What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Bookmarks for October 3rd through October 19th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for September 10th through September 14th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for August 18th through September 8th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • Civic Commons code-sharing initiative bids to reduce government IT costs – "Around the United States, city governments have created a multitude of software. Unfortunately, most of the time the code from those projects is not shared between municipalities, which results in duplication of effort and redundant, static software."
  • Anonymity, trust and openness on the social intranet – "In some organisations, the cloak of anonymity could help to establish the first part of that trust relationship, and reassure colleagues that leaders are, in fact, really listening; once it exists, it’s easier to step out of the shadows with a greater degree of trust and openness."
  • The end of history – "History will, of course, look after itself. It always has. But the future history of our time will be different from our histories of past times, and that will not be because we have an eye to the future, but because we are always relentless focused on the present."
  • Why aren’t we all working for Learning Organisations? – "…the authors suggest a way for managers to switch from a ‘command and control’ to a ‘systems thinking’ mindset in order to achieve genuine organisational learning."
  • Quixly – Cool way to host and deliver paid-for content, such as e-books.
  • Understanding Marin County’s $30 million ERP failure – It's not just UK government that cocks up IT projects.
  • Google Wave open source next steps: "Wave in a Box" – "We will expand upon the 200K lines of code we've already open sourced (detailed at waveprotocol.org) to flesh out the existing example Wave server and web client into a more complete application or "Wave in a Box.""
  • Should Governments Legislate a Preference for Open Source? – "It's easy to legislate a preference for Open Source, and difficult to implement a level playing field upon which Open Source and proprietary software could compete fairly. Thus, a number of governments have enacted the preference as an easy-to-legislate way of solving the problem, but I submit not optimally. Having a preference gives proprietary software an opening to portray themselves as the "injured party", when the reality is that historically there has been a preference for proprietary software in both legislation and internal process of government purchasers, and this still exists today."
  • Wiki life – "The point, in the end, is that Wikimedia by its DNA operates in public and benefits accrue — not just as product and engagement and promotion and distribution but also as strategy. That’s the next step in creating the truly public company or organization."
  • First Impressions: VaultPress (WordPress Backup) – Nice summary of the premium backup service for WordPress (sadly just in beta at the moment).
  • Sink or Swim – Donald Clark on the birth of Learning Pool and why the public sector needs it more than ever.
  • Damien Katz: Getting Your Open Source Project to 1.0 – Great notes on successful open source development.
  • Harold Jarche » The Evolving Social Organization – "For decades, organizational growth has been viewed as a positive development, but it has come at a cost."
  • O’Reilly, Open Government and the Ingenuity of Enthusiasm – "It is quite clear that performance management and procurement, as well as many other government processes, need to be revised, reformed or radically changed. But this won’t happen unless we recognize that government and its employees need to remain in charge, need to stay as the custodians of neutrality and transparency, and we, the people, developers or users, can just help them do a better job but not replace them in any way."
  • Research findings and recommendations for Councils – Some fantastic shared learning here from Michele.
  • sigil – "Sigil is a multi-platform WYSIWYG ebook editor. It is designed to edit books in ePub format."
  • Enterprise 2.0 Perceived Risks: Myth or Reality? – "…security is a personal thing, a personal trait that everyone needs to nurture and treasure accordingly."
  • Using Free, Open-Source Software in Local Governments – "…how is it that local governments have failed to capitalize on the cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits of using open source software, especially given the budget crises they face?"
  • Open Government Data – "This event will bring together movers and shakers from the world of open government data — including government representatives, policymakers, lawyers, technologists, academics, advocates, citizens, journalists and reusers."
  • WordPress › Email Users « WordPress Plugins – "A plugin for wordpress which allows you to send an email to the registered blog users."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for May 14th through June 2nd

