E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez


The Evolution of the Web: Past, Present, Future by Nova Spivack

Tenerife - Mount TeideAnd continuing further with that series of blog posts with highlights from 2009, here is another one that I thought I would share with you folks today. It’s not going to be the only one touching on this specific topic, but I guess I had to start somewhere. Yes, that’s right! I’m talking about some of the most amazing presentations that I have been able to attend live, or rather, get exposed to them from services like Slideshare that some of the folks I have been following for a while have been sharing across in there.

One of those presentations that I have certainly found really inspiring, as well as very much thought-provoking, is the one put together by Nova Spivack under the title "The Evolution of the Web: Past, Present, Future" and which he gets to describe briefly over at his blog. If you are looking for one of those presentations that would make you think for a while where we are in terms of our own usage and exposure to the Web, and its true potential, and, much more interestingly, where we are heading, this is one presentation to go through!

When I was first exposed to it a couple of days back, I just couldn’t help pondering about what my own Web user experience has been throughout the last 13 years. You would think that it’s been one of those that some would consider mature, specially when I realised it’s been almost 10 years since my first exposure to social software. However, if you check Nova’s deck you will realise how it’s actually something more to do with baby steps. Right at the infancy of what the Web will offer not just today, but in the next upcoming decades.

Plenty of people seem to think that Enterprise 2.0, or Social Computing, whatever term you would want to refer to, is the final destination that will help change the way we work within the enterprise,  fundamentally transforming not only the business itself, but us all as knowledge workers who are constantly depending more and more on the flow of information and knowledge at our fingertips. Well, for all of those folks I can certainly recommend you check out Nova’s deck, because it surely isn’t the case…

Somehow, after going through his deck, that growing sense that Enterprise 2.0 is just the beginning, having just gotten started with its initial infancy stages, would become stronger than ever. Yes, we are at the beginning, or going through the initial stages rather, of a new (r)evolutionary way of conducting business, of having more information than ever before at out immediate reach and having to make plenty of informed / learned decisions that may well not only change, but also influence tremendously, the corporate world as well as knowledge workers. I know that some of you may be thinking out loud we are witnessing a rebirth of Knowledge Management, perhaps. In fact, some of the main principles, defined over 15 years ago, are still the same.

However, in my opinion, there is a big fundamental change taking place and Nova nails it quite nicely on that presentation shared above by using a specific term I have grown to become rather fond of over the last few months… Yes, I’m talking about the Intelligent Web. The last frontier for the World Wide Web, where, finally, we are starting to see how it will connect everything, bringing into reality the concept of Semantics, for which Nova describes five different approaches that combine some of the main key elements that long time ago KM tried to put together, but never succeeded, at least, completely: Tagging, Statistics, Linguistics, Semantic Web, Artificial Intelligence.

That’s where Social Computing kicks in; it’s just the beginning, the first initial baby steps for us all to realise there is something larger out there on the Web that we will eventually end up with. It may take us another decade or two, but eventually the move towards it is inevitable. So I guess the mission for us all is to keep growing along with it; don’t think that Social Computing is the end of it all, but rather… just the beginning. And if you would need further inspiration of what may lay ahead I’m just going to leave things over here as is and embed Nova’s Slideshare deck below for you to watch and ponder about it some more … It will be worth it, I can assure you of that. If not, judge for yourselves …

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Groups for Twitter; or a Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels and on the Importance of Listening to Your End-Users

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I was planning to create this particular weblog post last week Thursday, but in the end I didn’t, more than anything else because I didn’t want to build further up on the frustrations of not being able to use Twitter for most of that day, as Neville clearly points out over at Twitter needs some super strength and agility. Instead, I decided to let it go and enjoy a Twitterless day. But now that things seem to be back up again I thought it would be a good idea to share some further thoughts on why I still feel Twitter is the killer app., as far as micro-blogging is concerned, that is.

