Facing the evidence

One of my interests is in evidence based management. Listening to “The Health Report” from ABC Radio National this morning on my ipod, I realised that there is a much more important area where using an evidence base is important. I was amazed by the stories of how much of medicine practice is not based on evidence.

Take a listen to part one and part two.

Conversations: the gaps between “real work” tasks?

Shawn, over at anecdote, has an interesting item about conversations. He mentions a new book on the topic and some “stinging” critisim from Steve Denning. In part of his post, Shawn states that:

I would also say that I have noticed that people in organisation rarely seem to have (or make) the time for conversation. Most talking is done to achieve a task which must reduce the ability for people to explore new ideas, innovate and revitalise their thinking.

I agree with Shawn’s observation but my feeling is that conversations in corporations/organisations are not entirely absent. But, to me, they seem to occur in the gaps between “real work” in the form of corridor chats, coffee engagements, friday night drinks, and even at the social events included as part of a work or professional conference. I think that last example is the best I can come up with in terms of organisations formally acknowledging and encouraging the value of conversations.

Do you have an examples of a corporation or organisation encouraging conversations?

(Updated) Rich collaboration or wiki?

Bill Ives (Portals and KM) has written a peice talking about collaboration successes with IBM Lotus Quickplace. This made an interesting contrast to Bill's recent focus on enterprise use of wiki's about which I have blogged and bookmarked. I found myself asking why would a company choose something like Quickplace instead of an enterprise strength wiki such as Confluence from Atlassian. Isn't a good wiki platform going to give you much more bang for the buck? I need to think about this more.

[Update: Having thought about this, here's my take on cooperation modes using a wikiCooperation modes using a wiki

So tell me again why I would buy something like Quickplace?] 

Preparing for Intranet 2.0

Bill Ives over at Portals & KM has released some new material:

Kathleen Gilroy and I recently completed a report, Preparing for Intranet 2.0: how to integrate new communication technology into your intranet

This is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in smif (Social Media Inside the Firewall) which (by the way) is the topic of the June meeting of the Melbourne KMLF. Hope to see you there.

Thank you to both Bill and Kathleen for sharing their work.

33 wikis and the wikiwise 50

Via FutureTense, two projects to throw light onto wiki's and how they help with "emergent business". The first, 33 wikis, (already completed) is where they talked about their favourite 33 wikis over 33 days. The second, the wikiwise 50, (just starting) is 50 entries in 50 weeks of wikis "inside the enterprise", which as many of you know, is one of my favourite topics. Watch this space.

IBM, is this good customer service? NO!


I recently posted about my hard disk dying.

The IBM technician came out today. He brought the wrong hard disk – a 60Gb model rather than the 40Gb I had. He wouldn't let us have the larger drive, he even refused to even try the larger hard disk in my notebook to confirm that the problem is the hard disk (there is some speculation that it could also be the motherboard). He'll be back again tomorrow with the right hard disk. Is this good service or even good business sense?

  • The IBM support centre have the records for my notebook and the technician should have had the right drive.
  • The difference in street price on these drives is only AU$35. I suspect that this is much less than IBM's cost in getting the technician to make a return visit.
  • Consider the lost opportunity to create good will by providing the upgrade for free. Or even in offering me the opportunity to pay the price difference.
  • Consider the ill will created by yet another day without my notebook. And the extra ill will that will have been created if we find out tomorrow that its not the hard disk (when we should have determined that today).

Is anybody at IBM listening? Is this good service or even good business sense? NO!


[Update 1/June: IBM came today with the right hard drive. It turned out to be a problem with the main board after all. We could should have found that out yesterday and had the notebook fixed today but now I won't be getting my notebook working until Monday at the earliest.]

[Update 6/June: IBM tech fixed the problem yesterday by replacing the memory and the CPU. So it took – new HHD – new mainboard – new memory – new CPU. First time I've ever been thankful to have an extended on-site warranty.]

Knowledge and Information Sharing Behaviours

Shawn at Anecdote posted a list of knowledge behaviours. Jack Vinson of Knowledge Jolt with Jack followed up with some additional behaviours aligned with the individual.

I already had the following list (developed for a professional services company) of what I have been calling information sharing behaviours.


