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

Learning

What Is a Wiki?

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Yes, I know. I am fully aware of it. I realise that you may have heard about that particular term, Wiki, a few times already. Probably many more times that you would care to digest in a single day. I guess you probably have had enough of it already. However, you would agree with me how there is a good amount of folks out there who still keep coming up to you, or to me, asking us to give them the short version of what a wiki is and see if it would be something that their teams, or their communities, would be able to make effective use of. I bet I am not that far off, right? So after having had a couple of folks approaching me this week with that same question I thought I would create a weblog post over here and comment on one of the most compelling videos put together and which clearly relate what wikis are all about that I have bumped into in a long while!

Check out What is a wiki?, over at ZDNet‘s At the Whiteboard, where Joe Kraus, CEO? of Google Jotspot, gets to detail in under four minutes, what wikis are all about and why there is such a big roar about them at the moment. What is interesting about this particular video is how Joe gets to compare one of the most traditional, and perhaps restricted, methods for collaboration: e-mail, with wikis. And I must say that e-mail comes out as everything but the winner. And here is why.

Joe has put together a very compelling business scenario where it shows how much more you would be able to get from collaborating and sharing knowledge in a wiki than through traditional e-mail. Pretty impressive. Specially, because he gets to nail it down to a couple of factors such the success of wikis over e-mail as a much more powerful collaborative environment: visibility and keeping up to date with changes; tasks that you would agree with me e-mail has been very bad at all along.

However, Joe’s point of view is that wikis fix those issues and help you get all of the visibility you would want knowing that the information is always almost up to date. Yes, I am saying almost, because I realise that to have it all of the time up to date is going to prove impossible and not just with this tool but with all knowledge and collaboration tools out there. But it gets pretty close. You know what I mean.

So if you were thinking that e-mail is still one of the most powerful collaborative tools available out there nowadays I think you should also continue to look around elsewhere as well, because it is not the only one and, much more importantly, we actually have got plenty of different options available out there within the social computing realm and which are much more capable of hosting a much richer and meaningful collaborative environment. And wikis are just one of the many examples.

Yes, go and watch Joe Kraus’ video on What is a wiki? and find out in about 4 minutes why you would want to leave e-mail as just another communication tool and think that wikis may be one good answer to help improve your knowledge sharing and collaboration strategies. And if that didn’t help to convince you well enough about the business value from wikis, at least, we would always have the Wikipedia 🙂

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Informal Learning by Jay Cross

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Next to the usual topics that I get to talk about here in elsua.net, all of them related to Knowledge Management, there has been another topic that although not very much related to KM it has always been associated with it to some extent. Yes, indeed, I am talking about the subject of Learning. Many people have been indicating all along how Knowledge Management and Learning do actually walk hand in hand along the path of allowing people to share their knowledge with one another and collaborate much easier than with whatever else they may have tried in the past. I have always been part of that group that has felt very comfortable putting together Learning and Knowledge Sharing as perhaps one of the most interesting ways of allowing knowledge workers to become smarter at what they do and much more productive than using whatever other methods.

And along those lines, if all along I have been commenting on how Social Computing (i.e. Web 2.0 or Social Networking) is helping Knowledge Management come back with a splash, and big time!, then there is no denying that there is a movement out there, within Learning, that is actually helping it as well to be noticed a whole lot more as part of the usual day to day workflow. This particular emerging area has got a whole lot to do with what is called Informal Learning, of which the highest proponent of such interesting, and refreshing, new way of perceiving the way we learn things at work is Jay Cross. Indeed, Jay maintains a weblog about the topic of Informal Learning and if you would want to know some more about this particular subject browsing through the weblog would certainly help you get up to speed.

However, let me help you move faster along the learning curve for Informal Learning and point you to a recent weblog post Jay has put together where he has actually talked about the subject of Informal Learning. It is actually three different short videocasts (Two of 10 minutes and one of four) that he has shared over at YouTube and which make for an even stronger case about the crucial role this new way of learning is impacting the workplace. Perhaps at a later time, and in different follow up weblogs posts, I will get to share some further insights on something so fascinating and refreshing as Informl, but for the time being here we go with the embedded YouTube video clips:

Part 1, ten minutes

Part 2, ten minutes

Part 3: four minutes

Fantastic piece of work, Jay ! Very compelling, informative and enlightening!! Thanks for sharing !

PS. What an ending ! 😛

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Introductory Guide to Social Software By Trevor Cook and Lee Hopkins

Through Des Walsh‘s weblog post Social Media De-mazed I have actually been able to locate another really good resource to help out all those folks who would want to go and read through a very comprehensive introductory guide on how to get the most out of social software, i.e. the so-called Web 2.0, and get to understand some of the commonest terms associated with it without having to focus too much on the technical terms but looking more into the practical uses of social software in general. In the past I have been weblogging a few times already about different ways and approaches towards defining Web 2.0 and what it is all about and I guess that to find one that would accommodate to most people’s needs would actually be almost impossible, pretty much the same thing as what has happened with Knowledge Management all along.