As a starter, people keep coming up with some pretty impressive blog posts that clearly detail how Twitter could be used on a business environment to help you stay connected with other knowledge workers while in a distributed world. Latest examples are those from Jeremiah Owyang with his stunning and incredibly thorough overview of how to benefit from Twitter within the enterprise: Web Strategy: What the Web Strategist Should Know about Twitter and Bill Ives, who over at the FASTForward Blog, gets to comment further in a very interesting conversation on another blog post put together by Sara (From HiveTalk) on 7 Enterprise Uses for Twitter.

I tell you, if you would ever want to get a crash course to find out where all the buzz is coming through with Twitter, those links that I have just mentioned above would get off to a good start, along with the 10 Reasons Why Twitter Will Help Improve Your Already Existing Social Networks that I created some time ago and which, to date, still remains as one of the most popular blog posts I have created over here.

But the thing is that not only those blog posts are helping out Twitter become that killer app. for micro-blogging; it is actually the fully committed end-user community who keep coming up with plenty of different ways on how to improve the overall user experience. And perhaps one of the best examples that I am very very excited about is the one put together by Chris Messina, a.k.a. FactoryJoe, over at FactoryCity, under the title: Groups for Twitter; or A Proposal for Twitter Tag Channels. Something that, by the way, has also been mentioned and adopted by Stowe Boyd, and which you can read some more about it over at Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings

In that particular blog post, Chris gets to detail one of the main reasons for which Twitter has become the killer app. out there: the passion to innovate and keep up with the pace of a thriving end-user community who cares about a particular tool and who would want to take things further into the next level.

Yes, that is right. In a very thoughtful and insightful blog post Chris gets to describe one of the features that we strongly feel would make Twitter an even much more attractive Web 2.0 application for everyone out there to try out: combining the concept of groups and tag channels that would help connecting with people in a much more meaningful way than what is happening today.

I am not going to detail what Chris is after, since you can read the lengthy post over at his blog. What I am certainly going to say is that with proposals like that one for social software tools you can never go wrong from a product development perspective Why? Because that helpful feedback on how to improve the user experience is coming from the most valuable source available out there for any social computing tool: its end-user community. That is just how you can keep innovating at a rampant pace keeping up with what end-users are asking for, which in the end will make things a lot easier, as far as adoption is concerned, and will certainly pave the road on where innovation is heading.

It is a collaborative effort. A collaborative effort that goes beyond the enterprise and which keeps getting active involvement and participation from that where it matters the most: the knowledge workers themselves. I tell you what, I am really excited to see what Chris has put together working collaboratively with others, because I can certainly see making it come through and become the next wave of interactions from Twitter.

Only thing remaining would be whether the Twitter development folks are up for the job and would take FactoryJoe’s collaborative work and push it through the next time that the application goes for a facelift. Now, that would be really cool and something for which I would forgive the fact the RSS feed has been broken since almost day one! (Thank goodness for Tweet-r!).

Can you imagine what Twitter would be like if we would be able to set up tag channels for "contextualisation, content filtering and exploratory serendipity"? I doubt it would get better than this, I tell you. And at the same time I am very excited to see how this particular proposal taps as well into some of the superb piece of work that Thomas van der Wal has put together for tagging and folksonomies. That’s just as dynamic, vibrant and exciting as it would get!

Let’s bring it on!

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[e2.0] Bottom-up All The Way Down: How Tags Help Businesses Organize by Thomas Vander Wal

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Today I am actually going to take a short break from the various reviews around the topic of the different elective sessions I recently attended at the APQC KM & Innovation event in Houston, and instead talk about one particular, and very helpful, resource I bumped into earlier on today which I think would be very very helpful for those folks who may be new to the subject. It all came to me after reading a number of different weblog entries related to the Enterprise 2.0 conference that finished earlier on this afternoon.

I bumped into it originally in one of the twitterings from Thomas Vander Wal where he actually shared the link to the presentation materials that he has used earlier on today for an elective session with the title Bottom-up All The Way Down: How Tags Help Businesses Organize. You can already check it out over at Slideshare and if you would want to have a peek into what the talk was about here is an excerpt taken from the conference agenda:

"Tagging has become one of the most recognizable motifs in web 2.0 social applications. Allowing all participants in social spaces — blogs, social networks, web 2.0 applications — to annotate bits of information with individually defined metadata is an acceptance of the value of collective intelligence, on one hand, and on the value to the individual of an individually ordered world. Will tagging work in the enterprise? Can individual employees — as a group — do a better job of organizing information through tags than IT?"

