Tech News

Given that Fairfax reporters are on strike, I figure here's my chance to fill the gap by recycling old news and presenting it as something that has just happened. Shame the KM front is a bit dull - other than the exciting news that the actKM08 conference just put out it's program and call for award submissions.

So here's some interesting technology tidbits I've picked up:

Windows 7 is moving ever closer to its eventual release, and you can track its progress on the new Windows 7 blog.

Windows 7 is the follow-up to everyone's favourite slow-moving target Vista, and is hoped to be the equivalent of 2000/XP, against Vista being the equivalent of the almost universally derided Windows ME. I have to say, I am actually quite fond of Windows ME - and not just because the ME OS-tan is so cute. I still have - and use - ME, and if offered the choice between ME and Vista, I'd choose the former, although I think Vista does cop more flak than it deserves (it still deserves quite a lot though). Still, there are some interesting KM asides in it that I will get to soon.

Apple is almost to be launching a new-look iPod nano (plus a revised Touch) and dropping the price of some of its non-iPhone range

Every so often I toy with the idea of picking up an iPod or an iPhone. Aside from the "cool and new" factor (which is significant), I keep going back to not needing one. I get around not having said funky device with other funky devices - a Nokia n95 and a Sony PSP. Convergence means a lot of the functions of these devices overlap, but the iPhone can't give me anything that I can't get from either, except maybe iTunes - and I'm not losing any sleep over not further supporting that DRM juggernaut. Still, the number of times my phone has died because I've used the mp3 player at the gym means I might still consider it. I'll see if the new range rocks as much as Apple claim over the next 24 hours, and Speaking of the old PSP...

New PSP is due in October

The new PSP is due in October, for what its worth - that's a hell of an under-rated piece of hardware, IMHO. I'm watching movies on it all the time (well, all the time I'm not playing games on it). I've got a MicroSD to MS Pro adapter plugged into it, which gives me an additional 4Gb of memory for about A$20 whenever I need it. 4GB is very handy - that's about 5 albums, an entire series of Doctor Who, and 2 or 3 movies on hand whenever I need them. Whenever I feel deprived about not having an Apple Something, a quick dip into Syphon Filter, Final Fantasy or God of War usually brings me around. Shame about the battery life.


actKM08 - Conference Program Available

The actKM08 – Managing for Competitive Advantage conference program is now available from the actKM website. I know this of course, because I was the one that put it on the website – although this doesn’t explain why its taken me near 24 hours to post about it – that has more to do with the vagaries of the life expectancies of wheel bearings.

Anyway, after the (almost surprising) success of last year’s conference, great things are expected this year, especially with the line up of presenters including Dave Gurteen, Dave Snowden, Dave Williams, as well as KM practitioners and theorists who aren’t named “Dave”. Also expect a lot of “2.0” in some for or another – Web 2.0, World 2.0, KM 2.0, etc. I wonder if all the 2.0 will ever get out of beta testing, although my perspective is that good 2.0 is almost synonymous with beta testing, since continuous improvement and refinement is always part of it.

Also at the conference will be the actKM Awards, which recognise excellence in knowledge-based work. Last year's winner was a real cracker, and a great anodyne to the focus on 2.0 and technology (remember, this is ME saying that!). The awards are open to any Australian organisation, and the process and criteria for nominations is available here. If you’ve been doing something and would like to get the word out, you should have look.


Google now acknowledge humans have feet

One of the biggest bugbears I've had with using Google Maps is the - not entirely illogical - assumption that you go everywhere by car. Its a real disadvantage when you look at getting directions off the thing when you want to go by foot, and has been the one clear advantage that whereis.com.au has (aside from the fact that I think whereis is marginally more accurate). For this reason alone, I've been reluctant to use Google Maps as a primary resource for map directions.

Well, Google look to finally have gotten around to this, with the addition of getting walking directions. This is especially handy in cities where you get a lot of one way streets that make no difference if you're on foot. This - combined with the ability to customise and personalise multiple maps and locations, probably gives GM the edge now. It’s just creepy that they know where I live!


knols are stupid and confusing - and that's good news

You know, I started deriding knols because they had such a stupid (and to me, mildly offensive and potentially dangerous) tagline. I now find myself defending the effort, even though my POV is the same.

I've got to applaude Google for at least muddying waters that have been in danger of clearing, in terms of "authoratative" answers from wikipedia. What I like about the knols is that you can have the same thing defined multiple times, and so don't get the single answer that wikipedia appears to the average Web-Searcher.

The single answer is what most non-professional searchers are looking for, and the mirage of its existence scares me frankly. I don't have so high an opinion of most searchers that I think that they'll see the wikipedia entry come up in their search, click on it, read it, have the answer they need, and then go looking for more details that will make the answer less clear. Why would they? The same people know that a healthy diet will make them live longer, yet Hungry Jacks still exists!

I still think there are some fundamental flaws with the knol model, such as the option to earn revenue by placing ads against an entry. Also, it re-raises the question of how you can provide content as well as search content independently (Yahoo! Answers, anyone). Still, to me knols are trying to present an information landscape that is closer to reality, by making simple answers harder to get. Its not an intrinsically bad idea, any more than Yahoo! Answers or wikipedia are. Maybe the goal should be to force those 3 resources to be at the top of any search, regardless of the engine.

Legal Implications of Gathering Competitive Intelligence

From the world of competitive intelligence, comes this interesting bit
of speculation from the US
. It seems that there are concerns
about the legal liability of a firm in relation to any competitive
intelligence activities they undertake. I've been doing some work on CI
lately - in particular looking at using narrative to extract CI held
internally. (One thing that this does is make you a little bit paranoid
about things like blogging - what competitive intelligence might I give
away by talking about competitive intelligence. I can see how major
intelligence agency stuff can become so nutty. )

I've always thought that he really tricky legal implication might be the
'human intelligence' - the stuff you gather from people in the field. To
me, this is where the real wealth is, and where you are going to get the
legally questionable stuff if you undertake work to gather, analyse,
distribute, and act on it. Such an activity carries the inherent risk
that a bit of info gets passed around that really shouldn't have. Of
course, this is nothing new, but the use of narrative techniques to
gather this kind of information means that it is more likely to be
recorded and retrievable - I mean, that's the whole idea. And a
conversation that has been transcribed and stored on a hard drive is
much harder to deny any knowledge of (makes me wish that the briefings
to Howard Government ministers on SIEV-4, children overboard, and AWB to
name a few where undertaken using a narrative approach).

Previously though, I've had less concern around the stuff that's
publicly available because it's publicly available. A lot of the
information isn't overly useful on its own, and requires a lot of
gathering and analysis activity before it becomes intelligence. The
implication now is that the act of knowingly gathering this information
for purposes which are very nearly the antithesis of what it was
provided for - instead of selling a service, the information is being
used to guide a competitor on how to beat them to a sale - could be
illegal under current US laws. That makes a trick area of work just that
little bit trickier.


Knowledge - Now measurable thanks to Google

Sorry, just have to say something about this

Apparently everyone that has been having trouble with measuring the impact of knowledge sharing practices in the workplace has been looking in the wrong place. Google have announced that they have come up with a measure: the “Knol".

A knol, according to Google, is “a unit of knowledge”. Coincidentally, “knol” is also the name of new blog-like service offered by Google starting today, having just come out of a private beta. A knol differs from a blog (theoretically) in that it seeks to add authority to a blog, by pinning the blog to a single topic, and having knols “rated” by readers

It all sounds a lot like wiki-how, among other things, and I’ll be interested to see how it takes off. I’d try it myself, if I thought I was the authoritative source for anything. Maybe I should invent a topic to be an authority on – it worked for Edward de Bono. No? Oh what the hell - I'll create one on Knowledge Management.

Anyway, now you know how to measure your knowledge programs. When it comes up to performance review time, you can proudly state the “knol” output of your program. If you’re challenged by your manager, just tell them “that’s how Google measure it”. Who can argue with that

Blogging by email isn't as easy as it sounds

Here I am, happily assuming a bunch of recent posts had gone up onto my blog, and when I went in to check today - nada. Looks like I haven't done anything in nearly 2 months. This isn't true - I've only done almost nothing in the past 2 months.

Anyway, I'm going through and putting the stuff up, and back-dating everything to when I wrote the post, because I have no problem with editing my personal history. I've become quite adept at navigating the tricky, somewhat contrdictory path of marrying the differences between retrospective coherence and retrospective cohesion when it comes to my own history. It only has to make sense to me. The Gods help anyone who has to take me through a complex narrative exercise - I have enough trouble being consistent with what I though happened 5 minutes ago.


Ultimate Anecdote Circles

Shawn Callahan of Anecdote has posted an updated version of their “Ultimate Guide to Anecdote Circles”. It’s a great resource for those wanting to facilitate anecdote circle sessions. Very easy to read, and designed for people like me whose eyes tend to glaze over on any business document by about page 2 – just following the skim reading path (First the big print title, then the slightly smaller print orange, then the even smaller print black, and finally stories in very tiny print scattered throughout). If only more textbooks were written that way!


From email to blog - how do I clip?

My last post talked about how to convert an "old" email newsletter/alert (email is so 1990s) into a blog, using Google. I should say that this is out of convenience - I'm reasonably certain you can achieve similar results elsewhere, but I don't think you can treat it as a one stop shop, especially when you factor in my next challenge:

Using the feed from my blog to create a clipping service.

Now, assuming you're doing this from home, there are any number of apps that can achieve this, and I'm not going to make the mistake of recommending one, because the tools I use at home are not good at it. But what if you're trying to do this in a business environment, where you can't install the feed reader of your choice?

My solution came via this blog post. You see, its possible to use a Google Spreadsheet as a feed reader. Its not a very good one for actually reading a feed, but it is good for getting into a format that is easily clipable.

What I needed was a Google Spreadsheet doc with 2 sheets. One sheet is to take the raw feed. A single cell entry is all you need, which will expand across a range of cells to hold different elements of the feed (date, heading, content, tags, etc.). Once this is working, I then use a second sheet that references the cells in the first sheet, taking the elements of the feed I want to clip, and putting them into the format and order I want.

If you're familiar with Excel, this is a fairly straightfoward task, if a little long-winded to set up. The result is, when I want to create an alert out of this, all I have to do is highlight and copy the data from the spreadsheet, and whack it together into an email.

The whole process seems ironic at first - converting a series of email newsletters into a blog, which I then use to convert everything back into an email newsletter. The difference is that I no longer have to go through each email, pull out the useful information from it, and move it into another email. Instead, all I have to do is let the emails build up in my blog, then do a single copy and paste to produce my newsletter. Plus, I can now give people the option: continue with the newsletter and get the info on a regular basis, or subscribe to the newsfeed and get it as it arrives, or do both.

If this is so easy - it took me all up about 8 hours, which included a lot fiddling about getting things looking nice - why doesn't everyone do it? The old fear of losing control of your information? Lets face it, once you email it, you lose control anyway.

I think perhaps its time for some of the more monlithic parts of government to wake up and realise what decade they're in, while they're still in it - they've only got 18 months!