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Friday, March 30, 2007

Too Many Social Networks?

I just read David Warlicks' post - I Just Don’t Get it Yet — Social Networks where he discusses his recent experience with several Ning generated social networks including: I’ve joined Library 2.0, School 2.0, and Classroom 2.0.

He then tells us:
I must confess that I am a little under-impressed. I have a personal page, just like my daughter’s Facebook page. I have an unflattering picture of me there, a place to put a blog, a profile (which I’ve scaled way back), a picture of Steve Hargadon (best part of the page), and something called a Chatter.

The Chatter intrigues me, but it appears to be only for people who visit my page, and I don’t think I’ve visited the pages of any other users. I guess I’m a real digital recluse. There is a forum, with some great conversations, but it’s a forum. Nothing new there. Now let me repeat. I accept that I may simply be overlooking something here that’s hitting me over the head, but I’m to dull to know it. So please explain.
I've tried out several social network tools and have had a similar reaction. I already have a blog and participate in a variety of discussion groups, so while theoretically if a critical mass of people joined the network, I would join to be able to participate - but - that's not really going to happen. If you watched the Brandon Hall network fail or have participated in Elgg then it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise that all of the recent Ning networks are going to get a similar reaction as David's.

I'm convinced there is something around social networks that will take off, but any network that is a closed system needs something as a hook to achieve critical mass. If it's an open system, i.e., can include my blog, my LinkedIn connections, my comments, my bookmarks, etc., then it's a much more natural take off. That's why I think that folks like MyBlogLog have the potential (but it's only potential right now) to really take off.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Blogs, Community and Discussion Tracking - What's Really Needed

I received some great questions from Christy Tucker in reference to my recent post Types of Blog Discussions
I have started using CoComment based on your mention of it a while back. I admit that I really wasn't doing much commenting prior to that because I never remembered to go back and look. Having the comment threads in Google Reader with everything else makes it much easier for me to keep track of. I still don't do enough commenting, but I'm doing more now.So what do you feel you get by using MyBlogLog, Explode, or other tools? Do you feel that MyBlogLog really does help you understand your readers better, as they say it will?

And you know I love good questions (Continuing Thoughts on Questions, What Questions Should We be Asking?, Better Questions for Learning Professionals)...

So, thanks Christy.

Your question on MyBlogLog and Explode is somewhat challenging to answer because I'm using those tools and coComment with the goals of:
  • Engaging in interesting conversations (with people) happening through blog posts and comments
  • Finding interesting people (and their blogs)
  • Engaging with these people over the course of time and sometimes establishing relationships outside of blog discussions, e.g., meeting at conferences, speaking on panels

The promise of MyBlogLog and Explode is that they will show me who else (who is a subscriber to these services) is visiting my blog so that I can find interesting people who may not necessarily be commentors or bloggers. I've found this moderately interesting, but so far, I've not really got much value. Instead, it's helped me realize that it's the discussion that engages me with other people. Simply knowing that they exist without discussion doesn't help me nearly as much. It does satisfy a bit of curiousity around "Who's visiting my blog?"

What's sorely lacking in the combination of these tools is full support for Blog Discussions. Blog discussions start on one blog with a post. Then discussion ensues via a combination of comments on the original post and via posts in other blogs. And, of course, these then get comments and even more blogs post are created that discuss the topic. The original post often points to some of the posts via trackbacks, but if you want to track this kind of network discussion so that you can see what's being written by different people via blog posts and comments, there's really no way.

Consider if you wanted to track the Five Things Meme as it worked it's way through the blogosphere. Theoretically, Meme Tracking should help you be able to track this meme. For example, you can certainly use Technorati to search for "Five Things Meme" to find a list of blog posts. You can subscribe to this search. And luckily the term is specific enough that you will likely see posts that mostly are discussing this Meme. Most discussion topics are not as well specified which makes it harder to even search. For example try searching for blog posts related to the most recent LCB Big Question - Supporting New Managers? Some authors link to the original post, some don't. Some use the same question text. Some don't. Basically it's hard to create an effective search against a particular topic.