  • participate in knowledge sharing activities
  • develop resources as directed
  • proactively find and use resources

Senior Consultants

  • participate in knowledge sharing activities
  • work with associate directors to identify and develop best resources
  • proactively find and use resources

Associate Directors

  • lead and participate in knowledge sharing activities
  • lead idenfitication and development of best resources
  • promote resource usage


  • promote, lead and participate in knowledge sharing activities
  • assure use of tools and processes
  • enhance connections between disciplines
  • sponsor identification and development of best resources

List of activities that demonstrate required behaviours

  • Submitting an item to the "significant projects" list
  • Attending a knowledge-network meeting
  • Updating the Intranet
  • Submitting a document to a shared drive
  • Participating in an After Assignment Review
  • Updating our property database
  • Giving a presentation at a team meeting
  • Notifying team of a useful new resource (such as a dataset)
  • Maintaining project history database
  • Maintaining your CV
  • Providing new material for tenders and submissions folder

A few of these are, perhaps, more knowledge than information related but I think it is time for me to create another list that takes in Shawn's and Jack's insights.

Do you have a backup?

About an hour ago my hard disk died. Knowing the perils of technology I have a fairly recent back up of all my content. I know it is going to take a while to get my applications and configuration back the way I like them but that is managable. Apart from losing a couple of days work I feel like I’ve got off lightly.

Do you have a current, tested backup?

You never know what might happen if you show a little kindness

Fifteen year old step daughter of a friend of mine was waiting for her singing lesson yesterday. She noticed a lady setting up tables and chairs nearby, offered to help, and did. “You wouldn’t want a part time job, would you?”, the lady asked… Apparently they have functions every weekend nad sometimes during the week.

It just goes to show how showing a little kindness can provide unexpected benefits.

A story of a failed portal

I've heard this story from too many Telstra employess, ex-colleagues, to hold back on it now… It's just a story and so perhaps not fully representative of the truth. But is seems to be a great example of the misapplication of technology to knowledge management.

There is minor variation but the mian elements of the story proceed as follows:

  • Ted Pretty, head of uber geeks at Testra visits Infosys in India, sees their knowledge portal and says "I want one". (As an asside, this is in 2002 while I am still in Telstra and, as Principal Architect for knowledge management, I get to say no – this is doomed to failure. Perhaps saying no is one reason I left the organisation shortly after.)
  • After much angst and investment the Telstra "K-portal" is created, as a pilot. Ted Pretty is asked not to publicise it yet.
  • Ted Pretty gets up in fron of the entire Telstra technology group (TPIPS) and talks about the portal and says that the portal is open for business and that anyone who contribues will get $100 per contribution.
  • Needless to say that the contributions come and the pilot server crashes.
  • I know people who made money out of contributions.
  • But was it ever used? That's a lot less certain. Comments I have heard include that the contributions were "of very low quality" or to even "full of crap".
  • Later, Ted leaves the organisation, for reasons totally separate from the K-portal and, just weeks after the new person is appointed, the K-portal is shut down. The content is deleted.

What lessons could Telstra learn from this?

We’ll miss you Euan

So Euan has had enough of act-km's discussion list moderation policies. I understand his points and share some of his perspective. However, I know that the people who run act-km are doing a good job in difficult circumstances. It's difficult because the group has such a wide variety and levels of interest and expertise (all somehow vaguely related to broad church that is KM) the that one set of 'rules' does not suit all.

Computer simulations of social decision making

If computers could create a society, what kind of world would they make? Thanks to the work of an ambitious project that adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘computer society’, in which millions of software agents will potentially evolve their own culture, we could be about to find out.

By the time it has run its course in August 2007, NEW TIES will have provided food for thought in several fields, and perhaps taken us a step closer to the days Eiben anticipates, when politicians will be able to run simulations on computers to test scenarios (for new tax laws, for example) before carrying them out in real life. “Simulators now allow us to optimise car engines or train timetables,” says Eiben. “But why shouldn’t they help us optimise social decision-making?”

Intriging possibilities from Searching for the soul in the machine at physics.org

New blog for the Melbourne KMLF

I'm a committee member of the Melbourne Knowledge Management Leadership Forum which is a local (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) knowledge management networking group.

Shawn Callahan, Luke Naismith, Keith De La Rue, Frank Connelly and I (collectively known as the KMLF Committee) met for lunch yesterday and during the discussion on what shall we do for KMLF in the second half of the year we decided to create a new blog.

The purpose of the blog is to keep members up to date on KMLF activities, provide a window into the work of the KMLF committee and provide you with news about KM happenings in and around Melbourne. We will also use this site to publisize our upcoming events.

