GET ON social media: get past the ‘push’ and ‘password’ hurdles


Social Media DynamicsSocial media, social networks are ubiquitous, as they have become an essential part of the knowledge worker‘s apparel and have proven their value in social learning (see this excellent – if long – video of Harold Jarche about this).

Yet there is still a lot of resistance – in France and elsewhere – against adopting social media.

For those who don’t resist viscerally to social media but just haven’t jumped on it, two hurdles often stand in the way:

  • The push: how to avoid getting all kinds of irrelevant information in your social networks – and actually understanding the fundamental change with social media -the ‘pull’ effect;
  • The password: managing this to physically (well, virtually really) enter the world of social media…

If you are one of those struggling to get into social media yet are willing to try, let’s hope this post helps you properly jump into social media and make the most of it.

The ‘push’ hurdle: Hey, it’s actually all about pull!

Brand push vs. content pull (Credits: Autoconversion.net)

Brand push vs. content pull (Credits: Autoconversion.net)

The fundamental difference with social media is that they don’t work towards us the people, they work from us. The direction has changed. And we are the ones setting it.

With traditional media, we used to have stuff ‘pushed’ at us: on TV, on the radio, the content – and as shown in the image above, the brand of companies – was invading our space whether we liked it or not – without control. But with social media, we are now in the controlling seat, and we pull content the way we want: we select, curate and develop our personal learning networks, opt-in may not have vanquished opt-out but it’s more of a standard, we are organising our RSS feeds so we get notified about the stuff that matters to us etc.

If you are not sure about social media, remember that in it you are the spider in the web and you select what information you will have for dinner. You can customise your choices indefinitely. You have the power.

The direct consequence is that you won’t get invaded by content, or at least you have every option to stop getting invaded by it.

Read this article for more information about the subtle yet powerful difference between push and pull. And to quote it:

Advocates of Enterprise Social Networks (and I count myself in their number) see the transition from push to pull as the “holy grail” of business communication. Indeed, this is a central tenet of the Business Communication Revolution, because it puts a knowledge worker back in control of how they consume information. However, an all-pull environment is not without its own problems.

Now: claim that power – decide what you post where, decide to read what you want to read when and where you want to read it. Make the world of information turn its head around you, and enjoy.

The ‘password’ hurdle: Manage your passwords effortlessly, once and for all

Now the first hurdle is passed, let’s look at the second hurdle for many people: managing their password(s). ‘Duh!” some of you might say, but hey! with more and more platforms appearing, dangers lure at both ends of the spectrum:

It's increasingly difficult to create a password! (Credits: WeKnowMemes)

It’s increasingly difficult to create a password! (Credits: WeKnowMemes)

  • Use one password a little too often and you become extremely vulnerable to hack attacks;
  • Use too many (and increasingly complicated passwords – see the ‘creating a password’ image ;)) and you run the risk of forgetting what your password is. Or more to the point: what your passwordS ARE.

And that is what is preventing a lot of people in my professional environment from using enterprise social networks and a lot of social media platforms that they would be happy to use or at least try out otherwise.

Here’s the good news: there are plenty of ‘password managers’ that help you get rid of goldfish memory trouble (like I have) and retain all passwords to all platforms you have an account with – provided you remember one master password. Here’s how it works:

 

So, go on then, no more excuse: Check this recent list of password managers, install one of them, get going and enjoy a whole new world of online experiences.

Oh, you may say: but even that ONE password may be hard to generate. Well here’s a tip:

Hard/easy to create/guess? (Credits: Reddit)

Hard/easy to create/guess? (Credits: Reddit)

You’re all set now – see you online, in the comments section this time 😉

What do you think? Are there other major barriers towards using social media for those ready to try it out?

Related blog posts:

Advertisements

Tinkering with tools: Asessing Asana


Asana - making genuine collaboration possible or generalising team confusion?

Asana – making genuine collaboration possible or generalising team confusion?

It’s been ages since the last ‘Tinkering with tools‘ post, so after posts about Yammer, LinkedIn and Prezi, it’s time to turn to one of the (expected) collaboration rising stars: Asana.

Asana is a team-centric virtual collaboration tool which allows collective task management, setting up structured team meetings and more. It certainly could be considered as one of the solutions against collective apathy in the workplace. It certainly weighs as a good alternative to SharePoint (SP) given the criticism SP has met, especially when used as a KM tool or as a community collaboration platform.

In any case, PC Mag rated Asana one of the best productivity apps on the market.

Here’s what Asana has to say about itself now (video). This other video below was the original introduction piece by the Asana team (from three years ago)

Now, I’ve been using Asana for the past seven months in a small team (five people) connected to a larger group of colleagues. You will be able to read more about this on our knowledge management ‘Maarifa’ blog soon. This post is actually a great way to synthesise our thinking back about our ILRI experience with Asana. But here I want to offer a more detached and generic ‘tinkering with tools’ perspective on Asana.

What does it look like and how does it work?

Asana comes as a desktop browser or a smartphone/tablet app; it is compatible with iOS and Android only for the time being. Once you have created a user account you can set up or join organizations, teams within those organizations and ‘projects’. Under projects you can add tasks, sub-activities into each of these tasks; then you can assign people, due dates, add comments to each other’s tasks etc. The task overview is all transparent and keeps all tasks in one place – well, sort of, read on…

The structure of the app is:

  • On the left hand pane you find a full list of workspaces. It gives an overview of all organizations, teams and projects, as well as access to your inbox, access to the dashboard (monitoring progress) and other admin options etc.
  • The central pane focus on your next tasks and, if you select a specific project, on all the tasks in that project (not just yours then).
  • The right hand pane focuses in detail on the project or task you want to investigate. When you select a project to focus on, it gives you information about the status, tasks accomplished/remaining. When you select a specific task, it provides details about that task: who is in charge, due date, as well as comments made. This is where conversations take place and allow someone to find out what happened – if your team makes use of that functionality.

