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musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Archive for March 2008

Data Portability – Data Ownership

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having seen Robert Scoble’s latest post on Facebook’s rant about dataportability problems I thought it might be necessary for me to try and hone my understanding a bit.

I have data on A Social Network (ASN); this might include my name, email address, and a photo of me.

I also show other data on there; the identities of some of my friends, possibly including their contact details. A few RSS streams, some photos of some buddies when we went climbing…

ASN also shows some data about me; my subscriber status, my feedback rate and so on.

Which is mine? Well, my address and email; my assertion about my friends.

Which is my friends? Their email addresses; their photographs possibly .

What belongs to ASN? At a guess, my subscriber status, and possibly the feedback rating that members of the site have co-operated to give me with ASN’s system.

What can I take with me? This is where it gets tricky…

I can/should be able to take my name/identity/email address.

What about my friend’s email address? They might not want me to take it to another site.

What if I can identify them another way? How about their ID? My current OpenID is this blog… If someone wants to assert they are a friend of https://shaidorsai.wordpress.com should that bother me? I freely make my blog available; if I can link to you(your OpenID) – I’m not linking to anything you don’t want used.

Just like with content, if I pass it off as mine, that’s wrong. Linking to things is what holds the internet together – so, I can link to the information that you do make publicly available. That may, or may not, include your email address.

What about those photos my friends took? Well, to be honest, it depends what they want to do with them. Howsabout if I say that I can point a link to them, if publicly available? If the link is on a commercial website, and they don’t want their pictures used there, they can either tell a linker to take them down on a case-by-case basis (unless we believe that most people will ask for permission) – or licence them with Creative Commons.

How will that work with my FOAF? I don’t know – yet – but am starting to play with this.

Would you object to me asserting a relationship to your OpenID? If you did, what do you think I should do, or you could do? Unless you explicitly assert the relationship back, how believable is my claim?

Should a FOAF be CreativeCommons Licenced?

Should I be able to take the ASN data? It depends, is the traditional answer; if they built it, they paid for it, they use it… perhaps I should pay if I want to take it – or maybe I can just point to it, while I reatain a relationship with ASN

Written by SteveEllwood

March 27, 2008 at 1:17 pm

Personal Blogging from within a Corporate?

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It’s no secret that I work for a big corporate, and the PTB are aware that I blog about a range of things that interest me and affect both within and outside work.

My colleague Richard Dennison wrote an interesting post about the risks of blogger/social media interaction from disgruntled employees.

“On the one hand, you invited them to join the conversation in the first place and they’re just expressing their views … on the other, they’re damaging your brand. Leaving them to continue making negative comments feels uncomfortable … leaning on them through their line managers feels like censorship. “

It might show I’m old style, but I reckon that you shouldn’t sledge your employer in public – OK, I’ll make an exception for whistleblowing – when there are avenues for dealing with issues internally. I’m certainly happy to draw attention internally to people who damage the brand of the company that feeds me.

Now, if you feel those avenues aren’t delivering an open, honest and credible response to your people… there’s a nice improvement project to work on.

So, what to do?

First, make it clear what you expect people to do. The BBC have a nice blogging policy

“Personal blogs and websites should not reveal confidential information about the BBC. This might include aspects of BBC policy or details of internal BBC discussions. If in doubt about what might be confidential, staff members should consult their line manager.

Personal blogs and websites should not be used to attack or abuse colleagues.”

Seems pretty fair to me – and incidentally, the BBC explicitly allow staff to blog from work, as do my employers.

Who else has a sane policy? In a reaction to the Civil Serf furore, Tom Watson has come up with some suggested points for Civil Service blogging. Something I’d like see enacted.

Then, accept you are going to get some posts you don’t like … so, you do have hate groups – including employees or not – what to do? Engage where they are? – as Richard says

“Accepted social media ‘wisdom’ says you should engage ‘in the channel in which the comments were made’ to try to turn things around … but do you really want to get into a ‘dialogue’ with a mixture of disgruntled customers and employees?? “

I’d have said “No.” Well, maybe a qualified “No, but…”

…but there has to be an easy way for people to get human interaction. Don’t insist they go through callgate hell. Let’s bite the bullet, and take all the feedback we can get. Let’s really be customer connected.

Sandy Blair in an engaging and typically erudite comment says

“Much better to join the conversation with positive comments (and fix the issues people are raising).”

I know Apple, Verizon, Oracle and Microsoft all have some presence at GetSatisfaction.com. Do you want to do that? A *big* corporate would bring loads of traffic to someone else’s site. Publicity for them and impact on their infrastructure. You’d need loads of folk handling enquiries, and you’d still get posts elsewhere – so perhaps not.So, just do it. Get a group of people on “20% time” to start digging at the issues raised in these individual sites. “My appointment failed…” Why? Sort that and we’ll sort issues for lots more than that individual. So, engage individually, sort root cause, and fix globally – meaning you’ll get more Right First Time.

How do you choose the people who’ll get the 20% time… well, they just volunteered, didn’t they? They saw and raised the problem… let them help to fix it.

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Written by SteveEllwood

March 12, 2008 at 11:36 am

Posted in blogging

Building strong professional communities through Performance Mgt & HR initiatives

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This post is in response to a request following a light hearted tweet about unlikely papers.

In common with many people in larger corporates, I work in what could loosely be called Professional Services(PS). My knowledge, skills, and experience can be used in internal projects or more enjoyably with opportunities within external companies.

Like many companies, mine organises into groups of professional communities. We arrange people into these by areas of expertise. In our implementation of these, we have two key areas of focus which are skill development and the adoption of appropriate professional methodologies.

The leadership team of each community define the development paths that individuals need to follow within their profession.

This means that, even when moving from assignment to assignment, everyone will have:

  • a clearly visible way of progressing his or her career (while the business gets clear visibility of what skills gaps it has for the future and can take action to address them).
  • a solid base where they can share knowledge, learning and take ownership for their own development.
  • an infrastructure with knowledge sharing, support structure and development pathways that create a true community of expertise.

So far, so good. I’m active in, and have enjoyed my time in Professional Communities. I wonder if it is the same everywhere?

Now, to produce these cohesive communities I’d suggest a key requirement is a willingness to share at least explicit knowledge, if not tacit. The community can then assess the level and experience of its members.

Performance Management
This is key to succesful growth of a community. How do we do this?

Forced ranking/Vitality Curve?
This is a very competitive model, which works against the idea of knowledge sharing – why should I, a B-ranked individual, help you a C-ranked individual. I *need* to look better than you. Rather than spending time sharing my knowledge, or increasing my skills, it might pay me better to game the system. Plenty of office politics, and subtle sledging of my peers.

In a knowledge based organisation, perhaps a System of Profound Knowledge might work better. That, of course is a reference to W.Edwards Deming who highlighted “Seven Deadly Diseases”.

Number 3 was “Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance“.

If you’re in a professional services organisation set up in communities with forced ranking – ask how does this help the community work together?

HR
Difficult to know what to say about this group as they don’t know what to call themselves – but since they are managing the takeon and servicing of the key asset of a PS organisation – the people themselves – they must be key.

To enable a successful Professional Community, there must be really close links with the HR function, with an intimate understanding of the requirements of the community. The procedures followed must be transparent to avoid accusations of favouritism.

HR should provide clear guidance to Professional Communities on strategic issues like knowledge management, retention, professional development.

Does your HR service give clear advice on how to develop your community members – perhaps sticking them in a development bench area? If that’s what they are suggesting, an interesting article by a performance management company suggests that might not be such a good idea, saying keeping people on a bench can *lose* you people.

Do they give clear unequivocal guidance as to how much time should be spent on developing the skills within a community? If not, why not? Google give their engineers “20% time” to work on other projects…

…would 10% time be better for you?

5%?

No? So, how do you think this community is going to work.

Written by SteveEllwood

March 11, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Twitter – what it is, and how I use it.

with 4 comments

I was chatting IRL with a valued colleague whose catholic spread of knowledge I enjoy greatly, and he told me he was finding his way round twitter. I said something dismissive like “Well, I only know bits and pieces…” and I thought that as I have to write a presentation on aspects of social networking I might start things about twitter

Twitter is :

  • a way of telling the world (and/or your friends)what you are doing now
  • a way of building links to colleagues and strangers
  • a microblogging phenomenon
  • Twitter says “Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

Basically, you can share 140 character snippets from your mobile, your messaging client, the web… with anyone who is interested. They can see these snippets on their mobile, their messaging client, the web or any one of them if they choose.

What will twitter do for you?

@pistachio asked the question “Twitter make you …what” folk answered

  • more socially aware
  • less alone
  • more knowledgeable
  • more informed
  • more inspired

amongst many other things.

I’ve learnt a great deal from it – including how to make Sicilian Spaghetti – and built links with a range of people in a wide range of countries, with a vast range of jobs and hobbies and interests.

How do you use it?
Fitting what you need to say in 140 characters can be quite challenging. Most folk use some of a range of Microformats

@ replies
Beginning a tweet with, say, @steveellwood alerts folk that this is in reply to something I’ve said or tweeted. This lets them choose whether to follow me or to track back what I’ve said. More than two or three of these in a row makes me feel it should have been done by a direct message (which is done by beginning a tweet with “d steveellwood “, and would only be visible to me, not the world and their spouse)

l: location details where you are – so folk can find you. This can be down to country, town, road, or house. Look at Twittermap and search for steveellwood, and it should show whereabouts I am.

++ or using plusplusbot you can show your pleasure or displeasure with a service, a product or an individual – for example, http://plusplusbot.com/targets/steveellwood shows what I have done that is noteworthy or notorious… you do need to “follow” plusplusbot on twitter for this to work.

#hashtag by adding a #(hash) to the front of a word, you can tag the word to make it easy to search for mentions of the word by other folk. e.g. Discussions at BlogTalk 2008 – again you have to “follow” hashtags for this to see you.

What do you use with Twitter?

Terraminds for free search of the Twitter information stream: you can search for topics or individuals – and the search can be saved as RSS.

RSS (Really simple syndication) – is a web format used to publish frequently updated content. You can take RSS feeds from all over the place – including this blog – but it is very useful for twitter.

Some people publish large volumes of “tweets”; they can drown out the less frequent posters in the webclient. One example is Hugh Macleod (@GapingVoid). For his posts, I take an RSS Feed (http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/50193.atom) and look at it in my RSS Reader.

You won’t always see every tweet that mentions you; some you’ll miss, some will be folk you don’t follow… so using Terraminds referred to earlier you can do a search for yourself (n my case, http://terraminds.com/twitter/update-rss?query=steveellwood&) and then get an RSS feed of the search.

Twittermap to see where folk are

Twitterkarma to see who follows me and I follow back

YouTwit a mashup to watch those who *I* follow

Gridjit – a grid view of who people twitter with – see mine

Tweeterboard – conversation analytics for some twitter users….

Snitter, twhirl, twitbin – all clients for twitter. You can also use most standard messaging clients.

Are there rules on how to use it?

Yes; No; Maybe.

Twitter works by consent; people will only see what you publish … if they choose to. Be boring, rude, irrelevant… and people won’t follow you. Be offensive, and they’ll block you from following them.

My colleague Phil Whitehouse(@Casablanca) wrote the 10 Commandments of Twitter

Robert Scoble, a very well known blogger (@scobleizer) writes how he breaks the 10 rules of Twitter

Paul Downey, another colleague, (@psd) divides folk into twits and twerps (Twits good, twerps bad).

Follow your own rules, and enjoy it.

Caroline Middlebrook wrote a fairly nice guide.

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Written by SteveEllwood

March 3, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Twitter