Saturday, 29 March 2008

Twitter concept study for categorized feeds

How can you filter better what kind stuff you want to follow on twitter? Doing some further research on this, I discovered that there are indeed already a few options. First, there's the Twitter Pack Project, a free wiki where you can find users who are only twittering on specific issues. Some people are also automatically feeding their twitter with Twitter Feed, which can then be used to sharpen a twitter profile towards a certain issue.

A great way to create a thematic twitter feed within a community has been presented by the Nonprofit Technology Network. By using a combination of a new common community Twitter account, Twitter Feed, Terraminds and a unique keyword like "ConferenceXY", they were able to produce a collaborative feed on an event where every post of users which contains the keyword "ConferenceXY" is published.

However, I would still love to have in Twitter the option to define different categories (job, private life, hobby X, interest Y, etc). Then anyone of my contacts could suscribe to just the one of my specific thematic feeds which (s)he is interested in. I played around with Photoshop and created the quick concept study below, which shows how such a categories feature could look like in Twitter. Would be interested to learn what you think about it!

Friday, 28 March 2008

The flaws of Twitter: About message noise and categorized feeds

I’m using Twitter now since 4 months. And I’m still note sure whether I should continue using it, whether I should promote it or whether I should just abandon the tool. There are indeed benefits. Like with the status messages in Facebook I can monitor what’s going with people which are important to me and by writing directly to that person through twitter I can hook in on an issue whenever I want to. However, I experienced two very critical flaws which in my view hinder Twitter to be a really excellent application.
  1. Some people are sending messages just every other day or once a week while others are twittering twenty times a day. That makes it awfully difficult to identify the valuable contributions from the ones which are only writing rarely within the very “loud” twittering by the frequent users of which only a certain percentage might be useful to me. I wish I had a button where I could “quiet down” certain people without having to kick them out of my contact list totally. Maybe there could be a policy which defines that one could only twitter a certain amount of times per day. But then – who would decide on the frequency? And what if I actually have already used up my amount of messages and then something comes up which would be also critical to post? One option could be that for each user you follow you could vote on how often you’d like to hear her/him per day. The average of these votes then gives the user a (non-binding) hint what might be the optimal amount of daily entries his network contacts feel comfortable with.

  2. It’s very annoying to have professional messages mixed up with private messages. I personally would desperately need a mechanism to only receive professional entries as I’m really not interested on the dinner menu of a professional colleague on the other side of the world. In the beginning I tried to set up two accounts, one for private and the other for professional purposes. But that of course doesn’t work, as you can only be logged in with one account at a time. Using a different tool (e.g. Dodgeball) in parallel is kind of cumbersome, because then you need to promote a different tool for each purpose. Of course you can’t force your contact to twitter only on certain items which are of interest to you. Maybe a tagging system for twitter might be a good thing so you could filter the pieces you are interested in. Or actually, there is still quite some space left on the twitter overview site. Why not have different columns on different topics on which I frequently want to twitter about (e.g. private, job, studies, promotion, sports, hobbies)? Then everyone could decide which of my different personal news feeds (s)he wants to subscribe to.

In general, I don’t think we have seen the full potential of microblogging yet in terms of user-friendliness and added-value features. Let’s see what developers might come up with in course of this year!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Devil's advocate: Forget about KM strategies?

There is a consensus in KM literature that every knowledge management setup in organizations needs to be based on a corporate knowledge management strategy as a mandatory prerequisite. Dealing with KM strategies myself, I don’t disagree. However, when reflecting on KM approaches with other KM practitioners, I realized that one could also take a different position, which would be the one of the devil’s advocate below:

"I don’t believe in corporate Knowledge Management strategies. Since I am exploring possible ways of doing knowledge management in organizations, I increasingly become to think that instead of strategizing, promoting and enforcing top down KM concepts, we should just start doing the things at hand. Because the business needs are already there (and already incorporated in strategic business frameworks). People do projects, people launch initiatives, people communicate and participate in the exchange with each other and their partners. And they are hungry to learn about more effective ways to do it right. We as KM people don’t need to reinvent business. We need to provide tools and mechanisms to do what we already do – just better.

Actually, the way of doing KM under the surface (“stealth KM” or “guerilla KM”) would be a much better approach, rather than trying to convince teams and business units of new strategies that cost a lot of money, cost a lot of time and imply that things should from now on be done completely different.

The thing is that people are happy to change if they see there is an immediate benefit. So what we ought to do is to provide tools which give that immediate benefit. Users of course don’t know in advance that a certain approach might help them, that’s why we need to communicate clearly. But instead of strategizing for a long time, how about we give them some tools that respond to their micromanagement challenges? Tools like social bookmarking or wikis, peer assist and after action reviews. Let’s play around and experiment with these tools. The ones which prove to provide a real benefit will survive. Some of the offered tools are not beneficial? So what? Most of them don’t cost anything, so we can drop them again. Instead of setting up a strategy and designing from top down what people ought to use, let people decide what’s useful for them and what’s not.

Now this of course will become difficult when we talk about approaches which’s benefits will only become visible over time. That’s why it is still important to have a KM Unit. Cause we need to have people who can do the experiments, who can pilot new approaches of communicating and exchanging knowledge. The KM team also will identify knowledge champions in the organization which are willing to listen, which are open to new approaches and eager to experiment. There are always some of that sort in each organisation. Get them on board and show them what did work for you personally and what did work for other organizations. Once it appears that a certain tool is indeed beneficial, the word will spread.

We are dealing with networked and interconnected societies and organizations. Instead of desiging KM stratgies top town, plant the virus and let the virus spread itself!"

Here we have again the bias between the view of organisations as fixed hirarchical structrues versus networked organisms. If the view of organisations as flat networks, which are (as Christian Kreutz posted today) democratic, flat and passionate, also makes top down KM strategies obsolete can be subject to discussion. I would be interested in your comments: What's your take on KM strategies? What makes them indispensable for your organizations?