead.

"Send me mp3s of 10 songs that rock with D&M goodness for you."

Lauren's Death & Magic playlist:
The Blue Lady (Outro) - The Nerve Agents
The Gallows Is God - The Distillers
Helicopter - Bloc Party
The Milkman Of Human Kindness - Billy Bragg
Suppose You Gave A Funeral And Nobody Came - Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
Bullet In The Mattress - The Gadjits
Don't Lose Touch - against me!
Girl Anachronism - The Dresden Dolls
Mint Car - The Cure
Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The Libertines

"I'm interested in negative space. I'd like you to sit in front of your keyboard and hammer out what a world without magic and death would be like in a free-association, stream-of-consciousness prose flow. No editing or deleting. No pausing. Just a a continuous stream of words. For 13 mins 13 seconds."

no death, on and on and on. my ex boyfriends would never die, my parents would continue to live in nursing homes until the money ran out and I would have to send them out onto the streets to beg like strangers, pretending that I had never met them before and lying about the change I had in my pocket. my poor cat would be meowing at the door for all eternity. the mice would run around in a plague and the cockroaches. oh the cockroaches. if there was no death, I couldn’t stamp on them and have a smug little grin that, despite my belief in a reincarnation pay-it-forward system, I managed to exterminate the little bastards.

and about that reincarnation pay-it-forward system. without magic, I don’t think I could believe that I might, eventually, atone for sins, or whatever you want to call them. I also wouldn’t believe that breaking a mirror gives you 7 years bad luck and that not looking someone in the eyes when you say ‘prost!’ in germany results in 7 years bad sex. ok, so it’s not strictly magic, but it’s on the same level.

without magic, I might not believe in those happy little coincidences that happen without even thinking about it. in fact, I might have to believe, for every single second, of every single day for the rest of my eternal life (you know, remember, no death) that I was responsible for everything that happened to me. I like a bit of existentialism in my diet, but I think existentialism works because there’s death at the end of it. game over. you can move onto the next level if you’re wrong.

no magic and you’re in charge, buddy. or I’m in charge. and I can’t quite work out which would be worse. it’s like magic (and death) give you some kind of traffic light system. green lights, born; red lights, death; amber lights are those near misses where we thank god, or the universe, or the magic of santa claus for a chance to give it another run.

Now some random comments from me. It's been a long time since anyone has mentioned Carter USM to me. I love The Nerve Agents track - it has an icy, eerie feeling to it. And who doesn't like The Cure? As for Lauren's writing, I loved it. Like disappointment, we tend to think of death as a negative thing but Lauren seemed really uncomfortable in a world without death. But magic is the flipside, the requirement that makes life bearable. This heavily influenced the piece that follows (believe it or not).

7h - for annette clancy


I draw the plans in hope and 7H pencil
on the back of a flattened cigarette packet
(smoking may harm your unborn baby).
They are sumptuous,

They are, however, but a pale shadow
of my house of dreams.
My imagination mansion.
Diamonds and mahogany,
marble in majesty,
but still tastefully done.

I have the plans transferred
onto vellum with gold leaf letters
from the finest oriental calligrapher
stolen money can buy.
The authorities approve my wishes
with only minimal bribing required.

The builders are engaged at
sufficiently exorbitant rates
to appease my ego,
and I plant the opal foundation stone
on the first day of work
to rapturous applause from hired lackeys.

Slowly the house of my dreams
rises from the ground
like the geological event it is;
then burrows under the earth,
a regal mole blind
to its own beauty.

Three months in, there is a stock market correction.
I stand, corrected, humiliated, broke.
The house is half-done and alone.
A perfect ruin already.
I burn the plans
and float away on the smoke.

Get the mp3.

exploring disappointment with annette clancy

Annette chose the topic of disappointment. Annette is working on a PhD around this topic. So I asked her to send me some of her writing and she was kind enough to send me a copy of a research people. We can't discuss that because it's under review for publication - which is rather, er, disappointing.