I must say that when I looked into the slide deck in Slideshare I thought that it would be a rather long presentation, since it contains 82 slides. However, when I took a few minutes to go through and digest the content, it is actually a lovely breeze to go through it. Yes, indeed, this is one of those different presentations that you know will be very informative and educational for everyone interested in the topic of tagging and folksonomies, not just from a Web 2.0 perspective, but much more interestingly from an Enterprise 2.0 perspective.

Yes, that is right, with that particular presentation, Thomas attempts (And succeeds tremendously!) to introduce the topic of tagging behind the firewall going through some very key basic overview of what tagging and folksonomy are, as concepts, and then introduces the comparison between taxonomy and folksonomy, which after going through it I have found it quite fascinating and very revealing for those folks out there who still question the value of tagging within the enterprise.

From there onwards Thomas gets to provide a good outline of the different business benefits from using tags within the corporation in order to empower knowledge workers to successfully tag the content they bump into as they go along. He even ventured into explaining some of the different reasons as to why people tag (See slide 37), which I have found very interesting because they surely match most of my own reasons on why I keep tagging almost everything!

However, what I have found very inspiring and perhaps somewhat controversial, specially since most folks out there may not be familiar with it, is the powerful connotations that social tagging has got within whatever business. Thomas describes this in a very simple, yet very effective manner, concluding with a number of concrete different examples of social tagging tools. And from there onwards, he actually touches base on a number of those different social tagging tools and how they operate by sharing a number of different screen shots. I would have loved to have attended his session for this particular bit as I am sure that I would have learned quite a few tricks on effective methods for tagging. Perhaps at some other time.

What I can certainly say though is that those folks, who are looking for a comprehensive, easy to digest, straight to the point, with no fuss presentation, and providing some rock solid conclusions on the topic of tagging and folksonomy behind the firewall, should certainly check the slide deck themselves. Because I am sure that they would find it relevant enough for them, and positively encouraging for everyone, on why tagging resources (And people, why not?) is worth while regarding the size of the business that is trying to implement them. I can certainly recommend this presentation and on top of it you also have got the chance to download the slide deck and share it with your colleagues. Just brilliant!

Thanks ever so much, Thomas, for sharing the presentation in Slideshare with us all and for giving us the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the really high quality  materials seeing over at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. Excellent stuff!

(It was also a great pleasure catching up with you just before you headed to the event and look forward to the next round of conversations!)

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APQC KM & Innovation 2007 – The Role of Knowledge Management in Innovation by Carla O’Dell – Part Deux

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After the few days break sharing my thoughts over here, having attended the APQC Knowledge Management and Innovation event in Houston, I thought it would be a good opportunity to again pick up the subject and continue to share with you folks some of the experiences I went through while attending the two day event. If you would remember, the last weblog post that I created was on the keynote session that Carla O’Dell did around the subject of The Role of Knowledge Management in Innovation.

Back then, I finished off mentioning how crucial and important the role of communities has been all along in helping boost collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst knowledge workers, which, as a result, would help drive innovation further. Very strong and powerful messages, indeed, from Carla, but I am going to stop here for a minute as I feel that she surely hit the nail on the head when stressing out how important communities are for collaboration to help drive that innovation.

Yes, indeed, collaboration through communities is key and here you have got the three main bullets  that Carla shared to demonstrate it:

"1. Collaboration is the fountain of innovation. Global companies report that more profitable new ideas come from the boundaries -partners, suppliers and customers.

2. Innovation cannot happen without an explicit process to enable knowledge sharing, integration and insights -linked explicitly to an innovation "receptor".

3. Communities of practice can be structured to enable innovation -or the principles can be applied to innovation processed and issues."

After going through this, Carla showed as well why communities are so important and I guess that instead of me detailing why they would be I am just going to include them over here as well so that you, too, can go through them:

"1. "The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate" (Thomas Watson, Sr.) Corollary: and learn from it.

