Information strategy: filtering
Last april I wrote about how I read RSS.
I described two main approaches:
One is to simply browse through the feeds to get a feeling of what is going on, what themes are getting attention. To detect patterns. Because I try to see RSS feeds as parts of a conversation (I subscribe to people not feeds), listening to what these voices are telling me, is using my social network as a filter, a community filter. Gossip 2.0, so to speak. In this mode I hardly read any specific postings, and if I blog something because of it, it is triggerd by patterns I see.
The other approach has its starting point in myself. Whatever I am currently working on or interested in, questions I am exploring etc. (such as information strategies right now), trigger reading specific postings, commenting and blogging.
The first approach is based on pattern recognition, and filtering sources through an understanding of their origin and context. Objectivity is replaced by multi-subjectivity to weigh information. Information items do not stand by themselves but are built into social contexts (the experience and attitude of the source are factored into the perceived value of the information), and are only evaluated on an aggregated level. Observed patterns are then categorized as requiring action, requiring observation, or they are ignored. This is very much an outside-in approach and requires awareness of which sources of information I have and purposefully seeking out large numbers of additional sources.
In short in this first approach it is you, the collective of yous, that is my filter. This filter is based on its social characteristics, and it gets better when additional people (that I have some knowledge of: context is needed) are added to it. So this filter thrives on having more information not less. This is the main reason I say that information overload does not exist. In the picture below, all of you are the filter on the left: I see what you think is important for me to see.
The second approach is inside-out oriented and is based on heightened self-knowledge and self-reflection, either as an individual or as a group in terms of (collective) ambition and goals. Here information items are considered by themselves, though imbedded in their social context, based on direct personal or group relevance in guiding action.
In the picture above, I am the filter on the right: I look at all that comes at me, and pick-up on what is relevant for me now. Other stuff might get filed. One of the important actions to take is sharing.
Sharing parts of the outcome of these two types of filtering (you and me) with all of those that include me as a source of information is a key element of your overall information strategy. This is what creates feedback loops. Because what works as filtering for me, works the same way for you. See the picture below.
Now if at least part of your input channels, have your output as input as well, we create feedback loops. Feedback are an important factor of the emergence of patterns. This way sharing helps to sustain and strengthen my own ability for pattern recognition, it reinforces the power of my filtering. There is one caveat though: if all the inputs to both our filters are too much alike, we end up in an echo-chamber of our own making. So that is something you have to do a reality check on every now and then. Self knowledge, the filter that is me on the right hand side, is what helps you prevent your outside-in filter becoming the wall of your echo-chamber.
(The original filter picture I drew during a great conversation with my good friend Patrick last August in Switzerland. Apart from being a bright guy to talk to, he also makes a terrific Swiss cheese fondue)2 Comments and 5 Trackbacks | Permalink
System Upgrade to MT 3.2.
In the past days I experienced errors in my anti-spam plugin by Jay Allen on my old MT installation. Turns out that the blacklist of spammers to filter on became too long. The original blacklist plugin stores all blacklisted entries in one database record, which over time becomes too long. Newer blacklist versions have that solved but require a newer version of Moveable Type.
Bottom line: Adding three new domains to my blacklist turned into buying and installing Moveable Type 3.2.
Upgrading went without a glitch.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
The Patchwork Portal
For a small but energetic business development network of 9 core-members that I'm part of I have over the past months been privately experimenting with putting different pieces of social software together to build a platform for collaboration and exchange. As proof of concept that you can build extensive platforms from these readily available building blocks and with an eye to be able to provide communities with a complete platform against basically no software or licensing costs.
I have patched together a Wikka wiki, two Wordpress weblogs and a Simple Machines forum (SMF). Through single sign-on members have access to most of the wiki, the forum, and an internal blog. A small part of the wiki serves as public website, and is complemented with a second public blog. As we are still working on the design, and most of the platform is shielded from the public anyway I'm not inclined to link to it yet, but I wanted to share the basic set-up:
basic set-up of the platform
The public part serves as the face to the world of course. The non-public parts are accessible to members and invited guests on a project-basis. Wiki-pages are for dialogue, projects, collaboration, documenting, news and other functions concerning the ongoing activities within the network. The internal blog is the place to share stories and interests that do not connect to current activities but members think might well become projects or relevant themes for the group. The forum is used for discussion, and decision making processes (where wiki pages would be less suited). Stuff within the wiki that is ready for public use can easily be moved out of the community part of the platform by altering the access rights for that page. This creates an easy flow from the shielded parts to the open parts.
The different parts are linked to eachother by using CamelCase plugins, and interwiki-like features. Furthermore I rely heavily on Magpie RSS within the platform, and RSS, delicious, Flickr and tagging to draw in members content from elsewhere into the shielded space. This adds to the feeling of activity and energy in the space. Over time I hope to blur the lines between the building blocks more and more so members see only one platform. The first step on that path will be a uniform styling for it all.
I am not a coder, but a knowledge management adviser. But I like tinkering with code to understand tools better. Most of this platform is done by crude hacking on my part and extensive code borrowing from development communities, to which both Wordpress and Wikka lend themselves very well (though SMF less so, as the code seems way more complex to me) through either plugins for Wordpress or so called actions for Wikka. Kudos to those that keep contributing effort and code to these projects!
For the current members of this platform I imagine it has been a roller coaster ride, as the majority of them were not familiar with using these type of tools at all or on such a scale. Part of our group efforts therefore are directed towards helping eachother to create a working personal information flow in which this platform is but one of the input and output channels. So ways to coordinate your personal input, processing and output of information have been part of the agenda in building this platform.
We did a workshop in May in Amsterdam, and will do one next week at our place. [UPDATE: have done a workshop] One of the take-aways for me is that my ability for choosing the right output channel has increased, especially in choosing the right level of openness and privacy and the right posting context. This by switching between public- group- and private places to post, and still being able to keep it all traceable and accessable for myself. (Not like posting it somewhere and then forgetting it's there)
during the Amsterdam workshop
Missing piece of the puzzle
One of our main wishes for now is to include CRM-like features that offer the linking functionality that social networking platforms have. I can imagine we might want to include harvested FOAF files into that dynamically as well. If any of you have any tips or suggestions towards such a CRM functionality that can contain not only information but the social networks of people as well I would be happy to hear from you. So that I can keep patching the patchwork portal.
Life Online and Privacy
Lilia has a well written posting about privacy after a funny find in my and her referrer logs.
She ends with:
a lot of my life is online, but you'll have to read the whole story to discover
Exactly. My life is not a secret. I decided it should be that way shortly after I first got on line daily some 15 years back and realized the traces I left. It is all out there for all to see. But you have to care (one way or another) to find out.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Why is it that the northern most city of our country is suddenly in the top ten of most popular searches in Technorati?
Something happened that I and local newsmedia missed? Viral marketing? A Groningen in Louisiana? Or a Technorati malfunction (gotta admit it is more entertaining than the usual 'Sorry we could not process your request' we get these days 9 times out of 10)
4 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
I am deeply disturbed by the images coming out of the USA this week.
The sheer despair and suffering of the people involved, to which my thoughts go out, are certainly the main point but not what makes me worrisome. Worrying are the tales of systemic failure this tells:
I know from personal experience in my hometown that when disaster strikes that general confusion, disorder, anger, and fear are to be expected and unpreventable, that communication and other infrastructure breaks down initially. It is the way people respond to that that is the most telling. Disasters can strengthen well functioning communities, by providing common cause, and generating feelings of deep solidarity. We saw that here, when our city was in flames in 2000. People and authorities alike started doing a myriad of little things that helped work towards dealing with a situation none could face alone.
In contrast the impression I get from US authorities is that they seem to think that they are the only ones that could and should deal with it, even though mistakes are made, refusing to build on the feelings of solidarity from their own citizens and the international community. As if they themselves are not part of the community but outside it, supposedly guarding it, the archetype of the benevolent despot. Every toddler goes through a phase where it refuses help by saying "I can do that alone". I have been watching a lot of uniformed and pin-striped toddlers this week on tv, and it is reminiscent of how the US Government succeeded in turning the world's outpouring of sympathy and help after 9/11 into alienation, irritation and down-right anger in mere months. Except this time they're doing it to their own citizens.
In my KM experience the aftermath of the hurricane so obviously runs contrary to everything I know and have experienced concerning communities, that I don't know where to begin how to list and explain them rationally or list the symptoms and examples of it from the past week. The current chaos and suffering are not entirely the consequence of natural disaster, but the telling and horrific result of systemic weakening of community and societal structures. Rot at the core spreads outwards. In the past days we have seen how human capital has been carelessly squandered in the US, apparantly for years already.
I am in no position to judge the US people (even if it were possible to do that in sweeping generalization) and the leadership they choose for themselves, but I am in a position to look at a situation from my professional experience, which is what I try to do here.
Of course there are also much more positive examples to be found, of acts of individuals that show humanity in the face of disaster. Quite a number of Tsunami relief effort alumni among them, as far as on-line responsiveness is concerned. Thing is, in our societies and communities we build structures and governments for that purpose as well. These structures have failed here, and in instances appear to have made matters worse, much worse.
Meanwhile US blogs are starting to call the flooded regions Lake George, which seems to be the proper caption for this systemic failure of community. The buck ultimately stops there. Or at least it should. Those who've been calling George Bush ' American Nero' in the past days on their blogs seem to think it won't.2 Comments and 4 Trackbacks | Permalink