I also asked her write down words she associates with her topic, plug them into Flickr and then send me the 10 photos that resonate (& say why) without telling me what the keywords were. And here they are (with Annette's comments in italics):

I like the juxtaposition of the two images - which of them is real and which is fantasy? Maybe both are both/and?

I liked this because it reflects how so much of our 'reality' is what we make of it - how we think of it and how we eschew any sense of 'action', is it easier to be pessimistic?

Simplicity - sometimes stuff is as it is ..

A nice post modern version of a very familiar face

I liked the iconic image of a stage of life

click here to see "the secret of dreams"

Semi abstract and an interesting image to accompany the search term I punched in

click here to see "breakfast 2.10.07"

This was the only image for the search term I inputted!

click here to see "rolled dreams"

I loved the ordinary items organised in a really interesting way - there's a beautiful symmetry to the image

click here to see "Heartfelt words....."

I was surprised by this image - it didn't sit with the search word I used and then, thinking about it, of course it did!

click here to see "SUNFLOWER"

Loved the framing (or the playing with framing) going on in this photo

I loved Annette's choices. A few observations:

  • The colours in Annette's choices are very strong. Check out the greens in "The avenue in mist and sun" or the red in "little red corvette". We tend to see disappointment as being negative and dark whereas I found these a very upbeat & positive set of images.
  • The relative absence of people - only 2 of the 10 had human beings prominent. Which is odd because I think of Annette as a "people" person.
  • Annette has an eye for strong compositions (in terms of framing, etc).

With these images and Annette's academic work, I had great material to work with and two poems emerged - which will be posted shortly...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

action points - for johnnie moore

And this is the commission for Johnnie Moore. The process for this was just us nattering on Skype for half an hour. Or it is the hours of conversations and personal blog posts that we have had since we met in 2006. Which makes it either the simplest or most complicated in terms of development. Whatever.

Action Points

The Children of Israel
were in the desert.
They cried out unto me,
beseeching me for a display of
my level five leadership.

Have I not given them manna from heaven?
And quails and bread and sweet water
and drinks with nibbles
after each quarterly update?

Have I not delivered them
from bondage in Egypt
and offered them a
land of milk and honey and share options
set at a reasonable strike price?

Truly they are a stiff-necked people
but I am the Lord their CEO
and employee engagement
is a key focus area this fiscal.

I summoned my COO to the Mount Sinai off-site
for forty days and forty nights.
Amid the fire and the smoke
and the golfing, I gave him my laws
and bade him formulate
a training plan.

I bade him write ten action points
on 2 slides of powerpoint
with handouts carved in stone.
Everything will now be right.

My COO returned to the Mount of flame
and team-building trust exercises
and told me of a golden calf
that stood without
the strategic plan.

The Children of Israel are many
and in need of rightsizing.

Get the mp3 of Action Points right now. Feel free to redistribute if ya wanna.

Friday, January 25, 2008

ahead of the curve - for adam ford

This is the commission for Adam - which as you may recall was on the topic of anticlinal folds. Adam created this mind map as part of the research process (I love the references to the statistics and pastry - click on the image for the full-size original).

I met Adam firstly on Barbelith and then in New York in 2000 (where I decided not to visit the World Trade Centre on the basis that "it would still be there the next time I visited"). Adam is a novelist and a fine poet. In exchange for the commission, Adam is writing a poem on the same topic. I'm not encouraging this option with anyone else but Adam gets more leeway than other people. So without further ado:

Ahead Of The Curve

I bet you thought
there were no traces left
by your crime of passion,
that act of creation.

I found a plastic print,
a twisted arch of earth
left at the crime scene.
Guilt-raised ground

gave away your botched intent.
They are coming for you on my evidence.
Your getaway was not equal
to your intelligent design.

Get the mp3.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

watching me watching you watching me

Kim has something of an obsession with the uses & abuses of surveillance technology. Being watched by others is not really an issue for me as I am something of an exhibitionist (albeit a thoughtful one - I'm really not that pretty). Privacy & surveillance are important issues but here I'm more interested in the notion of self-surveillance.

