Monday, 20 December 2010

Presentation Challenge

Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007Image via Wikipedia
At a recent KIN quarterly workshop, one of the delegates said in their feedback we should consider running a 'powerpoint free' workshop.
I think for many people, the idea of presenting at a workshop without the 'crutch' of powerpoint might be perhaps a little too daunting. But there are alternatives to Powerpoint. I came across 'Prezi' just recently. So, here's the challenge. Who will be the first to make a presentation at a KIN workshop using Prezi ?
(Tip: Use the Autoplay option on the Prezi below)
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Friday, 17 December 2010

A lesson from the kids

Red CrossImage via WikipediaFailure is an emotive word. Wow, if only I had Diana Laufenberg as a teacher at school. In Diana's TED talk this month she talks with passion and conviction about how important it is for kids to experience, and learn from, failure. Rather than simply regarding failure as an absolute, she demonstrates that they all can have positive learning outcomes.

At KIN, we have long advocated the importance of learning from both positive and negative practice (we have a special interest group devoted to this), but applying that learning. In the Innovation SIG, we have discussed how important it is that organisations have a degree of tolerance for failure. Indeed innovation won't happen unless risk is understood and embraced.

Laufenberg's talk is inspiring and full of anecdotes about failure. Just substitute 'work colleagues' for 'children' throughout her presentation.
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Monday, 13 December 2010

Babelfish anyone? The Joy of Stats...

Hans RoslingImage by psd via FlickrI've been a fan of Prof Hans Rosling and his site for a while. He not only makes stats interesting and fun, but also shows that their purpose is to tell a story. Rosling uses visualisation, and animated images, to convey knowledge and insight that lies hidden in the numbers.

Last week, BBC 4 showed an enjoyable documentary , available on iPlayer that showcased Rosling and others' work and the incredible change that statistical computing is having. Don't be put off by the title 'The Joy of Stats' - it is a real eye-opener.

One standout item was something that Douglas Adams predicted many years ago, and that Google is promising to bringing to life; the Babelfish. Through the hidden power of pure statistics, you will soon be able to hold a synchronous conversation on your mobile phone with someone who speaks a different language.

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Spreading the word

You know that feeling - 'why didn't I think of that'? Pay With A Tweet.

Social media are changing our lives in many ways. Some subtle, some in-your-face, some annoying, some brilliant. Today I came across a really simple but effective example of an organisation that totally understands its target market and communication preferences. Onlightenment provides 'consulting, training, research and support to help organisations who want to excel in their online communications'.

I was interested in their e-book 'Live Online Learning - A Facilitator's Handbook'. The cost of the book is 'one Tweet'. Yes, to download the book, you have to Tweet that you have done so. See what they did there?
  • They have added perceived value to the item by not giving it away, but the cost to you is nothing
  • Spending the currency is effortless; you just have to click the button to allow the Tweet
  • Customers beget customers - perfectly engineered viral marketing
  • They are practicing what the teach - the communication medium is perfectly in line with their target audience's preferences
In case you were wondering, the e-book is pretty good too. Much of it will be fairly basic for experienced facilitators and many of the tips are equally valid for face-to-face facilitation, for example, the use of images in slides. There is however there is lots of well researched and practical stuff about the effective use of online chat, e-whiteboards and online etiquette. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"Golden Spanner" proof that knowledge sharing pays

If you search the internet for 'Golden Spanner' the top item is likely to be something to do with Meccano, beloved of James May and toy geeks.

Look further and you will see that South West Trains was recently awarded a coveted golden spanner award for the best reliability of any UK train operating company. Now jokes about reliability in the snow aside, what caught my ear was the astonishing results that the company has achieved, compared to their competitors. The awards are based purely on fleet reliabilty metrics, not some subjective passenger survey. The average distance operated by any train between any technical defects (causing 5 minutes or more delays) is over 40,000 miles. This represents the equivalent of more than a complete round the world journey without any technical faults. This is even more remarkable when you consider that the industry average is only 13,000 miles.