More about the KMLF. 

Example of wiki use

Some pages are worth republishing, and this is done by taking the page name and push it through a simple PHP script I’ve got that fetches the page content through web services and displays them on our various other webs. Over time this will probably run the whole website, but currently there’s an assorted pages done this way, and I’me working on making all news / newsletters done this way, repurposing bits of news. (Our Confluence supports various blogging paradigms, and creating and reusing newsfeeds from pages/ Wiki blogs is easy)

ShelterIt – My digital think-tank: Wiki as a KM and PM tool

Via Knowledge Jolt with Jack  http://blog.jackvinson.com/archives/2006/05/17/wiki_in_the_process.html

Very interesting and sophisticated use of a wiki as a platform. 



Take note of this…

Takenote is pretty cool. You type a note and address it, and Staedtler will physically write it and put it in the post for you. I’ve always thought that there is something special about getting (or writing) a hand-written note and this is a very engaging and modern way to do it.

[Disclaimer: I know the guy that made it happen.]

KM for Professional Services, Sydney Australia, Day 1

Just spent the day with 25-30 others at Ark Group’s “KM for Professional Services” event.

A valuable day. Two highlights:

  • Stuart Kay, Knowledge Manager, Baker & McKenzie. Offering two cases of firms which represented an amalgum of (1) management consultancy firms and (2) law firms. Characterising differences between the firms cultures and hence approaches to knowledge sharing. This is going to be useful for discussions with my clients.
  • Dr Kate Andrews, Partner – Intellectual Capital, BDO Kendalls. Using Dr House (TV Show) as cultural model for knowledge workers in professional firms. For example, House only cares about finding the solution. And essence of being a knowledge worker is that knowing-learning-doing are inextricably linked.

Plus lots more… need to go to dinner with some of the participants soon. Karl-Eric Sveiby is first up tomorrow.

Word of the moment: brrreeeport

Scoble has started a game to help us Z-list bloggers get some airtime. I’ll play: brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, brrreeeport, etc.

You can see the results on Technorati.

Are you into smif?

smif = social media inside the firewall

This is my main area of interest at the moment. I’ll be going back and retagging some of my old posts and del.ico.us links. You will see the results here and here.

Are you into smif too? Use smif and we’ll find more cool stuff.

Yahoo! Groups to improve as a result of act-km termination

RE: the actKM saga. In a message to the new actKM email list, convenor Mark Schenk, tells us that the original Yahoo! Group for act-km has been restored. Some interesting points:

“We really need to thank the many people who have used their networks to influence senior people in Yahoo, and the many individuals, groups and bloggers out there in the international KM community for giving this issue airplay and putting pressure on Yahoo. There really has been an enormous buzz created that has made Yahoo take notice.”

“There are likely to be some changes to the way Yahoo manages its communities following this, and they have asked for any input we can give about how this should have been handled, and have indicated that a major shake-up of their customer service and community management processes will occur.”

“The disappearance of the group appears to be the collateral damage of a legal dispute we are not involved in, and an appalling lack of due process in Yahoo.

Congratulations to Mark and everyone else involved in resolving this. We’ll be a stronger, more flexible community now.

Driving RSS adopiton

Dave Winer discusses what’s needed to drive RSS adoption – to “break through” – though Scoble thinks that break through has alredy happened.

Great post, Dave. It’s a discussion we very much need to have.

One addition. You talk about “brain-dead simpicity” but I think you’re understating the solution when you say “All that would be required is that they support OPML export for My.Yahoo subscription lists”. We need an active subscription service that notifies whatever RSS aggregators I specify, not an export/import model.

The new actKM

The actKM discussion group has been resurected. From an email from the convenor, Mark Schenk:

You may be aware that the actKM discussion group hosted on Yahoo! Groups disappeared without warning on 15 January 2006. We have not been able to extract any explanation or assistance from Yahoo, and have decided to proceed on the assumption that the original actkm yahoo group will not be recovered. Since then, we have been working to bring actKM’s new website (www.actkm.org) into production, and to add to it a discussion list capability to replace that provided by Yahoo! Groups. This has now been completed.

I hear that act-km was not the only group that has disappeared recently. Whatever’s been going wrong at Yahoo! has damaged their reputation amongst a very influential group of KM leaders around the world.

Come along and join the new actKM.

Have you downloaded your user list from Yahoo! Groups lately? I have.

Update: Mark Schenk, Convenor of actKM, describes the experience.