Tools like TailRank and Megite theoretically helps with this problem by tracking particular threads. However, they seem to be focused on mainstream topics and blogs.

Even assuming that we had a good way to find all the blog posts related to a particular thread of discussion, we would still have the problem of not having an effective way to track comments. While CoComment works well for a single post, it is somewhat flaky and there's no easy way to add all the posts involved in a thread. In other words, it needs a way to take the search results you get on a particular meme (thread) and track all the comments of those posts (or the ones you select).

While I'm at it, let me suggest that what I really would have wanted from MyBlogLog is to form a community based on continued participation in threads that I'm also looking at. Further, it should extract from my community what other people are reading and thus what I might be interested in also seeing. I believe these tools are headed this way, but they've got a ways to go.

Oh and one last thing - shouldn't I be able to get rankings and ratings of the articles being read / rated by my community that was established based on participation in my threads. We should have Digg, but only for the group of people that I've naturally become associated with because of similar interest in topics. I've read of tools that look to do this, but they each assume that we are willing to spend the time for form a community based on a model other than participation in threads.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

eLearning Trends 2007 and 2008

See also - Ten Predictions for eLearning 2008

I was talking with someone last night who asked me what some of the bigger eLearning Trends were. I told him about eLearning 2.0 and the move to DIY. But I also promised to point him to some of my posts that I thought would help him get a handle on the most important eLearning Trends going on today:

This is a hopeless exercise because of the depth and breadth of what's happening in eLearning. However, this should be a good basis for diving in deeper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

eLearning Course Authoring Tool Satisfaction - More

Someone posted a comment in my previous post on Course Authoring and Rapid eLearning Tool Satisfaction asking whether I had used RapideL. The answer is that I've only seen it demoed. But when I looked back at my post, I realized that I had cut off quite a few authoring tools because I had only included reports where the number of evaluations was 15 or more. So, I've redone the graphics to include those with more than 5 responses. Honestly, if you got less than five responses and you fit into this category, you aren't very mainstream (and there are a few still left out.)

You can see the graphics at (my blog doesn't handle them well):

Some notes:

On course authoring tools Raptivity, Elicitus, Knowledge Presenter, KnowledgePlanet On-Demand join the ranks of the Articulate tools, Adobe's Captivate and Dreamweaver and Trivantis Lectora. I have more direct experience with these tools than I do with any of the others and certainly having a larger response base and higher marketshare counts for something.

On the rapid eLearning side of things Apple's Keynote remains at the top (and that's somewhat surprising to me). KnowledgePlanet On-Demand joins this list as well. And there's quite a bit of cross-over between the two lists. Which suggests the line between the two is fuzzy - and it is.

So where's RapideL? It's towards the lower-end of satisfaction on rapid eLearning authoring tools.

Types of Blog Discussions

I've been involved with several different groups of people who are having different kinds of discussions that happen among bloggers. The most common models of blog discussions seem to have turned into a few patterns:
  • Organic Blog Discussions - someone posts something interesting, lots of bloggers post on the topic, distributed discussion ensues.
  • Blog Tag Memes - Someone posts a question and "Tags" five people to give their response. See Five Things Meme as an example.
  • Blog Hub - A central blog provides a place where the topic is raised and comments are collected and bloggers post. See Supporting New Managers and What Would You Do to Support New Managers? as an example.
  • Discussion Group Hub - questions/topics are raised via the discussion group and can go out into the blog world to get a more diverse audience - which is now happening with a group such as LinkedIn Bloggers.

There are other forms of interplay in the blog world such as Blog Carnivals but these are more link sharing or aggregating than really aimed at discussion.

The most natural of these for the blogosphere would definitely be Organic Blog Discussions and Blog Tag Memes that allow the conversation to grow naturally. Obviously, there are issues with natural forms:

  • Rich Organic Blog Discussions are somewhat rare and the chances definitely increase with the size of the audience - and the interest level in the topic.
  • Pick-up of the topic is more likely with the Blog Tag Meme approach because particular individuals are solicited via links into the discussion.
  • It's hard to follow the discussion as it spreads through the web of blogs.
  • It's especially hard to follow comments across different bloggers blogs.
  • You lose track of the discussion quickly and thus, many discussions flame out very quickly.