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

  • TWiki – the Open Source Enterprise Wiki – "A flexible, powerful, and easy to use enterprise wiki, enterprise collaboration platform, and web application platform."
  • How digital engagement can save councils money – A great paper from Anthony at the Democratic Society. Read this!
  • Living in a world of the merely improbable – Great post, covering why organisations need to figure out their approach to digital and how it can help them get through the cuts.
  • Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt speak out on web institute axing | Technology | guardian.co.uk – "Web inventor says that open government data will become increasingly important – but that 'immediate decisions had to be made' on spending."
  • Instant messaging: This conversation is terminated – Interesting article on the decrease in use of IM – it's Facebook's fault, it would appear.
  • And The Long Sought Replacement For Email Is . . . | Forrester Blogs – "Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts (count me in) have argued for several years that Email’s manifest deficiencies could and would be overcome with open, social, and dynamic 2.0-based communication and collaboration tools. However, there’s also long been the recognition that Email – or rather, Email users – would not go down without a fight."
  • The Coalition: what now for digital? at Helpful Technology – "In terms of public sector IT at least, it looks broadly as through the principles and plans outlined by the Conservatives over the last six months are being brought into effect, with added emphasis on civil liberties."
  • Designing the Big (Civil) Society – it’s DIY time – "But in my experience, whether it’s a group of activists, social entrepreneurs or local government officers, you can’t assume people will easily start co-designing new stuff together – particularly if that involves adding technology. People need to get to know and trust each other, tell stories about what’s worked and what hasn’t, filter inspirational ideas against local realities, think about who does what, where the money comes from, and so on. That’s particularly difficult when you are doing that with less funds then before – as will certainly be the case."
  • The Future of Open Data Looks Like…Github? – "the future to me in this area seems clear: we’re going to see transformation of datasets incorporated into the marketplaces. As the demand for public data increases, the market will demand higher quality, easier to work with data."
  • Government needs a SkunkWorks – "What's stopping us spooling up a Skunkworks? Nothing but the momentum which continues to carry us down the old path. It's inertia, but, as I said, we're at the dawn of something new. Personally, I'm confident that all manner of things which would have been difficult before will now become possible."

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for March 21st through March 29th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Bookmarks for March 18th through March 20th

[Something is going wrong with this again. For some reason this hadn’t been posted before now.]

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Next Gen KM

Knowledge management is something that really interests me, and it’s something that I think governmental organisations at all levels in the UK need to start seriously addressing. Of course, being a social media fanboy too means that I like to see where web technology can help with this stuff: to make it easier, more effective or just more fun.

So, I thought it might be useful to run through a few of the more popular KM tools and techniques and see where web 2.0 can improve things. I have linked to Nancy White‘s great resource on KM tools for each one for background material.

1. Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice are groups of people with common interests or goals, who come together to share best practice, information and experience – fundamentally, knowledge. They can exist on and offline, but when brought online you need to be careful that your provide the right interfaces for people to be able to connect with one another in an organic fashion – in other words to replicate real life interactions as accurately as possible online.

Why would you want to do this? Well, while I would agree that face to face meetings are always the best ways of building trust and getting things off the ground, they do have their weaknesses. For a start, there is a limit on the number of people that can attend at any one time, and geographical issues means there is always someone that will miss out. By providing an online alternative, these people can still engage with the community. Another consideration is the fact that not a lot goes on between meetings generally, and the online community provides the glue that sticks people together in between these get togethers.

For example, mailing lists cannot be used to create a community of practice – the conversation is too one-dimensional and there is no way of discvoering people with common experiences or problems. Web forums are better, but they are still organised in a top-down fashion, with people completing limited profiles and having limited means of sharing information: the threaded conversation.

Social networks, however, provide the right level of interaction, with personal profiles with wider scope and a range of different discussion and collaboration means. The great example of this, of course, is the IDeA’s Communities of Practice platform which provides a social network backed up with blogs, wikis, forums and document libraries to enable knowledge to be shared in whatever way the user feels is appropriate.

2. Knowledge Cafes

Knowledge Cafes are informal discussions, usually in small groups on a common theme, with plenty of coffee on tap. It’s an opportunity to explore ideas as part of the group, a mixture of brainstorming and discussion. Some structure tends to make knowledge cafes more effective, and one way is to have a facilitator not to lead, but rather shape the discussion to draw the best out of all the participants. At the end it’s usually nice to have a rap-up, where each group feds back their thoughts on the topic, and for them to be captured, perhaps onto paper or a word processed document.

One of the best things abut knowledge cafes is the fact that the small group allow everyone o have their say, but with everything being drawn together at the end, and this intimacy is difficult to replicate online. An additional difficulty is in whether you choose to make the online Knowledge Cafe synchronous or not – does each group need to be online at the same time, or can they log in and add to the discussion when they want, maybe during the course of a week?