However, what Trevor Cook and Lee Hopkins have ventured into sharing with the rest of the world is just remarkable enough to comment on further and to help spread the message around. Yes, it is that good. Check out Free introductory guide to social media where a couple of days ago Trevor actually shared a link to a PDF whitepaper that would provide you with a very comprehensive introduction to everything related to social software. So if you didn’t know how to get started with the whole thing and was looking for a good resource to get you going then look no further and get busy downloading Social Media or "How I learn to stop worrying and love communication".

As Des mentioned over at his weblog post, it is, indeed, a very easy read and perhaps one of the best things about the whitepaper is the good amount of useful examples put together to describe different Web 2.0 concepts with very simple terms. Ideal for those who would want to get started with social software and wouldn’t know where to get started. So you would get to learn some more about Web 2.0 as a new and refreshing collaborative environment, also about weblogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, a good number of different weblog writing tips and an extensive list of must-check resources to get you started with it all.

Yes, as I said, quite an impressive job put together quite nicely and in very simple terms so whoever was struggling to understand some of the key concepts in this area should certainly have a look and download the PDF file. It would be really worth while checking out and digesting it further. And to make things even better, Trevor mentioned over there as well how this whitepaper is just v. 1.0, so there would be more upcoming updates, and, hopefully, we would be able to access all of those.

From here, I just want to give a special thanks to Des for finding such a great resource and to Trevor and Lee for sharing it with us all, making it freely available to us truly showing some of the core skills from social software: knowledge sharing and collaboration for the sake of sharing and collaborating. Well done, guys !

Oh, one other thing, and on a related subject, if you feel you don’t have just that much time to actually go ahead and read through it, then I would suggest you take a look into this particular screencast where U Tech Tips just provides with an impressive description of what Web 2.0 and social software are in just a bit over five minutes. Yes, indeed, just five minutes of your time ! I can certainly recommend going through it if you would want to get exposed to another great resource to try to define all this social media. Here is the embedded video, just in case you may not want to wait any longer:

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Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges – Building an Innovation Company for the 21st Century

As you well know, there are a number of different IBM weblogs that I follow on a regular basis, as I have mentioned in the recent weblog post I created around IBM’s Weblog Directory, and while I am still currently updating the actual blogroll from this weblog, I thought I would point out to you one recent article that was put together by Irwin Wladawsky-Berger, Vice President of Technical Strategy and Innovation at IBM, and which I am sure you are going to find quite an interesting read: Skills for the 21st Century – Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges.

This is a weblog post that you are going to enjoy if you would want to know what IBM is currently doing with regards to driving innovation inside and outside of the corporation in order to help knowledge workers collaborate and share knowledge with others in a world that is now more distributed than ever before, with nearly 40% of IBM’s population working mobile. You would actually get to read some interesting insights from Irwin about a number of different ideas that IBM has been working on in order to help boost that innovation. So instead of getting to read about some of the traditional stuff IBM has been doing with regards to some of its products you would be able to read some more about some other refreshing initiatives that are going on at the moment.

For instance, you would get to hear about the On Demand WorkPlace offering, which is basically IBM’s Intranet with some incredible capabilities to find both information and knowledge, and the experts behind them, or ThinkPlace (The online space IBM is using to bring forward ideas and innovation in a collaborative environment for every single employee), or Blog Central (IBM’s internal platform for weblogs) etc. etc. Excellent stuff !

What Irwin is actually doing in Skills for the 21st Century – Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges is introducing the recent presentation that Linda Sanford (IBM Senior Vice President, Enterprise On Demand Transformation & Information Technology) provided over at the IBM-MIT/ESD Innovation Lecture Series – Engineering Systems Solutions to Real World Challenges in MIT, Cambridge, MA., titled Building an Innovation Company for the 21st Century and which basically talks a great deal on what Innovation is all about and actually what Innovation means to IBM.

As I said, the interesting part about this particular presentation and Irwin’s weblog post is to actually get to check how through the implementation of IBM’s Technology Adoption Program knowledge workers inside of the company have got the opportunity to test out some of the most relevant social software tools out there for people to help them in their collaborative efforts and knowledge sharing in general so that in its due time we may be able to move some of those different offerings into actual IBM products. You can actually get to watch the webcast of the session by going into the following URL: IBM MIT Innovation Lecture Series. And you can download the PDF slide deck over here, too.