2. Experts identify "gaps" between current practices and best practices in respective business processes

3. Document successful practices for others to use

4. Support and enhance a knowledge-sharing culture.

5. Speed rate of innovation by linking appropriate groups to diverse bodies of knowledge and expertise."

Those are surely very good points, I am not going to deny them. I think Carla is just so spot on. However, I am not sure it would be the complete picture, and the main reason being two different key factors that are part of most of the different communities that keep emerging over the last few years:

– Firstly, just as communities are very good at capturing good practices, they are equally impressive at collecting lessons learned on what may have gone wrong and, as a result of it, become much more knowledgeable for the next time. Because after all, whether we like it or not, we have a tendency to learn a whole lot more from what goes wrong than from what goes right. That is just how our brain works. And, like I said, communities seem to be very good at handling those painful experiences, get the most out of them and re-use those knowledge snippets for a later time to help address similar situations and overcome them successfully next time around. And they will always do.

– And, secondly, most of the stuff I have tried to reproduce in here has got a very strong flavour of how formal communities tend to operate. However, we should not ignore, nor neglect, that perhaps the communities that manage to drive innovation the furthest are those with a very informal flavour, mainly because the different community members are driving their motivation to share, collaborate and innovate due to their passion for that particular topic. They do not care much about processes, structures, hierarchies or whatever else. They just hang out together, drive on their passion for that subject and they keep innovating as a result of that collaboration.

If you take a look into it that is how most of the communities out there on the Internet in this space of social computing have been operating all along and how they will continue to operate. So, in a way, that informal nature of those communities is provoked by their usage of social software and in reality it is that particular usage that helps them innovate further in the community space.

Thus, as you would be able to see, Carla touched base on some of the key fundamental aspects of how communities can help boost the sharing of knowledge and collaboration so that knowledge workers have got the opportunity to keep innovating. However, for that to happen we need to ensure that communities keep that informal flavour as much as they can possibly do at the same time that they would try to combine what has worked with what hasn’t. Focusing on best practices is just no longer good enough.

Finally, from there onwards Carla touched base on something that I have been stressing myself for a number of years and which plenty of people seem to underestimate as it may not have much to do with a business environment nor provide much business value, according to some: social capital. Yes, indeed, social capital, over the course of the next few years, will not only become a very empowering and essential skill, but will also help drive the next wave of interactions in the current business environment where the boundaries between work and personal, work and play, are more blurred than ever before.

And that is what communities can help achieve: a comfortable level of social capital skills, amongst several others, thanks to, amongst other things, the extensive usage and adoption of social computing within the enterprise. So who said again that social computing does not drive innovation? Who said again that communities do not have a degree of importance within the business world to drive such innovation? Well, think again!

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IBM Collaboration Best Practices Conference – Somers, NY – July 2006

Some time ago I mentioned how I was actually going to attend the IBM Professional Technical Leadership Exchange, taking place in Madrid, to give a presentation on one of my favourite topics regarding Knowledge Management: Personal Knowledge Management. Well, this time around I am actually going to the US, Somers, NY, to provide another presentation around that very same subject: Personal KM, next week Monday, from the 10th till the 12th to an IBM internal audience. I will actually be arriving at the Hilton Garden Inn Danbury this coming Friday and will actually be leaving next week Thursday.

As I said, I will be talking again about Personal Knowledge Management and, amongst other things, I will actually be talking about the key role of communities in helping augment the knowledge sharing and collaboration of knowledge workers by making use of different personal KM tools, like weblogs, wikis, social bookmarks, tagging (And folksonomies), IM/VoIP, podcasts, etc. etc. So at the same time that I will be talking about the importance of tacit knowledge, next to explicit knowledge, something that I have already talked about over here a couple of times already, I will be touching base on some of the different KM and Collaboration tools that IBM has been making use of thus far, mainly though those tools related to social software and the so-called Web 2.0:

I will be presenting next week Tuesday. However, and like I have just mentioned, I will be in Danbury from this coming Friday, so if you would want to meet up for a couple of drinks and a chat feel free to append a comment over here or contact me offline. It would be great if I would be able to meet up some of the folks who I have been interacting with here in elsua or out there in the Blogosphere. Thus if you are going to be around, let me know !