You can also organize meetings using Asana (following this video tutorial) and since the last quarter of 2014 you can use the new ‘dashboard’ to keep track of progress with the tasks, with weekly status update reminders. It also gives an option to visualise what has been delivered, what remains etc. offering thus very good collective management features.

The strategic value proposition behind this app is that Asana can replace (parts of) email traffic to work togetherTeamwork without email. Something that many of us dream of – which I’ve also offered useful alternatives for.

The free version works for teams of up to 30 users and the pricing options are fairly affordable. There are various additional apps and extensions (find it here) to expand the use of Asana in various ways.

Pros and cons

Pros:

  • Asana provides a really nice overview of tasks – making it indeed quite easy to find out in a glance what is on the agenda of a team and how much has been in each project and for each task.
  • As it promises, Asana can really cut down your email traffic, which clears time for more quality time on other bits of work. Although in our case we actually used Yammer mostly to communicate, not Asana.
  • The progress tracking (dashboard) functionality really adds to that experience and turns Asana into a monitoring tool without the fuss of installing all the whistles and bells of a heavyweight management tool.
  • Technically it is possible to run meetings using Asana, dragging and dropping the tasks onto the agenda of the meeting, making it easier to keep all team information in one place – however read some of the cons re: this feature below… 
  • It keeps all your to-do’s in one place if you want it to play that role. And adding tasks or to-do’s is indeed ‘simple comme bonjour‘ and it’s just as easy to assign tasks to people…
  • The calendar integration with Outlook and Google Calendar makes the planning / overview of tasks even easier. 
  • Although the app is quite complex, it does not take too much time to understand how to use it, at least for a knowledge management specialist 😉
  • It certainly has worked for me to keep track of the main ‘to-do’s and to find out what the rest of my team is supposedly up to.

Cons:

  • Compared with e.g. Yammer, or Twitter, which both felt very natural for me to master, I found the interface of Asana a bit ‘messier’ and less compelling, skewing my first impression and making the navigation slightly confusing at very first.
  • That design also seems to not really guide new users very well. I have used it in a team of communication and knowledge management specialists – ie. people whose job it also is to try and test new tools like these, rather enthusiastic and versatile at piloting and adopting such tools – so it may be a slightly more difficult process for people who are not used to online tools.
  • Although Asana allows file sharing and uploading, it is not really built for it and is thus not a great file management system, although on the plus side it seems it can easily be integrated with Dropbox or Google Drive (as you can see from the list of compatible apps). I haven’t tried that option, however.
  • The search engine and navigation logic make finding content a bit of a trial and error process. For instance once tasks have been completed, it becomes uneasy to retrieve them. Tagging helps with this, but not everyone is used to tagging and some taxonomy/folksonomy needs to be established to make this work.
  • The team meeting feature did really not work well for me. I tried to follow the video tutorial but somehow Asana didn’t behave accordingly – perhaps because the interface changed since the video. But it’s probably worth another try.
  • There is no ‘live chat’ feature, although the stream of comments acts like one but always within the context of a given task, not as a general conversation space.
  • Asana does not work well in environments with limited bandwidth (such as my Ethiopian base) and the fact that there is no offline option does not play in favour of using this tool in many developing country. Although, frankly, using virtual conferencing tools is even more of an issue here.
On the quest to the holy grail of synergy in collaboration (Credits: venessamiemis / FlickR)

On the quest to the holy grail of synergy in collaboration (Credits: venessamiemis / FlickR)

 

The verdict

I have only quite limited experience with other team/project management tools (e.g. BaseCamp and some Gantt chart tools). Bearing that in mind, I think Asana is certainly worth a shot and has quite a lot going for it. It is easy enough that it does not require an incredibly steep learning curve, although you will need to train users to make the most of all its interesting features that take the Asana experience to the next level. But mind the bandwidth requirements and perhaps most importantly the behaviour of your colleagues/team before you consider using it: if they’re curious, playful, you stand a good chance, otherwise it may be difficult to get it adopted. And finally, as ever with tools: make sure you pilot it, reflect upon your pilot and decide whether to scale it up or not accordingly. So far in my team there seem to be fewer enthusiastic folks than skeptical ones…

As many of the tools around, Asana keeps changing, coming up with more developments, extensions, changes of navigating and using logic etc. This is positive as it means the company is trying to stay on top of its game, but of course it always means that your team also needs to keep abreast of Asana’s adjustments.

Perhaps most importantly, however, because Asana is team-centric it requires some collective agreement to work with it. Individuals in the team have to adapt their behaviour, stick to the discipline of managing their tasks and time, which may be perfectly normal and expected in North America, but not necessarily in other parts of the world…

So the question is perhaps not even so much about the tools we use to collaborate (we know that the tool obsession is childish), but more about the practices that come with the tools, and we have much to do on the collaboration and engagement front still… And finally, if tried in a true online environment (for meetings), I still wonder if Asana will help alleviate the evils of ‘acute meetingitis virtuales‘?