This Melcrum article discusses tech that could take employee surveillance to a whole new level - by monitoring employees' physiological states. This tech could be used to make employee lives hell ("Number 4826 is far too relaxed & happy - quick, hit him with a ludicrous deadline!").

However we also benefit from self-awareness. A simple example of this is videotaping yourself doing a presentation - and then seeing the things you do well and the goofs you make that you are blithely unaware of. If this physiotech could be owned and used by the employee (rather than their superiors) then it could allow them to perform better without the nasty sense of being watched.

Foucault talked of governmentality. Buddhism talks about mindfulness achieved through reflection. Monitoring tech has the potential to make us more mindful if it is owned and controlled by us. Conversely it has the potential to make us feel more like a cog in a machine or a dog in a show.

Which do you want?

the seven habits of highly effective blackmailers

I like articles / posts that have "5 key things to remember when drafting emails" or "10 tips of improving meetings". They are often short, pithy and can impart useful knowledge. I just find myself less and less able to write them.

I have a confession to make.

I don't really want to make your life easier.

I want you to think. Hard.

I want you to wonder why the hell you are subjecting yourself to this and yet continue to do so anyway.

Is that so unreasonable?

return of son of age of conversation II

If you liked the Age of Conversation then Drew & Gavin are planning a follow-up.

Vote on their title suggestions here. Email Drew if you want to write for it.

Like just about everyone else in the known interweb universe, I have thrown my hat into the ring as a potential contributor. Don't expect the top 10 tips on effective internet marketing tho.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

my own private archipelago

I'm doing fair bit of ONA stuff at work at the moment - using Laurie & Cai's getting-there onasurveys and the wonderful NetDraw. And in doing so, I'm reminded of this post from August concerning Facebook's Friend Wheel that highlights for me the strengths and weaknesses of network mapping.

The strengths: The "Friend Wheel" does a decent job of identifying the main groups in my life from the last 10 years. The clusters from IBM/PwC, Oracle, Calcutta Rescue, Ankali, London/Barbelith, the Australian music heads & poets that leave slight traces, the huge tangle of KM/blogging folk that I know. All beautiful people whom I am lucky to have met.

The weaknesses: You would know nothing of the people I went to schools and universities with (OK - with one exception, Mike). You couldn't see my oldest friends. The people I would die (& maybe kill) for. The vast underground of love and hate and need you will never know. And even with the folk you can see, you don't know about the joy and the pain and the people I've helped, been helped by, screwed over & been screwed over by. You see from 30,000 (air-brushed) feet.

The humility this instills in the network analyst is critical. We see but through a glass darkly - and that is better than not seeing at all. Let's not confuse the map for the territory.

Monday, January 21, 2008

ignorance spirals

Courtesy of Patrick, I see this spot on post from Chris Collinson on lessons learned. Chris is totally right. I like his reference to lesson plans in school and I would add that the break is as much a failure of social connectivity as it is of foresight. If we don't know who the lessons are for then it does become a sterile exercise...

feel that sound

A couple of years back I was watching Rage after a bleary night out and this video came on. It was a guy in a cheesy 70s outfit dancing to an absolutely bangin' house track. It provoked a strange chain of responses within me:
- "Look at that old fool, he's old enough to be my dad"
- "Hang on he can still dance better than I can"
- "Wait a minute, he's RIGHT..."

House music isn't something that you can listen to with ironic distance. Either you feel it (preferably on the dance floor with others) or it makes as much sense as Linear A. What I really love about the video is the idea that Bobby Farrell is doing this stuff 24/7/365 not just at Boney M reunion gigs. The world is reenchanted by a man with flares and a beat box so big it must breach health & safety restrictions somewhere.

I guess this is what I am trying to do with The Offer. I'm tired of sitting in spoken word gigs with one man and his dog or watching talented writers scrabbling to get their work in anthologies that lose money. Not that the gigs or anthologies are bad in themselves - just hopelessly inadequate. We can no longer wait for people to come to us. We have to take it to them. Grab your flares and follow me and Bobby out the door. Turn on the music...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

keep your mind on your driving and your eyes on the wheel

So this is Tata's 1 lakh car. I have been talking to people about the poetry project and this morning I found myself on Skype messaging with Andrew Rixon about the creative process.

More specifically, the creative process as applied to poetry. The way I have been conceptualising this is like a car (hey I'm a bloke, I have a Y chromosome and I'm not afraid to use it). Maybe not quite like Tata's little baby here but something similar. Every halfway decent poem I have written has an emotional engine in it - fear, love, regret. Without this motor, the poem goes nowhere. Then there is the steering (structure & conceit) and bodywork (language). If I encounter problems in the writing process, it's rarely with the structure or the language. It's often at the level of the emotional engine (the libidinal drive?) powering the piece.

Which is where the tricky bit with the poetry project comes in. When I am writing off my own idea or experience, I have direct access the emotions driving the poem. When I am writing off someone else's experience, it's a lot harder. So I'm deploying some techniques to give a voice to the emotions of the commissioners. I'll write more about these once we've actually done them but I think it's impossible to overstress the importance of the emotional aspects of experience in creative endeavour. And I'd also like to warn potential commissioners that we may be opening a whole nother can of worms in this process.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Adam Ford has requested a poem on anticlinal folds as he has one nearby. He claims he is not ****ing with me. What follows is not Adam's poem (we're going to do a bit more work on that) and it is not what I normally do - but it's kinda cute. And I'm a big fan of economy in storytelling.

poetry update

Following on from yesterday, we have 5 expressions of interest, 3 emerging research thingies and 1 complete first draft that will be finalised over the weekend.

Come on people - let your fingers do the talkin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

making an offer

I have another life. A few times a month, I stand up and do performance poetry in various pubs & cafes around Sydney. Sometimes the punters love it. Sometimes you could hear a pin drop in the pained silence. Thems the breaks. I've been doing this for a year and I'd like to broaden my horizons.

Would you like a poem written for you?

Yes. You.

Questions & Answers

What can the poem be about?
Whatever you want it to be. A loved one, a special event, a topic that gets you passionate. Up to you.

How much input do you need from me?
The more the better. A conversation over a coffee or the phone is a minimum.

Can I tell you what style I want the poem written in?
Sure. Suggest poets and poems you like. I cannot guarantee the output will be anything like them but it will give me a clue.

What if I don't like the poem?
If it's minor, we can do a rewrite. If it's major, then we just part company. I keep the poem and you owe me nothing.

What do I actually get at the end of this?
A written copy of the poem and an mp3 of me reading it.

What do I have to give in return?
Well, here's where it gets interesting. I had thought of charging for this service but I'm not skint at the moment and I'm more interested in fostering creativity in others than tangling with the taxman. So you have to think of something to give me that you perceive as being of equal value to the poem. But what that is exactly is up to you. This is an exchange of gifts. A potlatch.

[UPDATE: For various reasons I would prefer it not to be a poem (some other kind of cultural product is fine) but that's down to you.]

Does your stuff rhyme?
Sometimes. But not always and rarely consistently. There does tend to be a lot of alliteration.

Who are you like?
It varies. It really does.

Who owns the poem?
You can use it in any way you see fit (provided it's not to make money). I keep the copyright and can get it published - but only with your permission (e.g. if it's about your dead cat, you may not want it broadcast to the world).

How do I know you're any good?
Try me and find out.

Here is a little sample:

i look around the train carriage and wonder
when the level 3 smile restrictions will be lifted
when ominous clouds of joy will still the chatter of the sun
and douse this cheesecake city in delight

the drought had lasted so long
that i mistook the sound of rain

for the white noise of my television

Monday, January 14, 2008

for the plebs

This post by James D reminds me of an experience I had doing KM at a global consulting firm. I was working with a colleague on a proposal toolkit - a set of templates and tools that consultants working on proposals for telco clients could use. It would basically say what we did and why that was great - so they could (hopefully) spend more time tailoring the proposal to the clients needs (because we never created cookie-cutter proposals, oh no).