How did they do it? Christian Roth of SWT, interviewed on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours, attributed much of their success to 'a knowledge sharing culture'. They also benchmark, measure and communicate the results constantly.

This is another example of what KIN Associate Ian Corbett calls 'technical limit' improvement. Knowledge sharing really can have a dramatic impact on performance, but measurement is a critical part of the improvement cycle.

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Why don't they listen?

Commonwealth Games velodrome - MelbourneImage by PDR via FlickrI had an experience at the weekend which was enjoyable and terrifying at the same time. I went with friends for a trial ride at the Manchester National Velodrome.

It's a fantastic facility, as befits one of the few sports at which the UK excel internationally. The banked track looks impossibly steep from below and the first couple of laps were terrifying. Then I relaxed my death grip on the bars and soon found myself accelerating into the corners and taking the banking higher and higher. Looking down onto riders 10ft (seemingly vertically) below was disconcerting. Being on a fixed track bike means there is no respite. I finished exhausted but buzzing!

Chatting to the coach afterwards, I mentioned that when I relaxed, I found it so much easier and that she should mention this in her pre-ride briefing for novices. She responded with "yes, that's why I always say in the pre-briefing that the most important thing is to relax, but they never listen". I can honestly say that with the anticipation and nerves, I have no recollection of this at all. It just reinforces the point that in knowledge transfer, you need to pick your moment, often need to repeat the message, and in the end sometimes people just need to experience stuff for themselves.

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Friday, 5 November 2010

Local Government online conference

A large crowd attending the final panel of ROF...Yesterday I participated in day 2 of the Local Government Improvement & Development's Local by Social online conference that started on 3rd November and wraps up on 9th.
I was privileged to be asked to facilitate one of the 30 conference themes on the subject 'Leaving but not Lost' - the impact of knowledge loss to the public sector as a result of the cuts.

I was bowled over by the event. This is, apparently, one of the biggest virtual events of its kind, ever. The stats alone after just 2 of the 6 days are impressive. Wembley Conference Centre would have been pleased with 955 people registered for the conference.

  • 455 visitors yesterday alone
  • 6140 page views yesterday
  • 189 individuals posted a contribution

That last figure is the most impressive. As Michael Norton, the driving force behind the conference, says "Most online discussions follow the 1% rule. This states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing. So 19% contributing is a huge amount".

The experience was excellent too. The was a real buzz as discussions were underway. At one point I couldn't keep up with all the postings and great ideas flying in. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but was struck by how much like a real conference it was, but better.
I loved the fact that that I could dip in and out of conference rooms without missing anything. At one point I think I was in three conference rooms simultaneously.

Of course there is also a valuable record of all every idea and contribution posted, for others to see and use at a future time. I'd love to know what the total travel, time and venue savings over a traditional conference were. I'd guess hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The best thing of all - I didn't have to small talk to over a luke-warm cup of urn stewed tea.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Knowledge Ecology - local authorities leading the way

I am impressed by how far ahead the UK Public Sector is in it's thinking about connecting with citizens and the delivery of services using social media. Marketeers have tapped into Twitter, Bebo and Facebook to push products for quite a while, but UK Local Authorities are looking at these channels in a more strategic way. This is not slavishly following a technology fad, but responding to how people are changing how they engage with the world.

I was thinking about whether is was in response to ever diminishing resources and budget cutbacks. Yes, this is clearly a major driver, but pioneers such as Kent, Kirklees, Lichfield and Devon County Councils have been very early adopters. The maturing of social media technologies happens to coincide with the urgent need to think radically about how to deliver council services.

Examples such as the councils mentioned, and many others, will no doubt feature in the online 'Local by Social' conference between 3rd and 9th November 2010. The very fact that the sector (through KIN member LGID) can organise a cross-organisational virtual event over 6 days is an indicator of the capability and social media innovation that now exists. I don't know of many other organisations that could engage hundreds of people in such an event over that period of time.

Just a small selection of social media topics suggested by the 376 'community' of participants already registered for the event:
  • Listening to local people online - social media monitoring
  • Council Apps for the mobile web
  • Hyperlocal and the council
  • Using the social web to consult on cuts
  • The social council website (incorporating engagement tools on the council's website)
  • Social media for public emergencies (e.g. Twitter Gritter)
  • Social media and staff flexible working
  • Hack contests and stimulating the market for government data
The event is fully inclusive - anyone with an interest can register on the LGID community of practice platform.

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Monday, 4 October 2010

KIN MemberSpace - a major milestone for the Knowledge and Innovation Network

Wow, KIN proudly launched the brand new MemberSpace today!
The reason this is so notable is the way it was developed, using a the latest in free, cloud computing components. Having struggled with Microsoft's SharePoint for the last 4 years, it feels as though shackles have been released. KIN did a major evaluation of collaboration packages, both open source and proprietary and concluded that GoogleSites was ahead, in functionality, cost and its future-proofing. No more software upgrades or migrations needed!

As a result, at last we have a flexible, connected and intuitive place for KIN Members to share. An added bonus is that because the search is so efficient, tons of existing valuable content will be exposed to a new KIN audience. Previously you had to know where content was, before looking for it. Duh.

KIN stalwarts Phil Ridout and Steve Goodwin are far too modest to say, but they have done a sterling job of configuring GoogleSites to deliver exactly what our Members wanted, in an agile way and without an IT department. If members want changes, or new functionality becomes available, we can respond almost immediately. The streamlined back-office processes, all using existing Google facilities, will make administering members a doddle. Migrating from SharePoint was almost painless.

This experience leaves one to wonder whether organisations should re-evaluate the benefits of tying in their collaboration tools to a proprietary IT infrastructure and suite of integrated services (read Microsoft). Yes, GoogleSites may not yet be positioned as an Enterprise Collaboration Solution, but that can't be far off.

Please note that because of proprietary content, we can only share the link to the new MemberSpace with those from KIN member organisations. If you are not from a member organisation and would like to know more, please contact us.
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Friday, 20 August 2010

Corporate Attention Deficit

squared circles - ClocksImage courtesy Leo Reynolds
I've been talking to an organisation recently undertaking knowledge transfer for departing staff. Many of these people have unique knowledge that, if lost, could adversely affect the organisation's ability to deliver its objectives. Having invested serious time in understanding what knowledge is most important for the future, further effort has gone into turning interview outputs into useable material. Typically, these are 8-10 page documents and short video and audio clips packed with insights, risks, and other rich, actionable information.

It seems that in these highly pressured times, this is too much, reduced to 'just gimme a one-pager'. How do you usefully reduce 10 years experience and 6 at-risk projects in a soundbite with no context?

Take a look at some of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, normally applied to children, and consider them in relation to your organisation:
  • Fails to pay close attention to detail.
  • Fails to finish tasks or sustain attention in activities.
  • Seems not to listen to what is said to him or her.
  • Fails to follow through instructions or to finish homework or chores (not because of confrontational behaviour or failure to understand instructions).
  • Disorganised about tasks and activities.
  • Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • Loses things necessary for certain tasks or activities, such as pencils, books or toys.
  • Easily distracted.
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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Circumlocution Office

"Upon my soul you mustn't come into the place saying you want to know, you know"

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.Image via Wikipedia

Is this a Dickensian example of the need for a knowledge sharing strategy?
One of the activities we are planning for the Autumn KIN Workshop 'The Perfect Knowledge Organisation' is to have some fun creating the worst knowledge organisation. Perhaps we should just use Mr Barnacle's example of the Circumlocution Office.
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Thursday, 22 July 2010

KIN is getting Googled

KIN currently uses Sharepoint 2003 to provide an online repository for shared content - the MemberSpace. While this has worked reasonably well for us, it is starting to show it's age and is becoming increasingly limiting to use. So the time has come to replace the MemberSpace. But what with ? Over the last year, the Facilitator team have reviewed a number of possible options.

An obvious candidate is of course Sharepoint 2007 or 2010. But for various reasons, we have decided not to go that route. We have been trialling the use of Google Sites for several months now and have taken the decision to migrate to that platform for our repository (we will retain the vBulletin discussion forums).

So why the change of platform?

I'm not going to attempt to give a point by point comparison of Sharepoint vs Google Sites - they are quite different beasts really. But the main reasons we decided to switch are:

- Every 2/3 years, Microsoft issues a revised version of it's software. Unfortunately it's not just a simple matter of installing the new software and your old content is then available with the new functionality - you have to migrate it all to the new system. And Microsoft do not provide migration tools - you have to go to third party providers.
vs Google sites where you get incremental functionality additions every so often with no migration needed.
For an organisation with very limited IT support this is a big negative to Sharepoint and plus to Google. We really did not want to invest the time and effort into migrating content to a new version of Sharepoint and then have to do it again in a few years time.

- We've long felt that wiki-like functionality would be much more suited to KIN's needs. Essentially, Google Sites is a Wiki. The wiki functionality in Sharepoint still lags behind the best wiki platforms available including Google Sites.

- Some functionality in Sharepoint simply does not work unless you have the latest version of MS Office installed since it relies on some components in that suite. Since we cannot be sure that all our member organisations are using the latest version of MS Office (or even using Office at all) this would potentially limit the accessibility to our members. For Google sites, all you need is a browser.

- To get the best out of Sharepoint, it seems to me that you need fairly sophisticated IT support. For a lot of corporates, clearly this is not an issue (ConocoPhillips, for example, have done a lot to make up for the shortcomings of Sharepoint but have dedicated IT support). But for smaller organisations with limited IT support (like KIN) it most definitely is. Google Sites is 'in the cloud'. We don't have to worry about infrastructure or product updates - that's all take care of by Google.

That said, Google sites has it's shortcomings also (what platform doesn't?). For example, Google Sites doesn't provide granular security (yet... we can always hope that this gets added soon!). It's pretty much all or nothing. If someone can edit a site, they can edit everything in a site whereas Sharepoint has a much more sophisticated security model. (But KIN is a 'trust network' so we don't believe that this will be a problem).

Another plus for Sharepoint is that their list manager is very sophisticated allowing you to view the data stored in lists in many different ways to meet different users needs. Google Sites doesn't match that.

Also, in Sharepoint you can specifiy additional fields that you might want for calendar entries. The embedded Google calendar we will be using in future doesn't provide this but there are other ways to achieve the same things.

So the upshot is that we are taking the plunge and migrating from Sharepoint to Google Sites. The timescale for completing this is a bit flexible at the moment but will definitely be this year. We expect to be able to showcase the new system at the Autumn workshop and, if all goes well, go live with the new system shortly after that.

(Prompted by a response by @markvlunenburg to a Tweet I made, I have decided to write a few posts describing how the migration is going. Since these posts will be probably more technical than most KIN members would be interested in, I will be blogging here rather than on the KIN blog.)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Employee Engagement management training

Occasionally I've been watching the BBC2 series 'Mary Queen of Shops'. If you didn't see Last night's episode, I'd recommend it. As well as being entertaining television (if you like that sort of thing) Lightwater Homecare should be required watching on management training courses about employee engagement. I was particularly struck by one of the newly invigorated employees who at the end of the programme said "I was just a cashier, I just worked behind the till. But now I'm able to get out and talk to the customer and know what I'm talking about".

I hope they do a '12 months later visit to see if the changes have stuck!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Gets you thinking

Albert EinsteinImage via Wikipedia

I was at the KIN MasterClass yesterday on 'Return on Investment for Intangibles'. Our guest presenter Bernard Marr, from The Advanced Performance Institute, lead a fascinating day - refreshingly not using a single PowerPoint slide.
Bernard used a famous quote from Albert Einstein that really summed up what ROI should be about:
'Not everything that can be counted, counts and not everything that counts can be counted'

That reminded me of another favourite quote from Douglas Adams that seems remarkably prescient having been written in 1999:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sharing Modes

Sharing music, Roman styleImage by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

The recent KIN Summer workshop took a detailed look at 'The Psychology of Knowledge Sharing'. Russell Davies has just posted a great blog post on this topic referring to Clay Shirky's assertion that there are fundamental differences in behaviour, cost and motivation behind sharing products, sharing services and sharing information.

"Sharing Goods - the hardest to do, because if you give a physical good you no longer have it, you're deprived of it.

Sharing Services - like giving helping someone across the road - you don't lose out on physical stuff but it's an inconvenience.

Sharing Information - like giving someone directions - you don't lose stuff, it doesn't take much time, no inconvenience".

If you want to know more, take a look at 'Why We Cooperate' from MIT Press.
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Friday, 4 June 2010

Knowledge Assets

The theme of our December workshop is '21st Century Knowledge Assets'. As usual, we a researching this topic to ensure a thought-provoking event. And in the time-honoured tradition of KM we would like to tap into the collective wisdom of our members. The question we have for you is - "What are your favourite examples of innovative and/or engaging knowledge assets either internal to your organisation or external".

As an example:
Some of you may already have see the 'Instructables' website. For those that haven't, here is a knowledge asset 'How to add a USB outlet to your car' from that website.

Notice that they have links to related Knowledge Assets. Notice especially that the Knowledge Asset is not static. The comments allow users to chip in with their observations, use cases, tips, hints and modifications. You can easily share it via Twitter, Facebook or email. You can download it as a pdf. You can even embed it in another webpage (see below)

Ignoring the adverts (they have to make money somehow!) how many of your Knowledge Assets are like this?

Add a USB Power Outlet in Your Car - More DIY How To Projects

Friday, 14 May 2010

Riverside Point at Clarke Quay, SingaporeImage by williamcho via Flickr

Wow, two blog postings in a week, both based on Dave Trott's output (here's the other).
The KIN Summer Workshop on 15th June is on 'the psychology of knowledge sharing'. Something dear to the hearts of all KIN member organisations trying to achieve collaboration and knowledge sharing in increasingly tough times.
Dave Trott's blog posting on 'Singaporean Choice Architecture' is not some a missive on Oriental building design, but rather on 'how to engineer choice'. This is particularly appropriate for our Summer Workshop theme, as I think what we are trying to be is 'architects of collaboration'.
Dave concludes with a great quote from McDonald's Ray Kroc; “The art of salesmanship is letting people have it your way.”
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Dave Trott on 'Just enough information but not too much'

Important StatisticsImage by johnbullas via Flickr

Dave Trott is in advertising.
He is revered as a skilled commentator and communicator.
I enjoy his blog and would like to share him with you.
In particular this post on Colin Powell's '40/70 rule'.
Comments left by his readers are also worth a look.

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Thursday, 6 May 2010


Interesting MosaicImage by Auntie P via Flickr

What do 'Being a Gentleman', 'Innovation in Cartoons', 'DNA Synthesis' to 'why frivolity is important' have in common? They are just a few items that featured at the Interesting2009 event. I've followed Russell Davis' eclectic blog for quite a while; his quirky view on life is refreshing and challenges conventional thinking. As well as a regular contributor to Campaign and Wired, Russell is one of the people behind the Interesting events.

KIN Members tell us that the diversity of organisations that participate, is one of its main strengths. This stimulates lateral thinking and sparking unusual ways of thinking about common problems. You can't get more diverse than the speakers and participants at an 'Interesting South' or ' Interesting North' event. "Interesting is a 'theatre of ideas' – very informal, with a very 'open source' approach. If there was a single shared quality between speakers and participants it was curiosity".
I'll be trying to get a ticket to ' Interesting North' on 13th November, but they sell out really fast.
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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

'We trust you with our children, but not the internet'

We trust you with the children but not the Int...Image by Scott McLeod via Flickr

Members of the KIN 'Enabling Technologies' Special Interest Group have been aware for some time of the futility of trying to 'manage' social media by edict or restricting access to web apps. Instead, members have shared their good practice in clearly and unambiguously setting out their organisation's policy and what is acceptable practice. There are two very good resources that I'd like to point you to:
Carl Haggerty's blog has links to sound policy and practice for Social Media. This is aimed at UK Local Authorities, but I defy anyone to say this is not applicable to any large organisation.
The second is from the always excellent Commoncraft on the topic of Protecting Reputations Online
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Friday, 19 March 2010

Open Linked Data - a new frontier for knowledge diffusion

If you are not familiar with 'open linked data', allow me to introduce you to something that has the potential to take knowledge sharing in organisations to a whole new level. Tim Berners-Lee's TED presentation is a great introduction to the concept. Berners-Lee's vision is to

Instance linkages within the Linking Open Data...Image via Wikipedia

connect data on the web in much the way as we connect web pages now. Data drives a lot behind the scenes in our lives, but why not connect data about people, places, products in much the same way as web pages?

The Obama Administration is committed to making all US Government data available as open linked data, and the UK has made a great start with and the London Datastore. It is a central part of Mygov, launched today. A great example is Dextrous Web have made all Greater London Authority expenditure over £1k accessible through open data. Mayor Boris Johnson sees this 'democracy of data' as a way of driving down costs, so both citizens and the GLA benefit. There are some great 'visualisations' of open data, for example cycle accidents blackspots shown on a google map.

The potential power of open linked data in breaking down silos and creating new insights from data on the web is phenomenal. This got me thinking. Why not make proprietary data 'open and linked' format within the corporate firewall? Why should logistics data or product data or markets data only be produced and used for a single purpose? It is after all a corporate asset. Who knows what might result if you were to provide access to the data and mashup or mapping capabilities? We all know the problems in getting siloed divisions and teams to share documents and knowledge. If the corporate standard were to publish all data in open linked format as well as documents (clearly there will be exceptions such as personal and contracts data), there would be no argument. By utilising a ubiquitous asset that has already been paid for, its data, I believe that an organisation might grab huge competitive advantage.

If you would like to know more about open linked data, there are some good tutorials and other resources on open linked data here.
KIN organisations will have the opportunity to explore this further at the member webinar on this topic on 18th May.
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Wednesday, 10 February 2010


There is something interesting going on here. The clever and amusing parody website website has shared it's lessons on how to run a successful viral campaign, with everyone. It is a great example of 'lesson sharing' and as Russell Davies puts it 'An open campaign, open learning. And they're smart, thoughtful, usable lessons'. Altruism? My guess is that in providing these lessons as open source, they will gain even more themselves. For example, by others spreading the word...
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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Papyrus vs BluRay

How long do you expect information digitally recorded on a standard CD to last? 20 years? 50 years? 100? According to the Canadian Conservation Institute, it is about 8 years. Even old analogue tape does better at 20 years. It appears that one of the best media for archiving information, if carefully managed, is actually paper. One of the biggest problems we face is the availability of working technology to read recorded data. This was exactly the problem faced by NASA's Ames Research Center when they wanted to read old magnetic tapes from the 1960s Lunar Orbiter missions. It was only because a retired employee not only had the expertise, but actually had the tape drives in the back of his garage, that they were able to do so. With major sunspot activity expected to play havoc with digital communications in 2012, maybe Google shouldn't bother scanning those millions of books, but carefully store them in a mine somewhere in the Mojave.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

If Douglas Adams had used Twitter...

douglas adams

Tim Milner of IDeA has kindly given me permission to reproduce an interesting intranet blog posting of his:

“It seems that whether you use it or not, everyone has a stance on Twitter. This brings to mind Douglas Adams' views on new technology. Many of his points of view are frighteningly accurate, with one in particular relevant to my field of Knowledge Management –

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so’
I wonder if Adams’ rules of thumb about our reactions to new technologies stick when it comes to Twitter:

1.Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works”.

2. “Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it”.

3. “Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things”.

I do, however, thankfully know one or two people beyond the age of 35 who are more boundlessly enthusiastic than perhaps they should be when it comes to enjoying new technology. The consensus seems to be that the largest demographic user group when it comes to Twitter is 35-44 year olds; so that takes care of both the quantitative and qualitative defence, thus providing hope for us all of living long, technologically-enhanced lives, with enthusiastic Twittering (including stern looks from speakers at events)”.

KIN Members can continue this debate in the Discussion Forum.

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