That said, assess Asana for yourself and let me know what you think… 😉

More resources about Asana

  • A recent (November 2014) PC Mag review provides detailed overviews of the most recent features, pricing options etc.
  • This tutorial from Ananda Web Services is a bit dated (December 2012) but it is about the most complete one available online
  • Of course Asana itself has lots of tutorials and information about using its product – you can start with videos here. They have also released this interesting (long) video about the vision behind Asana when it was publicly launched in 2011.
  • And finally here is what DotToTech has to say about Asana in January 2013. I put it here because it’s quite a nice introduction to the logic of Asana and how it worked in the case of one team.

What are your experiences with Asana?

See the whole collection of ‘Tinkering with tools‘ posts...

What are you waiting for? Become a knowledge manager NOW!


Suffering from email overload?

Spending too much time finding information you need?

Feeling isolated and need to meet new people?

Annoyed by the fact you may be reinventing the wheel a little all too often?

Stuck in old habits and interested in new ways of working?

Want to work more smartly and get more out of your time?

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

KM might make you happier and wiser (Credits: Happy Buddha by Doug Wheller / FlickR)

Pick yours, but there are many good reasons to become a knowledge manager. Here and now!

Indeed, as illustrated in various writings, including the recent ‘7 habits of successful knowledge managers‘, here are some of the direct and indirect benefits to becoming a knowledge manager:

Direct benefits:

Indirect benefits:

Well, enjoying all the above may not be that automatic, but really chances are you will reap a lot of these.

So the next question is: when will you become a knowledge manager?

And the question after that: Will you move away from the KM field after that? That’s what seems to happen to a lot of KM folks…

Related blog posts:

 

Do you suffer from acute ‘meetingitis virtuales’? Here’s some antidote


Does this sound familiar? (Original item here)

But then repeatedly, several times per week or per day even?

You are clearly a patient of acute meetingitis virtuales (or MV88 – 88 standing for infinity infinity), a modern virus that is affecting more and more people every week, far from the public attention it deserves…

How has MV88 become such a widespread disease? We are a globally connected world, where people increasingly pay attention to their carbon footprint and try to reduce their travels (look here to calculate, very very roughly, your carbon footprint).
That’s all very well… except we can’t suffer from that typical homo socialus affliction without doing something about it!

Here are some ways to deal with THE virus of our times…

Know your enemy (the symptoms)

All the good (bad) reasons to have a meeting (credits: Brooks Language Services)

All the good (bad) reasons to have a meeting (credits: Brooks Language Services)

Meetings are the mega virus of which meetingitis virtuales is only a sub-virus. We end up meeting everyone all the time, about everything. Do we have to? Certainly not!

There’s a lot of advice out there to eliminate useless meetings. The point is: feel free to kill meetings that are ill-planned, ill-prepared or that take too long (and for those you might use nifty little tricks such as this app to measure time and cost spent on a meeting).

Having lived in the Netherlands, where everyone is meeting – it was a matter of life and death for the Dutchies in their fight against Mother Nature’s over generous waters – I have grown rather sensitive to this MV88 virus and am now picking my meeting battles. No clear objective, no clear chair, no clear team, no clear commitment? I’m out of it… When all this is in place, let’s convene again 🙂

This resource could be of great help to help you decide whether or not a (virtual) meeting is appropriate.
Personally I reckon making decisions to attend meetings depends mostly on whether or not these are decision-making meetings. Of course there are many reasons to organise meetings but only when collective consultation and decisions are required is a meeting truly justified. Simple information sharing can happen through other means (and ahead of meetings).

Remember these tips ‘to meet or not to meet’, to decide whether to hold a meeting in the first instance or not…

Know your medicines (the tools)

Now that you have the basics covered and you know you will be having a virtual meeting, you need to select the tools that will help you cope with MV88 rather than make it worse: web-conferencing tools.

If you use Skype a lot, these guidelines to manage a Skype conference call might come in handy. If you’re rather in favour of Google Hangouts, then check these recent Google Hangout guidelines by Samuel Stacey.

But hey! There’s a whole lot more options beyond Skype, Google Hangouts or even WebEx!!!

Various discussions on KM4Dev have looked into web-conferencing tools, particularly for low bandwidth contexts:

And the ever brilliant ‘Knowledge Sharing Toolkit’ has an entry on web meeting tools too, but it’s difficult to beat Wikipedia – particularly for its great comparison table of web conferencing software. But I notice even ubiquitous Wikipedia doesn’t mention BlueJeans – perhaps that table should be updated, as this very recent (Feb. 2014) comparative review of three web conferencing softwares, within CGIAR, gives BlueJeans as winner, hands down.

Administer the medicines in the best possible way (the processes)

If you know why you’re having the virtual meeting, what platform you’ll be using, then the last step is to look at ways to organise the meetings in the best possible ways. This gets very close to meeting facilitation… And virtual meetings are not exactly the same animals as face-to-face meetings.

Here are some basics to manage all kinds of meetings…

Make meetings work (Credits: Zoho)

Make meetings work! (Credits: Zoho)

And here are my own tips for virtual meetings:

  • Split responsibilities among participants: chair / note-taker / technology attendant (to connect/disconnect people). It will greatly help a smooth running;
  • Don’t just rely on voice-over-internet-protocol. In a series of online peer-assists I was involved in, we took the habit of systematically using in parallel with VOIP) a simple wiki-like ‘MeetingWords‘ pad to capture the flow, so that anyone dropping out (and that happened a lot as you can imagine), could follow the conversation including the bits they’d missed;
  • Don’t focus on the time you have, focus on your objectives and what you have to achieve. Shorter meetings encourage all participants to put focus and dedication into it. In the 50-cent and 2-second immortality world we live in, it’s quite difficult to keep your virtual participants focused. If you planned to spend an hour and you’re done within 30 minutes, let it be and enjoy the extra time!

