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Friday, January 30, 2009

Social Brain

I've been looking for a term that defines - Crowdsourcing in the Small

What do you think about calling the network it's the

Social Brain

and then we can talk about

Social Brain Building
Social Brain Access

I'm liking this. Thoughts?

Twitter Conference Ideas

Twitter has become a pretty great tool to help with socializing at conferences. Here are a few of the things we've been doing

Twitter as Social Chat

At both DevLearn and TechKnowledge, we created a hashtag and created a specific Twitter account that was the hub. Using TweetLater and GroupTweet anyone who sent a direct message to the hub account then broadcast to everyone following that account. We also encouraged everyone to put in the hashtag. Through twitter search you can see the various conversations going on. DevLearn was more successful because of the free Wifi. You can find various relevant posts via Twitter at DevLearn.

The overall effect is a nice backchannel, constant conversation with attendees.

There is also an interesting effect that people who are not attending still hear quite a bit about the conference and have some level of tangential participation. There's also a bit of risk as exemplified by - TechKnowledge09 - Another Conference that Missed the Social Opportunity. I think there's a tendency to overemphasize negative comments coming through the twitter stream. Take a look at the Twitter Search for TK09 for a more balanced view.

TweetLater as Planning Tool

For every presentation, I spend a few minutes making sure I have a sense of my timing. What do I need to cover by what point. For my keynote at TechKnowledge, I did something a little different to plan out my presentation - and provide value to the audience (or at least part of the audience).

I went into TweetLater and set up a series of tweets that represented each point in time and I included a link to roughly the relevant content from my blog or other sources. It was nice to see it laid out as follows in TweetLater (the picture below represents after they had all been published).

I found that I tweaked the times a bit and it would be nice if TweetLater had an easier way to do this. But, it was cool to have this engage with anyone on twitter during the presentation. I had lots of positive feedback in the halls after. A few good tweets about it during the session such as:
writetechnology: I like that @tonykarrer scheduled tweets (I assume) to appear during his keynote at #tk09. Great use of the Twitter stream!

mik3yv: @writetechnology it kind of tripped me out that I was reading tweets of the concepts and principles right after he talked about them #tk09

When I was sitting down with Brent Schlenker, he suggested that we should all be using Tweet Later to plan out our conference schedule and set up TweetLater to send messages to ourselves and to others about what we were planning to do. It would be really awesome if you could forward your calendar reminders over to twitter at the press of a key. But, in the short run, it might make sense to set up a similar kind of series of activities as listed above based on the conference program.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crowdsourcing in the Small

I've said many times that probably the biggest changes for concept workers over the past few years is the incredible access to information and more importantly the incredible access to people. In Networks and Communities, I discuss the limits of search and how Evaluating Performance of Concept Workers leads us to needing to derive Value from Social Media. And when I discuss what the new skills are around knowledge work, I quickly arrive a the biggest changes being things like finding expertise, finding answers, using social media to find answers, and learning through conversation.

The common threads here are:



To me, the biggest work literacy gap is in this area. The new skill is...
How do we leverage networks and other forms of social media to access the knowledge and capabilities of other people?
And I believe that the Tilde Effect is full force here. Just four days ago, someone posted a question in a LinkedIn discussion group asking for feedback on the use of particular tools. They didn't get a response in the discussion group and had not thought to do a search for people to contact directly. And this is for someone who was posting their question in LinkedIn. They were on the precipice of being able to access exactly what they needed and yet didn't have the awareness, knowledge and skills to be able to tap into that beautiful people network.

New Term Needed

So here's where I need some help. When I discuss this concept, some people say, "Oh you mean crowdsourcing." On Wikipedia, which is pretty indicative of other definitions, crowdsourcing is defined as -
Crowdsourcing is a neologism for the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call.
I have some issues with trying to apply this term to what I see happening.
  • "Crowd" - it implies large groups, often public, normally open
  • "Sourcing" - it implies that you are seeking resources for a business
Similarly, I generally don't like "Collective Intelligence" - that's the net effect, but not the individual action.

Instead, what I see happening is being done on smaller scales. It's individual concept workers reaching out to other people (known or not known), through networks or social media, to get help with their particular needs.

I've tried to come up with a good term for this. I've asked via Twitter for some help, but I still don't have something to call it. Some of the suggestions so far are:
  • PeopleSourcing
  • NetSourcing
  • PeerSourcing
  • PeopleNetKnowledge
Nothing has quite struck a chord with me. Certainly nothing as catchy as crowdsourcing.

Any suggestions?

P.S. - I'm doing X now. I'm reaching out to a network to get help. Maybe this is closer to crowdsourcing, but I think it's more X. And the fact that I've asked a few people and asked via Twitter suggests that I'm definitely doing X. What do you call it? Help!

Monday, January 26, 2009

12 eLearning Predictions for 2009

Last year I laid out in January my Ten Predictions for eLearning 2008. In my post, 2008 2009 - written in December 2008, I looked at how well I did in those predictions, and my results were pretty good, not perfect. So, let's try it again this year ...

#1 - "Self-Directed Learning" Increases

Due to economic pressures, companies are going to reduce training budgets to a point where it doesn't make sense to create content on marginal topics. Instead, we will call this "self-directed learning" and will do our best to support the workforce to learn it on their own with minimal guidance and support.

#2 - eLearning 2.0 Grows - But Creating "eLearning 2.0 Strategy" Fails

One of the better, cheap support mechanisms for self-directed learning are web 2.0 tools. As such, eLearning 2.0 will show continued growth. We will especially see a rapid growth in the use of wikis for content presentation. There will also be growth in discussions and social networks for collaborative learning.

At the same time, organizations who try to create big eLearning 2.0 Strategies will move much slower than organizations who adopt easy to use tools and make tactical use of these tools.

Corollary: if you have SharePoint installed, you will be using SharePoint a lot more this year.

#3 - Increase in Consumer/Education Social Learning Solutions will Increase Pressure for Social Learning Solutions in Corporate Learning

Sorry, I couldn't figure out a shorter way to say this. 2008 was an interesting year that saw a myriad of new start-ups offering content through interesting new avenues. Social learning solutions like social homework help provided by Cramster; CampusBug, Grockit, TutorVista, EduFire, English Cafe, and the list goes on and on.

What will happen to about 20% of the workplace learning professionals is that some VP/C level in your company will have their teenager or college age kid use one of these services and tell them about it. They will they proceed to wonder why you aren't doing something similar.

It's the change where consumer leads education leads corporate.

#4 - Quick Wins & Toolkits

With the tough economy, everyone will be looking for quick wins. How can you improve performance quickly and at low cost? The answer for many organizations will be less training and more performance support in the form of toolkits. Teach me less about communication and give me more templates for important, tough communication points.

Off-the-shelf content companies will be moving to meet this need by emphasizing quick wins through resources.

#5 - Virtual Classroom Tipping Point

Based on a few different conversations and experiences, I believe that we've reached a point where virtual classroom training is no longer seen as inherently inferior and a lower value. Some training will still be preferred face to face such as when team building or in-person soft skills are important, but 2009 will be the year when we realize that we should be justifying any in-person training. Price points for virtual classroom training will begin to be virtually the same as for the same in-person classes.

Corrollary: transition to virtual means greater demand for help on effective virtual classroom training and for people who are good at creation effective remote experiences.

#6 - Greater Domination by Leading Tool Vendors - Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, Camtasia

Captivate 4 is going to be a great tool. Articulate has a great tool set. Lectora is great at packaging. Camtasia is good at screencasting. It's going to be tough for me-too tools to push out these players in the corporate market. In some settings, free authoring tools may do better, but they probably won't get much traction in workplace training.

#7 - Niche Tools Emerge and Get Traction in Niches

So the caveat to the above statement about the big players getting bigger is that I believe we will see more and more niche tools get traction. We've seen some traction by the game show type tools such as those by LearningWare. We may also see use of Flash Quiz Tools, polls, survey tools or something like Harbinger Knowledge's Team Pod. These things can create fun interactions that easily fit into a course built with one of the above tools. They also fit into a wiki page. It's also interesting to see effort's like Articulate's Community Interactions - which is essentially the ability to add specialized interactions including new types of interactions from the developer community.

#8 - More Wiki Pages - Same Authored Minutes - Less Classroom Minutes

I pretty much already said this, but I might as well mention it again. The above trends around eLearning 2.0, self-directed learning, quick wins and toolkits all suggest that more web pages - authored via wikis - will be the name of the game in 2009. The goal of lower cost will continue the transition from classroom to courseware which will keep the total number of authored minutes about the same, even with the move of content from courses to web pages.

#9 - Knowledge Worker Skills

Topic growing rapidly, problem getting recognized, more and more people offering workshops and solutions to address this

I realized in 2007 that there's a very important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap
emerging. In 2008, I felt compelled to launch Work Literacy, and help help people and organizations upgrade skills like Leveraging Networks, Network Feedback, Finding Expertise, Using Social Media to Find Answers to Questions, Learning through Conversation and searching, scanning, etc.

2009 is going to be a big year for this issue. The fact that this is one of the general sessions at ASTD TechKnowledge is interesting way to start 2009. We are now offering a Work Literacy Skills Workshop. This is going to get more and more attention this year. Especially as employers move more towards self-directed learning.

#10 - Mobile Learning Niche Growth

Last year I said mobile learning would be well below where people were expecting. While I still think this will be a relatively small percentage of activity, this year, I expect to be a year in which mobile becomes more I believe that we will see continued increase in the percentage of people walking around with mobile web access. This will offer increased interesting opportunities such as:
  • Real-time Polls - We are just beginning to see tools like Poll Everywhere that allow mobile polling. That way an audience sitting at an in-person conference will have some of the capabilities that they do online. (Did I mention the move towards virtual classroom?)
  • Job aids / quick reference - about 30% of you are going to be asked to make sure your content is viewable on an iPhone.
  • Podcasts / Vidcasts targeting mobile professionals (ex. sales people)
  • Sales challenge scoreboard - For some mobile professionals, specific types of content such as sales challenges will be delivered through mobile solutions.
At the same time, the wild enthusiasm for mobile learning that was present in 2007 and died down a bit in 2008, will remain somewhat subdued. And we won't see much adoption as the central vehicle for learning content delivery.

#11 - Micro Virtual Conferences

The move towards acceptance of virtual classroom means that there will slowly begin to be acceptance of virtual conferences. Conferences this year will also do this because their other alternative is to be canceled from lack of people able to pay for travel. But because we are all going to be maxed out, expected to do 10% more work with 10% less people, we won't have time to go for several days. Instead, we will see the creation of things that are in between a full virtual conference and something that's a few sessions. These things will be more targeted and deeper. Many of them will be from ad hoc sources, such as George, Jay and myself.

#12 - Data Driven

With the economic situation, there will be greater demand for results and thus more interest in data-driven performance solutions.

Informal Learning Flow

I've always been a big believer in the value and power of informal learning. Over the past few years, I've written quite a few posts about informal learning.
The challenge for me has always been the The Paradox of Informal Learning (Form of Informal?) - it's defining systems for informal learning that effectively support learners. In many ways, eLearning 2.0 is one part of systematizing support for informal learning. I just saw that Josh Bersin wrote about this issue.

The person I most associate with informal learning is Jay Cross. And I'm happy to announce that he's working with me to help bring together resources via the Informal Learning Flow.

You can find his announcement here. Jay tells us ...
For the past couple of days, I’ve been consuming knowledge from a site that better fits how I learn. Called Informal Learning Flow, the site pulls together the feeds of the people I read and topics that I care about. You’ve got to see this in action to understand its power. Go to the site and click on a concept, say, informal learning. Then click on another concept, say, formal learning. You’ll call up entries that use both terms. Experiment a little; there’s more going on under the hood here than meets the eye.
I'm also looking forward to seeing if this helps make sense of what I feel is a pretty amorphous topic. To me, it's interesting to go look at the Tools for Informal Learning page and look at the best posts to see what comes up. And there are some good ones -
That's a pretty good list to start from. It was also interesting to see that Tools didn't appear in the titles. I also looked at what were the top posts and terms for the first half of January.
Hot Keywords -
Jay and I have had numerous conversations, debates, etc. over how to support organizations who believe in the power of informal learning but who need help making sense of getting there. I'm really looking forward to continue our conversation around this.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Processing Pages With Links

Great post by Ken Allan asking - What do you do with a Fan of Links? This is all about what to do when you encounter a page that links to many other possibly interesting pages. This relates to the strategies that I defined for how to process information in the posts Better Memory and Information Radar. However, this is a slightly different twist that I'm sure we all recognize:
  • I'm reading a page with lots of links
  • I know that some of the links are going to be good stuff
and either
  • I don't have time to go read all the pages linked, or
  • I don't want to lose the flow of the original post to go look at the other links.
But, if I don't visit the other pages, then they will not have made it into your virtual Google Memory (as described in Better Memory).

So, what do you do?

The suggestion by Tim on Ken's post is pretty much what I do, but I'm going to modify it slightly:
  • Ctrl+Click on interesting looking links. This opens it in a new tab but keeps focus on the current window (if you've set up your browser that way).
  • Continue to skim-dive-skim the article.
  • When I'm done with the page, I decide if I'm going to spend more time right now or at a later time going through this.
  • If I want to come back, I often will bookmark it with a particular tag that reminds me to look at it again.
  • If it's really important to come back, I set a reminder in my calendar - those are my task lists.
  • If I have more time, right then, I will continue to skim-dive-skim the pages that I've opened and process them.
The key here was to open those pages so that you've got them in your Google memory. They become full-text searchable.

One warning - as most of us are infovores / information addicts and we hold dearly to the myth of keeping up. So, don't be surprised if you quickly accumulate a fairly large list of "read later" tagged items. You will find that you need to really be careful about what you put on that list or you will never read it.

Other Posts in the Series

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hot Last Week

Using the same approach as Hot List, I've compiled ...

Hot Last Week (1/9/2009 - 1/16/2009)

Hot Last Week Posts
  1. Better Memory
  2. Ten years after
  3. Why Dissecting an E-Learning Course Will Improve Your Skills
  4. Basic mLearning with BlackBerries
  5. MixedInk
  6. Time to end “courseocentricism”
  7. Resources and Tools
  8. Interviews on Instructional Design
  9. Implementing a Virtual World
  10. Open source for learning costs less
Hot Last Week Items
Hot Last Week Keywords
Notes on the weekly hot last week.
  • The posts come from the primary sources for this group. Other items come from other sources.
  • Keywords are based on occurrences this week in addition to other social signals.

Twitter as Personal Learning and Work Tool

For people new to the concepts of social media and reviewing their tool set, is Twitter a good choice as a tool?

Introduction to Twitter for Learning

Here are some good initial starting points that discuss Twitter for Learning -

Twitter is Not for People New to Social Learning

Considering what I saw when I looked at following Twitter Learning Professionals - quickly I decided Twitter Mass Follow - Never Mind. My concern about twitter is that it will be too random for most people, especially those who have not established any relationships / understanding of the people they are following. Thus, my opinion is: Twitter is not a tool for people who are new to social media and the use of social media for personal learning and work.

There is one exception to this. If you are going to a conference or evening event where attendees will be using Twitter in a group fashion, then that's likely a good opportunity to try out the tool.

Twitter is Okay, But Not Primary

For a person who is already more into social media and what their experience might be take a quick look at Brett Miller's recent post 10 days of Twitter. I think his explanation of his experience coming onto twitter is pretty realistic, but he's also not new to social media.

There are certainly powerful examples in Twitter Collaboration Stories and Twitter for Learning.

Still, I would put Twitter as a social tool, a serendipity learning tool, a quick hit, general question tool. But it's still down on my list and you have to be careful not to allow it to waste time.
Other Posts in the Series

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Screencast Showing eLearning Learning

Michael Hanley was nice enough to post a description and screencast of how to navigate the eLearning Learning Community and what he sees as the value proposition. It's very cool to have people like Michael involved who can add value to the collective whole. Thanks Michael.

Remote Collaboration

My primary interest here are the methods and tools that allow us to work better as part of remote work teams. In other words -
How do we collaborate together in remote work teams to be as effective or even more effective than a team that works down the hall?
Let me admit that I'm likely in over my head when talking about methods and tools for collaboration. I cannot claim to be an expert, and I feel like this topic demands a lot of soft skills such as communication skills, team skills, handling cultural and work style issues, etc. as well as knowing about tools and methods.

My focus in this post is mostly on the Tool Set and a little bit about methods - as is the focus of this series. So, this post is only a small portion of the answer.

I'm particularly drawing on both personal experience and on experience with the work skills workshops we are offering. At the start of these workshops, we put people into remote work teams. At the core, when I look at what a team needs, it's a pretty simple list:

  • Voice
  • Screen Sharing
  • Document Editing (sometimes)
  • Share / collaborate on documents, web pages
  • Discussion
  • Notification
Of course, I'm simplifying by leaving out things like video chat, recording, etc.

Real-time Voice

I have had great success with a number of tools. So while I'm listing the following because they are good initial choices, there are a lot of Collaboration Tools out there.

Skype - Fantastic voice tool for 1-to-1 as well as conference calls up to 25 people. See: Quick Start Guide for New Skype Users. - For times when someone cannot be online, this service works great to establish a quick conference line.

Real-time Screen Sharing

Again, same caveat - lots of great tools that provide screen sharing. A few starting points:

Adobe Connect Now - free online meetings for up to three people.

DimDim - Still a little rough around the edges, but a great, free tool.

Real-time Document Editing

I've had two experiences recently that have really struck me around real-time document editing.

One was having a small (7 person) project team get together on a conference call and have all of us editing the status report real-time via Google Spreadsheets. You could see where people are working. People moved ahead of the conversation and updated status notes so we could skip them. We found we would discuss what needed to be discussed, agree on the next step and see it appear real-time. You leave the meeting with an agreed to status report, action steps, etc. It's truly a thing of beauty.

The other experience I mentioned in Real-Time Collaborative Editing, Robin Good used MindMeister to allow participants to collectively edit a Mind Map during a session at the Learning Trends. It resulted in a great learning experience and a quite good resource.

Asynchronous Content Sharing / Editing

In terms of using these products with remote work teams, Google Spreadsheets seems to have hit the most important items for me. In addition to the real-time editing described above, it also has notifications of changes to people who are collaborating on the document. For some (inexplicable) reason, Google Docs does not.

I also heavily use Wikis, especially when the desired result is a set of web pages. I recommend pbWiki as an easy to use Wiki solution. If you are not familiar with Wikis - here's a quick introduction -

Here are additional resources for people new to Wikis collected as part of the Work Literacy course:
Because I use Delicious as part of my better memory, I like it when work teams use it to share web pages that are relevant to the team. To do that, you must first agree on a tag to use to indicate it's part of the work teams' effort. You should already be doing that individually, this only requires an added step of getting agreement with the group.

The next level of my better memory was taking notes. I mentioned that I either do that through working documents or through a blog. Those exact mechanisms should be extended out to the work team. Blogs are an excellent way to allow the work team to see stream of thought of team members.

Other tools that fit into sharing content:
  • Google Calendar - great calendar tool especially when collaborating on calendars.
  • Xdrive: Online storage to share files.
  • YouSendIt: Clean way to send large files.
  • Flickr: Share and find photos.

Asynchronous Discussion

I personally have found that Ning works great as a tool for all sorts of different needs. Creating a new Ning network is very easy and it gives you a lot of what you would want / need as a work team. Here are a couple of quick guides to getting started on Ning:
Of course, if you've not yet joined some of the existing Learning Communities on Ning, then go do that right now so you are used to how it works.

Work Team Notification

Notification of team members of what's going on with the team is incredibly important. I already mentioned that the fact that Google Docs does not support notification makes it more difficult to use as a solution.

The bottom line on most work teams is that you want to have a reliable notification of changes, discussion, etc. done by the team; to the appropriate channel; with the appropriate frequency. There are two primary notification channels that most work teams wants:
  • Email - periodic or real-time notification of changes.
  • RSS - feed changes into an RSS reader that will be checked as needed
As members of the work team, we should be able to control what goes where and with what frequency.

Teamwork Tips and Skills
If you want a lot more on this, you can go to:

Other Collaboration Tools

There are a lot of tools that can be considered Collaboration Tools.

Other Posts in the Series

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning Materials

I've been having a very nice email conversation with a reader who contacted me with a question. The question is one that I've seen before, and I thought it would be worth asking for help from the community. Here's the basic question -

What belongs in an LMS?

more specifically, the question is:

For learning materials / content that is not a course such as videos, reference, documents, do you house these inside your LMS?

They have about 300 or so courses (ILT and courseware) on a variety of subjects in the LMS. They have quite a bit of other learning support materials. There is internal debate about putting this in the LMS vs. having it reside on the intranet (SharePoint in this case).

Advantages of having it in the LMS:
  • Usage tracked on a per-user basis (so you can see what dept, etc. are using materials)
  • Organized using the same structure as rest of courses
  • Appears near the courses so learners don't have to hunt around for it. And when a person thinks "learning" - there's a single location
  • Encourages use as part of learning
  • Uses same approval workflows
Advantages of having it ouside the LMS and on the intranet:
  • Easier to access directly when outside the LMS
  • Organization is easier outside the LMS
  • Content inside the LMS seems cleaner without all the non-course material
  • Materials not developed/approved by L&D do not require management in the LMS, instead they use SharePoint to manage
A few additional notes:
  • The CLO is asking for best practices, and in this case believes that there is a somewhat magic number of having "no more than 300 courses in the LMS."
  • Part of this is a philosophical debate about whether materials that are not really "training" materials should be inside an LMS.
  • They know that they can link between stuff inside the LMS and back to the other resources, but that doesn't really solve it. It's more a question of whether the other materials have first class status in the LMS and all the normal charateristics of something housed there.
Additional Aspects

Workflow of Other Types of Materials? - If you believe it makes sense to put this in the LMS, then there's the added question of how you handle the workflow, approvals, etc. for these other materials?

Value in Additional Tracking? - If you currently keep these kinds of materials in your LMS, do you get significant value from the ability to track to a specific user level?

Where do You Draw the Line? - Assuming that you are willing to put some or all of these additional materials in the LMS, you must draw the line somewhere. Where do you draw the line between having something in the LMS vs. putting it outside?

Additional information from my blog and other bloggers on Learning Management Systems (LMS) can be found by clicking the above links as provided by the eLearning Learning community.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Nonprofit Technology Portal

I've been working with Beth Kanter on the creation of something similar to the eLearning Learning content community, but centered around the vibrant community that focuses on the use of technology in nonprofits. This is a work in progress, but she's done a pretty good job explaining what it is and why she's doing this in her post: How Do You Browse By Category Blog Content from NpTech Bloggers?

She raises some interesting questions around how you browse through existing blog content which was one of the primary reasons for originally creating the technology. As a blogger, keeping my labels/tags/categories up to date, was always very hard. So, this technology not only does that for me, but it helps surface the particular terms that I use more than others.

If you have thoughts on eLearning Learning or Nonprofit Technology, this is still a work in progress and we are hoping to get feedback.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Networks and Communities

Mercenary Rationale for Network Work & Learning

As I discussed in Evaluating Performance of Concept Workers, evaluating the performance of a concept worker is difficult because there's no right answer and most often the evaluator knows less about the subject than the worker.

Thus, the bottom line in evaluating a concept workers performance is by looking at:
  • Was a reasonable process used?
  • Are the conclusions reasonable?
  • How would this compare to results from other concept workers?
To make sure you pass this test - I suggest cheating. And there is no better cheat for the concept worker than reaching out to other people to test your process and conclusions. Basically make sure you can say,
"Look, I talked to a couple of people who have done this before. They said I've gone through the right steps. I've looked at the right stuff. My answer seems pretty reasonable. If they would have done it, they would have come up with the same thing."
Limits of Search

In Value from Social Media, I looked at a scenario where I'm evaluating a particular solution for my company / organization. Through Google, I find a lot of information. But in many cases, I will still be left feeling uncomfortable ...
  • What’s really going to happen?
  • Did I miss something important?
  • How important are the various issues?
  • Is my answer reasonable?
These are common questions when only search is used. Often it's difficult to use search to address:
  • Experience - What have been the experiences of other organizations (not the canned case studies) when they’ve used this solution.
  • Boundaries / Existence - I’ve got a particular issue and I’m not sure if answers to that issue exist out there, I’ve not found it in my searching.
  • Confirmation - I’m beginning to have an answer, but I’d like to get confirmation of the answer based on my particular situation based on experience.
  • Importance - Some of the issues I see, I’m not sure how important they are in practice, should I be concerned.
However, each of these can be directly addressed through conversation. This is why I say that Leveraging Networks is Key Skill.

I'm coming to believe this is the most important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap.

Network Readiness

Before you can reach into a network or community to seek conversation, you generally need to have spent time on
  • Building some level of connection (network building).
  • Being ready to engage to seek conversation (network access).
Patti Anklam, in Seven Leaders Lessons tells us:
High-performing people tend to have stronger, more intentional networks.
The word "intentional" is intentional. You have to look systematically at your networks and communities to be in position to be able to use them as part of your work and learning. As part of your top-down evaluation, one of the points you have to evaluate is whether you have appropriate networks and communities. Even if you are a member of LinkedIn, you may not have links to people in the right fields. Thus, you may have to spend time building some initial links so that you can reach out effectively. Similarly, you should spend a bit of time finding the right communities.

I personally do a lot of my network building slowly. I try to get people into my networks when I meet them (for example connect on LinkedIn). I keep my ears open for new communities and often lurk for a while to see what's going to happen there.

When I'm relatively new to an area, then I spend much more time building my network. Recently I started up with a new client in a new area. I spent a good chunk of time my first month reaching out (mostly through LinkedIn) to make connections with people who had lots of related experience to get thoughts and ideas around particular issues that we might face - and found a lot more issues that I hadn't considered. I also signed up to a couple Ning communities where I'm lurking. Now I have a great starting point when I want further conversation.

Conversation Seeking

So bottom line is that it's really important for us to be able to seek out different forms of conversation inside and especially outside our organizations. There are a myriad of different places and ways to seek conversations.

A few months ago, we asked how people went about deciding where and how to seek conversations. The answer was, as always, it depends.

Karyn Romeis uses a series that goeses from people she already knows who might be experts then to less known connections. She looks at distance vs. likelihood vs. experience vs. cost.

Karl Kapp makes the point that you should ask in multiple places because you never know who might have the answer and the overall cost is negligible.

I think there's some risk of being spammy if you ask too broad, but Karl has somewhat convinced me that what I really need:
  • Find networks and communities related to my future needs
  • Know mechanisms used to seek conversations in these networks and communities
  • Build enough connection into networks and communities to be ready to leverage
  • Be able to quickly and with minimal effort seek conversation in appropriate networks and communities.
So, it's being aware of what's available, getting integrated enough to have it open for use, and be able to navigate it when you need it.

The top two slam dunk answers here are:
  • LinkedIn
  • Various learning communities
I personally also use my blog and twitter
  • Blog
  • Twitter
If you look at my top two, they would both be called social networks.

Introduction to Social Networking

Before You Seek Conversation

There's an acronym that everyone should know - RTFM. It stands for Read the Friggin Manual. It's a common response to stupid questions posted in certain communities. To me its a reminder that before you ever seek a conversation you should have done your homework.

Your homework is:
  1. Search the web - save related content
  2. Search the community / network for prior discussion - save related
  3. Maybe ask someone you know already for a reality check
This arms you with the basics before you ask your question or seek conversation. It also allows you to ask the best kind of question -
I've searched on the web and in this community for information on X and I found A, B, C.

But I am not finding Y, I'd like to find people who can help.


I'm concluding Z, but I'd like to talk to people who have done this.
You are showing that you've done your homework. Your question will be much more interesting. You are providing value via the question with the appropriate links. And this form of inquiry gets much better response.

You will notice that in this template question, I am asking for a conversation. In some cases, I will change it to ask for written responses.


There's quite a bit about the use of LinkedIn for this purpose, so rather than reciting it here, please go check out:
For me, the bottom line usage of LinkedIn really comes down to three primary activities:
  1. Seeking conversation directly - LinkedIn for Finding Expertise
  2. Asking questions to get written answers and to seek conversation - Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers. Note: I often try to connect with people who provide answers directly (via Skype or phone) to discuss in more detail.
  3. Having discussions via groups - which acts much like questions and I do the same thing.
It's very interesting to see how LinkedIn Answers and Groups has given us new opportunities to surface interested experts and having that connected to known mechanisms for sparking conversation.

If you've never approached a few people for a conversation on a topic via LinkedIn, then you should make that happen within the next month.

Learning Communities

The key here is to have ready access to a variety of communities. Take a look at the Learning Communities List.

Additional Reading

Patti Anklam has a series on living in a network age:
From her series:
High-performing people tend to have stronger, more intentional networks.
Other Related Tools and Methods
Other Posts in the Series

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hot List

There are some very cool new features especially our hot list feature coming out soon on the eLearning Learning Content Community. The site is beginning to take into account social signals. In other words, we are using what is happening:
  • with the content out in the network
  • on the eLearning Learning
  • searches that land on us and that occur on the site,
  • and various other kinds of behaviors.
Together these social signals indicate that the content is likely of higher quality (or at least of higher interest). Thus it belongs in both a best of list and a hot list. This is going to take some work to get it right, but we believe it will help to highlight various hot list content.

We are particularly excited that this capability will soon allow us to have a weekly post that highlights hot list for the week. This will be something like:

Hot List for the Week of 1/2/2009 - 1/9/2009

Hot List Posts Hot List Items
Hot List Keywords

Notes on the weekly hot list.
  • The posts come from the primary sources for this group. Other items come from other sources.
  • Keywords are based on occurrences this week in addition to other social signals.
I'm not always sure I can explain why certain things are going to be in the hot list for the week. The social signals seem obvious in some cases, but not always clear to me in other cases. Still I would claim that most of those posts are pretty good ones - certainly I'm happy seeing that list. Similarly, it's interesting to see what keywords are getting to the top each week.

I'm very curious to hear any reactions to this idea of a hot list.

Information Radar

For many of the roles and projects you will be involved in, part of what you need to be able to do is to put yourself in a continuous learning mode. You need information radar that continuously scans for new, quality information that you should be aware of. And certainly, you have to be able to quickly commit it to your metamemory.

Information Addiction

Let me start this topic with a word of caution. Most of you reading this are infovores. When you find new nuggets of information, you get a chemical reaction in your brain much like an opium hit. This reaction causes you to seek more information. In other words, you are quite literally an information addict. Be careful about feeding your habit.

Assess Information Sources

For this reason, I always start any new task, project, role with an honest assessment of whether I really need to be actively tuned into information and what information that is.

You should also periodically go back to your top-down strategy, assess your specific information objectives and then make a deliberate assessment of different information sources. Which newspapers, magazines, journals, news sources, blogs should you look at, how often, how high a priority is this?

Also assess current information sources to see which can be removed. Managing your RSS Feeds has some good suggestions on how to do assessment in an ongoing basis using quarantine folders.

With that caution, here are some thoughts on the methods and tools I use as part of my information radar.

RSS Readers

A central tool for my information radar is my RSS reader. It allows me to gather information from all kinds of sources (blogs, publications, wikis, calendars, etc.) If you are new to the world of RSS readers and subscribing to blogs, here are some good starting points.

Skim and Remember

In Stop Reading - Skim Dive Skim, I proposed that for most of the information we come across via our information radar, we will not read it. Instead we will, skim, dive, skim. And then quickly add it to our better memory.

Remembering content I've seen via my RSS Reader has changed a bit over the past few years. I used to use Keep New or Favorites to save items that I thought were interesting but that I didn't have time to read or process at that moment. I found that it scattered a big part of my memory into another source, so I've stopped using these techniques.

Thus, while I'm scanning I have three levels of remember ready to apply:

1. Visit Pages - If a post, article, etc. looks like it might ever be worth remembering, then I visit the page and skim it there so it goes into Google History. Posts that you have seen in your reader but not visited are not in Google History. They are searchable via the RSS Reader, but that requires that you remember how your originally encountered the information. I believe I'm better off with fewer places to search for things I've seen.

2. Tag Page - If while skimming the article you visited, it looks like something I might need later (future anticpated information need), then I save/tag it in delicious.

3. Notes / Blog - As I skim dive skim, I often will take notes into working documents or blog posts about anything that is interesting. I do this more to help me process the material. But it also helps to surface it again. Make sure you save a link to the source as well.

Information Trickles

For information needs where I want a trickle of information to be coming through and if I miss something "interesting" its not a problem. I'm looking for filtering the content to find the best stuff within a narrow range.
  • Aggregator Blogs. These folks scan through content in a given area and point you to the stuff they feel is most interesting. The three that jump to mind in the world of learning and eLearning are: OL Daily, Big Dog Little Dog, and eLearning Learning.
  • Delicious Popular. Use delicious popular such as this shows web pages that many people are tagging with a particular tag. There is a feed for any delicious page including the popular pages.

Information Floods

For areas where I want to be fairly actively engaged in a continuous flow and there's a greater need to see most everything, I use:
Other Tools
  • AideRSS - can be used to limit a given blog or set of blogs to the top few.

For me, blogging fits into more than one category. I'm choosing to put it here as I most often use it as a means of processing information that I come across as part of my continuous learning strategy. It definitely moves beyond a simple information radar and into something more. It also is a big part of my networking and community strategy.

As a starting point

Taking Notes

As an alternative to blogging, another option to help remember and process what you are finding through your information radar is the act of taking notes. There are a variety of tools that you can use. I hate to say it, but I still use notepad or Word. Since I rely on desktop search, they work okay for me. My guess is that in another year I'll have a different answer.

Independent of the tool, research shows that the act of taking active notes - not verbatim notes but higher level cognitive notes - while you are receiving information improves encoding. Thus, its fair to assume (though I don't have research proof on this) that while you are skim-dive-skimming active note taking means greater encoding.

Several people have suggested to me that it's significantly easier to take notes on paper while reviewing online. Ummm ... no it's not. Keep a narrow window open alongside your browser that allows you to copy and paste and add your notes. Oh, and make sure you include the URL. I hate it when I find my notes but then have to search for the page again in my bookmarks or via Google search.

By the way, this is the same technique I use when I'm talking to someone on the phone or in a meeting. A narrow window for capturing real-time thoughts works well for me. Oh, wait, am I talking about better memory now or information radar. I guess it's both.

A big part of effective information radar is doing more than just having it temporarily pass by your eyeballs.

It's adding it to memory and processing it appropriately.

Other Posts in the Series

Monday, January 12, 2009

Prepare for a Conference

Heading into ASTD TechKnowledge, there's a particularly timely podcast that I just did for Tom Crawford of VizThink on the topic of:
How to be an Insanely Great Conference Attendee
If you follow the link you can get to the podcast.

This is based somewhat on a post from a couple of years ago - Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee. The main ideas out of that post still apply. The key theme is to spend some time to come prepared with Better Questions.

Some other specific recommendations on things you could do before the conference that would make your conference that much better.
  • Participate in ASTD's free online sessions: Learning Technologies 101
  • Start a blog just for your conference experience.
  • Take advantage of Conversation Topics to figure out questions and get connected with me.
  • Join ASTD National LinkedIn Group and answer Anthony Allen's Post on LinkedIn
  • Go to my post ASTD TechKnowledge and leave a comment that you are coming.
  • Get Twitterific installed on your iPhone from the AppStore.
  • There will be more information coming around the use of Twitter at the conference.
  • Visit any of the following bloggers / speakers who will be attending - leave them a note and maybe get together with them while you are there - or ask them your question ahead of time.
Some of the bloggers attending the conference:
I'm sure I'm missing some, so let me know who else should be on the list.

Better Memory

In Your Outboard Brain Knows All, Clive Thompson talks about how our need to remember is changing.
Neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative's birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.
The reality is that we were all trained in school to use metacognitive / metamemory methods and tools as a supplement to our knowledge. I'm only 43, but posts like New Work Skills are a bit of an eye opener that we were taught metacognition using note taking on paper, card catalogs, microfiche readers, rollodex, etc.

For many of us, Nick Carr's words ring true:
... the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind.
The reality is that metacognitive techniques are changing rapidly - hence so are work skills.

Better Memory Tools and Methods

If you are experience more and more of your information electronically, it stands to reason that we need to be good at effectively using this as a better memory. Most of the people who take our workshops on work skills, say that improving their ability around their ability to remember and organize information is one of the most valuable aspects.

In work literacy terms, better memory relates to keep / organize / refind /remind.

A perfect keep / organize / refind / remind system:
  • Keep everything ever encountered (without effort)
  • Organize it (with little to no effort)
  • Allow you to refind something you've seen before instantly based on incomplete information
  • Create lists and other reminders so that you don't have to even remember that you know it - i.e., list of people on the team, list of blog posts to go back and read, etc.
There's a lot that goes on around this and when you look at different projects and roles, this gets pretty varied, but let me explore a few different tools and methods that I apply to this that gets helps me is this area:
  • Google History - saves every page I've visited without me having to do anything and allows me to search for anything I've ever viewed at a later time. I don't like to have to use it, but it's a great back-up when I've not saved something another way.
  • Delicious - Use this social bookmarking tool to save pages with tags as the organizer for me to get back to at a later time. Since this is likely the one that is most new to people, I'll dive into more detail below.
  • Firefox Bookmarks - For pages that I want to launch all the time. I'll get back to this below.
  • Microsoft Desktop Search - Desktop search has probably had the greatest productivity improvement for me over the past few years. Google Desktop Search is also great, but I personally have had better results with Microsoft's integration with Outlook and I'm a heavy Outlook user.
Social Bookmarking

If you are not familiar with social bookmarking tools, I would start with the video above and go to the following to get yourself up to speed.
Then I would make sure I know the basics about using tags.
  • Choose existing tags to avoid misspelt tags (e.g., libary, libray).
  • Group compound terms together (e.g., personalLearning)
  • Use plurals to define categories (e.g., blogs)
  • Don't use symbols in tags with the exception of a tag like eLearning2.0 where the "." is okay. Don't use # or _
Social Bookmarking as Metamemory

What often gets left out of the discussion of social bookmarking is where it fits into keep / organize / refind / remind. I like to think about the main tools I use somewhat in a series:
  • Bookmarks in Browser - It's things you want to launch all the time. I put links to sites that I go to all the time here.
  • Bookmarks in Social Bookmarking Tool - This is where I proactively keep, organize (and sometimes share) things. I use tags to organize according to topic, role, project, group of people. This creates multiple lists for reminding.
  • Blogging - I use a blog or note taking as an added level of processing on information that I consume. Short notes on a single resource can be added to the social bookmark. More substantial notes need to get captured somewhere.
  • Google History - a fall back in case I didn't know at the time that I would want to get back to an item.
I think of the bookmarks in the browse similar to documents in recent or linked on my desktop. These are things that I want to launch often. I think of bookmarks in my social bookmarking tool as items that I want to organize into lists and be able to easily get back to later. This is similar to documents in folders. And Google History is a bit like desktop search. In case I wasn't willing to spend the time to save it, I still have a chance of finding it again.

Anticipated Need

The key term in all of this is anticipated need. You could spend all of your time keeping and organizing content. But the real goal is to spend the least amount of time to meet your future needs to refind and remind. The trick is that you often don't know what those needs will be. So, you are basing this all on your anticipated needs. This is also why spending some time on the top-down analysis is a great exercise. It will help you think through information needs today.

Three Metamemory Practices

#1 - Name Everything

Whenever you start a new project, start working with a new group, take on a new role, or start a new major concept work task, spend just a little time upfront anticipating your needs. Most importantly, at the start name everything and everyone and stick to that name. Every project gets a name. Every person gets a name. It takes a few seconds, but it saves you a lot in time spent refinding and reminding. This name then is on every folder, document, email, tag, etc.

#2 - Include Meta Information

The other practice to follow is to include enough information somewhere associated with every object (document, email, bookmark) so that you can find it again via search. Every email should have in the subject line or somewhere in the message. Even if the sender doesn't put it in there, put it in the response. I also tend to try to put in the names of participants in meetings in my notes and possibly other names like the client. All of this makes searching SO MUCH EASIER.

This is a big reason why I say that desktop search has become my biggest productivity boost.

#3 - Visit Every Page

Theoretically you can use Google to refind whatever you found before. But I often find that doesn't seem to work in practice. Thus, I make sure that any page that I might ever want to see again, I visit. That puts it into my Google History. My chances of finding it again go up considerably. This also means that when you find a magazine article that's interesting. You should go visit it online as well. That's extra work, but it makes it refindable.

Other Posts in the Series