One way of running a (for want of a better term) synchronous online knowledge cafe would be to make use of instant messaging technology. For example, Meebo is a browser based instant messaging platform which allows anyone to log in using their preferred IM protocol, whether it be MSN, AIM, Jabber, Yahoo! or Google. Further to that, Meebo allows you to create rooms where several people can participate in a discussion. It could work really well, with a Meebo room for each sub-group within the cafe. Another option is to use Campfire from 37 Signals. However, to have more than one room, and more than four people involved in a conversation, they you will need to pay for an upgrade to the standard service.

If you prefer to run an online knowledge cafe that people can dip in and out of, and don’t all have to be online at the same time, then the obvious solution is a forum, where the threaded conversations can accurately represent a conversation online. However, forums (which you can probably start to tell I am not awfully keen on…) can’t really mirror the organic nature of human conversation. The linear representation of the discussion means that tangents can’t easily be developed – and often that is where the real value lies. Wikis aren’t much use either, because while they are really easy to use and to get content online to share, they aren’t so hot at replicating structured conversations. Perhaps the best way of doing this therefore is to use a mind mapping service like Bubbl.us, which allows mind maps to be edited by members of a group, who are invited via email. This way, thoughts can be added, with responses added as nodes coming off the originating ones. Tangents can be followed up, while still keeping the whole conversation trackable and in one place.

3. Peer Assists

A peer assist is a pretty simple idea: someone has a problem, and they ask their friends to help out. In reality, it’s a bit different from a simple chat, as someone leads the discussion and helps to keep things on track, to ensure the conversation achieves, as much as is possible, the objectives of the session which are clearly defined at the outset. The objectives of a peer assist are going to be more specific than the more general discussion of a knowledge cafe, for example, and it is important to regularly check that the ideas being offered are suitable for the problem being discussed.

One of the key elements of running a successful peer assist is that you have people involved with the knowledge and experience to make useful contributions. Finding such people can be a difficult task, and social networks provide a great way of discovering people based on their interests, whether through the subject they write about on their blogs, or what they list on their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles as stuff they are good at. The chances are that you will already be ‘friends’ with these people and so they are entering the exercise as an already trusted source.

In terms of actually running the peer assist using the web, I think this is where the wiki really comes into its own. You can put the original problem at the top of a wiki page and invited contributions from those taking part to appear underneath. Those that the orginator thinks are potential solutions can be developed further, those that are unsuitable can be archived to elsewhere on the wiki. In terms of a good wiki system to use, my favourite is WikiSpaces, which allows for the easy integration of a range of content types and is really simple to get started with.

Another option might be to write the problem up as a blog post, with suggestions coming in through the comments, though this might end up being a little linear.

4. After Action Review

An after action review is a simple enough idea: a team takes a look at a recently completed piece of work, and collaboratively works on what went well, and what not so well. Key questions are: what could be done better next time; and what can we do better elsewhere as a result of good stuff done in this project. They don’t have to be held at the end of a project though, and can be used at various stages so that continuous improvement is possible.

In the real world, an after action review would be run with everyone around a table, so that all the necessary views and experiences can be aired. This can be replicated like the knowledge cafe with instant messaging, forums or online mind mapping. If you are really stuck then even email will do it.

However, a more interesting method might be to combine collaborative authoring with discussion, using a system like WriteWith. This allows you to jointly edit some text, in a Google Docs or Zoho stylee, but also has a threaded discussion running alongside it. So the facilitator of the review could post a document detailing some of the aims of the project, with actual performance results and outcomes. These could then be discussed alongside the text, which can then be updated and turned into the after action review report. What’s great about WriteWith is that it will then let you export to PDF, Word or OpenOffice format – or even send the text straight to a blog!

5. Knowledge Market Place

A knowledge market place, or fair, is an opportunity to learn what it is that folk know, and what they would like to know. The ideal end result would be a big grid with a list of people with their skills and their needs on, with some contact details so that folk can easily get in touch with those they can help. Face to face methods of running a knowledge market place can include getting people to team up and ‘interview’ each other, writing down the wants and offers on post-its, which can then be stuck on the wall for viewing later as well as being typed up.

An online version of this would suit any kind of site which allows details profiles, so people with certain skills can be tracked down easily. Another way would be to have a wiki page, laid out as a grid which people can add to as they see fit. It might be possible for a blog to be created, with a post per person. These could be completed by the person concerned themselves or (more fun) someone they have just been speaking to. Tags could be added to outline the wants and needs, so that groups of people with similar interests could be identified with one click.

Any more? 

There’s five from me, then. Anyone got any more ways that web 2.0 can be used to develop KM in new and interesting ways?