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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Conversation Learning

One of the questions being raised this week in the free, online course Work Literacy: Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals is how social networks impact personal learning. To me, this is a critical part of The New Skills for knowledge workers. And what I often cite as the biggest change in knowledge work skills over the past 20 years is the change in access to people. Sure, the amount of existing content out there grows exponentially (a trillion web pages indexed by Google in 2008). But, more remarkable is that now you have a lot of mechanisms to reach out to people and find expertise.

In Value from Social Media, I talked about the issue of finding information via Google / Search vs. seeking conversation:

Let’s consider a simple scenario - I’m trying to decide if a particular solution makes sense for my company / organization. I do some searching on Google and find some overviews of the solution and some other good information. But, what it’s still not quite enough to make me feel comfortable with my recommendations. I would like more in the areas of:

  • Experience - What have been the experiences of other organizations (not the canned case studies) when they’ve used this solution.
  • Boundaries / Existence - I’ve got a particular issue and I’m not sure if answers to that issue exist out there, I’ve not found it in my searching.
  • Confirmation - I’m beginning to have an answer, but I’d like to get confirmation of the answer based on my particular situation based on experience.
  • Importance - Some of the issues I see, I’m not sure how important they are in practice, should I be concerned.
All of these kinds of questions are hard to answer with Google.
In a recent presentation, I showed an example problem (selecting an authoring tool), went through searching, and then asked whether you felt comfortable with the following questions:
  • What’s really going to happen?
  • Did I miss something important?
  • How important are the various issues?
  • Is my answer reasonable?
These are the same issues raised above, worded differently. During this week's course, one of the more interesting things was seeing one of the members experience - My Real-Time, Real-Life Research Project (Using LinkedIn and Ning). Here was the challenge:
I am currently trying to find a SME experienced with Moodle (a CMS/LMS) and WizIQ (synchronous web class technology).
Great example of a query. So much so, that I responded with Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn for Finding Expertise. Later this same person who had established this goal told us:
Well, I just went over to check my email, and learned that someone replied within the past 15 minutes, and gave me the most complete answer I've found thus far. Interestingly, I found the Moodle-specific ning through someone mentioning it in a response to my posting of the same question to one of the LinkedIn groups which I belong to.

Essentially, a Moodle expert that I found using LinkedIn directed me to a different forum in which to ask my question, and a different Moodle expert answered my question, 20 hours after I asked it. And I just learned about ning for the first time yesterday!

I am really excited to be learning how to connect and do research this way. It's certainly way more fun than a boring old Google search. And I can use the Advanced Search function to find experts to answer other questions I have about Moodle.
This is a great example of what you can find by reaching out to seek conversation. And conversation can be virtual or by scheduling a call. Or ...

In Know Where You Can Find Anything, I showed some problems were being specifically designed to be hard to find via search. Realistically, solving them using conversation would be too much. In these cases, a new kind of conversation, distributed work is required. Parcel it out to experts in different areas. Social networks can be a good way to do this. Find groups who are interested in the separate questions and have them run with it.

As a side note, the Work Literacy browse search feature worked great for me today. When I went to a page that combined Google Search Network, there were a bunch of posts that were pretty interesting. It's a bit ugly, but still quite useful.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora TonyTo ensure there is no confusion, I'm here after reading your latest post Reduce Searching Start Talking (another example of how links in a post can bring a time capsule to life).

Is what you're summarising in your example a thought process, perhaps a series of strategies in thinking, leading to 'finding out'?

I become sceptical when, for instance, I listen to someone throw off at Google with "a boring old Google search". If it's boring, it's the search that's at fault, not Google or its search engine. How many people can do a useful Google search? And how many of those know when to use a Google search appropriately?

What I'm getting at here is try to avoid throwing baby, bathwater and bath all out together. I hate to refer to the six thinking hats, but really that's where it's at when trying to find out things. Selection of the most likely method or most appropriate way of finding out is all part of a good approach to 'finding out'.

If a quick conversation with someone who knows can find a solution for you, all that's needed is to think, "who do I know who's likely to know?" Then follow through. Ditch searching through the database (or Google) for it.

Really, it comes down to doing a bit of thinking first - de Bono would be proud of us :-) .


Tony Karrer said...

Ken - It's exactly that - strategies to finding help with our concept work.

But I think you are WAY underestimating the complexity facing all of us with how fast these strategies are changing as compared to how they have changed in the past. You and I are likely on the leading edge of it - so there's a big question of how (and how much) you try to help others learn these strategies. There's also a question of how we can even keep up.