Anyway she had gone to show this to one of the senior partners. And he had said: "That's of no interest to me, I never write proposals." The reply to this guy is obvious: "It's not for you, dickhead, it's to stop the 6 grads you've got writing these things 18 hours a day from going insane and popping a cap in your over-golfed ass."

This bloke obviously thought employee engagement* meant someone proposing to their PA. Though a fair bit of that happened too from what I recall. What is that turns middle-aged men with too much money into walking cliches?

*It might look like the postings on this blog are completely random but it's all connected. Connected, I tell you. Now about JFK and the moon landings...

otherwise engaged

Melcrum have done a survey on employee engagement and guess what comes up as the two most important drivers? Compensation? Recognition? Training? Strategic Direction?

All good guesses but it's a little more simple than that. Your boss. And their boss.

In smaller organisations, senior management are really, really important (perhaps because their impact is felt more directly). In large organisations they are on a par with direct supervisors in terms of their influence. But either way, if you want your people caring it starts with you.

Which kinda supports the previous post really.

So if you are a boss, are you using your employee engagement superpowers for good or evil? The NY Times (via Bob Sutton) has a round-up of some self-assessment quizzes.

freezing out on the scarpa flow

Michael Idinopulos writes about in-the-flow and out-of-the flow activities and wiki beahaviour and Andrew McAfee takes his point a bit further. Andrew asks:
How outlandish would it be for a company to put participation in emergent social software platforms in the flow for at least some employees? In other words, why not put in job descriptions something like "being helpful at the enterprise level using digital tools such as blogs, wikis, folksonomies, Q&A forums, idea boards, comments, prediction markets, ratings, etc."

And then goes on to say:
I get the impression that few companies these days think of their employees as assembly line workers who should be focused exclusively on the job that’s right in front of them... I imagine part of the reason companies haven’t done much of this yet is that to date it’s been hard for people to work above and beyond their ‘normal’ jobs. Doing so typically involved physical displacement—hopping on a plane, going to a meeting, etc.— and so was time consuming, inconvenient, and often costly.

I suspect that may be a part of it but only a small part. I think the assembly line worldview is far more prevalent than Andrew realises. When I worked as a knowledge manager in a global consulting firm, we had terrible difficulties getting people to participate in knowledge sharing activities. While management consultants are paid far more than assembly line workers, there was a huge focus on utilisation and billable hours - and these people tended to work long hours. Many of them did not want to contribute to a wiki or write a blog on top of that.

I am a little cynical of the "rewriting job descriptions" suggestion as these are rarely worth the paper they are written on. My comment would be this: People follow their leaders. If senior execs are not contributing to this stuff then why would their juniors?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Patrick Lambe has some disturbing survey results (well, disturbing for KM practitioners anyway).

virtual worlds (2): damned lies

I love data & statistics so I was mightly pleased to find this article in The Economist. Marvel at the lovely feats visual rhetoric created by Florence Nightingale & co. While I think that virtual worlds have some utility for training (where the skills being taught are primarily concerned with information manipulation), I think the real action is in visualising things you can't find in the real world. If we will indeed be Competing on Analytics more and more in the future then we will need robust ways of understanding this data. Most people are more comfortable with pictures as opposed to numbers so visualisation tools will be critical.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

virtual worlds (1): lessons from poker

I'm a bit wary about virtual worlds. Over the festive season, I spent a few hours playing online poker and it reminded me that: (a) I'm not a very good poker player & (b) You don't necessarily want a faithful reproduction of the real world in cyberspace.

Lets focus on issue (b) for now. When you play online, you get a little avatar (in my case, a hillbilly with a plaid shirt and a trucker's cap). However my avatar did not exhibit any shaking, sweating or indeed any behaviour to find him in Mike Caro's book of poker tells. And that suited me just fine. The basic transfer of information in poker is through betting - the amount bet and the speed with which that bet is placed..

Would I want an avatar that gave too much away?

The other point to make is that while online poker is conceptually the same as playing in room full of sweating card sharks, they are different experiences. Not least in the "tells" department.