Nancy White has compiled this absolutely excellent list of conference call tips and tricks, so I think you’re in better hands with her than with me at this stage.

If you find other tips to beat MV88, let us all know, for I don’t think virtual meetings are likely to disappear in the near future. Ooops, gotta leave you folks, the next conference call is happening 😉

Related blog posts:

Why on earth would you want to be on Twitter?


Given the cutting-edge experience of my personal learning network (yes, you, who follow this blog and whom I’m following on various social media generally) this question seems strange, but there are many Twitter skeptics out there. It’s great! Long live the skeptics! Long live their ability to raise important questions… that is, so long as it leads to open-ended conversations… Because as much can be said in favour of Twitter as can be said against it.

So, for my skeptical friends, here’s what I have to say about Twitter:

Why you might be skeptical:

  • You haven’t tried Twitter for yourself yet – perhaps you’ve created a Twitter account but never really used it – so it doesn’t bring anything interesting in return (obviously)!
  • None of your friend or family is on it – so none of the people you trust seem to perceive any value from it, quite logically.
Twitter - sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

Twitter – sometimes unfiltered for the worst of all (credits: CarrotCreative / FlickR)

  • The only people you know who might be on it are the IT crew, communication specialists and a few other ‘looneys’ – people you don’t necessarily identify with.
  • You hear a lot of caution in the (traditional) media about Twitter and social media in general – this is common in France but I suspect in many other places too.
  • Most examples of Twitter use you hear about are from silly people tweeting about enjoying their tomato-mozzarella sandwich, half-brained adolescents sharing all details of their private life without any measure of decency, or celebrities glossing over their latest celeb-do’s…

Well… I can’t blame you for being skeptical. If that’s the picture you have, I share your despair for the human race.

Except that…

I personally know about the power of Twitter. I see it around me everyday (in my Twitter stream of news), I experience it every week, I’ve experienced it in various Twitter chats too. So let’s also have a look at this side of things, but first…

The basics: what you need to understand about Twitter

  • A lot of people don’t understand that social media can be used for your private life and/or your professional life. They are not one and the same, even though some half-brainers might mix the two – The Social Media Guide for Africa tried to inform readers about this.
  • Actually, I would argue that a medium like Twitter is much more adapted to professional uses (or at least to topics that might interest more than a small in-crowd), because it has a great ability to rally people around topics (as opposed to already formed social relationships).
  • The whole secret about Twitter is about following the RIGHT people. The right people to YOU. No strings attached with Twitter, no need to feel any sense of obligation towards anyone. It’s not your family email list, it’s not your University mates’ network. It’s your personal learning network. At least part of it, since other parts of your community might be in other social networks. And that personal learning network needs care, for engagement to genuinely happen.
Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

Twitter vs. Facebook (credits: cambodia4kidsorg / FlickR)

  • So Twitter can be used to make contact with people that are interested in the similar topics as you are. It is actually described as the social network where you meet people online that you’d love to encounter face-to-face, while Facebook is the social network that allows you to get in touch face-to-face connections you’d rather have forgotten 😉
  • Like any social media, it takes time to get a handle on Twitter – and it takes practice, dedication, purpose. It’s not going to take a week, not a month but probably closer to a year of (some kind of) practice before you see REAL return on investment with more interaction, a highly relevant network, a good handle of all options, using some related Twitter tools. And in the meantime it will be a good ride still, because you’ll get a lot of relevant information.
  • You can be passive or you can be active. The latter is even better and will bring you even more benefits, but simply reading tweets can be immensely rewarding. As you can see below, a minority of Twitter users are active anyhow. It doesn’t mean they’re passive, they’re just choosing to listen.

The advantages: How can Twitter *really* help you

  • The main advantage of Twitter is that it’s a great overall filter – to sift through tons of information – because if your network is good, it brings up good, relevant stuff up to the top.

“It’s not about information overload, it’s about filter failure” (Clay Shirky)

  • Twitter is a great live reporting channel. News often breaks out more quickly there than it does on mainstream media – because it relies on mobile inputs from web-enabled knowledge workers using their phone, tablet, PC etc. to share what is happening.
  • It takes no time to go through your feed. Since every tweet is only 140 characters, every message is quickly digested. Even a flow of 100 tweets missed in the space of a few hours can be quickly scanned and ignored at will. And then it may also reveal some gems.
  • Because it’s all based on the network and it is a social network, you can really engage with the people you are following or who are following you; you can mention them, message them, have private conversations with them. You can strike partnerships, friendships or simply trusted relationships with people you have never met in real life.
  • As it has a very viral nature, it can be an excellent relay for information you come across, that you produce, that you curate etc. – so that more people can benefit from this information and experience too.
  • Against the problem of dealing with intense email flows, Twitter also allows diverting some of the traffic away from your inbox. A Twitter contact of mine shared this example of using Twitter to replace collective email lists.
  • It’s a personal record of interesting thoughts, links, information etc. which can be tracked again later (through Twitter tools like TwimeMachine and many others)… As a thought repository, it is also useful to help reflection and analysis.
  • And from my colleagues, here are a few other personal benefits:
    • “I can do a much better job of assembling high-quality people to listen to/stay in contact with (via social media such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, blogs, etc.) than can traditional media, who mediate that process for me”
    • “I continue to read article published in traditional media (e.g. Guardian, Atlantic, New Yorker, New York Times), but I increasingly find these great article NOT on those websites but rather by referral (aka curation) by those I follow on social media.”
    • “Serendipitous discovery in high-quality social media (where the quality is determined by the reader and who that reader follows) is infinitely higher in quality that similar discoveries available in traditional media. Where some editor is trying to put together materials for the masses. Just saying.”

