Mobile Blogging at BlogWalk in Umea
The theme for the fifth Blogwalk in Umea was "Blogging on the Move". It was loosely inspired by the fact that Howard Rheingold gave a seminar and workshop before the Blogwalk on SmartMobs and the effects of mobile devices on our behaviour. A second reason was that it required a lot of mobility to get to Umea, far up north in Sweden as it is.
We were only a small group of people but that enabled us to get deeper into the discussions as a group, and also to get some stuff done.
Stephanie Hendrick, our kind host, an American living in Umea
Karsten Kneese, intern at HumLab, hailing from Bonn Germany
Martin Roell, from Luxembourg, living in Dresden Germany
Susanne Sperring, PhD student from Finland
Jeroen Steeman, from Utrecht Netherlands, doing a Masterthesis on politics and blogging
Bas Schutte, Utrecht Netherlands, doing a Masterthesis on blogging
Elmine Wijnia, Enschede Netherlands, recently completed a M Sc on blogging from a communicative perspective
Ton Zijlstra, Enschede Netherlands, KM-consultant
our little group moblogging during a break
Staking the ground
We started off with the thought that moblogging in itself might not be the real issue. Or to paraphrase Martin "I'm not a moblogger, I'm a travelling blogger having trouble getting connected". I think we can paraphrase this for mobile knowledge workers as well. It's not about mobility for the sake of mobility, it is about being able to take as much of your normal working and learning environment with you when you are on the move.
Stephanie raised the question of the requirements on tools for moblogging. Her experiences with live blogging at the JokkMokk festival (pdf), with batteries dying because of the cold etc, taught her that we need more robust tools than the fragile laptops for instance we were using during the Blogwalk session.
I also suggested the mobility between tools as a topic. To me flow between tools is more than just having access to the internet. I need my phone, laptop, pda, and especially the software that is available on them to be able to work seamlessly together or having connectivity is still largely of no use. (For instance I blogged once from a public terminal at the Vienna airport, which was largely useless because I did not have access to my laptop at the time).
conversational hooks at start of our session
We discussed the penetration of the mobile phone in the nineties as an example of how behaviour changed and adapted to the ubiquitous availability of phones. We had to learn how to use them in our lives, before the devices really got accepted as normal tools. We had to learn to switch the damn things off in the theater or cinema. We had to learn not to speak too loud on the phone in the train (although some never seem to learn). Eventually we all settled in a rhythm of acceptable use. New implicit rules were thus created. With mobile blogging we have to learn again that there is a marked difference between being always connected to the net, and the power to decide to use it or not, combined with general availability of connectivity. A lot of people I talk to seem to think the two are equal, and I think I remember the same discussions when mobile phones were first introduced. It is also important to realize that connectivity is not merely an added layer to your surroundings, as if you have your tools and connectivity on top of that. Without connectivity what I can do with my tools is significantly reduced to hinder me in my activities. (Writing blog entries for instance without connectivity is very different than when connectivity is available. Retrieval of links, pictures etc is all rendered impossible, and I am already very accustomed to not save stuff locally if I know I can get it from the web at anytime.)
So when do we want to be able to blog on the move? We came up with the following list:
- where you are physically on the move (plains, trains, automobiles)
- where you are gathering info
- where you are inspired/getting idea (Martin's shower)
- where you can reflect (in the park, at the lake, waiting at the airport)
- where you are several hours on end (waiting at the airport, at night in your hotel)
And who needs it? Probably everyone who gets into situations where creativity/innovative solutions are required, which is an increasing number of people in our post-industrialist societies.
On the use of time for blogging
The most asked question when I speak to people who don't blog, is where I get the time to do it.
In Umea we discussed time consumption and listed a number of time-consuming factors. Time is needed:
- To get used to the tools
- To grow a network
- To get into action with others
- To grow trust
- For getting to know and find useful (re)sources
- To find your voice (for yourself, for others)
This seems like a list of things that apply to a lot more situations than just blogging. For instance we compared it to Stephanie's experiences when she first moved from the US to Sweden, and had to find her rhythm in a new country. It also resonates with my own perception that the time I spend blogging is either not very large, or all of the time. Reading blogs, writing to reflect and digest, writing to collect and gather, and sharing along different channels (blog, wiki, company portal, e-mails, etc.) is just the way how I collect and process my personal information flow. Asking me how much time I spend blogging, is treating blogging as an additional activity in my life (which it was at first), and feels to me like asking how much of my time I spend breathing.