Clearly there is a need for better tools to track discussions as they move through the blogosphere in organic forms. There is some support via Meme Tracking and comment tracking tools like coComment.

The use of hubs (a Blog Hub or a Discussion Group Hub) helps to gather a critical mass of discussion participants and provides a better vehicle for tracking the discussion. Of course, this is much less natural and requires personal/group initiative and consensus to make it happen.

I've personally been playing with different forms and I'm still not sure I know what will make sense in which cases. Certainly I've come to understand the importance of tools like MyBlogLog, Explode, CoComment, Meme Trackers, etc. to help bloggers and blog readers to form community around a network discussion. At the same time, these tools are in their infancy as is our understanding of network conversations.

See also:

Monday, March 26, 2007

InfoWorld Folds Print Magazine

I just posted on Disruptive Changes in Learning and then I run into: InfoWorld folds print mag to focus on online and events. It makes you wonder if this isn't indicative of the shift. In fact, you have to wonder if the model that Steve Fox is heading towards where he maintains a paid content writing/publishing staff isn't going to still have major problems. After all, how do you compete with aggregators who take free content and restructure it for the audience.

Disruptive Changes in Learning

George Siemens recent post - Formal and informal...control vs foster discusses the move from mainstream, controlled information to consumer generated information. His examples include:
  • Mainstream media -> YouTube
  • Mainstream press -> Blogs
  • Microsoft Office -> Office 2.0

It's easy for us to look at this and think about it as "those guys" being disrupted. But take a look at my post around eLearning 1.0 and eLearning 2.0 and particularly the picture:

This is a picture of a transition going on within learning where SME generated content and eventually Do-It-Yourself (DIY) will become more and more important. Just like the transitions listed above - it doesn't happen immediately. Today - I'd estimate that the amount in the right column is relatively small. However, it's growing rapidly.

It certainly again raises the question of our changing role in a DIY world. The simple message here is that as you look at disruption going on in these other areas - remember that's us also.

See also:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Second Life and Learning - Tony O'Driscoll

Tony O'Driscoll - who will be on a panel at the eLearningGuild conference in Boston coming up in a few weeks and will be talking about this very topic - has published a paper in eLearn and created an interesting blog post with video (embedded below) that starts with a question many of us are asking:
Are virtual worlds a breakthrough technology that will forever reshape learning and business? Or are they this season's over-hyped fad?
In the article he
VWs have too much potential for learning professionals to ignore. But Virtual Worlds should not be used to automate existing learning approaches and models: A virtual classroom with virtual students and a virtual PowerPoint deck is not the end-game for learning in VWs. To avoid these pitfalls, let's explore how VWs work, how they are being used in learning, who the major players are, and what the future may hold.

I think his video does a reasonable job of showing some of the concepts that he discusses in his article:

I tend to agree with Tony about the power of presence. I'm sure that once you add presence-based audio (meaning you can hear people who are close to you) that WebEx style systems will begin to look more like second life so you can have easier break-out sessions. So, in a couple of years, we would expect to have virtual conferences, virtual meetings in these kinds of environments.

Some of Tony's other points around these systems being an opportunity to observe and do as part of learning, I'm not so sure that holds up today. There are some neat learning opportunities that can be created in Second Life such as a virtual visit to a NASA museum complete with videos, presentations, a rocket-ride around the solar system. That's a great, fun way to teach around these topics. But, it's not really sales, customer service, etc. It's still a ways away before these environments are going to help us much with true doing.

I think Tony's conclusion to the article may have been the most telling:
Unless your organization is a true early adopter, it is premature to invest a ton of resources in VWs. Nonetheless, we encourage you to dip your toe in the virtual water. It's neither expensive nor difficult, and it will give you an appreciation for the fresh viewpoints that are rippling out of VW innovations. It might just change your perspective on what's possible today in informal and generative learning.