And yet more from Twitter contacts:

Oh, and it must be serendipitous zeitgeist because Harold Jarche just beat me to this topic by blogging about ‘the value of Twitter‘.

The challenges: what are some of the possible limitations of Twitter

  • As any other social media, it can be overwhelming to work with Twitter at first – and it is a challenge to ‘trim’ your social network. But it’s essential because your Twitter news stream will be as good (or as bad) as your Twitter network’s relevance.
  • Finding the balance between what’s ‘tweetable’ and what’s not remains a bit of a learning exercise for all of us – and so is learning how to tweet, how to make use of the technical options of Twitter (to tweet, send direct messages etc.) – this is why it takes quite a few months to really benefit greatly from it.
  • And perhaps a question mark – I wonder if Twitter doesn’t work better for information and knowledge professionals simply because we are more likely to try it out and reach the critical mass that allows you to have good conversations. So it may be more difficult for some to use the potential of the no.2 social network.

Now what then?

Despite this post, I certainly don’t want to encourage you to use Twitter cost what cost. Really!

But on the other hand: can you afford to ignore Twitter just out of principle, without having tried it for yourself? Can you afford to ignore what could possibly be a much smarter way of working, of navigating this world of information we live in? Are you going to be the last skeptic on Earth about Twitter? Go on then, play around, reflect, inform your decision and contribute to the twittering choir about Twitter. Then, and only then are you allowed to remain skeptical – and to sharpen my mind with your challenging questions 🙂

PS. Twitter is only one of the social media channels that you might want to consider. See this presentation to give you an idea about the options with the social learning landscape anno 2013/2014…

Related blog posts:

At the edges of knowledge work, the new beacons of ever-sharper collective intelligence


Modern knowledge workers don’t really exist. Not with all the highly desirable features we may want them to have. But breaking down what such a super human should do into distinct functions could be a good start to training us all at becoming better knowledge workers. I noted a few of these functions in the profile of a modern knowledge worker such as documenting conversations, filtering information etc. Yet these functions are dynamic and reinvent themselves, and new ones appear.

What are the next knowledge work super-hero functions? (credits - Photonquantique / FlickR)

What are the next knowledge work super-hero functions? (credits – Photonquantique / FlickR)

These new functions are partly addressed already by agile knowledge workers, but perhaps not always with enough intent and consistency. While we may not recognise the following functions, they may become increasingly pertinent in the modern knowledge era, with the intention of mobilising collective knowledge as best we can, particularly around events (online or offline) that bring people to strike rich conversations:

Ex-post sense-maker 

An event that is documented properly leads to rich notes on e.g. a wiki, a Google document, a written report (or otherwise). This is great: anyone participant in such conversations – anyone at all actually – can find and use these traces of conversations. But digital conversation notes are often TOO rich. Too long, too complex. A very useful extra mile for knowledge work would be to go through these notes and tease them out in useful bite-size chunks and compelling formats. An excellent example of this is this documentation of work done on ‘anticipating climate risks in the Sahel‘.

Memory connector (literature sifter)

This is the normal job of researchers. They dig through past documentation and build upon it. But they do it in a specific way – not always most straightforward. So before any planned/structured conversation happens (or any event gets organised), having someone go through all the literature related to the issues at hand, summarising key questions and issues that were raised around that field the last time around (picking up on the trail of ex-post sense-makers), on the latest recommendations etc. would add immense value to the conversations. It’s about mapping out the grid of our collective intelligence and building on it.

Too often we reinvent the wheel out of laziness or lack of awareness about related past conversations. The trick is again to package that preexisting information in ways that make it attractive to the people who will be engaged in the audience. Cartoons? A short video? A Pecha Kucha presentation (see example below)? A list of documents commented with humour? There are many ways to do this. So why do we too often fail at linking the past with the present?

Visualisation engineer

The documentation of conversations is more often than not done in a written format. Or in the best of cases in a myriad of videos. This makes it hard for us to absorb and synthesise that information. So how about visual engineers: people who are able to prepare visual handouts as the conversations unfold, organise intelligent lists of contacts that make networking and connecting easier, sifting through stats and presenting graphs in a radical and compelling way, developing complex thoughts into an-image-is-worth-1000-words kind of graphs and conceptual models.

Graphic recording - a whole palette of options before, during and after... (Credits - Susan Kelly)

Graphic recording – a whole palette of options before, during and after… (Credits – Susan Kelly)

There’s already a lot of graphic recording (see above) happening. I believe in our Instagram-culture of Pinterest drives we are only at the dawn of on-the-spot visual engineering. And this is perhaps not as much a function as an activity that just should occur more systematically.

And here’s another example:

Social network gardener

Perhaps this function is covered under any of the above. The idea is that someone really uses the information recorded and nuggets harvested to plant it/them in the right channels, networks and locations. Combined with the work of a visualisation engineer, this job allows targeted sending of compelling information to the right people.