And if you didn’t have enough with that to make you go there and check it out then let me point you to the webcast itself and around the 62nd minute (It lasts for about 90 minutes) you would get to watch a videocast I did myself not long ago as to what Innovation @ IBM is all about. It just lasts for a couple of minutes, but with that and Elias Torres‘ introduction before and after the videocast it would make for an interesting listen if you would want to watch my two cents worth of contribution to the overall presentation. Plus you would get a chance to see what I actually look like, just in case you may bump into me at some point and may want to say "Hi!"

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Screencasting of Tacit Knowledge

In the past, and for a good number of weblog posts, I have been talking over here about the importance of Tacit Knowledge in the coming back of Knowledge Management thanks, amongst other things, to the emergence of social software that helps boost collaboration and knowledge sharing in multiple different scenarios. For a number of years we have been having perhaps a bit too much focus on the Explicit Knowledge exchange where knowledge workers were more than  anything else encouraged to share their best of breed Intellectual Capital in whatever the designated repository without placing too much emphasis on the tacit knowledge exchange.

However, and like I have already mentioned above, with the emergence of social software there seems to be now a more balanced approach where Knowledge Management is finally trying to combine both tacit and explicit knowledge exchanges and get the most out of both of them. And it is perhaps now where there seems to be a bit more focus on the tacit exchange piece since it needs to do some serious catch-up. At least, initially.

One of the most powerful options to try to deliver on that particular know-how of knowledge and information is actually one of my favourite social software concepts that I have been advocating myself for quite some time now. And that is the phenomenon of screencasting. Screencasting, to keep it short, "is a digital recording of computer screen output, often containing audio narration" and if there is a person out there who is an expert on the subject is actually the guy who invented the term a couple of years back in the first place: Jon Udell.

So that is why I was quite excited when a few weeks back he actually created a weblog post titled Screencasting of Tacit Knowledge, where he actually advocated with a concrete example how screencasts can be really helpful tools to deliver much more than just explicit knowledge. That know-how put together at the service of showing someone, with both audio and video, how to perform a particular task and then learn from it right away is perhaps one of the most powerful methods for knowledge sharing, collaboration and learning by doing (Informal Learning). And this is perhaps one of the main reasons why more and more learning activities are getting delivered with the help of screencasts as they can certainly be very beneficial and very handy to deliver very powerful messages.

By now you are probably wondering which one would be my preferred method of producing screencasts, right? And I must say that after having tried out a  number of different tools like Wink or CamStudio (Both of them very good options as well and worth while checking, in case you are looking for more options out there) and reading further on a number of different great reviews my preferred method for creating a screencast is actually Camtasia, which funny enough in the last few days there has been a new major release put together, v 4.0, that comes packed with an incredible set of new features that will make it a delight for everyone to try it out.

I have now upgraded my v. 3.x license and got my hands on a copy of v.4 (Yes, I know it is not cheap. But you would have to think how much money you would be saving for the different tasks you are planning to use it for. Yes, indeed, it would become a rather cheap license and worth while the money. And big time!). I must say that I impressed. Very impressed. Specially with the good amount of social software related features put together in this particular last major release. They even launched a new service with it called Screencast where you can host your own screencasts at a reasonable cost and then share them with everyone else out there. Pretty an interesting option, for sure, specially if you do not have the means to store them online elsewhere yourself.

I guess I could go on and on and on regarding how good Camtasia actually is, but I guess I will just leave it over there for the time being and encourage you to check out Jon’s weblog post on how tacit knowledge can benefit a huge deal from something so relatively simple as a screencast. As time goes by I will go ahead and share with you a couple of my favourite features thus far and perhaps also create a couple of screencasts and show you by doing how effective they can well be. We shall see how that goes.

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Shawn Callahan’s Interview on (Marketing) Storytelling and Narratives

For a number of months now, I have been talking about the power of storytelling within Knowledge Management and how it is finally beginning to play a key and fundamental role within any kind of business in order to help improve different process that may be already in place, and, at the same time, also help knowledge workers reach out there to one another in order to share their knowledge and collaborate, perhaps closer, with the sharing as well of … stories.

So I thought the following weblog post would be a nice addition to this ongoing discussion around the topic of storytelling, specially since in it you would be able to find a fantastic interview that Darren Woolley conducted over at P3Q with the one and only: Shawn Callahan from Anecdote. The interview has actually been placed as well over at YouTube so instead of me detailing some of the major highlights from the conversation around the world of narratives and storytelling within marketing I think I am just going to embed the video and let you watch it. It is only a bit over 6 minutes, but totally worth it, to be honest, if you would want to listen some concrete examples of how different marketing companies are actually making use of sharing stories in order to address different issues they may be facing and come out of them better than ever before. As I said, highly recommended.

And here it is. Enjoy it ! (I surely did):

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