It's something you should be aware of, but probably not using today. Give it a couple of years and then it's going to become important.

I'm really hoping that our discussions in Boston will help me better understand how Tony sees it being used as part of learning.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Informal Learning and New Managers - Nothing?

Dave Lee just posted on LCB - I'm a little verklempt! - where he points out that this month's big question -March Big Question: Supporting New Managers? - didn't get as many posts as in the past few months. He wonders what's the cause. A couple of the responses got me fired up...

Harold Jarche tells us ...

Yes, I'm busy but more importantly, the question was not of interest.

Wow, this is a surprise to me. This question really spawns from what I thought was a great question at a session with Harold and Jay Cross. Someone asked how informal learning might apply to new managers. I thought - wow, this is going to be great. Lots of good ideas will come out. Instead, we went onto something else. Does that mean that informal learning doesn't apply to new manager training? Or are we powerless to help make informal learning happen? What's the deal? Where's some help? Maybe we just need to visit Ray Sims - What To Do On Behalf of Informal Learning? that suggests lots of informal learning approaches and think about how these might apply to new managers.

Donald Clark said...
From what I have seen of various training industry reports, managers already get about 25% of the training budget. When you add on the approximately 15% that the executives get, then that means the leadership team is already sucking up close to half of the training budget. And I don't know of any organization that comes even close to that percentage of their staff being composed of the leadership team.Thus personally, I did not think the question held that much relevance due to them already getting more than their fair share of the training resources. I know that their role is important, but with all the talk about their employees being the most important asset and organizational charts being turned upside down to put their employees on top.
I'm not sure I'm in position to comment on whether we should be spending more or less on different employees, but my guess is that lots of people believe that some of the 25% spending on managers (not sure how much of that is new managers) could be rearranged into solutions that have the possibility of being more effective.

The bottom line here is that I'm not as concerned as Dave if we don't get responses. Some questions are going to spark discussion, others are not. This one clearly hasn't sparked as much as previous questions. But, it really surprises me that people are so satisfied with how organizations are supporting new managers. I personally have lots of questions here which is why I thought there would be more discussion. A couple of these right off the top of my head are:
  • What are three relatively low cost, out-of-the-box things you might try to help new managers?
  • How does informal learning apply to new managers?
  • What can we do with the direct reports of new managers? And the managers of the new managers?
  • How would we know at the end of the day if any of this is more effective?
  • How could we foster a community, on-going mutual support system for new managers? Can this extend outside of the organization?

If you have thoughts on these, feel free to contribute to: March Big Question: Supporting New Managers?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Web 2.0 Tools in the Enterprise

I first saw Andrew McAffee's post on uses of Web 2.0 approaches inside of corporations - quite good at identifying some different patterns. Then I saw Bill Ives Is Blogging Inside the Firewall an Oxymoron? where he talks about some of the issues with blogs within the enterprise and ends with:
Wikis seem to have less baggage attached to them and that might partially (and only partially) explain their recent rise in use within the enterprise.

I'd also suggest that part of the reason that I always suggest that Wikis will get faster uptake than things like Blogs and Social Bookmarking is that Wikis can be a better replacement for something else without much behavior change. The first uses of Wikis is as an easier content management system that houses reference material. It could be information about how to use some software, or interesting content that people have collected about a topic, or whatever. It's just a really easy way for a group of people to put up web pages. And, it's easier than dealing with your IT department's CMS package. It's easier than using an HTML editor and publishing your pages somewhere. It's easier than RoboInfo.

Is it widespread among eLearning Professionals? Not really - see Use of Wikis as Compared to Other Tools.

See also:

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Missed one Brandon Hall Blogger

In my last post: Brandon Hall Researchers Blogging - Implications? - I missed

Richard Nantel - example post: Information Overload

By the way, he's the CEO of Brandon Hall research, and he does a brief explanation of what he'll cover in: The focus of this Blog, but it doesn't necessarily answer how they will differentiate paid and unpaid information.

Brandon Hall Researchers Blogging - Implications?

I just saw that several of the Brandon Hall researchers have started blogs:

First, let me say that I applaud this move, but it's a bit of a curious development to me...

  1. Does this indicate that that Brandon Hall Network is not going to be the central hub for them to have discussions? I previously predicted that in its currently form the network wouldn't really work. If Brandon Hall or the eLearningGuild had used a distributed hub model, then maybe they would have a chance. But creating a closed model is very hard, especially when you are a paid-research firm.
  2. How does blogging jive with paid research? Is this going to only be teaser content? Any real meat will need to be paid for? I've gone to several presentations by researchers (not Brandon Hall) and they basically just tell you the same information you can see in their executive summary. It's a tease to get you to buy. It appears that the Brandon Hall folks are diving deeper than that, but it certainly is going to be an issue for them.
  3. Will these bloggers be full participants? Compare their blog rolls. A couple just list each other. Others list lists similar to mine: Top Ten eLearning Blogs. Again, if they are primarily thinking of this as a marketing exercise, then it's natural to restrict who you will link to and what bloggers you will cite.
Again, I'm happy to see this move and the content so far is quite good and is going to spark some good conversation.

International eLearning Usage Pattern Differences

Saw CBT/WBT - who likes it ? where the author states:
In Europe and USA many of our on-line students seem to take courses outside work hours. But they do it in short bursts of activity.

In Asia (and particularly Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia) we note that students do much longer periods of study in one session, but mostly during work hours. The same is true in Africa.

While usage patterns vary quite significantly based on the individual and the content, I've seen similar general patterns.

The author then asks:
Why is this the case? Is it that Anglo-American employers just give minimal learning time on-the-job? Or is it that Asia/African employees are more hungry for technical learning?

I would be curious what people believe on this topic. Certainly people are pressed for time. But I've always believed that a big part of this are cultural learning differences that change the expectation of how learning will be done. Again, as a sweeping generalization with lots of individual differences, students from Asian countries are much more deferential to the instructor and diligent in their studies than their American counterparts who are likely to challenge the instructor and find every angle to reduce their effort.

These differences appear to carry through to eLearning.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Get Together at Conferences - F2F Still Matters

Just yesterday, I posted about Conference Preparation and I'm preparing for a couple of conferences so I definitely looked back at: Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee. One of the questions I often ask attendees - especially as we are discussing virtual classroom tools and virtual environments (e.g., Second Life) - is:
Why did we come to this conference? Couldn't we all do this from home?
Well today, Kathy Sierra, posts: Face-to-Face Trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Video... and she provides this picture: It shows that while we slowly approach real-time, realistic virtual conversations, it still isn't quite the same thing as being there.

As an aside, I personally question that view. In the long run - 25 years - we will all be walking around with devices that attempt to make in-person as good as doing it via online. Online you will have an incredibly realistic experience (think how good virtual actors are these days - add 3D - presence based audio - first person shooters). And because you are online, you will have access to all sorts of information about the people, what their interests are - it will be easily captured. The challenge will be getting people used to this - hence the 25 years.

But for now, Kathy expresses something quite true:
The point is, face-to-face still matters. And in fact all our globally-connecting-social-networking tools are making face-to-face more, not less desirable. Thanks to the tools y'all are building, we now have more far-flung friends--including people we've never met f2f--than ever before. We now have more people we want to connect with in the human world, often after years of electronic-only contact.

In Las Vegas (at ASTD TechKnowledge), I met up with bloggers who I really only knew online. In Boston, I'm going to do it again. I'm finding that conferences are a great way to get together with folks I already know but don't have as deep a personal relationship.

Kathy then tells us:
The most underrated benefit of the face-to-face effect of conferences is INSPIRATION.

There certainly is something powerful about getting together at conferences. You do get inspired. And, I think that people often walk away inspired from my presentations with the intent to go off and make something happen, try something out.

Kathy suggests that we should really be working to:
Get people together in the real world.

Point taken ... and I really do want to meet up with readers of my blog, with folks who are passionate about the use of technology for learning and performance. Unfortunately, it's difficult to know who is going to Boston (eLearningGuild) or Atlanta (ASTD). If you are, please drop me a note.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cisco Buys Webex

Just saw this:
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was finally adding voice capabilities to its Live Communication Server. And now Cisco is adding hosted collaboration to compete with Microsoft's hosted service known as Live Meeting.

This makes me wonder what these systems will start to look like in a couple of years and whether folks like Elluminate will be able to compete.

Articulate, Captivate, Dreamweaver and Lectora Tops in eLearning Authoring Tool Satisfaction

I was somewhat surprised that my post: Course Authoring and Rapid eLearning Tool Satisfaction didn't generate more interest. You can see the detailed view of the sat numbers here.

This data shows that the Articulate tools, Adobe Captivate and Dreamweaver and Lectora are near the top for elearning course authoring. While tools such as Toolbook and Authorware are down a bit.

What surprised me is that there wasn't more discussion around this. Is this just common knowledge these days? Do people buy this?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Conference Preparation

As I'm thinking about going to the eLearningGuild Annual Gathering in Boston next month and ASTD in Atlanta in June, I went back to look at some notes I had created before around getting ready for conferences ... Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee

And the net of it was that you really needed to be prepared with good questions, which I had talked about in: Better Questions for Learning Professionals

Then, I realized that the LCB Big Question from February would be a good thing to look back at:

I also ran across this good post: Conference Survival Guide for the Web Worker with some good suggestions.

New Debate on Value of Blogs and Wikis in the Enterprise

There's some conversation going on around whether blogs provide value in the Enterprise. In Blog? I don't need no stinkin' blog!, Jim Lee tells us:

Now let me go on record to say that I do believe that both blogs and wikis have some value—just not business value—at least not yet.
He asks WIIFM and for the reader and doesn't feel there's value. Jack Vinson responds with Do blogs fit in the enterprise? and has a lot of really good points around blogging. His post is definitely worth reading and thinking about. For example:
People want to blog in enterprises. People are blogging in enterprises. Why? I don't think people are interested in the minutiae of their colleagues' lives. They don't have the time or inclination to read that kind of material. But what is interesting? People read and respond to topics that are relevant to their interests -- their work, their passions. Let's say someone is blogging about a particularly interesting client conversation. Someone else could see it and recount their own, similar experience with a resolution - either on their own blog or in email back to the first person. Or, they might recount the story over lunch and find connections to several other related stories. These then make it back as references to relevant materials in the corporate repository, references to people who have had similar experiences.
This is a topic that's been discussed quite a bit before by folks in our world. A tongue-in-cheek summary can be found at: Top Ten Reasons To Blog and Top Ten Not to Blog. But, I would want to make sure that Jim understands two critical points about blogging.
  1. WIIFM - Why did teachers force you to write in school? Because the act of composition commits the learning. Take heed when people tell you that they've learned more via blogging than through any other means. I feel exactly the same way. I get value even without much interaction.
  2. You do get conversation and tremendous value from this. Maybe Jim doesn't want the value of this conversation around blogging. But we are all getting value from his perspective - because likely he echoes what others are thinking.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Interesting Distribute Publishing Model and Open Source

(via Stephen Downes) Impact of Open Source Software on Education, Series Launch is interesting both because of the publishing model and because of the content.

The publishing model is something we might want to consider at LCB. What they've done is recruit authors who are going to publish (via a blog) something between a blog post, interview and an article every other week on a particular topic - in this case Open Source. Each post will have comments, questions, etc. from readers. They have a Wiki (“Impact of Open Source Software on Education” series, visit WikiEducator) that they apparently use/used to get the authors to fill in their information about what they would write.

This sounds like a really good distributed version of a publishing model that is similar to what you would find at many magazines. I'm curious if people have thoughts on whether this model might be an interesting alternative to the LCB Big Question?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Supporting New Managers

Ray Sims has been doing great stuff over on his blog: Sims Learning Connections. I've just read his answer to this month's big question - What Would You Do to Support New Managers? - Supporting New Managers With Informal Learning - good stuff. Worth taking a look at.

While I'm on it - one of the most important aspects of helping managers transition is to effectively support and coach them over time. The question is always how do they get that coaching support.

Some of the most effective performance interventions that I've been involved in targets both the performer and their manager with regular on-going support.

In this case, new managers, I would certainly target their managers with regular (every two weeks) email messages giving them specific conversation topics.

This is not quite as effective of a design as I've done in the past because I've always received commitment from the individuals on an Action Plan. But, still just reminding and helping to spark the right conversations (right Jay?) is key.

Speaking of which - how about regular conference calls with fellow new managers to discuss issues?

Referral Relationships and Selection Process

Saw a post by Justyn Howard Who took the 'consult' out of 'consulting'? where he says that:
I've witnessed more than one example of e-Learning and LMS consultants who are hired by an organization to help select a vendor and create a deployment strategy. These practitioners then simply present 3-4 solutions that they have "referral" relationships with, see which one sticks and collect a check (from the client and the vendor).

I have to agree with him that there's a definite conflict of interest if you are simultaneously advising on selection and have any kind of paid relationship with that vendor. I would expect that consultants would disclose that information, but it appears that everyone actually needs to ask - and probably ask both the consultant and the vendor - maybe even ask for it in writing.

Having been involved in this process for many years, I can't imagine how a consultant can do this. You have to be working in the best interest of the client. They are hiring you to act on their behalf as part of their team.

I'm really curious if this is something that's happening much out there. I wish Justyn could name names.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

More on Blogger Meta Tag Issue

A couple of comments came in on my post Important Notice to Blogger Blog Owners that made me realize I hadn't included a full description of what I ended up doing.

As a reminder the problem is that Blogger had inserted:
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW"$gt
This tells the Google spider not to index this page.

To get rid of it, you can remove:

However, this also removes a few other lines from your file that includes your autodiscovery of RSS feeds. So, what you really want to do is:

  1. Go to your blog
  2. View Source - Original
  3. See if you have the NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW
  4. If you do, then keep that View Source window open
  5. Go to Blogger
  6. Edit your template and remove the BlogMetaData tag
  7. Preview your Blog
  8. View Source - with it removed
  9. Copy all the lines in the Original that it had been inserting except for the ROBOTS
  10. Paste those into your template manually
  11. Preview
  12. Save

Unfortunately, this means that future changes by Blogger to Meta Data you won't get automatically. Of course, getting NOFOLLOW was a great new feature for them to add.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Important Notice to Blogger Blog Owners

Amazingly, I only recently found out that in transitioning from the old to new Blogger versions, Google was nice enough to add something to my blog:
meta name="ROBOTS" content="NOINDEX,NOFOLLOW"

This tells the search engine spiders to ignore your page. So, no search engine traffic and Google's blog search didn't work for me.

And it isn't just me. It appears that lots of blogs have this. Looking just in my Favorite eLearning Blogs: Big Dog, Little Dog is also afflicted by this same problem.

To get rid of it, I edited my template and removed the:

Nice of them to do this for me. I really didn't want search engines finding my content. :)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Open Source Business Model

A recent spate of posts on the challenges of running an open source business is interesting (Tosh, Siemens, Downes, Tosh 2, ). Dave Tosh laments -

Elgg is the most popular white label social networking platform in the world powering over 2000 networks. However, Elgg could power 100,000 networks and it would make no difference - there is no revenue stream as we give everything away under a GPL license.
I understand his frustration. You create something that has value and gets traction and yet you've created it in a way that the software is considered "free." Thus, you may starve working on your labor of love.

However, there are lots of companies that are making money from open source and freemium models. A friend of mine has a company that builds open source applications in spaces that are a bit less innovative than Elgg, but they do very well financially through the packaging and support models. One of his companies - Gluecode - was sold to IBM for a pretty good price.

Common revenue streams are consulting, training, support, customization, upgraded versions for corporate applications, etc. The fact that Dave says that there's "no revenue stream" and that he's getting good traction suggests he must be missing something.

One thing I would point out is that it is highly likely (and in fact happening) that open source will begin to become increasingly important in the eLearning world. Especially as things become less revolutionary and more standardized. Think Moodle as an LMS. Something I discussed briefly before: Innovators' Dilemma in Learning/eLearning, Where are open source learning applications?

The discussions on the posts are quite interesting - and heated. Luckily Harold Jarche pointed us to:

Content Search Use Cases

Ray Sims has been doing great stuff on his blog. He does a great job of breaking down topics into smaller pieces. A recent example - Content Search: Use Cases - which explores some of the different ways we search for things and helps us think about when Google might be a good answer and when it's likely not.

Learning Circuits - A Spam Blog?

Over the weekend, I heard from Dave Lee that the Learning Circuits Blog - home of the monthly big question - had been labelled a spam blog. Here is Dave's note taken for the side bar:
I'm writing to you through the sidebar because Google has frozen LCB because they believe it is a spam blog.

What's a spam blog? Here's Google's definition:

As with many powerful tools, blogging services can be both used and abused. The ease of creating and updating webpages with Blogger has made it particularly prone to a form of behavior known as link spamming. Blogs engaged in this behavior are called spam blogs, and can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site. Spam blogs cause various problems, beyond simply wasting a few seconds of your time when you happen to come across one. They can clog up search engines, making it difficult to find real content on the subjects that interest you. They may scrape content from other sites on the web, using other people's writing to make it look as though they have useful information of their own. And if an automated system is creating spam posts at an extremely high rate, it can impact the speed and quality of the service for other, legitimate users.

So best as i can tell, because The Big Question has been such a great success resulting in a large number of links to and from LCB we are a threat to clog up Google's search engines. I've tried to dissuade the Blog Team from engaging in irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text in their posts. But did they listen to me!!!

Seriously, spam is a very serious issue for any blog platform and we'll have to give Google time to realize that LCB is legit. So for the time being, enjoy the 382 posts from the past two years.

We'll be back up and running with March's Big Question - "Do you really exist if Google says you don't?" as soon as we can.

Dave Lee
your exasperated blogmeister
As the person who originated idea of The Big Question - I feel somewhat responsible for getting Dave into this mess. It also points out how fragile life is in the Web 2.0 world.

I'm not sure what we are going to do with this month's big question. We'll likely wait a few days and see if Google realizes that Learning Circuits really isn't a spam blog.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Happiness - Must Watch Video

Found via Tony O'Driscoll. I guess Dan Gilbert - author of Stumbling on Happiness was the keynote at Training 2007. Tony was nice enough to point us to a video from a Ted talk:

You really should watch this. It contains a bunch of things that completely make sense now that you know and raises some interesting questions:

  • Natural happiness is a result of "good results" - happy that you won the lottery
  • Synthesized happiness is a result of adjusting to your situation - being paralyzed and adjusting to your new life
  • While we may believe that natural happiness is somehow better than synthesized happiness, there really is no difference - people just are happy.
  • People who won the lottery and people who are paralyzed are equally happy one year after the event.
  • The brain is amazingly good at synthesizing happiness. The 3 moving to two and 4 moving to 5 in the video is great stuff.
  • Freedom (lots of choices) is the enemy of synthesized happiness. If you are stuck, you will be happier than if you have lots of choices.

This explains to me why it's hard to buy when there are so many choices. I don't want buyers remorse. Heaven forbid I have the option to return something so I can continue to fret about my decision. Having someone buy it for me or make a strong recommendation that locks me in - makes me happier with the choice. And, if I'm truly locked into the choice, then my brain will continually adjust to make me even happier.

I can't wait to hear what Stephen Downes, Jay Cross and the rest of the "freedom is good" - "control is bad" has to say about this. :)