Social media gardening - takes time but pays off! (Credits - j&tplaman / FlickR)

Social media gardening – takes time but pays off! (Credits – j&tplaman / FlickR)

Social network gardening does take time, but really adds a lot of value to the exchange that happened in the first instance, because it contributes to a universal information base that can reduce the learning curve the next time a group of people are wondering about a similar set of issues. And it does so not just by making information available but also by connecting people, i.e. knowledge – so it’s much more dynamic. Of course a lot of modern knowledge workers are already doing this to some extent. The point is to add structure and intent to this, to maximise opportunities for interaction beyond the group of people already involved.

Interestingly, what all these functions have in common is to combine conversations (knowledge sharing) and their documentation or processing (information management) both before, during and after the conversations happen… Acting upon the conversations as they happen, the nexus of agile KM don’t you think?

Related blog posts:

Tinkering with tools: (Pretty) Easy Prezi


Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi is a presentation tool. An alternative to Powerpoint. It has been around for a while now (four years), and I hadn’t used it since 2010 when, among others, I was wondering ‘What is learning?‘ but current circumstances at work have brought me back to using it again – as testified in one recent blog post on partnerships.

This time it’s not so much for my own use (I tend to facilitate events a lot more than present anything at those events) as for my colleagues’ use, so this ‘Tinkering with tools‘ post is about Prezi, some resources about them and a couple of tips to enrich one’s experience with it.

So what is Prezi?

Prezi is a dynamic presentation tool that is built in a totally different logic to Powerpoint. Let’s examine closely the differences between the two:

Powerpoint

Prezi

Series of interconnected slides following one path – ‘Slide’ logic, whereby the slide is the playing field Canvas offering a navigation pathway amidst an infinity of other ones – Canvas logic where the whole canvas is the playing field – it is possible to step out of the indicated ‘pathway’ to look at any element on the canvas
Lecture-like experience ‘a la overhead sheet’ though can be used very strongly (the tool is never the problem, the tool user can be) Dynamic exploration-like experience where the user is invited to discover a brave new world
Possibility to emphasise certain elements with animations or formatting (bold, colour etc.) Few formatting options (3 types of fonts though colours possible) but endless possibility to emphasise elements by scaling them up or down, adding dynamics to the presentation
Many animations possible in the slide (if used well, one of the powerful features of PPT) Some animations possible but mostly animation happening between sequences of text e.g. nesting images into images into images
Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. AND Powerpoint presentations
Risk of putting too much text in and to bore the audience OR risk of putting too many animations in and to annoy the audience ‘Death by Powerpoint Risk of putting too many transitions and movements in and to get the audience sea-sick ‘vertigo by Prezi
Embedding in websites happens through prior uploading on e.g. Slideshare Embedding in websites directly (though via a rather not so straightforward logic for WordPress sites)
Software used from the client’s PC Online, or pay-for – free 30-day trial – desktop application

If this doesn’t help you visualise what I mean, perhaps you might want to take a look at this example:

Now let’s have a look at some useful ways to build Prezis, from my experience…

Practical tips and tricks?

First off, focus on three things:

  1. your story (the content and logic of it),
  2. the storyboard of that story (e.g. what element will you disclose one by one, flanked by what possible visuals and other media etc.)
  3. and finally how will you plot these onto your canvas. It is really crucial to think about this because the prezi will be used all the more as you incorporate a strong story in a smart way of using the canvas.

This means that once you’ve got these elements figured, you should plot (i.e. add, write, upload, include) all these elements of text, visuals, audio and video bits more or less where you want to put them on your canvas. Your use of the canvas and of Prezi’s navigation logic is what makes the difference between a good prezi and an excellent prezi. Then you can scale them differently to hide them a bit for an element of surprise.

Prezi is not Powerpoint, so don’t build a Prezi the way you would a Powerpoint. Forget about overview slides, forget about animations on slide, and certainly forget about the biggest mistakes in building and delivering (death by) Powerpoint e.g. having too much text to read, adding useless visuals which don’t strengthen your point etc.

On the other hand, use the strength of Prezi: move around, scale in and out, turn the text, play with the canvas and with details in it (e.g. nest an image in the dot of an ‘i’ or in the brain of a person in the picture), use a visual as your canvas and move around, get a hang of options with the templates offered, think for yourself and try a story canvas that suits your style and your needs. It can be a blank canvas, a pre-existing template, a picture…

However, here are also some other tips to avoid shooting yourself in the foot with your innovative prezi (at the risk of putting your audience off Prezi for a while):

  • Even on a prezi, too long a presentation can bore your audience. Time yourself and avoid speaking over 10 minutes
  • Scaling in and out is great but doing too much of it really gives vertigo. Spend some time talking over each ‘bit of text’ rather than moving straight into the next bit, to allow your audience to find its balance and sense again and to avoid vertigo
  • Use pictures not in a Powerpoint slide kind of way but rather embedding the text in the picture or vice versa, or show the picture after or before the text
  • Add different kinds of media (e.g. video) to also time your presentation and give space for your audience to stabilise its senses
  • Keep a consistent use of fonts and colours to give a sense of balance to your presentation
  • At all times, keep your story in mind. As much as early Powerpoint presentations used all kinds of animations and lost the plot (and the audience), Prezis are cool only if they strengthen the point, not dilute it.

As you can see, I also need to explore Prezi to improve my own style since my 2010 attempts.

Some more resources about Prezi:

Related blog posts:

Engagement and deeper connection in social networks, a dialogue with Jaume Fortuny


What? Do I smell something new?

