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

Open Business

How and When to Respond to Conversations – Managing Your Own Virtual Water Cooler

Over at Micro Persuasion Steve Rubel has been sharing today an interesting weblog post that I thought would be worth while commenting on as well. In How and When to Respond to Conversations he is actually wondering “whether companies needed to address every single comment/question that comes in on their blogs” or not.

I generally tend to agree with the comments mentioned by Steve and others, but I would go and take things even a bit further. As I have mentioned already elsewhere, I have always been saying that weblogging is all about having conversations with other people and as such I have always felt that weblogging is like having your own virtual water cooler where you invite people to participate in different discussions with you on a specific set of topics.

And like in every water cooler whenever you have got few people, therefore few weblog comments, you always have a tendency to engage with them all in the subsequent conversations. Thus in weblogging the same thing would apply. The complicated thing though would be when you have got far too many people talking at the same time over at the water cooler. Normally, you will have the tendency of summarising the different thoughts and add your own to the overall topic of discussion or, on the other hand, you will just pick up a subset of the conversations taking place and engage further with those knowing that everyone else would do the same thing, surely you know that at the same time your conversations are taking place so are others with other participants and therefore everyone is engaged into the discussion(s). No one is left behind.

That multiple level of interactions is in the end what will make the conversations ever so much more enlightening and richful and as such, before you would realise about it, you would be fostering the creation of multiple groups or networks within your own weblog or the (virtual) water cooler that would be able to carry on further the conversations while you may be busy preparing the next set of interactions. At least, that is one of the things that I have been experiencing myself over the last couple of years that I have been weblogging both on the Internet and the Intranet and how I take every single comment that goes into each of the different weblogs that I manage. And so far it seems to be working.

But how about you ? Are you one of those who prefer to manage your virtual water cooler and engage with it as much as you can or rather you prefer to let it go and allow others manage those comments for you ? Is it always good to try to be in control ? It is worth it ?

[tags]Metablogging, Virtual+Water+Cooler, Conversations[/tags]

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Making Sense of Social Bookmarking Offerings – del.icio.us vs. BlinkList

Yesterday evening Mike (Thanks, Mike, and welcome to elsua!), one of the folks behind BlinkList, shared over at Web Links and Thoughts To Revisit the following comment that I thought was worth while a reply to on a separate weblog post to provide some further insights:

“Why use so many social bookmarking services and what prevents you from just going with BlinkList?”

So here we go with that reply. Yesterday I commented how I am eventually making use of some of the different social bookmarking offerings that are out there and after reading Mike’s comment I feel I perhaps need to expand further a bit on what I really mean with “making use of”. In principle, I am making extensive use of del.icio.us to store all of my online bookmarks for the simple fact of its extensibility that allows me to export the contents of the different bookmarks elsewhere, or import them into other tools or offerings, one of them being our own IBM social bookmarking internal offering, which I have weblogged about not so long ago. So the fact that I can have both my Intranet and Internet bookmarks in a single repository, in this case, our internal offering, by putting together both that tool and del.icio.us bookmarks is a big plus to me. No other tool that I know of provides that integration. At least, not yet.

Then the fact that del.icio.us seems to integrate quite nicely as well with Opera, my default web browser, is also another big plus that I have enjoyed from the very beginning. I know that other tools and offerings are very tightly integrated into making good use of FireFox but the fact that they are only supporting that particular browser is not something that I find quite comforting as it would make you quite dependable on it. And right now FireFox is quite far from being my default browser as can be read all over the place here in my weblog. If anything, I can only see Flock taking that job once it becomes a bit more stable, but I will weblog about that later on. This browser support restriction is one of the main issues that I see that prevent me from using BlinkList much more extensively. I know that there is a bookmarklet that I could use (And I already have it up and running) but what I am talking about more is the possibility of importing my Opera bookmarks, a feature that, for the time being has not been added, as far as I can see. If BlinkList would add that functionality next to importing del.icio.us and Furl bookmarks it would certainly have a much stronger case for me to try it out. So we shall see how that goes.