Email into RSS

A few days ago I asked if there was a service that could turn my email into an RSS feed. The answer is “yes”.

From basement.org [via Micro Persuasion]:

Keep Up With Specific Emails Via RSS. Mailbucket will pump any emails into a feed that you forward to slurp@mailbucket.org. Just create an Outlook rule against whatever (e.g. emails from particular senders) and get the sent out to a feed once they come in. Just keep in mind that such feeds are unencrypted and can be consumed by others.

I have not had the chance to look at this yet. Will report back later.

Is there a service that can turn my email into RSS?

Steve Rubel asks “Will RSS Revolutionize Email Newsletters?” and points to a new service called squeet that will turn RSS into email.

As I commented on Steve’s blog.

As an email newsletter consumer, I want my newsletters turned into RSS feeds so that I can read them in the same way I read my blogs. The nature of the content is often the same — a collection of interesting but rarely urgent items — that I want to read once a day during
my “reading time”. Personally addressed email is often different — requiring timely attention and response.

Is there a service that can turn my email into RSS?

Social software inside the firewall (Melbourne lunch)

Our lunch went off very well with Matt Moore, James Farmer, Michael Spect, and Shawn Callahan and Andrew Rixon attending while Cameron Reily could not make it.

It’s always great to meet interesting people – some of them for the first time. As usual there were multiple conversations going on. Here’s some of what I remember (in no particular order):

  • The NSW KM Forum will have Karl-Erik Sveiby and Ewen Semple at an event on 7th March. Not to be missed!
  • James pointed me towards some interesting research on the use of discussion boards compared to blogs in an educational context. Blogs win, hands down.
  • Some interesting discussion of what is / is not “social software”. I think we agreed that a primary differentiator is the conversational nature. Is Writely “social software”? Yes.
  • Some unhappiness with tagging. Too limited when trying to find specific content. (But that’s not the point of tagging, is it?)
  • There seems to be a derth of people doing anything meaningful with social software inside organisations. Lots of experimentation but nothing substantial. Speculation that the tools are too counter-culture. Shawn: Can you imagine setting up a prediction market and the first bet is on when the CEO will be sacked?
  • Scoble posts too much. James says he reads the people who read Scoble. The blogsphere is full of people who add value by filtering what they read. I’m sure this is a meme that I’ve picked up on many times.
  • Someone (sorry, can’t recall who) mentioned the odd feelings generated when meeting someone who already knows you through your blog, but you don’t know them at all. [Obviously this was someone with a more popular blog than mine!]

Most exciting outcome is shared a desire to organise a social software (un-)conference in Melbourne. We’d like to get 50 or 60 people together.

Is there enough interest? What would you like to see in such an event?

Melbourne, 16th January, informal lunch on “Social Software inside the Firewall”

Following on from a recent get together in Sydney, we’ve decided to have a similar event in Melbourne.

So, if anyone is interested in the use of social software (blogs, tagging, rss, podcasts, etc) inside an organisation then come along and meet like minded people for an informal chat over lunch.

Venue yet to be decided.

Contact me via email: amitchell AT urbisjhd DOT com

If you want to come along, the venue is Regina Pizzeria in the QV Precinct. Booking under the name of Matt Moore and Andrew Mitchell. Contact me on 0419 599 744 if needed.

How to get response in online forums

Jack Vinson post that information acquisition needs context.

This reminds me about some simple rules I throught about some years ago to get the most out of participation in online forums. This was a time before blogs.  And most of the online forums I participated in were for resolution of technical problems:

  1. Be polite. Most people appreciate a “please” and “thank you”.
  2. Be concise. Get to the point, don’t waffle.
  3. Be thorough. State all relevant information such as the steps you’ve taken to resolve your problem.
  4. Respond.

What other guidelines would you adopt?

Corporate bloggers should interview other bloggers

Great idea for corporate bloggers. In fact, if I were telling a company what to do, advice now would be:1) Get an RSS aggregator.2) Read 50 blogs for at least two weeks that interest you.3) Interview at least five of those bloggers.That will get you to start thinking about blogging as a listening device rather than something that you can use to get your message out.

Scobleizer – Microsoft Geek Blogger » Love bloggers who do interviews…

What’s needed to make RSS simple – behind the firewall

I’m actually a lot more worried about other things rather than can an average user figure out what subscribing is for. I have no doubt they’ll figure it out. … the thing I’ll be asking in my next interview is just how manageable have they made the feeds. After getting several hundred feeds myself it just is a mess. People move URL’s all the time. What happens then?