On what drives people
We compiled the following list of motivations to moblog:
- Keeping in touch with people
- Keeping in touch with yourself (yesterday's Lilia)
- Feeding info to people who can't be with you
- Illusion of presence for others (making it look like you're not gone at all)
- Receiving info and feedback from people who follow your exploits from a distance
- Finding local contacts, local (re)sources
In short, to me this has to do with the ability to keep up flow, and to maintain the richness of your context, whereever you are. This also helps to decide when you do not need connectivity: at the points where you are consciously breaking flow, like during holidays, breaks etc. Like switching of my cell phone during lunch so I can talk to my friends uninterrupted for a bit.
As to what requirements would have to be met, or don't need to be met, for mobile blogging:
- Internet access (fast, cheap/free)
- Access to information (blogs, google)
- Blogging off line is difficult
- Synchronous communication is NOT a requirement (asynchonicity allows you to be present and sharing/partaking in the on-line world at the same time, synchronous communication demands your presence in that communication channel)
Tools and Functionality
Tools need to be convenient in size, weight, price and robustness (weather, temperature, dust, water). Size is probably always a trade-off with useability, and there is a marked difference I think in when it is handy to take along a laptop, and when I need a handheld mobile device with small screen.
Functionality was the last part of our discussion, and we did not really work it out in full detail (but we will try to do that on-line in Traveler I think) The quick list of things we mentioned is:
- audioblogging background noise "soundpictures"
- more easy publishing, one button recording/editing/publishing from all mobile devices
- fast: no time consumption for cognitive overhead, because time is limited on the move
- timeliness, actuality, afterwards it's not important anymore
At the end of our session Lilia joined us on Skype, and that led to some observations as well. On-line joining in the middle creates some awkwardness. I had the inkling to start summarizing what we had been doing in the session, which wasn't a usefull idea. Lilia made remarks about how we did not introduce ourselves but started talking to her directly and she had to try and recognize our voices, as she could not see our faces. Both things are probably due to the fact that she knew most of us already. So we started talking from our shared level of trust. If it had been a stranger I probably would not have felt the need to summarize, and would have taken the time to say who I was.2 Comments and 4 Trackbacks | Permalink
KM Europe Feedback
Last January I wrote up some criticism of my experiences at KM Europe 2003. This year, as Martin Roell noted, most of the points of critique were still valid. I contacted mr. Peter Nussey about it at the Ark Group, who organise the event. Today Peter left a comment on the original entry that I would like to share with you. Peter asks us several questions, and I think you and me should try and answer them if we can. It is one thing to criticize, now's the chance to influence changes. Peter's e-mail address is pnussey [at] ark-group [dot] com, or leave a message in the comments and I will see to it that it gets to Peter.
Ton thank you very much for the thought and effort that have gone into this feedback. It is always tremendously beneficial for us to hear the thoughts of KM Europe participants and I would like to invite and encourage the views of any visitors to this, or indeed any other Ark event, that may be reading.
I have read your suggestions with interest. Not only do I agree with many of them but I am pleased to say we have already started work on incorporating many of them into next year’s event. KM Europe 2005 will include some exciting new features which will chime with your concept of optimal unfamiliarity and will hopefully be beneficial all stakeholder groups.
As with previous events I will be inviting the major KM communities across Europe and the USA to participate in the event. We will offer a room, services and promotion for their own events with a view to creating the type of the fringe event you describe.
Prior to the event we will be looking to facilitate as many on-the-day meetings as possible with an online meeting organiser (or similar) We will also provide facilities for formal and serendipitous networking at KM Europe in the form of dedicated areas and supporting technology
Next years schedule will allow more time for conversation and discussion. We always endeavour to select presenters that are thought leaders, next year will pay particular attention to selecting leading figures who both reinforce and challenge core beliefs and act a stimulus for discussion between all stakeholder groups.
We will be working hard to ensure that KM Europe 2005 allows for a greater level of interaction between all parties than ever before. In order for the “fringe” activities to really take off we do need the support of the wider KM community which is where people like yourself can help.
We would like bloggers and community members, like you, to help issue a rallying cry to all communities and associations to take part. Please spread the message - don’t wait to be invited to be involved in KM Europe 2005 please contact me Peter Nussey at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how.
Furthermore I would like to hear from all previous or prospective visitors, please let me know what you would like to see at KM Europe 2005 I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on price. I agree Ton that each stakeholder needs to pay their way. If we were acting as facilitator and connector what do your blog readers think they would be prepared to pay?