This will not be your typical KM for me & you post. Instead, it’s an idea of Jaume Fortuny (and see his Twitter profile as Jaume’s a terrific and prolific tweeter) which we have gently pushed forward to shape it up into an online conversation that we wish to continue here rather than just among us two (narrating our work life, right?).

The engagement pyramid (credits - FogFish)

The engagement pyramid (credits – FogFish)

The crux of this conversation: how to generate and maintain engagement on social media? In more details, what makes a person follow another person online and keep on doing so over time? Jaume is a regular follower of this blog and it’s time to address you as ‘You’ indeed 🙂

As I told you in our email conversation, I rather approach engagement from the side of social engagement (as in this really excellent resource about youth engagement) and I have blogged about the engagement happy families, engagement in facilitation and how KM can drive more engagement in comms etc.) but never in the way that you portrayed.

You seem to say that there are factors attracting people to a given blog, either aspirations about spreading interesting information or perhaps even improving peoples’ lives. Depending on peoples’ interests, they are attracted to a given blog (or any other social media for that matter but let’s talk about ‘blogs’ for the sake of the conversation) because of its focus and how the content on that blog is crafted. But that is only the first step.

The second step is to make sure that people remain interested in that blog. You suggest this happens through (as a blogger) inviting interaction, displaying humility and kindness, showing that you care for reciprocation. You also suggest that over time, some other incentives help maintain this engagement: recognition, meeting face to face and establishing a physical (i.e. non virtual) bond, rewarding and motivating the person following the blog.

Finally you mention that you also have ‘a gang of people’ that you follow and with whom you entertain engagement over time without waiting for any return.

This is all really interesting to hear and I have a few questions for you – either generic or related to our interactions around this blog:

  • What do you find ‘turn-offs’ (repulsive behaviours) on the blogs and in the people that you follow regularly?
  • To what extent does the content and the content type (e.g. using different media) weigh in compared with the personality of the blogger and the relationship s/he has with their followers?
  • Which posts on this blog have you particularly liked but more importantly why?
  • Do you follow people in their social network ecosystem or around one specific platform?
  • Do you think this engagement is susceptible to change over time with different people and how does this happen?
  • Is there a point for bloggers to specifically invite their audience/readers/followers/friends to react either via surveys or specifically prompting them via e.g. Twitter and other social networks?
  • What do you hope to achieve – if anything – with the people that you engage with more thoroughly and what can make it happen?

I also would like to say that for me, having people like you engaged over time and really following, re-sharing, questioning, reflecting is really great. It’s what helps me get a sense of direction and relevance from this blog. My blog has a niche focus with a likely limited audience, so any feedback is really great and is one of the reasons why I blog after all.

Engagement between social network connections is not a topic I really paid much conscious attention to so far, yet it is the currency of our networked age and a real zeitgeist signpost. Good that you woke me up to it Jaume! I look forward to the next round of this conversation to go deeper in our mutual exploration and understanding. Thank you for your excellent suggestion, and thank you for your engagement, as ever!

Related blog posts:

Top KM influencer on Twitter? Why and what then?


MindTouch KM influencerThis week I had the very pleasant and slightly shocking surprise of landing as #23 on MindTouch’s top 100 Influencers on KM – see more information about this here (or click on the icon on the right hand side).

Here is the top quartile:

  1. weknowmore
  2. David Gurteen
  3. Dave Snowden
  4. Stan Garfield
  5. Nancy White
  6. VMaryAbraham
  7. Jack Vinson
  8. Euan Semple
  9. Alice MacGillivray
  10. knowledgetank
  11. Ian Thorpe
  12. Richard Hare
  13. Peter West
  14. Gauri Salokhe
  15. Chris Collison
  16. #KMers Chat
  17. Stuart French
  18. KM Australia
  19. John Tropea
  20. KMWorld Magazine
  21. Christian DE NEEF
  22. Mario Soavi
  23. ewenlb
  24. KM Asia
  25. Steve Dale

How did this happen?

I’m still surprised. By no means do I consider myself worthy of making it to this list. If at all I could have featured in the bottom part. So if I try to understand how it happened, I guess  what could have helped the ranking is, randomly: mutual connection to most of these top tweeters, consistent use of hashtags (#KM, #KM4Dev, #KMers), regular updates on this blog which is dedicated to KM from which I channel tweets, re-tweeting – and being retweeted for – interesting KM insights from other influential KM thinkers who are on Twitter or not.

And more importantly… so what then?

A few ideas and comments come to mind:

This rating is only one subjective, biased assessment and it’s only about Twitter. There are countless of KM specialists that should be there, who are very influential but are not presented in this top 100, either because they are not active at all on Twitter or because of the way the MindTouch ranking algorithms work.

As Nancy White mentioned, it’s remarkable that many KM4Dev members are making it to this list, which is great for the community and an incentive to really do something about it as it might change (y)our life. It looks as though it’s not just my biased understanding that assumes this community rocks and is a beacon of CoPs, despite all its ongoing doubts and issues – some of which will be addressed in the annual face-to-face event in Seattle this July.

From my Twitter stream, it seems that a lot of these people are also following each other, which shows that the KM Twitter community is fairly tight-knit and has quickly connected nodes to form this fantastic thinking grid that it is now. The wonderful gathering function of #KMers Chat has possibly been one significant mechanism to interconnect all these people too and to take stock of many of the challenges that KM professionals are facing, whatever their function title is or entails. This is good matter for entertaining such conversations and regularly convening a quorum of the critical KM minds.

As Stuart French noted, this ranking shows the diversity of the KM field and the focus shift from technology to humans and their interaction processes. However, this is likely to change as technology will play an increasingly important role. This is one of the key (and totally plausible) predictions of Steve Wheeler in his wonderful ‘learning futures’ presentation: 

The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself – it just keeps on happening, and the KM world, with its antennas in such diverse arenas as business management, psychology, education, cognitive science, human resource management, coaching, information technology, training, social activism etc. is a good place to map trends, raise questions, shape up conversations that keep on getting our ever-changing job done, and allow us to deal with complex issues and wicked problems. The positive issue of such a ranking is that it helps us all connect to this great thinking pool.

Finally, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s perhaps an example that the knowledge ego-logy sometimes comes with rewards, but also with responsibilities. For me this token of recognition is a call to become ever more helpful in the field of (agile) knowledge management, (social) learning and critical thinking, on Twitter and everywhere else.

At any rate, I’m also happy for this event and I’ll proudly keep the badge on this blog for a while. Thank you if you were involved in compiling this ranking or helped me and other KM thinkers make it to this list!

As the no.1 KM Twitter influencer shows (together) ‘We know more’. 

 

Related blog posts:

Social media: why bother? A French misunderstanding


I spent last Chrismas holiday in France, my birthplace, my homeland, a place that I am so estranged from in many respects. A people for which social media sound so strange too – apart from a few isolated voices and some interesting articles. Among others, Jay Cross also found out about the chasm between France and the rest of the world in terms of  learning, social media, agile KM and so on.

Social media face skeptics, in France and elsewhere (credits - Spiral16)

Social media face skeptics, in France and elsewhere (credits – Spiral16)

This post is addressing some criticism I heard in my own country about social media, more as an illustration of how they miss the point about it rather than about bashing France at that.

In Voltaire’s craddle, social media are portrayed – particularly by traditional media – like futile media where ego-maniacs describe every second of their mundane habits (all the way down to toilet matters) and spurt out the dirt and stupidity of the narcissistic divas and divos that form the ranks of the French social media fans.

Why do the media miss the point so entirely about social media and why do I believe in them?

I find the gems of the world on the social web

Clay Shirky got it right, in this age of knowledge, we don’t have problems with information overload but with filter failure. Social media are extremely precious to make out the wheat from the chaff and to find the gems of the web brought forward by my online friends. Mind that gardening your social network is key to make it work though. A lot of the key information in my field (knowledge management, learning, communication etc.) I  actually find through Twitter and Yammer. The system of retweets and likes does wonders to single out great stuff passing by.

Others can find the gems of the world thanks to social media through me

If I come across great stuff, others can benefit from it too, since everything is transparent and easily accessible. A lot of us can simultaneously benefit from social media, including (and particularly) Twitter… Be around, engage and you will also come across wonderful finds. The online content curation trend means that it’s super easy for others to find stuff that we have all been finding, collecting, saving, collating, tagging, documenting, commenting etc.

I reflect and get better thanks to the social media

I hear and read a lot that social media are fastening the pace of information sharing and consumption, and therefore reducing our space and time for genuine engagement and reflection. That is true. For some social media. Blogs are part of social media, however, and they really stimulate our reflection and sense of deeper connection with matters that indeed matter to us. Paradoxically, even micro-blogging platforms force us to reflect and synthesise information so they help reflect too.

In addition to reflecting on our own, the social nature of social media means that we get more feedback more often. That is a true foundation for reflection and improvement.

Social media help me strive ever more for excellence and relevance

As I explained in a previous post about knowledge ego-logy, the very fact that we are attracted by social feedback is a key factor to make us want to get better. If we want comments, ratings, retweets and the likes, we need to deliver good content. On the contrary, every egomaniac ego-logist will harvest the scorn that their narcissism sowed.

I keep track of my assets much more explicitly

This is the benefit of information management. By saving information in social repositories such as del.icio.us, Pinterest, YouTube, wikis, Slideshare etc. I can always find back information that matters to me. It’s much easier to build upon it and reuse it ad infinitum, than reinventing the wheel.

And my assets are not just the information I have, they’re also my expertise (LinkedIn), my network (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and my personal outputs (Mendeley, Zotero, del.icio.us)… What is the alternative?

What about the skeptics?

Granted, the egocentric nature of social media is plaguing some parts of that sphere and too many people probably use social media for very futile purposes. But perhaps it’s part of their trajectory of development in using social media (remember: don’t be too quick to judge).

To let the French (and other skeptics) understand how social media can work, here are some of my guiding principles:

  • Care for your network. relentlessly – prune it and expand it where you see pockets of (ir)relevance and energy (sucking) pop up;
  • Use social networks professionally before you judge them personally;
  • Take some time to explore and accept it’s not perfect straight away. Social media (and any new activity for that matter) always take a bit of time to get the hang of. Networks also take time to grow and reach relevant proportions and depth;
  • Accept that there’s no blue print for us all. Social media don’t work for everyone. We all need to give different social media a try, see what works or not for us and adapt our practice accordingly – and certainly to do that before we feel free to judge if theyr work or not;
  • Reflect and improve: As for pretty much anything, ongoing reflection about social media is what makes the difference between good and bad practice…

History shows that every great empire that started to shut its interest and borders to external influence lost its edge (medieval Japan, feudal China, The United States of America in the 1920’s). This holds wider lessons – something that many of my fellow countrymen would be well advised to remember, in a phase when France clearly shows all the signs of decline and over-anxiousness and might be about to miss out on the biggest (r)evolution since Gutenberg’s press.

Related blog posts: