The late great management guru, Peter Drucker, helped to innovate theidea that there is a whole economic class known as the Knowledge Workeronce said: "Nobody has really looked at productivity in white collarwork in a scientific way. But whenever we do look at it, it isgrotesquely unproductive." In other words, trying to define how tomeasure the productivity or performance of Knowledge workers (commonlycalled white collar workers), is an exercise in futility.
Davenport's bookpoints out that it is hard to create a common correlative measurementaround "knowledge workers" as a whole class. In fact, he describes thatthe typical way of dealing with knowledge workers is the HSPALTA approach: Hire smart people and leave them alone. Unfortunately, this doesn't really examine how to improve the system or help people improve themselves.
Maybe we will eventually discover some future magical formula thatmeasures this performance and how to improve it. In the past, inAgricultural societies, we had found ways to improve agriculturaloutput. Farmers from the dawn of time will tell you that "farming is anart", but the truth is that farming is also a science. Art issubjective, hard to measure, quantify and teach. Science is morestructured and actually can be taught (although not necessarily easily).During the Industrial Age, we achieved similar goals for manufacturingoutput. Now that we are in the Information Age, we are stumped, becauserather than a physical unit output, it is more of a mental qualitativeoutput, and that seems to us a very subjective element.
The good news is, as Davenport points out, there is at least one way to measurethe quality of knowledge. It's been done for centuries: the Peer Reviewprocess. It's most common in academia, whereby a group of your peersexamines your output and gives an analysis of what they think of it.It's how Masters and PhDs are still given out for the most part,worldwide.
I think that this is a good thing for us because that Peer Review process is atechnique that can be applied to unstructued knowledge on our site. Inits simplest form it is a Ratings systemwhereby anyone reading a piece of information on the site can vote 1through 5 on what they think of the article. It's entirely subjectivebut if you get a large number of ratings, it tends to average out whatpeople think of the information. This can apply to structured as wellas unstructured knowledge. This is the first level of a Ratings model.
That's a very basic notion. In fact, to be more useful, you may want tocollect all those ratings per a person's knowledge output and store itand those knowledge output items as part of their identity. Thus, youcan see what a person has contributed and produced and what peoplegenerally think of their output (their level of quality). This is amore evolved Rating system, generally referred to as a Reputation model.
Then, in turn, you could use a person's current rating as a weightingfactor to any rating they apply to others; i.e., normalize the value ofthe function of "my current rating" multipled by the rating value theyascribe. Thus when an industry luminary says you have a good idea, itweighs more towards the rating of that information, than when a novicerates it. Thus you have a weighted average of your Reputation based onwho actually rates your articles. This is a second evolution of Ratingsinto a weighted or a Ranked Reputation model.
How do you yourself become such an "industry luminary"? Essentially, alot of high-ranked people giving you good ratings implies that a lot ofknowledgable or influential people think that your output has a highlevel of quality. Thus, you would appear higher on the rankingshopefully amongst those lofty people who are the luminaries.
Community and social computing
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Michelle Conlin's Businessweek article You are what you post,talks about the troubles of growing up in the Net generation. With theadvent of search engines being so "efficient" that it can find any kindof information that is associated with your name, people are startingto find that others including their bosses, potential employers, orclients can find out all kinds of information from your past. Anythingthat you might post online can show up including embarrassing orprivate facts about yourself, even things others might saw about you,whether true or not. How can you possibly know what is harmful to yourcharacter or can be misunderstood by others, tomorrow or even ten yearsfrom now?
This is causing fear and panic amongst individuals, companies and PRagencies worldwide. The idea that you image is always at risk on thenet. In fact, the rule of thumb is usually to always assume that "ifyou post it, they will find it." To some that means, "don't use theInternet". However, the right reaction is not to stick your head in thesand and assume that it will simply go away. It is to be proactive.
Michelle actually points out an important fact that is missed by many:there are two "yous", the physical real-world you, and the online imageof you (or what others learn about you from info online). Because yourphysical person is always with you (duh!) it's usually possible to knowwhat's happening around it. However, it usually not possible to knoweverything going on around the online you. The Businessweek articlepoints to five ways to manage your online doppelganger, which aredefinitely helpful hints.
My thought on this line however, is that companies and people may eventually realize that the online you isjust as important as person to maintain. The best way to do this is tohave an online tool to keep track of that you and what happens. What'smore, it becomes the basis of how others can communicate with theonline you. It's not only nice to have that tool but imperative, if youwant to have a proactive say around what the "online you" really does.Otherwise, you are at risk of leaving it in the hands of what anyoneelse may say about you.
In terms of philosophy (in the classical Greek sense), this is mind-bending in terms of what that persona is becoming: all that is online you is what others see around you. You don't have strict control of it, but you can contribute to it.
Aside from a tool, the other idea this points to is that it's unlikelya single individual will be able to know what the best ways ofpresenting themselves is. It's a brand new online world, and most ofthe social rules are still being figured out. The best way is to havesomeone who watches and understands the behavior across the net toprovide advice on how to use the tools according to the properfunction, and more so, in the most effective manner. In the physicalworld, these people are often called image consultants, PR agencies,etc., although that's really the extreme end of a business that isgeared specifically to your own needs.
Another way to look at this is in terms of getting people to understandor even share your views. If you're interesting enough, you might evengain a fan club of your own (the goal of many bloggers). Yourreputation helps build an implicit or even an explicit community aroundwhat you are or what you're doing. I, for one, don't believe anyone cantruly force others to agree with them wholeheartedly; therefore toconvince others on your view, you need to be persuasive and use theright tools and right means of persuasion. Thus, you should take a lookat this from the perspective of how to develop this community aroundyou.
The root of all this is your reputation online and how others see it.Take charge of your online reputation because, whether you like it ornot, it has or eventually will have a direct impact on your future.
In summary, the online you is already being "created" on the Web bywhat you and what others post about you online. You should considertaking an active part of owning and operating this "online you", andhandle this from the perspective of trying to build a community aroundyou.
"I have recently entered SecondLife, out of curiosity of this new medium. Many people consider it nothing more than a 3D chatting/dating environment. IBM is not even taking communities on dW seriously, such as the discussion forum community. Why should IBM then be interested in this 3D virtual world of chatting/dating? Graphics are far less then the (2D) websites, information is much harder to publish or to find. Everybody is already hating spam mails and ads on websites. What does make SL so special for IBM??? Or are we going to sit (our avatar) in virtual classrooms or meeting rooms? Why not simply use IM (instant messaging, like Sametime), netmeeting, webcams, Skype, phones and other real-life interaction/communication mediums."
This is only my dime-store psychology at work: I think one big advantage over SL is that it takes into account that most humans are visual animals. If you can see something moving around and doing things, then it is probably "real". However, when it's a post left by someone that doesn't give an indication of who that person is, what else they are doing, etc., it is much more easy to ignore them.
When just read the information on a community site and ignore the actual person who writes it (happens very often), it becomes only a piece of data, and you evaluate it in terms of the value of the data, rather than the value of the person. Unless you are a frequent reader of that site, you may not pick up on names; people tend to ignore or forget names unless something really sticks out about the person, and online with aliases, nicknames, etc. it is easier to ignore them. The first impression is that you may not know who this person is; if you have an opinion about them, you still don't really know what others think about them. Unless you really spend the time (very rare) to get to know a specific person, you essentially take the interaction for the face worth of the data they provide.
What I'm talking about here is the underlying social capital of trust. It is more difficult to trust an unknown source especially with little background, little peripheral knowledge around that person, limited ways of finding out what else they know or have contributed, little understanding of their relationships with others, limited or disjointed contact with the person, etc. This overall potential but disjointed relationship is hampered by the fact that most online community services are not live. This also sort of explains why some live services are even more successful: instant messaging, online chatrooms, MMOGs, videoconferencing, and secondlife.
Of course, when I say "live" in the online world, I mean it only in thecontext of direct communication within a given session rather thannecessarily an actual face-to-face. With a live service, you can (or at least attempt to) directly communicate with the other person, rather than build up a relationship through separate deferred messages back and forth via email, postings, comments, etc. The more live you get the better your chances for building a connection with the other person and probably faster too.
On the other hand, most people do not have the time to build many relationships and a live meeting takes up direct individual time, and will probably require a number of sessions before such communication becomes any form of a relationship. This is the classic battle between the need to develop relationships and the need to preserve our own time. It's also why deferred communications through postings, etc., counts as the next best thing. And hence we start with basic communication services like discussion forums (focused purely on deferred messages to a group).
What is needed however, is to try to flesh out the deferred interactions, or bring in more aspects of "live-ness". A step up is a blog, which is still deferred but may give you agreater understading about the person (blogger) based on their thoughtsand writings. To get more information about the person, they should have a profile that describes their background. Another direction is a wiki: while deferred, it allows people to change the content in a pseudo-live way, rewriting each others material as they care to. Another really helpful tool is a peer-to-peer rating system, so you can understand what people think of the person's contribution in their various engagements around the community. Finally, having actual live online services that they can attend on occassion or on demand, fills it out.
All these combine to give a once anonymous other person, a greater depth and personality, and a basis to consider whether this person, not just their knowledge, is worth making a connection with.
I'm not sure I answered Franks question, but this "live-ness" is part of it. Add on top of it, the ability to create, and enrich the environment with more tools and "feathering" to make it an appealing environment to communicate, gives Secondlife a much greater depth in terms of community building.
But, what Frank points out, and what I indicated about time-restrictions of live activities, remains true. Most information is and probably will always be in text. So, no matter how fancy a visual environment you have, without text content, it may lack sufficient information to learn from others. In other words, secondlife may never truly replace the web, since deferred communications ("do it on my time, not yours") and text ("easy to create info") is still the primary choice.
Sorry to say to all those who dream of living in the Matrix, but when it comes to gathering information, you'll still need the realm of text (until we evolve enough to dispose of text entirely). You can talk to people, and interact as much as you want, but the most common way may still be in reading the information.
Ian Hughes from our IBM Hursley Research Labs led me onto this company that does 3D Printing of objects from Second Life. Essentially, any 3D object in Second Lifecan now be "printed" as a physical sculpture/model out of foam or waxfor about $30 or $60 up to a size of 9" x 5" x 5". I can't quite tellwhat kind of 3D milling/printing device they use but you can contactthem for more info.
I was thinking of modes of real business services in terms of virtual environments and came up with this list:
I bring this up to consider where the business opportunities lie. WhileI considered the above scenarios for SecondLife (SL) in particular,this is really a generic model that may apply to any online retail website. In the vast majority of such retail web sites, the trade is forcurrency for real goods, but this exchange can occur between a realperson and a virtual identity (it might be one person, it might be awhole company of people). E.g., on eBay, when you bid and buysomething, you never really know if that person on the other end is asingle real person or multiple people.
This is a factor to consider for conducting business. I tend toconsider all interactions significant. The more you interact withsomeone, the more trust (or distrust) you build with that person. Youmight remember fondly of previous exchanges or, after some few basicexchanges to build familiarity/trust, you suddenly find that you aresuddenly suckered out of your money when that big exchange happens. (atypical con-job as we say here).
Trust models thus play an important part in exchanges and mostmultiplayer environments these days have to build in some sort oftrusted exchange system. Most MMORPGs that allow users to exchangeitems have a special "Trade" window where both parties must check a boxto accept the trade for it to complete. This is a scenario that happensin type 4 virtualuser2virtualuser exchanges.
On the other hand, on eBay (realuser2realuser),since the actual exchange involves some form of physical exchange orshipping, they need another another way to designate each identity'strust level, within the system. Thus, you have a rating system tosymbolize that level.
One thing to note is that there is a continuing rise in virtualuser2virtualuser as well as realuser2virtual usertrades. In fact, the latter even applies between you as a real personand your character. E.g., in SL, if you transfer your Linden$ into realdollars through Paypal (i.e, withdraw currency from the game), you arein effect doing an exchange between your physical and virtual selves.
Also interesting is that there are some virtualuser2realuser servicesemergine like the Pizza example. I would daresay this isn't the firsttime this has happened. Some in the late 1980s (if I recall right), atMIT, you could actually order real sodas from the soda machine throughyour emacs text editorenvironment on your online Unix account identity which would chargeyour school food account (one of those cool hacks that Stallman andcrew did with emacs). If this 3D printing service was paid entirely inLinden$ then it would fit into this mode as well.
The biggest deal out of all this is not just in the types of exchangesbut the value applied to virtual objects. That'll be a future post...
A summary of the topics at the recent O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference the three significant ideas that emerged were:
On the first idea, the focus is on syndicating outwards your data, and not trying to control what happens on the other end of the connection. This is a crucial idea that many companies are not quite prepared to handle. Legal and marketing groups in many companies have so long focused on exactly how some offering is presented that they may balk at the thought that in Web 2.0, they need to loosen their grip. There's always the worry of "what happens when someone does X or Y with it?" It's not quite so terrible.
This is actually quite related to SOA terms. Essentially, what you establish is a service-level agreement and a level of trust in your users and customers. The SLA defines your service endpoint, how it can be used, and how it will perform. You then trust the consumer of that service to make use of it according to the defined policies.
Once you use the word "policy" (however loosely), it seems to put the hawks more at ease. Obviously even "policy" is a vague and relative term. Watching Pirates of the Carribean (again) last night, they should think of it more as guildelines than as The (Pirate) Code. :)
Coincidentally, that is just where the fear stems from: that it would lead to "piracy", "stealing" or misuse of a service.
To paraphrase Princess Leia Organa to the Imperial Grand Moff:
"The more you tighten your grip, the more [they] will slip through your fingers."
I'm excited. The SOA Compass book that I worked with a team of four other authors finally when to four digits and then even below 2000: i.e., 1979. I think that means that it was (for a moment) the 1979th from the top selling book on Amazon.
If you consider that most of the very top books are fiction bestsellers like The DaVinci Code and the Harry Potter books, and most computer books are way below them, that's not too bad for something that has barely been out for less than a month (and did not have the kind of promotion that those books did).
In books on Computers and the Internet on Amazon it currently shows as #87.
On Barnes & Nobles it did even better: for a day it was in the top 5 best-selling books on Computers and the Internet (right next to Ray Kurzweil's book on the coming of the Singularity). It has a smaller audience than something like John Batelle's book on how Google transformed our culture.
What I find interesting is how I've become a Ranking watcher. :o)
While Amazon or B&N certainly doesn't reflect the entire book industry, it nevertheless gives a significant snapshot and rankings that they have show the relative social interest in the topic (in a captialistic sense).
People use such rankings all the time and often they are self-reinforcing. E.g., go to any bookstore and look for the shelf on the current bestsellers. The best tend to stay higher up because they are visible to more and more people. Of course, it's not all marketing; the item still has to have its own intrinsic value. But, given sufficient top-selling position tends to keep it at the top and if it's there long enough, secondary items tend to pop-up around it.
There's no better example than the Apple iPod. It wasn't the first and certainly not the last MP3 player out there but once it reached the top, it started spurring a big industry all around it for accessories, even designer names.
PS: If you're hoping for an iPod for the holidays or before the years end, for to DevX and look for the developerWorks competition on the right hand side to try to win the latest 30GB iPod)
Our book will probably never reach that because the general public isn't the audience. However, any top-selling computer author can tell you that all of a sudden, speaking opportunities start popping up, and consulting gigs, etc. (My former life from magazine work).
Thus, having a ranking system can lead to a great deal of stuff which is why it surprises me that people are sometimes stumped at the thought of having a ranking of people in any large social community.
It doesn't surprise me that me that people can get nervous about something like that because of potential for abuse of such a system (Just imagine how many people try to boost their eBay rankings). So you have to think it out properly.
something to ponder...
The notion that there are bits of information about us all over the Web has been a nagging feeling for many although theyre not quite sure how to deal with it. A few react to it with pride. Some people consider it as a minor issue with a reaction of needing to be careful but not in panic. Others more wary are who the insurance and financial companies are trying to target with new service offerings.
Kathy, our marketing leader, recently showed me a site that uses a combination of two Web 2.0 technologies, search and user identities, and it brought up not just a surprising collection of info but also a small shock and that old nagging feeling.
If you go to Zoominfo, youll find a whole new way to feed either your ego or paranoia, or even both. You can type in the name of any person or organization and it will search the Net for all the info it can where your name is published, most likely areas that do not require registration.
I came across only a handful of results mapping back to my name at previous jobs (LinuxWorld, RTD System & Networking, etc.), and automatically builds a new online profile about me. I could then register as a member and create a more detailed profile by editing it. In some ways, it builds on what LinkedIn is missing, that is, auto-filling in my information rather than entering it by hand.
Thats probably not as surprising as the other linkages it finds. For example, it does a lateral search of other people who have worked at these organizations to find my peers and coworkers. Youll probably be surprised who you remember and who you dont. It probably doesnt find info which requires you to enter an account and password but I have not explored this fully yet.
The core idea in this model is to build an online profile that can be reused. In Web 2.0 terms, you can then probably use this profile in other applications, sites, etc. in ways the dreamers, innovators, and entrepreneurs will figure out.
I dont know how the tool is implemented but my guess is that it involves one or more of the large search engines to perform the searching. This application focuses on conducting multiple sequential relevant searches and consolidating it under a common presentation, backed by registration and other tools.
This is an example of a federated identity but not in the sense of user-account identities and single-sign-on applications. It is federation around online information centered on your own real world identity, or at least your name.
In this case, I'm talking about the idea that people can be arranged into a series of steps in a process, in machine-like order, repeating the same job over and over again without complaint. This is the basis of modern manufacturing, and in fact one of the common thoughts of socialism: people should be assigned to the jobs they are best at and all contribute to the greater operation/good.
What this misses entirely is the fact of human nature. People often want to find easier ways in the system, or even want to share the ideas they discover with others. Whether a mechanical or a bureaucratic process, many of us just want to get things done. Sometimes circumventing the system is a bad idea while other times it leads to new advantages. In either case, it is still innovative thinking.
We generally want input from others when we have innovative thoughts. We want their feedback or just share the concept to see if it is useful and viable. If useful, let's face it, some of us just like the glory.
However, this kind of innovative thinking still needs help, encouragement, comparison and critique, if it is to survive. This is where it helps to find other like-minded individuals to discuss the idea with. It could be as simple as a quicker route to work, but we still may wish to share it with others.
Longer term projects or those with wider implications mean that the group that we want to discuss it with needs to survive longer and be accorded the time, tools and means to consider such ideas.
More interestingly, they also need to develop the trust amongst its members to be working to the greater good, rather than for particular individual's benefit.
We should get past the thought that we can't just be cogs within the great machine of industry. Raw process oriented development still requires human interaction and consideration. Gathering into groups to discuss methods and ideas has been with us since ancient times; it's about time we recognized that as formal parts of our jobs. Finally, trust is an underlying lubricant of innovation,