KM Europe 2005 is committed to satisfying the requirements of the KM community let us know yours and watch this space…
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Howard Rheingold on Information Strategies
Next to the seminar and reception with Howard Rheingold we enjoyed last Thursday afternoon we also joined a more small scale workshop with Howard Rheingold on Friday morning. Our little Blogwalk group made up about half of the audience I think.
In a group conversation setting we discussed several topics. One of the more interesting things to me was when Howard Rheingold showed us the tools he uses in his personal information strategy. For the bloggers in the room there really were not many surprises. RSS, BlogLines, Del.icio.us, all with actual screenshots, came up. He stresses weblogs as his community filters for information. Most people I talk to blogs about seem to think they're publications, sources next to other sources like papers, where I see them as conversations. Howard spends some 4 hours in the morning engaging with his on-line community and sources of information, after which he spends the afernoon writing. He does keep an eye on IM and e-mail in the afternoon though.
What struck me is how little we actually talk about our info-strategies, and info-diet, and the tools we use for it. Especially tools can be almost a secret thing in organisations that have rigid rules to what people are allowed to use on their desk- and laptops. My laptop is stuffed with different tools, most of them Open Source or freeware, that did not come with the pre-installed proprietary environment. My company is ok with it, but does not expect me to ask for support on the stuff I install myself. If my colleagues are convinced of the value of a tool, it will be added to the standard provided and serviced mix of tools we use however.
Talking about how we do things, hunt and gather info, filter stuff, feed it into our workflow, pick the relevant items to act upon etc. is something we should do a lot more I think. Anyone who wants to compare notes?5 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
Traveler in Virtual Worlds
To some of you this might be extremely old hat, for others this might be fun to experiment with. During Blogwalk last week, Stephanie showed us one of the virtual world environments HumLab is experimenting with. It's called Traveler, and available from Digital Space. I remember seeing this before, I think it must have at least 6 years back, but then the connection was way too slow to yield an interesting experience, and I didn't see much use for it. This time I was impressed a lot more. Probably because it speaks to my geeky side a lot, and that always helps, but also because when Stephanie showed us this 3D-virtual world with real time speech, we immediately decided on an experiment with it.
In the coming weeks, we will try and recreate the Blogwalk meeting we had last week in Sweden, and continue the work we did. This as addendum to the wiki. Currently I am learning how to use the space, and getting comfortable in it. I will contact the others that were there in Umea to make sure they install it and set up a meeting.
I am specifically curious to see if Traveler allows us to use Open Space technology effectively, and/or for instance more common meeting formats.
The picture shows a screenshot of the entrance of OzWorld one of the virtual worlds available.
[Addendum: one of Humlabs interesting people is Jim Barrett, who works on narratives in virtual worlds. His blog is Soul Sphincter]2 Comments and 3 Trackbacks | Permalink
Smart Mobs Descending on Umea University
Thursday, after a pleasant early morning flight from Stockholm to Umea where Stephanie Hendrick met us at the airport, we enjoyed an afternoon seminar with Howard Rheingold. The seminar was organized by the Humanities Lab (HumLab) of Umea University. The HumLab provided a great space, a cross between a high tech laboratory and welcoming living room, it lured everyone into pleasant and interesting conversation immediately.
What led to writing Smart Mobs
Howard Rheingold told us his stories of the observations that triggered him into writing Smart Mobs. (also see Jill Walkers excellent notes from two days before when Rheingold presented in Bergen) Several of his observations were:
The interesting thing to Howard Rheingold was that everywhere he went he saw these new phenomena and heard it describe in the same words. Metaphors like birds flocking to seemingly random places, to suddenly move on again.
He then realised that mobile phones were growing into multifunctional and multimedia devices, text, speech, and internet and camera turned it into hybrid devices. This enabled what his colleague described as Collective Action.
How devices enabling collective action will change the world
When the PC came to our homes, we did not use them the way we used the same calculating power in mainframes. We invented new uses. An effect that is well known from philosophy of technology. We can expect the same from mobile devices, which will make available huge calculating power away from the desktop. A critical barrier is price. The average monthly income world wide is $60-$70, when prices drop below that a tipping point is reached. Already these devices are creating change. Fishermen getting text messages while at sea where to get the best price for your catch. That literally helps feed your kids. Mobile devices foster emergent patterns, by providing until recently only centrally available capacities to distributed masses. This enables collective action. (Interestingly one of Humlabs people, Jim, told the story how the Swedish police went after the people who were trying to coordinate the informationflow during the anti globalist riots in Goteborg. There were no leaders to prosecute, so they went after the information agents.)
When the devices are widely distributed so will the uses. People will create applications fitting their needs. Tim Berners Lee did not need permission to create the Web, he just wrote something that was useful to him, and as it turned out to a lot of others.
When thinking about how this stuff will have influence, also think about projects already using distributed calculating power, like SETI or the Folding Project (http://folding.stanford.edu). Add location awareness (geotagging, RFID) to the mix, with millions and millions of RFID chips being spread around the world. Barcodes are an advance warning, of what can happen with these chips permeating the environment, certainly if combined with e.g. Google searches.
Rheingold rightly warns about that none of this technology is intrinsically good. It can be used both for good and for bad. He points out that the violent riots surrounding the Miss World pageant in Nigeria were also the result of SMS-based communication.
In the Q&A session several interesting things came up.
Asked if centralization wouldn't be a threat to the changes he described earlier, Rheingold observed that the development of technology is moving away from centralization, and active devices are increasingly becoming their own infrastructure. (think for instance of the Apple wireless cards that can both serve as a Wifi-card and as an Acces point) Of course centralized vested interests will battle this (something we are already seeing in the music and movie industries I think. By the way, Rheingold also passionately spread the message that current intellectual property laws are killing of innovation)
What will be the information containers of tommorrow? Where to store all our information is indeed an interesting question. There are basically three containers involved, the cloud of internet, storage devices and our heads. How much cognitive overhead can you deal with to keep track of all those info-containers. Will we cope? Howard Rheingold seemed uncertain, or as he said he may be too old, but I think we will adapt. Information overload does not exist.
Collective action also in the past changed things rapidly. Collective hunting drove bigger mammals into extinction quickly, agriculture made possible cities and empires, which in turn required administration. Writing exploded because of it, being followed by the printing press etc. It is a continuous process of acceleration. He wonders if we will keep up. I think we will, or at least the younger generations will. Institutions change slowly, only when the old people die Continuing this thought by the way would confirm my own intuition that the current ageing of the workforce, and the imminent retirement of large parts of the workforce in Europe can be an enormous catalyst for change and innovation.
Howard Rheingold sees huge potential for virtual ways of dealing with information, as opposed to more tangible stuff like books etc. He uses the word co-evolution. It reminds me of Dennet's book about evolution where he explains culture as a realm accelerating our evolution because we can change and adapt without having to change our physical lay-out. The virtual world is a place within culture where even more acceleration is possible.
He points to India and China where two billion people are on the brink of adding their creativity to that mix.
All in all a very worthwile afternoon, even though much of what Rheingold talked about wasn't new, at least not to my ears. He did add different perspectives though, and hearing your own observations and suspicions put into words by others helps to reflect on them better. During the small scale reception afterwards, to which we were luckily invited by Patrick, head of HumLab we had plenty time to talk to the people of HumLab and Howard Rheingold in person, continuing on the themes of his earlier presentation. Howard Rheingold seemed interested in the concept of our Blogwalks, as it too is a collective action from distributed agents.
Next entries will go into the workshop with Howard Rheingold on Friday morning and the Blogwalk meeting on Friday afternoon.
[Update: The videostream of the Seminar (RealPlayer needed)]1 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
In a Real Democracy the Place of Power is Empty
During one of my first philosophy courses we talked about different systems of government, and how they deal with power. Democracy is different from other forms because the place where the power is, is empty. There is no person or object that embodies the power. People just pass through the place of power, objects lose their symbolic significance when not used. Everyone knows the emperor has no clothes, but that doesn't hurt at all, simply because there is no emperor to begin with.
Children around the Speaker's seat in the Swedish Parliament
Today we saw that demonstrated before our eyes.When we walked through Stockholm today we passed the Parliament and saw a poster indicating that today was open house. We entered the building on a spur and within minutes we stood in the plenary room, playing around with the Speakers hammer. Children were playing Speaker, their parents taking pictures. A couple had themselves photographed making out between the MP's benches. How different from the struggle to fill the void Yasser Arafat left behind when he lay dying in a Paris hospital. Or can you imagine two random teenagers walking in from the street having themselves pictured kissing in the Oval Office or in the US Senate speaker's chair?
the Speaker's hammer
In the rooms around the plenary hall different parliamentary commissions actively engaged citizens into conversation about different topics. We chatted briefly with MP Ingvar Svensson about Sweden's place in the EU and how the people rejected the Euro in a referendum. After having a look in the former plenary room, we left and continued on our way. The Swedish sovereign power not the least tainted by the fact that we played around with it's symbols for a while.
Elmine taking a seat in Parliament
The urn used in Swedish Parliament for personal secret ballots. Note how this important artefact is a playfull object of art, depicting the islands on which Stockholm is build, with the Parliament as the red bridge. The Kingdom's golden apple on top.
We enjoyed our little stroll through Stockholm1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Personal Knowledge Management? Workshop at KM Europe
We expected around 20 people, we got around 50, around 30 of which joined us for dinner at the Rembrandtplein. Judging by the numbers the PKM? (the question mark indicating the exploratory character) workshop Lilia, Piers and I organized for KnowledgeBoard.com was a success. But as anyone familiar with KM it's often not the numbers that tell the story. The very flattering statements by participants, the comments I got the next day, did that. Like Tessy Bezuidenhout who said that it was the workshop that made her feel good about spending the money to get to Amsterdam from South Africa, unlike most of what she had seen at the conference. Or like those of many others who were glad to finally have a chance of adding their own stories to the conversation.
To create a truly interactive atmosphere we used the Open Space format, which I got to know in the Medinge Group and learned to use at the Blogwalk meetings.We started the afternoon with several teasers, that served as conversational hooks:
Florian, Martin and Piers while we were preparing for the workshop
Piers talked about how PKM is nothing new, it's part of everybody's work, it is more about groups than individuals, and we shouldn't discount strategic decisions not to share/be nice
Lloyd talked about the role of emotions, especially fear, in change processes
Martin talked about the tools we would need, and how to span the bridge between the individual and the organisation
Florian Heidecke came with a specific case, involving mobile salesmen
Heiko Haller, psychologist by education, technologist by trade, spoke about reducing cognitive overhead (reducing the number of conscious acts needed to carry out a task. For instance compare the amount of conscious effort between walking and dealing with proxy problems to write and send an e-mail.) He explained his interest in visualization tools/approaches in this area.
And I talked myself about how PKM builds on the notion of taking responsibility for ones own life and actions. And that taking responsibility means taking an activist stance about changing your environment or your world.
During Lilia's introduction at the workshop
We then proceeded into conversations, with results being captured on sticky notes. Martin Dugage and Florian Heidecke spent some time teasing out the patterns in the results, and naming them. We rounded of with a general discussion which for a large number of people carried over into the tram to the city center and on to dinner.
Thanks to everyone present for making it such a worthwile event, thanks to the KB team, especially Anne Jubert, Sami Kaze, Sari Ehrlich and Ed Mitchell for making it possible in the first place, and thanks to the Ark Group people for providing us with logistical support.
Oh, and I also got acquianted with John Curran, who described himself as a Knowledge Activist, which was a nice parallel to my teaser at the workshop. He recently started blogging at A Compound of Alchymie.1 Comments and 3 Trackbacks | Permalink
BlogWalk Five: Howard Rheingold
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In Umea, enjoying a seminar, workshop and conversations with Howard Rheingold, and now having a BlogWalk session reflecting on it.
At KM Europe
Despite attempts by the national railservice to get to Amsterdam, I am now at KM Europe.
Blogging from the only corner of the conference hall where there is free wifi, a discovery by Martin who kindly shared the info with us, it is time to get the conversations started.
More this evening when returning home.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
KM Europe 2004
Next week KM Europe will take place in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So that those of you who will be there as well can find me I am posting my schedule for the conference here. I am keeping the number of events I will be visiting during the conference to a minimum this year, in order to have plenty of time for conversations and meeting people.
Monday Nov 8th:
From 14:00 - 18:00, available for conversations
Tuesday Nov 9th
9:00 - 15:00, available for conversations
15:00-18:00, facilitating KnowledgeBoard workshop on Personal Knowledge Management (also see the PKM-wiki for who's coming, and the intended format, you're invited!)
18:00-21:00, dinner with workshop attendants and whoever wants to join
Wednesday Nov 10th
10:00-12:30, available for conversations
12:30-16:00, workshop by CoP Kenniscirkel on Stakeholder Knowledge Management (organised and facilitated by my own company Proven Partners)
16:00-18:00, available for conversations
I will have to leave the conference around 18:00 to catch my flight to Stockholm for a Howard Rheingold workshop and BlogWalk meeting in Umea.0 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink