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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flattered - Really?

Donald Taylor was kind enough to choose me as Blog of the Week with some flattering comments, but he also made me laugh...
You’ll notice a passing resemblance between Tony’s photo and that of chisel-jawed motivational speaker Tony Robbins. I am assured that they are no more related than I am to suave master spy Roger Moore.
I've put relevant photos below. Uh Donald, ...

Tony Karrer

Tony Robbins

Donald Taylor

Roger Moore

LMS Team Size and Time - Wow 23 Months!

Steve Wexler from the eLearningGuild's research group just helped me get into some interesting data around Team Size and Time during an Learning Management System Selection and Implementation process.

So, this post will end off the series of posts I was doing on LMS Selection as a precursor to my DevLearn presentation. The other related posts are:
Other posts on LMS:
Shoot - I don't have one specifically on the concept of a Starter LMS. I need one of those. Note to self.

This post focuses on what your Team will look like and how long it may take you. First of all, the survey of guild members broken the LMS Selection Team a bit different than I do. And I believe they were asking on core team only. Second, the LMS Selection Process in their report ended up being considerably different than mine. In particular, they asked about six steps:
  1. Gather and Specify Requirements
  2. Research Vendors Requirements
  3. Meet with Vendors
  4. Install and Configure
  5. Customize
  6. Implement
Steve is working on combining Steps 1-3 and Steps 4-6. Still even with that you really would want to know things like:
  • What's the difference in time if you customize or don't customize?
  • What's the timeline with Large Enterprise LMS implementations vs. smaller implementations? Or based on particular vendors?
  • For people who considered this particular feature set important, how long did it take?
Still the scatter plots that show Team Size and Time Taken for each step is interesting and informative. I chose to limit my graphs to Companies with 2,000 or more employees having more than 1,000 learners involved in the implementation. Here's what I saw:

Note: larger circles indicate more answers.

There are some notes scattered below. Overall, it appears that it roughly takes:

3.5 people about 23 months to get things implemented. Wow, 23 months! By then, you are likely wrong about your requirements and the system you selected. Maybe you should have gone with a Starter LMS.

1 - Gather and Specify Requirements

Median - 3 people, 5 months

2 - Research Vendors Requirements

Median - 3.5 people, 4 months

3 - Meet with Vendors

Median - 3.5 people, 2 months

Note: people aren't spending enough time during evaluation doing hands-on evaluation. I have not idea how this can be shorter than researching vendors.

4 - Install and Configure

Median - 3.5 people, 4 months

5 - Customize

Median - 3.75 people, 4 months
Note - there should have been more 0,0 values. Isn't it time for us to stop customizing?

6 - Implement

Median - 3 people, 4 months

OpenSocial Platform

Well, we finally are starting to hear what Google's anticipated response to the fact that Facebook Platform and Facebook as a Learning Platform. The real beauty of Google's approach is in the word "open." With Facebook you are somewhat forced to make a hard choice about rewiring your application to live seamlessly within the Facebook environment or pushing Facebook users across to your site which is a bit ugly. Further, you face the prospect of having Facebook rework aspects that you are leveraging.

So, as I mentioned before, I'm a big believer in leveraging the knowledge of social connections that exist across the network of different applications (e.g.,, flickr, MyBlogLog, Facebook, LinkedIn, your email, discussion groups, etc.). Google appears to be headed down the direction that will allow applications to take advantage of that knowledge.

But I'm still back at my same question:

I'm currently in process on two Facebook applications that leverage that platform for viral expansion via Facebook, and I'm working on the design of several new or extensions of existing sites/software solutions that will leverage social aspects. The questions are:
  • Do you leverage Facebook because of installed based and easier, known viral adoption model even though you are locked in?
  • Can you justify building out your own social graph (friends, groups, etc.)?
  • Do you head towards Google's OpenSocial even though you may be ahead of your users?
Answers seem to be fuzzy and turning out different in different cases. I'm hoping to hear more from other folks about what they seem happening.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

DevLearn - Let's Meet

If you are attending DevLearn and you are reading this, please let me know by leaving a comment or connecting with me in some way. It is always nice to meet with readers and other bloggers at conferences.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

eLearning Examples

I just saw Cathy Moore's great post - Elearning samples. She points to quite a few

Where was this when we were doing the Big Question - What are the examples of eLearning?

Which gave us links to the following:

It would be great to see more of these emerging. If you know of other examples, please drop me a note.

Oh and one of her comments mentioned: Build a sod house.


Again - I would really welcome:
Continuing on from my earlier posts:
From several comments and from looking at my list of issues, I realize that writing a good LMS RFP is challenging and it's easy to make lots of mistakes.

LMS RFP Resources

John Theis wrote a dissertation on the contents of 25 RFPs submitted to an LMS vendor. His dissertation contains some interesting information. The best stuff is found on pages 36-42, 54, and 56-75, but don’t miss John’s Dedication. I normally skim by that sort of thing, but his caught my eye and it brought a tear.

Included in John's dissertation are sample outline elements from different RFPs. Definitely worth seeing those.

Karl Kapp was nice enough to point me to a series of articles he's done on the subject and a set of templates for the selection process including a template for the RFP:

Selecting an E-learning Solution, Part 1: Who Should be on Your E-Learning Selection Committee?

Selecting an E-learning Solution, Part 2: Avoiding Common RFP Mistakes

Selecting an E-learning Solution, Part 3: Ten Rules for a Smooth, Efficient E-Learning RFP Process

Selecting an E-learning Solution, Part 4: Inviting the Vendor To Present

And finally LMS Selection Templates.

Another good resource is: Learning Management Systems (LMS) A Review. This paper present ssome important criteria to evaluate and consider when purchasing a LMS. It also points out some of the purchasing mistakes that are common in that process.

Probably the best thing to do is simply to search on Google using a few tricks. For example:

(LMS OR "Learning Management System") AND
("Request for Proposal" OR RFP OR "Request for Quotation" OR RFQ) AND
(filetype:PDF OR filetype:DOC OR filetype:RTF)

will get you an interesting list.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that some of these are not supposed to be found!

You can also add "template" to the search to find a few more good results.

Good and Bad LMS RFP Requirements

When you search around for LMS RFP examples, you'll find quite a variation and it's worth reviewing a few different RFPs to determine what elements you want in your RFP. But, what I see as the most common problem in LMS RFP documents are the requirements.

Generic Requirements

Rule #1 - Don't write generic requirements!

Many of the examples show requirements that are written that are hopelessly generic. For example, I found an RFP example that had a long list of requirements such as:
  • Ability to create a training plan for individuals
  • Ability to create a training plan for a group
What do you mean by a training plan? It means something different to most organizations and LMS vendors. Most vendors will simply tell you "yes" to these kinds of generic requirements. And if they can do it for an individual, they can do it for a group – of course, you might have a hard time in a particular LMS getting your kind of groups to have a common training plan. The list in this LMS RFP went on and on at this level. It looked like the RFP requirements were copied straight from some generic list.

Another example has a requirement:

  • Supports a variety of learning formats

with a Yes/No response. The answer is "yes" unless the vendor is completely off their game. All LMS products support a variety of learning formats. At least clarify what you mean by a learning format. Are you talking different file formats or do you mean classroom vs. virtual classroom vs. asynchronous. And if that's what you mean, then list out the formats and what you mean by supporting the format.

The bottom line here is that there is only one case where a general / generic requirement is acceptable. That case is when it's a well known, well defined function and you DON'T CARE HOW IT'S DONE. In other words, any solution is acceptable. Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time to have a generic requirement when you really want something more specific than that.

RFP Death March Requirements

Another common mistake in RFP requirements are writing requirements that are well intended but make the vendor want to shoot themselves. Often they start with the word "describe" or "how do you" ... It's not always wrong to use these, but make sure that you really want the vendor to go to that much trouble. Or is it that you are trying to avoid having to write a more specific requirement?

For example in Learning Management Systems (LMS) A Review, one of the example requirements is:

  • Describe capabilities for managing course capacity and waitlists issues.

Most of the LMS vendors have the ability to define a course capacity and then put people on waitlists. The specific handling after that is often configurable, possibly at different levels of granularity. There’s notifications. A whole bunch flows off of this. As a vendor, do I guess at what’s important to the prospect? Hopefully, I can find a bunch of marketing text to copy in, but it’s going to be hard to write a response that will help the prospect.

Now, it could be that you mean this as a general requirement. In other words, you generally need capacity and waitlists, and you don't care how that is handled by the LMS. If that's the case, then change the wording to eliminate the need to "describe."

However, I would put money on the fact that you DO care and thus you should be writing requirements that are more specific. Do you require notifications when someone a spot frees up? Do you need that notification to go to the employee, the manager, an adminstrator? Do you need specific rules about timing? How does this affect compliance requirements in your organization? Chances are you have a few specific requirements that you really would want to discover by spending the time to write a better RFP requirement.

Another example from a different source:

  • Please describe how the application displays course information to the users.

Duh, it lists them and then it shows the course information. Is there something that your company needs that’s not standard?

Another example I ran into:
  • Describe administrative interface and usability.
Pretend you are the vendor. You have 30-50 administrative screens. You either will want to kill yourself or the customer.

Vague Requirements

Putting in a requirement that is vague is asking for problems later in the selection process. For example, one requirement I found:
  • Can customized course catalogs be defined and displayed to different sets of users?

Most systems will allow a user to see a different catalog based on job role, organization, etc. If those are the criteria, then say so. Otherwise, what is meant by “customized catalog.” Without additional detail, you are enticing the vendor to say "yes" to something that may or may not have.

Opinion Requirements

Another common mistake is to put in requirements that ask for an opinion. By far the most common is "easy to use" but you see these quite often. John Theis' dissertation (which looked at 25 RFPs) had a couple examples of requirements that help illustrate:

  • We require a solution that is personalized to the user, possesses a clean and easy-to-use interface, is easy to navigate, provides the ability to search for and find information, is menu driven and is intuitive.
  • Have feature rich and flexible administration “back-end control panel”

Cmon - "easy to navigate," "intuitive," "feature rich," "flexible." As a vendor, you had better believe that you are all of these things.

You will need to formulate your own opinions about "easy to use" and "intuitive." This is going to come from demos and testing, not from an RFP response. "Feature rich" and "flexible" are probably a cop-out from writing more explicit requirements.

Good Requirements

My preferred approach is to write requirements that are based on differentiating use cases. These are the things that make this organization's needs somewhat special. You can ask a bunch of generic requirements around functionality that falls outside of this, but you really focus the RFP on the items that you believe will differentiate the products.

The requirements will be very specific items that you are looking for:
  • Does your LMS work with WebEx as a virtual classroom tool to?
    • allow administrators to create virtual classroom sessions at a particular day/time that map onto a class in the LMS?
    • allow entry of the date and time is done on one screen by the administrator?
    • provide a link to the learner in an email notification that allows them to launch into the virtual classroom session?
    • track attendance at the virtual classroom session into the LMS?
  • Does your LMS allow us to associate pre-work with both instructor-led training and virtual classroom training?
    • allow pre-work to include SCORM courses?
These are very specific requirements. A few of these requirements were not "critical" requirements, but were nice to have. Generally we don't expose what are critical vs. important vs. nice-to-have within the RFP. There is still a lot left open in terms of how the LMS will allow you to accomplish each of these. During demonstrations and hands-on we would determine how well these things work in practice.

Also, I like to use an RFP where the columns are:
  • Requirement
  • Meets (Yes, No, Partial)
  • Explanation (Optional)
The expectation is that the vendor will write in Yes to those they meet. No to those they clearly don't meet. And they will explain what they do or don't do for those that are partially met.

Additional Thoughts

Karl Kapp's articles point to some good thoughts on writing RFPs that I've not touched on above:

  • Poorly Written - RFPs are notorious for being poorly written. Remember a Request for Proposal is a representation of your company. Take the time to do some proofreading before sending it to e-learning vendors.
  • Providing Too Little Detail - Vendors cannot help you to solve your e-learning problem if they know nothing about your organization, nothing about your technological infrastructure, etc. Give them some background.

  • Poorly Scoped - Karl talks about writing an RFP in which your needs are larger or smaller than what you are suggesting in the RFP. Most often this is because you actually don't know your needs. See my common mistakes.
  • Make sure the vendor knows the business needs / rationale / context

LMS Selection Presentation Reformulated

Continuing on from my earlier posts:
Great suggestions from everyone.

I've decided that Wendy's suggestion of asking for participation along the way is a great way to go. As I walk through different parts of the selection process, I'll ask for things that members of the audience have encountered for those who have gone through it. Thanks Wendy.

My outline has evolved a bit.

Topic #1 - LMS Dissatisfaction - Don't Do It!
Topic #2 - LMS Selection Process

I'm going to break the process into a few bigger buckets:

  1. Start Up
    • Form a core selection team and define stakeholders
    • Define business and learning strategy
    • Agree to process with key stakeholders
  2. Evaluation
    • Capture requirements and differentiating use cases
      • Questions
      • Interviews / expectation setting
      • Drill down on non-standard items
    • Conduct initial research, select initial vendors, make contact
      • sometimes done via RFI
      • eLearningGuild, Brandon Hall or Bersin might help
  3. Implementation
    • Installation and configuration kick-off
    • Define models, etc.
    • Configuration, customization
    • Testing
    • Pilot
    • Communication
  4. Life with an LMS
Focus will be on:
Topic #2 - Common Mistakes
  1. Missing key team members such as IT
  2. Not handling politics
    • Favorites
    • Incumbents
    • Power plays
  3. Not having an overall strategy defined
  4. Not having agreement on selection process
  5. Not defining communication path during selection process.
  6. Over stating how much LMS you need and/or missing the opportunity for a Starter LMS.
  7. Underestimating people required to operate an LMS.
  8. No clear governance after selection.
  9. Confusing content authoring selection and LMS selection.
  10. Not defining differentiating use cases.
  11. Not working with different constituents to capture differentiating use cases
  12. Missing the opportunity to set expectations while gathering requirements.
  13. Confusing an RFI and an RFP.
  14. Confusing critical requirements as compared to requirements that are somewhere on the important - nice-to-have scale.
  15. Putting the wrong requirements in an RFP.
    • Making an RFP that will make vendors hate you.
    • Writing an RFP that won't help you differentiate between vendors.
  16. Missing a few critical questions in the RFP or selection process.
  17. Tripping on contract negotiations.
  18. Not understanding the implication of LMS models to your business.
  19. Customization
This list is too long. I'm going to have to focus on only a few. Hopefully people in the audience will hit a bunch of these topics. I may try to focus it down to a Top 10 and count down to a Number 1 that is oriented around RFPs hence to move into my last topic. (Yes, I'm willing to cheat on what I see as the #1 mistake to make things flow.)

Topic #5 - Writing a Good RFP

The RFP strikes me as being a big enough topic on it's own. I'm going to focus on that alone in my next post. Which I need to do right away. The dang conference is coming up fast.

Okay, I have the high level outline and an idea (thanks to Wendy) of the style I'm going to use.

I don't think I'm going to have time for Implementation or Life with an LMS.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Enterprise 2.0 Has Arrived

Great article by Dion Hinchcliffe - The State of Enterprise 2.0.
Increasing evidence abounds that Enterprise 2.0 adoption has begun in earnest with a typical example being Wells Fargo taking the plunge, having rolled out Enterprise 2.0 platforms to 160,000 workers. It has become clear that we’re moving out of the early pioneer phase to a broader acceptance phase. From the production side, a brand new analysis indicates that the business social software market will be nearly $1 billion strong this year and over $3.3 billion by 2011. In these and other ways, such as the growing collection of success stories, Enterprise 2.0 has arrived.
Adoption is still sporadic, but it is certainly happening. I would suggest that there's a big difference between tools being purchased and adoption happening in big, meaningful ways. Keep in mind Knowledge Management (KM).

Dion then talks about some Lessons Learned:
  • Lesson #1: Enterprise 2.0 is going to happen in your organization with you or without you.
  • Lesson #2: Effective Enterprise 2.0 seems to involve more than just blogs and wikis.
  • Lesson #3: Enterprise 2.0 is more a state of mind than a product you can purchase.

  • Lesson #4: Most businesses still need to educate their workers on the techniques and best practices of Enterprise 2.0 and social media.
  • Lesson #5: The benefits of Enterprise 2.0 can be dramatic, but only builds steadily over time.
  • Lesson #6: Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t seem to put older IT systems out of business.
  • Lesson #7: Your organization will begin to change in new ways because of Enterprise 2.0. Be ready.
Great stuff. Lesson #4 is something that I've been wondering about for quite a while. And my firm conclusion is that there are many new methods, skills, tools, knowledge around how to accomplish our work and learning (see Needed Skills for New Media).

There's an important role for training organizations to help understand and develop these skills in the enterprise.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

T+D Webcast - Social Networking and Learning

Tony O'Driscoll, Paula Ketter and I did a webcast for T+D - ASTD's publication today. Unfortunately, we ran into a few technical issues. For example, I was trying to demonstrate elements of my blog and found out that folks were not seeing anything. Ouch. Rookie move not to ask if everyone was seeing it. There was also the issue that we had a heck of a time getting into the system in the first place. I'm sure lots of other people experienced it - and weren't able to get in.

All that said, it was fun to participate in the session. Tony O'Driscoll did a comparison of the evolution of Web 1.0 to 2.0 and Learning 1.0 to Learning 2.0. It's a bit different than my comparison of eLearning 1.0 to 1.3 to 2.0. But similar in nature. It's a question of what happens as production moves from being owned by the training organization to one where SMEs and learners are more responsible.

Tony's examples were brief, but interesting:
  • Wikis
    • Product updates/news
    • Project management
  • Podcasts
    • Communications
    • Sales / Field Force
  • Collective Intelligence
    • Predictive markets
  • Social Networking
    • New Hires
    • Communities of Practice
One of the questions we got was: How do you start as a Learning Professional?
  • Start with yourself and your work group
  • Adopt tools that are free and password protected
  • Build champions and skills to grow in your organization
I couldn't keep up with the other questions, but there was actually some good stuff that we discussed.

The associated links:
You might also want to look at my eLearning 2.0 Presentation post.

LMS Selection Team and Stakeholders

As I discussed in my post LMS Selection Process, I’m preparing for my part of an upcoming session at DevLearn on LMS Selection as part of The Learning Management Systems Symposium. I'm preparing this by posting my thoughts and notes prior to creating my slides with the hope of getting feedback.

Thanks to everyone who has already contributed. There was some great feedback on my last post - see the comments. I hope you'll continue to give me feedback as I go.

In my previous post I presented my high-level LMS Selection Process. My general impression from the feedback is that there wasn't much debate around that process, but there was quite a bit of input and clarification on the details. So, this post simply captures thoughts around who should be involved in the LMS Selection.

Great article by Karl Kapp - Selecting an E-learning Solution, Part 1: Who Should be on Your E-Learning Selection Committee? He includes:
  • Training/Learning Manager or Director (Chief Learning Officer)
  • Information Technology
  • Procurement
  • Learners
  • Line Supervisors
  • Business Unit Leaders
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Safety/Compliance
This is a great starting point. A few quick thoughts / changes:
  • I'll change Procurement to Legal / Procurement
  • I would group Learners and Line Supervisors under an umbrella of "end users".
  • I would similarly group each of the functional areas and business units.
  • Add future LMS administrators
  • Add HR / OD
  • Add Help Desk / Internal Support
There's also an issue of identifying who is part of the different levels of involvement in the process. I normally define:
  • Core LMS Selection Team
  • Full LMS Selection Team
  • Stakeholders
The Core LMS Selection Team does the day-to-day work on the project. This is often a relatively small group of 4-5 people and should definitely include the primary manager responsible for the process and a future LMS administrator.

The Full LMS Selection Team includes the list above, but they come together during key points in the process, e.g., agreeing to the process, providing requirements, viewing demos, participating in hands-on, etc.

Stakeholders include people who are not directly involved in the decision making process, but who will be affected by the outcome. Senior management jumps to mind on this. So does whomever owns the HRIS system. They may not be directly involved in selection, but they will get involved in the process.

So my list might look more like:
  • Core Team
    • Primary manager
    • Future administrator
    • Project manager
  • Selection Team
    • Core Team
    • IT
    • Procurement / Legal
    • Business Unit Representatives
    • Functional Area Representatives
    • Learner and Line Manager Representatives
    • Additional Future LMS administrators
    • HR / OD
    • Help Desk / Internal Support
  • Stakeholders
    • Senior Management
    • HRIS owner
As I'm writing this, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to present it. Rather, I'm going to show it and then discuss things that often go wrong:
  • Politics
  • Communications
  • Process
  • Not involving IT
  • Missing stakeholders
So, I'm thinking my presentation so far is:
  • Process - flash it up, but won't spend time
  • Selection team - flash it up, but won't spend timeI
    • Issues - will spend time here
Hopefully this pattern can continue during the presentation.

I'm curious if this seems like it would be helpful or boring. I'm still a bit torn.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

LMS Selection Process

I’m preparing for my part of an upcoming session at DevLearn on LMS selection as part of The Learning Management Systems Symposium. I'm going to prepare for this in a slightly different way. I'm going to create notes in my blog as a series of posts as I think about what I'll present and then I'll turn them into slides. Hopefully, this will:

  1. Allow me to get input from readers and that means you - yes YOU - I see you reading this and thinking - he doesn't mean me - no I really mean YOU. Help me make this presentation better. Please. Especially what am I missing, what will be useful for an audience of corporate learning folks who are contemplating LMS selection, what won't be useful (and I should delete). I truly need to get input or this could be a boring session - and I don't like boring sessions - see my reservations about the presentation below.

  2. Create an interesting resource for participants and readers - yes that's you as well.
So, first, what am I talking about:

How to Conduct a Successful

Learning Management Systems (LMS) Selection Process

LMS Selection Background:

I'm coming from a background of personally working and coaching on a bunch of LMS selection, installation and configuration projects and being heavily involved in the design and development of several custom LMS implementations. My goal in the presentation and in these posts is to provide a basic process and try to capture specific areas that have been learned the hard way through these varied experiences to help define what makes a selection process successful. In some ways, I'm trying to help people achieve better LMS Satisfaction.

My selection experience primarily is in corporate environments, but I’ve also been involved in non-profits, foundations and to a lesser extent education and government. My custom implementation experience is generally with specialized content providers. Most of the time, I’m working with larger organizations who have 2,000+ learners and several different constiuents involved. However, most of this applies fairly well across other kinds of organizations.


I'm somewhat concerned that there's no good way to capture this stuff in a presentation that will be meaningful and useful. Most people only go through a few selection processes in their career. And not every issue is going to come up on every selection process. Thus, can I really identify stuff that will be useful?

Also, I don't want this to be a presentation form of eLearningGuild LMS Selection Tips. This has a lot of lessons learned, but it's daunting and it more or less prompts you about things you need to look out for, but not necessarily what to do. So, if they have 500 tips or something like that and I'm giving 20 tips, how is my presentation going to be useful?

Hence my reservations.

The LMS Selection Process

I'm not sure how interesting it will be to walk through the LMS Selection Process. In my experience, most of the definitions of the process are fairly similar. If you go out and search you will quickly find resources like:

The processes described there are similar to the process that I generally have used. And the process differs slightly based on the context. My rough draft of my LMS Selection Process is:

  1. Form a core selection team and define stakeholders
  2. Define business and learning strategy
  3. Agree to process with key stakeholders
  4. Capture requirements and differentiating use cases
    • Questions
    • Interviews / expectation setting
    • Drill down on non-standard items
  5. Conduct initial research, select initial vendors, make contact
    • sometimes done via RFI
    • eLearningGuild, Brandon Hall or Bersin might help
  6. Prepare and send RFP (Request for Proposal Sample)
  7. Select finalists
  8. Demos
  9. Pilot or hands-on tests
  10. Negotiate
  11. Final selection
  12. Installation and configuration kick-off
  13. Define models, etc.
  14. Configuration, customization
  15. Testing
  16. Pilot
  17. Communication
I'm not sure how interesting it would be to step through each line item of the process. When I've sat in the audience as someone walks through their process steps - yawn.

The LMS Selection Process Issues

So, instead, I plan to focus on key differences in the process based on specific situations and places where I've seen things go wrong before. This will be somewhat similar to my LMS Selection Gotcha list. But I also plan to include specific items such as:
  • Some political issues especially playing favorites.
  • Common communication problems.
  • How much LMS do you really need? And the starter LMS.
  • Getting agreement on strategy and process.
  • Content authoring selection vs. LMS selection.
  • Defining differentiating use cases.
  • How to work with different constituents to capture differentiating use cases and how to use that as an opportunity to set expectations.
  • Difference between an RFI and an RFP. When do an RFI? Ways to down select without an RFI?
  • Making sure you understand a critical requirement as compared to a requirement that's somewhere on the important - nice-to-have scale.
  • What requirements to put in an RFP.
  • How to balance making an RFP response useful to you and not too hard for a vendor.
  • How much should you lead a vendor in the RFP requirments.
  • Examples of good and bad requirements.
  • A few critical questions that sometimes get missed.
  • Contract negotiations.
  • LMS fit is 50% models.
  • Customization
Does this seem like a good list? Am I missing issues? Which of these are not worth discussing?

This list seems like it will take me more than an hour to go through as it stands, so I'll probably shorten, but thought I should list out what I'm thinking right now.

I'll also make a list of resources as I find them. I've got quite a few on the process and various issues. I have a few example templates. I don't have good stuff on the fuzzy front-end, defining strategy, etc. Anything you think would be a good resource, feel free to send me or tag in with lmsselection.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Facebook Platform

Stephen Downes picked up my post on Facebook As a Learning Platform. He commented:
To be clear, I do not think that Facebook itself is really a learning environment. It's a large, centralized piece of software that is getting creaky with use (we've seen more outages and the PHP code is once again dumping itself into users' browsers). Its privacy policies are questionable and it is giving out user information to applications willy-nilly. But it is still important, because it reveals many of the features future learning environments (and personal environments in general) will need to have. Something like the social network operating system, maybe. These are nicely captured by this article as Tony Karrer pulls together a number of recent resources on the site to throw out some ideas.
Because Stephen and I come from such different environments, perspectives, etc., it's always an interesting data point when he and I are in complete agreement. I also feel like Facebook is a bit creaky and as Thomas Vanderwal's recent post Facebook for Business or LinkedIn Gets More Valuable points out, as you use Facebook more and have more friends, it seems to get harder to use. Linked in doesn't seem to suffer from that.

All of that said, Facebook is surprising me in terms of how well it works as a platform. As I mentioned in my other post, it effectively provides an operating environment that knows about:
  • You (your profile, interests, demographics)
  • Your friends
  • Your groups
Think of all of the different Web 2.0 applications that similarly try to figure this stuff out. Luis Suarez - How to Boost Your Social Capital with Facebook mentions MyBlogLog. Great example, Luis. Shouldn't MyBlogLog link directly to each person's Facebook account so I can have that profile information? Shouldn't the MyBlogLog community form a kind of group? If you think about MyBlogLog implemented on top of Facebook it becomes a better application because I'll know more people who are visiting my blog. And I can connect with them in better ways. In fact, MyBlogLog should get to it!

And as you run down different applications, you find that You, Friends and Groups are fairly common. In fact, LMS, Elgg, Flickr,, Wikis, Blogs, Discussion Groups, Amazon, hmmm, the list gets long quickly. Pretty much everything I would ever do that would associate me with other people. It's pretty much the same issue that's been discussed before in terms of currently having Too Many Social Networks?and Multiple Social Networks. However, in this case, I almost see it more form the opportunity side of things. There are some really interesting opportunities to treat Facebook like a uniting platform.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Video Format Comparison - Flash Video Format - WMV Format - Quicktime - Real

I was recently asked what video format to use and particularly about the differences between the Flash Video Format (FLV) and Windows Media - WMV Format.

In The Rise of Flash Video - Tom Green tells us:
This is not to say QuickTime and Windows Media are dead technologies. They aren’t by a long shot, but when it comes to putting video on the web, the Flash Player has rapidly become the only game in town.
Why has this happened?

Market Penetration

The Flash player is installed on a higher percentage of end user computers than any other video format. Although not all end users have the latest version installed (so they may not support the latest Flash video codec), Flash still enjoys the best overall support. And as more consumer sites continue to move to the Flash video format, it's even more likely that your audience will have an appropriate player.

In some organizations, you have desktops that are guaranteed to have a particular player installed. So this may be less of an issue. Check with your IT department to find out what you have installed. Note: there are organizations that intentionally remove particular media players, even Flash.

Consistent Playback

The Flash video format works well across PCs, Macs, Linux, etc. Flash files are very consistent in their playback. They also handle variable connection speeds pretty well. It's nice to know that it will play well across varied platforms.

Theoretically, the other formats can work across different platforms, e.g., there's a Windows Media Player for Mac OS X and some ways to playback WMV Format on Linux. The reality is that the Flash video format will work much more consistently across different platforms.

Better "Streaming"

In general, the Flash video format is very good at playing as it streams down additional content. WMV Format, Quicktime and Real either require a streaming server to achieve the effect or do not do as good of a job. While they've improved, it still seams like these other technologies are behind in progressive download.

Advanced Features

The Flash video format provides some very nice features for overlays and interactivity.

Quality Debate

There is quite a bit of debate on the web about the quality of the resulting video and also about the relative bandwidth required for the video. Several sources say that the same quality flash video format movie will have a larger file size and require greater bandwidth. It's not clear how true this is. And it also changes as codecs emerge. For most eLearning applications, this has not been enough to differentiate the choices.


One of the specific questions I was asked was around caching and protection of the movie. Unfortunately, the Flash Video Format sent via progressive download end up in the user's cache and are unprotected. From Adobe:
Flash video content and MP3s delivered to Flash Player using a normal web server are delivered through progressive download. This content is cached on the end user's hard drive and can be easily accessed—and possibly stolen by the user. By contrast, audio, video, and data streamed to Flash clients using Flash Media Server are not cached on local client machines.
The only way around this is to use a Flash Media Server. Of course, the same is true of the other formats. Delivering a file via a standard HTTP request (without a streaming server) will leave the asset available.


The bottom line is that right now, unless I have a really good reason, my default choice is the Flash Video Format.

ROI and Metrics in eLearning

I'm working on an article around the use of ROI and metrics in eLearning. I did a quick search for resources and here's what I found. I thought it would be worth posting this list here.
  1. Kirkpatrick’s Level 3: Improving the Evaluation of E-Learning

    Level 3 evaluations measure whether the there was an actual transfer of learning to the actual work setting. This level of evaluation will increase the visibility of learning and development efforts, because successful implementation of Level 3 evaluation

  2. Internet Time Blog: ROI is toast. Use EVA instead.

    ROI is toast. Use EVA instead.

  3. Support - ROI Calculator

    Training & Support Return on Investment Calculator

  4. Investing in Learning: Consider Value, Not Just ROI

    ROI, or return on investment, is king in today’s business world. Touted routinely by managers and project leaders, ROI is used as a selling point in print advertisements and is featured regularly in news and business discussions because, for every purch

  5. Build the Business Case for Training and Measuring ROI - LTI Magazine

    A training program with objectives linked to business results and backed with a solid business case is less vulnerable to spending cuts. To ensure adequate funding and organization-wide commitment to your training program, you must be equally committed to

  6. Online Course Development: What Does It Cost?

    Does it cost less to design and develop online teaching and learning today than it did a few years ago? Are the categories of cost different today from the past and from what the costs might be in the future? The costs of developing online programs are si

  7. Determining Training Return-on-Investment (ROI) - Strategies to Succeed in Training: School for Champions

    Measurement of training ROI starts with defining the reasons and goals for the training, determining how much the training costs, and verifying the amount of return. Questions you may have include: * What is the reason for the training? * What i

  8. Assessing the ROI of training

    If people really are your greatest asset, isn't it time to look at your training programmes as investments in your organisation's human capital and not just as an expense? In this article, Clive Shepherd argues the case for return on investment (ROI) as a

  9. ROI from Workflow-Based E-Learning

    Business process management (BPM), workflow management, business activity monitoring (BAM), and workforce optimization software also are designed to reduce lag time. BPM and workflow technologies have been able to achieve significant gains in productivity

  10. Metrics

    Recently, functional managers have begun using eLearning to meet business objectives. Managers look beyond employees to customers, suppliers, and distribution channels -- everyone benefits from seeding eLearning throughout the value chain. This is where w

  11. Return on Investment in Training -

    The problem is that nobody is quite sure what the appropriate metrics are for measuring ROI for learning. Is it student throughput or time to mastery? Is it dropout rates or full-time equivalents returned to the workforce? One thing is certain: many smart

  12. The Truth About e-Learning ROI

    There were four key questions that were going to be addressed: 1. What do we mean by ROI? 2. How important is it? 3. How do you calculate ROI? 4. What’s wrong with how it’s generally calculated?

  13. Proving 900 Percent ROI

    The ROI for e-learning internally at Cisco is 900 percent per course.

  14. Measuring the ROI of E-Learning

    E-learning can have an enormous financial impact on a business, but proving a return on investment can be tricky unless you know what to look for. There are hard and soft cost savings associated with e-learning. Hard numbers are the external factors, such

  15. E-learning ROI: How to Build Your Business Case - LTI Magazine

    Despite the challenges associated with measuring ROI, there are simple steps that companies can take to create a meaningful ROI in a faster and more cost-efficient way. Below, we'll explore how companies can conduct "pilot" e-learning projects by tapping

  16. Measure the Metrics - How to link e-learning to business strategy - LTI Magazine

    At this point, someone higher up in the organization will start asking about the return on investment (ROI) for the program and whether they're getting their money's worth. The way to demonstrate that is by doing Kirkpatrick Level 3 (measuring the extent

  17. ROI of E-Learning: Closing In

    When it comes to e-learning, computing ROI suddenly becomes a complicated procedure requiring thoughtful chinstroking, serious seminar time, and earnest input from consultants and vendors.

  18. A Fresh Look at ROI

    Different levels of management make different sorts of decisions, so it's appropriate that they use different measures of ROI.

  19. ROI for E-Learning

    People fail to recognize many non-cost related benefits of e-learning solutions, such as reach, consistent messaging, and flexibility. Despite those factors (and many others like them), proving a business case for e-learning still means being able to demonstrate value.

  20. eLearning Technology: Formalizing and Investing in Informal Learning
  21. eLearning Technology: State of Assessment by E-Learning Developers
Additional Articles Added April 28, 2008

· Cost Comparison: Instructor-Led Vs. E-Learning

· ROI and Metrics in eLearning : eLearning Technology

· e-Learning Centre by Learning Light - Costs, benefits and ROI of e-learning

· Tips to ensure that your investment in e-learning is effective.

· Return on Investment in Training -

· ROI for E-Learning

· Online Course Development: What Does It Cost?

· ROI and Analytics

· Internet Time Blog: ROI is toast. Use EVA instead.

· Assessing the ROI of training

· eLearning Solutions for custom corporate training - Knowledge Anywhere

· Measure the Metrics - How to link e-learning to business strategy - LTI Magazine

· Calculating ROI

· A Fresh Look at ROI

· ROI of E-Learning: Closing In

· E-learning ROI: How to Build Your Business Case - LTI Magazine

· Proving 900 Percent ROI

· The Truth About e-Learning ROI

· Metrics

· ROI from Workflow-Based E-Learning

· Determining Training Return-on-Investment (ROI) - Strategies to Succeed in Training: School for Champions

· Build the Business Case for Training and Measuring ROI - LTI Magazine

· Investing in Learning: Consider Value, Not Just ROI

· Kirkpatrick's Level 3: Improving the Evaluation of E-Learning

· Measuring the ROI of E-Learning

· Increasing Prosperity through value networks

· elearnspace. everything elearning: Evaluating: ROI

· Learnometer: Dashboard measures of investment performance in learning...

· Learning Circuits - Analyze This!

· OUseful Info: Course Analytics - Prequel

· Course Analytics, Part 1 - Visitor Behaviour

· Course Analytics, Part 2 - When Are Our Students Online?

· Visual Analytics Inc.

· Learning from Key Learning Indicators

· Training Analytics: The Next Big Wave in Learning Management Technology

· Donald Kirkpatrick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

· E-Learning Analytics,

ASTD Josh Bersin What to measure: efficiency, effectiveness, compliance

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thomas Davenport and Blogging - He is Wrong! : eLearning Technology

Quick update to my previous post: Thomas Davenport and Blogging - He is Wrong!

Guess what - I just ran across Tom Davenport - The Next Big Thing. I could be wrong, but it appears to be a blog. In fact Tom calls it a blog.

It would seem that he may have changed his opinion on the value of blogging - at least for himself - maybe not for others.

Facebook as a Learning Platform

Facebook seems to be coming up everywhere the past few weeks. The most recent, which finally got me to post, was a Stephen Downes post - I'm Majoring in Facebook, How about You? He points us to a Fortune Magazine article that describes a Stanford class being offered by BJ Fogg that studies Facebook as a platform:
"Facebook is the most convenient and respectable way to feel connected to friends, get updated on existing friends, find new people, build relationships and express identities."
Students, however, seem more interested in cashing out. "I want to build a really cool app and then sell it for some amount of money," says Jennifer Gee, a 21-year-old computer science graduate student. Classmates nearby nod in agreement.
The class has each student creating applications in Facebook and presenting to potential investors. Interestingly, BJ Fogg (the professor) came onto my radar a few years ago because he was writing about persuasive technology - i.e., how do you persuade humans to behave a certain way with technology - a key component of human performance improvement through technology.

Why is Facebook so hot right now? I see two main reasons which I give below, but first ...

What is Facebook?

Facebook is a pretty simple application with fairly standard social network functionality. At the core, Facebook allows you to:
  • Create a profile
  • Link to your friends
  • See your friends updates and to update your friends
  • Create public or private groups
  • Join groups
  • Hold group conversations (threaded discussions)
While there are a lot of other features, that's about 90% of what people do. In fact, here's a picture of what users do on Facebook (larger circles represent more activity):

It's mostly some pretty simple activities. But because of critical mass, a general ethos of open conversations between friends, filtering of notifications, and control of friendships, it works well as a means of communications within your social network.

What I've found interesting is that I now commonly use LinkedIn to find interesting people, but often use Facebook to communicate with them.

When you look at the core functions of Facebook - it fits pretty well as the basis for a learning platform. More on this below.

So, why is it hot?

Facebook has Your Audience

One of the struggles with any social networking software is overcoming the hurdle of getting users to start using yet another social networking platform. This is something that I've lamented before (see Too Many Social Networks?and Multiple Social Networks).

I was just talking to someone from a very large organization. They had previously tried to get an internal platform for social networking rolled out in the organization and had limited adoption. Then they realized that about half of their workforce were active users of Facebook. And as the old adage goes:
Q: "Willie, why do you rob banks?"
A: "Cause that's where the money is." ~ Willie Sutton - Bank Robber
Why are we going to be adopting Facebook? Cause that's where our users are.

In fact, this makes me wonder if it can overcome a bit of the 1% rule (or even the update to the 1% Rule).

So, instead of trying to get your audience to adopt another platform, adopt Facebook.

Facebook Applications are Simple to Build

If you look at the picture above, the top right Facebook represents interacting with applications. Facebook applications are custom functionality that work seamlessly within the Facebook environment. The code runs on a separate server, but the applications interface plays back inside Facebook. Facebook provides an API that gives you access to friends, groups, etc.

And it's relatively easy to create these applications.

I'm currently engaged with two different clients working on Facebook applications. Why? Well, because the audience is there and we intend to leverage the Facebook platform in order to:
  • Spread virally by asking friends to add the application, notify friends about activity
  • Use groups as the basis for certain kinds of activity (think communication, decision making)

Facebook as a Learning Platform

For the upcoming Free Online Conference - Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations we wanted to have a way for participants to get to know other participants and hold discussions. While we are going to use Q2 Learning's platform, we could have created a group in Facebook and used the threaded discussion capability there. The advantage of that is that likely a sizable portion of the audience is already on Facebook and thus wouldn't have to upload profile information. This also would allow the relation(friend)ships created during the process to exist beyond the conference.

Choosing Facebook would also give us the possibility of using Facebook as a recruiting vehicle. Through the notification system, friends of attendees will see a message that they are attending the event.

You can do the same thing with Facebook for your organization, group, class, etc. Leverage it as a means of getting the word out, as a social networking layer, as a discussion tool. And, again, your audience is already there.

Of course, there's also some really interesting possibilities because of the ability to create applications. You can think of Facebook as providing a platform that handles authentication, profiles, networks, groups and notifications. If you think about it, there are a lot of applications that could leverage this core capability. I would expect that this is a place where we will see eLearning Startups - New Wave Coming.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Help Needed - Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovation

As I recently announced, I'm helping George Siemens to organize Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations.

When you go to the conference page via the link above, you can see that it's a big wiki. People are already in putting in their names, ideas, etc.

There's also a link to the To Do page. Currently, this page lists some tasks that I'm sure I could figure out how to do, but I'm hoping that some reader might be willing to take on...
  1. Add .vcf files next to each session to allow people to add to their calendar.
  2. Add a Google Calendar for the event?
  3. Add link for time conversion
  4. Add help links for editing the Wiki
  5. Blog tag? "CLTI" has been suggested. Add a page that might show what bloggers are writing about the conference.
  6. Let conference calendars know about this event
I'm sure more of these will come up.

Can anyone help?

Podcast Discussing Learning and Networking with a Blog

It was interesting to listen to beginning portion of the podcast Straight Talk with Bob Phillips where they discuss my article in T&D Learning and Networking with a Blog. From their post:
In the opening segment, Aaron and I talk about Tony Karrer’s article in T&D magazine, Learning and Networking with a blog. Here is a post on Tony’s site that gives some resources that were cut from the final article. We also talked about how his blog has some interesting posts on personal learning environments (PLE’s). The other person I mention is Michele Martin at The Bamboo Project. Her posts about PLE’s have transformed how I use and think about the web for my own professional development.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Free Online Conference - Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations

I'm helping George Siemens to organize a free, online conference - Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations, Nov. 15 - 20, 2007. The conference will be held fully online (with live presentations and asynchronous discussions). There's an exceptional group of speakers/discussion leaders including:
  • David Snowden
  • Jay Cross
  • Rebecca Stromeyer
  • Richard Straub
  • Clark Quinn
  • Donald H. Taylor
  • Janet Clarey
  • David Wilson
  • Bill Bruck
  • George Siemens, and
  • Tony Karrer :)
Conference details are still coming together. Stay tuned to the Wiki for details and go to the registration page to register and sign up for the newsletter to get updates.

In fact, part of the fun of the conference is that it will be a blend of a traditional conference with notable speakers, an unconference with discussion sessions based purely on the interests and questions of attendees, online discussion, etc. We've tried to take into account some of the main ideas from better conferences. What's interesting is that many of the ideas are easier to implement for an online conference.

The conference is free, registration is required.

Duke Corporate Education and TechEmpower (my company) are sponsoring and assisting in organizing the event.

It's an exciting opportunity to discuss current trends and innovations in corporate training environments around the world...

If you have thoughts or ideas on what would make this a great event, please provide ideas.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thomas Davenport and Blogging - He is Wrong!

I've been slowly making my way through Thomas Davenport's book Thinking for a Living - How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers. It's quite a good book, and I really like how Davenport structures his positions and structures the topic as a whole. But, wow, there was one part that just ... arg ... well here it is ...
Partisans of blogging argue that there are many potential business applications of the technology (and they discuss these applications in their blogs!). But I believe that blogging falls into the unproven category ... at the moment it's a tool for individuals to express their somewhat random musings. I know of no organization in which the benefits of blogging have been measured. Perhaps the biggest problem for blogging is the time it takes to read and write blogs. If anything this tool has detracted from productivity, not increased it. ... Bill Ives argues that his own blog is really a vehicle for managing his own personal knowledge. If this particular use of blogs caught on broadly, it could represent a new approach to organizational knowledge management.
Yikes! This tool has "detracted from productivity." It's interesting that earlier in the book Davenport was careful to say that he really wasn't talking productivity as much as he was talking about performance and results.

It's somewhat shocking for me to see him miss the value proposition of Blogging as a Learning and Networking tool. I agree with Bill Ives that a blog, properly used, can become an integral part of your personal work and learning environment.

Also there's some irony here. Later in the book, Davenport discusses the importance of the use of networks as part of problem solving. He even discusses the use of social software. But somehow he doesn't get that blogging is a fantastic networking tool. And ironically:
The person he uses as his example, Bill Ives, I've met through blogging!!!
Yes, it's a weak tie. But certainly is good enough that I'd invite him to have a beer anytime I was in the neighborhood and absolutely if I have a question that falls in Bill's areas of expertise, I would ask him his thoughts. Better yet, I might ask in my blog, and there's a fair chance he might respond.

Finally, as people begin to blog and it captures their ideas, thoughts, what they've read, done, etc. it becomes a wonderful resource for any organization to leverage as part of larger knowledge management solutions. If anyone should recognize this, you would think that Davenport would.

Overall, it was disappointing to see this paragraph. This also tells me that it's going to be hard to convince people of the value of blogging if Thomas Davenport sees it as a detractor.

Friday, October 05, 2007

eLearning Defined

Richard Nantel was nice enough to point us to a set of glossaries for eLearning related terms:
Since I recently was discussing the meaning of eLearning (or is it e-Learning?), so I decided to look at the different definitions of eLearning in the various glossaries:
eLearning / E-Learning - learning that is accomplished over the Internet, a computer network, via CD-ROM, interactive TV, or satellite broadcast.

eLearning / E-Learning - Broad definition of the field of using technology to deliver learning and training programs. Typically used to describe media such as CD-ROM, Internet, Intranet, wireless and mobile learning. Some include Knowledge Management as a form of e-learning. Took awhile for the right term to come about, circa 1995 it was all called "Internet based Training", then "Web-based Training" (to clarify that delivery could be on the Inter- or Intra-net), then "Online Learning" and finally e-learning, adopting the in vogue use of "e-" during the dot com boom. The "e-" breakthrough enabled the industry to reaise hundreds of millions from venture capitalists who would invest in any industry that started with this magic letter.

eLearning / E-learning (electronic learning): Term covering a wide set of applications and processes, such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet (LAN/WAN), audio- and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, CD-ROM, and more.

eLearning / e-Learning - Any learning that utilizes a network (LAN, WAN or Internet) for delivery, interaction, or facilitation. This would include distributed learning , distance learning (other than pure correspondence ), CBT delivered over a network, and WBT . Can be synchronous , asynchronous , instructor-led or computer-based or a combination.

Hmmm ... this wasn't very satisfying since they mostly focus us on traditional forms of training, interaction or facilitation delivered in an electronic form. In my discussion, we were talking about tools that support understanding what actions are needed, coming up with action plans, tracking those plans, working with others on them, follow-up. This only makes sense in an eLearning world. But, it's not really content delivery. To me, this is certainly part of eLearning.

However, I'm not sure what the dividing line becomes? How do you separate knowledge management from eLearning? What about using search to find information? That can be part of learning. Is that eLearning?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Making Learning with an LMS Fun? Help Needed!

Got a question from a reader - (and I love questions) - but this time I think I need help with suggestions. Here's the question:

I am the Manager of Education and Training in a non-profit that serves homeless youth and whose mission is to get the kids off the streets by offering services which include getting their GED. Grants demand accountability on success rate and outcomes of our GED teaching process. As a non-profit, buying an LMS program that would track our GED students in math, writing, reading, social sciences and science would be extraordinary. Our need is also to make the learning process fun! How can we both have a system which engages the student and tracks their academic progress?

Any recommendations?

Introduction to Wikis, Blogs, Social Bookmarking, Social Networking and RSS

As background for an upcoming presentation, I wanted to create a page that provides background resources that explain various eLearning 2.0 tools. I immediately thought of the Common Craft videos. I've embedded them below.

Are there other good introductory resources? How about for blogs?

Social Bookmarking

Social Networking



Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Social Networking

I've run across a couple of interesting posts recently that seem to have spawned from a Business Week article - Scaling the Social Web. The article tells us that various players are adding social networking features to their sites:
A broad array of online players, from major media companies like Viacom to e-commerce providers such as eBay, are adding networking features to their online destinations, letting users create detailed Web identities, connect with people over common interests, share content, and, above all, socialize.
Hmmm ... how is this new? Hasn't eBay had social networking features for a long time? Granted they are being enhanced, but still. And doesn't Flickr (images), (bookmarks), etc. all have a social networking aspect to them?

The point is that its probably natural for lots of sites to have social networking type features and functions for visitors. This is something we are commonly doing on sites today. You certainly need to ask the question, but again, I'm not sure this is new. It's more that sites are recognizing the value proposition.

The article does point out that as many more sites add social networking features, the issue of everyone dealing with many different split social networks is going to be problematic. Unless I'm really passionate about the content or site, I'm personally not going to bother with the social networking aspects. But, if your content or your audience is particularly passionate, you really need to consider providing the capability.

But I've found myself a bit unsure about some of the responses this article has generated. For example, in Social Networking is a feature, not a destination, Chris Anderson tells us:
I'm sure huge and generic social networking destinations will continue to do well, but I'm placing my bet on the biggest impact coming when social networking becomes a standard feature on all good sites, bringing community to the granular level where it always works best.
I sort of agree. Certainly, niches offer an opportunity to leverage social networking capabilities, but I think that there are really big risks right now for any site because you need critical mass and passion to be successful. I actually think that Facebook and Ning are heading in the right direction by becoming platforms for social networking solutions. I'm not sure if these are going to win or if something a bit lower level will win, but someone has to provide a means for us to share our profile and social network activity across our niche sites so that we can lower the barrier of participation. Thus, the platforms are going to be the big winners. The rest of us will build off of it. This avoids the The joys of re-entering data!

George Siemens agrees with my assessment about the need for platforms or aggregation, but tells us in Scaling the Social Web that as for the large social networking sites, he's:
tried them all (facebook, myspace, bebo, orkut, linkedin, twitter, etc.) and then resume the more ad hoc mixture of blogs I've been using for many years. Quite simply, social networking sites require a high level of commitment.

Again, I'm not so sure I agree. Facebook maybe represents a new way to stay in touch with folks, but it doesn't take much time and it really becomes a different way to email. LinkedIn requires even less ongoing work and is a FANTASTIC resource when you are looking for expertise. It's somewhat a fire and forget. Sure you can get sucked in and waste a bunch of time, but these tools mostly provide value for very little time invested.

I agree with George around blogs being a great
learning and networking tool. But, its quite a different thing from social networking tools.