With all that said, though, it has been quite some time since I last tried BlinkList, so triggered by Mike’s comment yesterday, I decided to take it for another spin and see how much it changed from the last time that I made extensive use of it, and that not just related to subscribing to the RSS Newsfeed. So far I am enjoying the experience quite a lot I must admit. So I may eventually give it a try further as soon as I could figure out how I can get the BlinkList bookmarks exported into del.icio.us so that I can then make use of them through my IBM internal social bookmarking offering. Hopefully, that shouldn’t take too long but for the time being let me share with you what would be the 5 features I have been enjoying the most while trying out the tool. I am sure there are many more, but these are the ones have made me consider a switch from one to the other. Thus here it goes:

  • Ability to subscribe to RSS Newsfeeds: Indeed, with this particular option and pretty much like with all the other social bookmarking tools, you get the chance to see what everyone else is bookmarking and therefore be able to find connections with common interests reflected in the selection of those bookmarks. Quite handy to build a list of friends to share some further thoughts with.
  • Ability of backing up your bookmarks: For sure this is one of my favourite features not just because of BlinkList but more because of the different issues we have been experiencing with del.icio.us and its several outages. So now that I can backup my bookmarks certainly makes me feel much more comfortable and why not, offer a very strong case to forget del.icio.us and start using BlinkList much more heavily. Thumbs up !
  • Ability of importing already existing bookmarks from other tools: I know that I have mentioned this already but I feel it is also a very neat feature from the perspective that if you decide to give it a try you can already start with a whole bunch of bookmarks you may already have so that you can see how it will all work, instead of just having to build up your lists from zero, once again. Only thing that I would like to see in here as well is the ability to not only import bookmarks but also export them, so that, for instance, I can get them in sync with our IBM internal offering. That would be pretty neat, indeed.
  • Its ease of Use: This is one of the biggest improvements I have seen since last time I used it extensively. BlinkList is a whole lot more user friendly now that it was a few weeks ago and that is something that I find quite interesting as it shows that there is a commitment to improve things for the end-user and try to make that social bookmarking experience the most effective it can be for us all. Navigating through the different options, settings, and whatever other choices is just done quite nicely and without much hassle of having to try to figure out where you are at all times, like it happens with some other tools. Thus another thumbs up on this one !
  • And, finally, another great feature that I have always enjoyed quite a lot is the fact that I can get to see all of my bookmarks on a specific Tag Cloud: I have been a big fan of tagging (I am already working on a couple of weblog posts on the subject that I will be sharing later on in time) so the fact that BlinkList allows me to have a very graphical display of my bookmarks through tag clouds is a big plus as well. You can see how I have been making extensive use of tags with offerings like TagCloud, Tagalag, so I would not be surprise that this feature, next to the other four that I have mentioned above, would eventually entice me to continue making much more use of BlinkList as opposed to other social bookmarking tools and offerings.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I basically do with the rest of the other social bookmarking offerings like Furl, Spurl, Simpy, populicio.us, etc. etc. I just basically subscribe to their different RSS Newsfeeds as more than once I am bound to end up reading through a whole lot of interesting sites regarding KM, Communities of Practice, Social Networking, Collaboration and Productivity Tools, which is something that I have always found very handy if I would want to expand my horizons a bit and get exposed to more stuff. But as I said, so far del.icio.us is the main source I am currently using for storing my online bookmarks, although after having created this weblog post and having tried to use BlinkList much more extensively with all these new improvements I wouldn’t be surprised if things would change very shortly. But how about you? Which one does meet your needs the best? Which one is your killer social bookmarking tool and why ?

Technorati Tags : Social+Bookmarking, BlinkList, del.icio.us, Simpy, Furl, Spurl, populicio.us, Flock, IBM

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What Wikipedia Lost: Credibility

As you may have been able to read all over the place in different weblogs and mainstream news web sites like The Register, there has been lots of controversy on the accuracy of Wikipedia overall, specially since the recent issues raised by the different media. To quote them all would be far too long and probably out of the scope from this particular weblog post. So, instead, I will just reference an interesting discussion, like many other hundreds of them taking place at the moment elsewhere, over at Dave Taylor‘s weblog, The Intuitive Life Business Blog, What Wikipedia Lost: Credibility.

The reason why I am referencing Dave’s weblog post is because of the fact that poses one thought-provoking question that I thought I would share my two cents worth of comments on it. At the middle of the weblog post Dave is asking the following question:

“Can any of us ever trust anything that’s on a Wikipedia article any more?”

And then he comes up to add the following interesting quote:

“[…] I don’t see how Wikipedia can recover from the spate of bad publicity surrounding the popped bubble of this Web darling, actually. Once you realize that it really isn’t the “citizen’s Encyclopedia Britannica” but instead an ongoing battleground of facts, fancies, cockeyed theories and crackpots, even the most benign and innocent page begins to seem questionable. […]”

I agree that with the recent bad publicity Wikipedia may have suffered a bit, including the fact that there must be quite a few people who now do not necessarily trust its contents. However, in my particular case I would still trust its content not only from the perspective of having such a valuable resource online available to us all, but also, and like it was mentioned over at Dave’s weblog post comments, from the perspective that Wikipedia is a fantastic resource to help improve the collective knowledge we all get to share on a more or less regular basis. Indeed, without the existence of such a powerful resource like Wikipedia we would probably not have been able to organise our thoughts and our knowledge in a huge number of topics for which we may not have had enough information in the first place if we would have followed other traditional methods of sharing information. Indeed, you could say that despite all that content may still not be accurate, but that is actually one of the greatest advantages of such a resource: the fact that I can collect all of my thoughts in a single place and available to everyone else so if I am getting the facts wrong or if I have an incorrect concept on a particular topic I can always trust that one of my other fellow Internet friends would spend a few minutes to correct me and improve what I initially said. Then it will be up to me to go back, check what I have been sharing, see how it has been improved and move from there.

I bet that hardly anyone considers Wikipedia the one and only resource for accurate information. All the other way around. Most people are just using it in such a way that it behaves as a starting point where you could go and gather some thoughts that you could use for later when cross checking with other resources. And that, to me, is unique to Wikipedia: the ability to help build up our collective knowledge to then be able to share it, improve it, reuse it with others in multiple other scenarios for whatever the task we have at hand. So as you can see one of the strongest success factors from this particular resource is the trust levels you would put in place for it. That is why quite a few people have been commenting on the accuracy of the resource itself, or, better said, the lack of it. Yet, hardly anybody is taking proactive steps to improve that collective knowledge. Instead, we all get to complain about its accuracy indicating that such model cannot just work. When are people going to start understanding that resources like Wikipedia belong to us all and as such we all have got something to say and contribute to it? After all, it is our knowledge, our information put together over there in a single repository for other people to review and reuse where they may see fit. And in the mean time we all get to learn in the process. We all get to trust each other much more with what we know and what we don’t know.

I am not sure how all this controversy is going to play in the end, specially since because of that same controversy Wikipedia has gone through a number of transformations including the fact that people now need to be registered in order to create new content into the wiki, something which in principle may be against the main rule from every wiki: keep the access open regardless. However, I think that maybe that step was necessary, not from the perspective of locking out those people who just do not get what collaborating in a Wiki is all about, but more from the perspective that maybe that will help increase the trust levels that seemed to have been deteriorating in the last few weeks. Either way, as far as I am concerned and as long as I can benefit from that particular collective knowledge I will continue referencing Wikipedia‘s articles in the hope that we all get to know a bit more on different subjects and where applicable, and where needed, we all get to improve the sources of information to the levels where they should ultimately be. And, yes, folks, it will be down to us to make it happen. Or not.

Technorati Tags : Wikpedia, Collective Knowledge, trust

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WordPress 2.0 Now Available for Download

While continuing with the metablogging topics I have been discussing over the last few days I thought it would be worth while mentioning as well something that a lot of people have been talking about already and many of us have been waiting for: the new release from WordPress to version 2.0. Indeed, WordPress v. 2.0 is now ready for download.

If you are wondering what this new release will bring into the table of options available out there for us webloggers and if you have read through the official WordPress web site and still want some more I would recommend you take a look into 10 Things You Should Know about WordPress 2.0 by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger. Over there you will find a comprehensive overview of what you can expect from this release and also get a grasp of some of the items we have been looking forward so much.

For instance, you will be able to read some more about how WordPress v.2.0 will be integrating different Social Networking components by making use not only of the already existing options available but also by introducing XFN (XHTML Friends Network). If you would remember, not long ago I commented over here in my weblog as well how other weblogging platforms like SixApart were starting to look into powerful social networks components like community building so it is going to be an interesting fight between the two weblogging platforms to see which one will be the winner in providing that cutting edge advantage of allowing people to connect with just something more than different conversations. I can’t wait to check it out actually.

The same way that I can’t wait to check out the built in Anti-Spam component from the latest version of WordPress v.2.0: Akismet. I mean, I have been quite happy while making use of WordPress Hashcash 2.3 (I still have to get the first spam comment go through having an open policy towards comments here in elsua) but I am looking forward to a seamless installation of the weblogging platform where I wouldn’t need to worry about installing an extensive list of plugins. So if I can manage to cut down that list of manual installs of different plugins, the better.

Thus as you can see I will eventually be migrating my weblog to WordPress v.2.0, since there are too many good things to be looking forward to, but I may just take a few days more to go through it since with the holidays and all there is other much more important stuff to get busy with. But not to worry that the upgrade will eventually be taking place. And you will all be kept up to date as to how things are going.

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How Trust Builds Social Capital – Social Capital and Trust

Over the last couple of weeks you have seen how in a couple of times I have been talking about the importance of social capital and trust in order to help organisations succeed in providing the value add not only to their customers but also to their own employees. Both social capital and trust are the key and crucial components that would make teams, specially virtual teams, stick with one another in order to provide the best atmosphere to get peers to collaborate with one another.

And to follow up further with some additional input on this very same subject I would very much like to quote a couple of important sentences from an article written some time ago by one of the KM gurus, Larry Prusak, but still very relevant nowadays, specially for larger organisations with multiple distributed teams. The article itself is titled How Trust Builds Social Capital – Social Capital and Trust and you can find it here. Let me tell you that if you are looking for some online reference about the subject of social capital and trust Larry’s article is one very good start, indeed !

To give you a little bit more information without having to quote the entire article let me share with you a couple of excerpts that I think are equally important for this particular subject:

“[…] Trust is the greatest lubricant for corporate efficiency. It’s even better than information. Why should anyone do anything with anyone else, if they don’t trust them ? […]”

Indeed, this is one of the main key points about trust in an organisation. People collaborate with others in different areas not because they have been told to do so, but more because they feel they can trust the team they are working with, because if they wouldn’t they would just move on to the next thing, even to the point of quitting the company and look for that comfort zone that trust provides. So if you feel that your team is failing to provide what is supposed to be delivering I would think that one good way to tackle the problem is to find out if team members trust each other or not. And if they don’t find ways to bring that trust and social capital back into play.

“[..] Social capital is strongly dependent on rich durable networks which develop trust, which develop knowledge sharing, develop a sense of reciprocity so that it becomes generalized [..]”

Another great quote and one I have been advocating for quite some time now. One can trust one or more individuals but without the context of a network of colleagues it will not be as effective as what you would expect, which is why it is so important that in order to foster a healthy environment where trust and social capital can flourish you would need to make that work with the creation and maintenance of social groups. Indeed, communities. They are probably some of the most powerful options available to nurture trust and to allow people to develop further their relationships with one another. We all know how much more effective communities are than just individuals in performing different tasks and thinking that they can help people connect with one another is crucial to continue promoting good collaboration habits amongst them. Thus if you were not sure how to bring trust back into the table, think about the possibilities of helping with the creation of a community to increase those trust levels.

“[…]They don’t work necessarily for money. What do they work for? Recognition. Identity. Feelings about your coworkers really count […]”

Exactly ! What an interesting final quote for this particular weblog post. I am sure that more than one of you folks would be agreeing with this subject. Certainly, money is good for paying bills and for reaching certain level of comfort but after a time in a job it wears out and people start looking for something else: that recognition and identity that Larry mentions and the fact that they can get that while belonging to a particular community, or communities, will make it even much more stronger to fight for. We all know that people like to have recognition in what they do, and we all know that working with a group of folks to achieve a common set of goals, a community, will keep people motivated to reach out even further and achieve levels of collaboration and commitment not seen elsewhere.

So as you can see social capital and trust are those key elements that every single group, whether it is a team or a community, should have in order to help promote collaboration within the group and try to achieve the different goals, but one clear thing to remember is that nor tools, nor processes are going to help achieve that. It will be the people who will just try to improve their social capital skills and much more importantly, trust not only what they do, but also what other team members do as part of their job. And communities are a powerful means to achieve that level of perfect collaboration and what everyone of them should also strive for. It is so much more worth it.


Oh, and for those who may be thinking that Knowledge Management is all about the tools and the processes I would like to point you to Larry’s article as well where you will be able to read one of the best definitions of KM you can think of:

“[…] which (Knowledge Management) is people knowing things, sharing what they know, and working with what they know […]”

I doubt I would have been able to choose a much better set of words to deliver that key and powerful message about what KM is. Even today it still remains very relevant and accurate.

Technorati Tags : Team+Building, Virtual+Teams, Social+Capital, Trust+Building

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Identity 2.0 – Identity Is Really Reputation

Continuing further with the topic of Team-Building Key for the Virtual WorkPlace and touching specifically on the topic of trust I thought I would share with you, folks, one of those presentations that after you watch it it makes you think about the subject presented in a new and refreshing way and certainly will not leave you static any longer.

You may have watched it already if you have been browsing around for a little while but, just in case you may not have, take a look into Identity 2.0, a powerful and refreshing presentation provided by Dick Hardt, founder and CEO of Sxip.

What I mean with “powerful and refreshing” is not just related to his compelling way of delivering a very strong message, which I am sure you will all agree with, but more on the implications put together on virtual trust in general for whatever conversations you are involved with through web services and with your virtual and distributed teams. Certainly, as Web 2.0 becomes more prominent and relevant we shall see how it all turns out to be, but I, for one, am glad to see how trust will continue to be taken seriously as the Web redefines itself, once again.

As I said, if you haven’t taken a look into the presentation, and if you can spare 15 minutes, which is what it will take you to go through it, I would strongly suggest you have a look, because it will certainly make you think twice next time you identify yourself on the Internet or you come to interact and collaborate with your colleagues remotely.

Technorati Tags : Team+Building, Virtual+Teams, Trust+Building

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