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Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enteprise

Last Friday you would remember how I created a weblog post around the Collaborative Web Tagging Workshop taking place this week in Edinburgh. Right then I mentioned that I would be sharing some of my thoughts on some of the different sessions that will be taking place and which I thought would be worth while commenting some more. Emanuele mentioned that there would be some live conblogging going on at the Wiki space they have set up, thus we shall see how it will all get going.

One of the sessions that I was really looking forward to, specially since I have been wanting to weblog about it for some time is the one that two of my IBM colleagues, Tessa Lau and Steve Farrell, will be doing on people-tagging for the Enterprise. It is called Fringe Contacts – People-Tagging for the Enterprise and you will be able to find the presentation over here. Here is the wiki space as well where discussion about the presentation itself will be taking place during and after the event, I suppose.

In the past you would remember how I have been talking about people tagging with such interesting offerings as Tagalag, but with Fringe Contacts things would be slightly different because with it you are able to tag people as opposed to people’s e-mails addresses which is what Tagalag does.

Another substantial difference between Fringe Contacts and whatever other tagging services is that in most cases those tagging offerings would be tagging resources whereas in Fringe Contacts the focus is to tag people, your peers, your knowledge experts, your subject matter experts.

On the presentation itself you would be able to see a screen shot of what it actually looks like: how you can tag anyone in the company; how a number of different tag suggestions are presented to you if you are not sure how you are going to tag a particular individual; how there is a tag-based name completion so that you can speed up the process a bit; how you can use different visualisation techniques through clouds; how you can import your buddy list and tag them on the fly; etc. etc.

Next to Fringe Contacts you would be able to see as well an, internally available only, FireFox extension called Tommy! (By another one of my IBM colleagues, Helder Luz) that helps you surf IBM’s Intranet a whole lot much more enjoyable than from whatever other browser. It has got lots of different integration points with other IBM tools, like the employee directory, or IBM’s weblogging engine (Blog Central), amongst others, and, of course, Fringe Contacts so that you can tag people along the way while navigating through the Intranet. Pretty neat, indeed.

But it gets better, because the next version of Fringe Contacts is actually BluePages+1 (In the presentation itself you can get to see a screen shot of what it would look like, in case you want to check it out), that somehow puts everything together of what I have been explaining so far along with some org. charts and directories, next to syndicated content like weblogs, bookmarks from Dogear, whatever publications, patents, and the like, along with the clouds that I have been mentioning above as well. Yes, I know, Peoplefeeds and Suprglu on steroids!

In the presentation as well you would see how tagging takes a new form in the shape of Instant Messaging with the work done so far on integrating this tagging infrastructure for Sametime related contacts using Gaim. Yes, tagging the folks you chat the most with in real-time. How much collaborative can you get ?

However, the great thing about all this people-tagging is the fact that with the data put together people could move things into the next step which is providing some visualisations of how the data is produced so that you would be able to establish connections not only based on the tags you may have used but also on the people who have been tagged using whatever the criteria. In the presentation itself you would be able to find one example of how this would look like. Pretty cool, indeed.

Then from there onwards on the presentation itself you would be able to find some statistics of how IBMers are actually making use of all these tools in order to be able to connect with others. In short, you would be able to see some first hand data of how IBM is making progress with this people-tagging initiative called Fringe Contacts. Lots of good things taking place, I am sure you would agree with, but one aspect that has not been mentioned quite a lot is how incredibly effective this application would turn out to be as an expertise locator tool. Being able to search for other subject matter experts by just using meaningful tags that the community has been using is something that we may not have seen it elsewhere before. It kind of reminds me of Ziki, but again on steroids given the huge amount of resources syndicated into a single focal point of entry. However, that people-tagging would become really powerful if everyone gets to use it, but even with just a few folks using it it would still prove to be rather useful since everyone, not just the taggers, would benefit from searching and navigating through those tags / people in order to locate those experts.

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