Online Info call for speakers


My good friend Steve Dale is in charge of the Online Information conference this year, which should mean it’ll be an absolute belter.

The call for speakers has just been announced and you can propose a topic for a session here. I’ve republished Steve’s email below:

There is a growing recognition but not yet a consensus about integrating social media into an organisation’s workflows and business processes. There is a desire to develop more effective knowledge sharing and a culture of collaboration amongst staff, but little recognition of what this means in terms of organisational change.

Today’s organisations must be able to rapidly adapt to an increasingly volatile and economically challenging environment to remain successful, yet achieving an agile organisation that can deliver high quality products and services is no easy task and one which requires the right blend of people, processes, and technology.

The common goal that all these organisations are trying to achieve is culture: an information and knowledge sharing culture that enables the entire organisation to rapidly respond and adapt to socio-economic changes.
For most organisations, several challenges remain in developing an effective knowledge sharing and collaborative culture:

  • Geographic and cultural differences
  • Silos of information
  • Difficulty in easily publishing information across teams and departments
  • Information security
  • Workforce skills

Many of these challenges are a result of legacy information systems that aren’t built for today’s knowledge worker, yet there are still abundant opportunities for Information Professionals to prove value and demonstrate worth. Why not share your experiences at Online Information 2010?Is the semantic web part of the answer?

Will the social web foster more effective knowledge sharing across the modern workplace?

Is the collaborative revolution the opportunity for a surge in information productivity – or is it just a distraction?

We want to hear from organisations that have transformed themselves to be more agile and flexible by exploiting open or linked data and conversation streams. We are looking for exciting, innovative applications as well as lessons learned from the application of Web 2.0 tools and techniques. We want to showcase organisations that are using semantic web techniques to create new and exciting resources.

Do you have a story to tell?

  • Maybe you’ve been involved in creating a new application for Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo!, Google or the iPhone?
  • Have you made the move to the semantic web to deal with the digital explosion and the need for greater “intelligence” in your information?
  • Perhaps you’ve found ways to exploit new online tools to transform the way your organisation does its business?
  • Have you changed your management processes to cope with this “always connected world”?
  • Have you identified the education and training needs that will enable your staff to become more effective knowledge workers?

Then why not share it with others?The Online world is waiting to learn from the pioneers who have made it work. This is your chance to be seen as one of the leaders – with your story reaching a global audience from over 40 countries.

I look forward to receiving your proposal.

Stephen Dale
Online Information Conference 2010

Digital mentoring for public servants?

Ingrid has a very nice post about the training my good friend Steve Dale and I provided to some folk at the Local Government Association and the Improvement and Development Agency today.

I think people left the room enthused.  A colleague whose arm I twisted to attend the course (when I was worried it wasn’t full – in the end it was overfull) thanked me for getting her along.   I’m planning to meet with another colleague in the near future to take some of the training into real concrete action.  And that’s the best feedback of all.

Which is very gratifying to hear.

I think there is a real need for fairly basic overview sessions like this one, introducing people to some of key aspects of this social web thing: not just what the tools are and what they do, but some of the philosophy behind it all.

Digital mentoring for public servants? Quite possibly. Maybe a topic for Barcamp?

Links and Twitter

Steve Dale writes about his uneasiness with a new Twitter mashup service, Twitchboard, which automates the posting of content from Twitter to other social web services. At the moment, all it does is links: if you post a URL to Twitter it also gets pinged to your Delicious account.

I may be in the minority here but I feel slightly troubled by apps such as Twitchboard that want to think for me. I’m perfectly happy to create my own bookmarks in Delicious, which are reasonably well organised and categorised, or to click on Stumble! to add a link to a particularly interesting article I’ve read to my Stumble!  These are conscious decisions I’ve made to provide the ’semantic glue’ for my personalised social web. I tend to Tweet about fairly trivial stuff and will occasionally link to an article or picture that I’ve found particularly amusing. I don’t necessarily want to store these links for prosperity, or worse, create my own personal tag cloud around a random stream consciousness.

I can see some of the value, just in terms of time saving, for cross posting links to Delicious from Twitter. But I think Steve is right in this case – having Twitchboard perform this service would make you think twice about what you post to Twitter, and that’s just no fun. Presumably you also still have to go into Delicious to add tags and stuff (which is where most of the benefit lies) – so it isn’t that much of a time saver after all.

I mentioned in a comment on Steve’s post that actually doing this in reverse makes more sense: links I save in Delicious get automatically shared on Twitter. This is fairly easy to get set up, simply by using the RSS feed from my Delicious account and Twitterfeed to parse each link I share into Twitter.

It will be interesting to see how this works…

The culture of collaboration

Steve Dale writes about the need for organisations to consider the cultural as well as the technological issues around collaboration and communication using the web”

An excellent posting from Shawn over at Anecdote about fostering a collaboration culture. A good corollary to my recent postings about what I see as growing and misplaced belief that Web 2.0 is the solution to more effective knowledge sharing. They key point I was trying to make is that technical solutions (blogs, wikis, RSS) by themselves do not create, nurture or develop learning and sharing communities, or improve engagement between government and citizens. I emphasised the importance of people in the equation, both in terms of skilled facilitators (those who support and encourage conversations and collaboration) and the willingness of the users themselves to actively engage (e.g. a shared domain of interest). Shawn refers to fostering a culture of collaboration, which I think is quite often overlooked by those who are rushing headlong into implementing Web 2.0 facilities in order to achieve better knowledge management.  To put this into perspective, the investment (time, cost and support) for the ‘people and process’ side of the communities of practice being developed across local government exceeds the cost of the technology by a factor of ten or more. Furthermore, this is recurrent cost and not a one-off capital expense.

I’m delighted that Steve is already signed up with the etoolkit project wiki, as getting this balance right is key to the success of the project. The toolkit we are developing will make clear the complete costs of implementing a social media solution to a problem, including people’s time and training, as well as the financials. Social media and web 2.0 are quick and easy to do, but not so quick, and not so easy to do well.

Online collaboration does work

Despite now working in further education, I’m still involved in the predominantly local government based Communities of Practice social online collaboration platform, which is developed by the Improvement & Development Agency. For a quick run through of the whys, whats, wheres and hows, Steve Dale’s presentation from Online Information 2007 is as good a place to start as any.

[slideshare 200879 communities-of-practice-in-local-government-final-05-dec07-slideshare-version-1197474073591885-3]

I currently facilitate a few communities on the platform, principally the Social Media and Online Collaboration one, where we discuss the latest and greatest online innovations and muse dreamily on how wonderful it would be for our bosses to allow us to use them. Another is the Public Sector Knowledge and Information Management network – which could be significant as the management of knowledge becomes an ever-more important issue for public bodies.

If there is anyone reading this blog who might be interested in either of these communities, do sign up. It’s tremendous to see people engaging with social web tools to work together, and to share their knowledge and experience. This stuff really does work, people.