Scobleizer – Microsoft Geek Blogger » Tom Biro wonders when RSS is really gonna get simple?

Robert Scoble asks some good questions regarding the long term usability of RSS and suggests a number of requirements.

Some of the same questions apply when using feeds inside an enterprise. Employees don’t want to cut and paste URLs. They need a single page which lists all the internal feeds available and a simple subscribe/unsubscribe button. And they need an Intranet page (like a behind the firewall Bloglines) where all their feeds are aggregated.

technorati tags: , ,

In Praise of Wikipedia

The December issue of Online Currents (sorry, paid subscription required) has a good article by Glena Browne titled In Praise of Wikipedia. Glenda is very specific about what she likes (free, collaborative, explicit, can be challenged, useful features, well-structured, big, growing, fun and fast) and what’s wrong (no guarantee of accuracy, readability, appropriatness or balance, and no firm content). Glenda then goes on to make the excellent point that not all print publications are error or bias free.

All in all, I thought it was a well balanced and timely article considering the recent online and press coverage of Wikipedia issues.

Glenda, if you’re reading this, I’m sure lots of people would like to read your article if you could find a way for it to be freely available online.

The sorry state of Australian blogging

Very interesting post from Ross Dawson about the sorry state of Australian blogging.

While business success increasingly depends on enabling more open information flows inside and outside the organization, actually making this happen requires substantial courage and foresight. Despite Australia’s relative economic success, the corporate sector still seems to be driven more by cost-containment than opportunity-seeking. In an increasingly global, interdependent economy, this will not work well indefinitely.

Perhaps some Australian companies are experimenting with blogs on their Intranets before dipping their toes in the Internet blogosphere. I hope so.

So where are all the enterprises using blogs inside the firewall?

Had a very interesting lunch yesterday disucssing the topic of social media inside the firewall. Mostly touching on topics of RSS, blogs, wikis and podcasts but also other social tools like SNA and tagging. Lots of interesting people including Ross Dawson, Trevor Cook, James Dellow, Matt Moore, Brad Kassell, Ben Cooper, and Robert Perey. Frank Arrigo could not make it.
As I’ve written previously,

I see this as an opportunity to jump start the conversations and networks that may form the basis of a revolution in internal communications and knowledge management within Australian enterprises. Sounds big, I know, but there is so much value to be had from using the tools we discussed to lubricate knowledge and information flow. My big questions for the conversation are:

  • Who’s doing this already? Or thinking about doing it?
  • How do we get started and sustain the effort?

Lots of interesting free flowing discussion, lots of personal networks created and/or strengthened. Unfortunately, we did not really get to the heart of the matter.

I’m still interested in finding out about any examples of enterprises blogging behind the firewall. That is, for an internal audience only. I’m paticularly interested in examples of professional service firms, australian firms, and smaller (non- Fortune 1000) firms. Can anyone help?

Guidewire report on “Blogging in the Enterprise”

Can’t recall where I first saw this. At the recent BlogOn conference Guidewire released the summary results of a survey on blogging adoption. Some statistics that I think are quite unbelieveable:

  • 89% of organisations blog now or plan to start soon.
  • 55% of corporations have adopted blogs for both internal (91.4%) and external
    (96.6%) communications, and are finding significant benefit to both forms.

On the surface the methodology seems fairly sound. However the main recipients of the survey were 5000 subscribers to CMO magazine, so they are more likely to be early adopters of new communications tools, and the survey was sponsored by iUpload, a blogging software company.

Push vs Pull

Very interesting article discussing the concept of push vs. pull approaches to mobilising organisational resources. (IMO worth the free subscription required.)

Many companies continue to operate on the flawed assumption that demand is intrinsically foreseeable. But others are beginning to embrace a more flexible approach to setting in motion (or mobilizing) tangible and intangible assets (or resources), which may reside within or outside the company.

The McKinsey Quarterly: From push to pull: The next frontier of innovation

Thinking about this idea in the context of internal organisational information flow offers support for my long held view that blogging behind the firewall is a much more effective proposition than increasing internal communications using push technologies such as email.

Your thoughts?

My blogging

It’s taken a long time to reach the point where I want to blog externally. The final step was blogging behind the firewall and finding that it did help my thinking and that I could keep it up.

 Blogging on the www will be an interesting experiment.