24 July 2008

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.

14 July 2008

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!

2 July 2008

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!

1 July 2008

From email to blog - a painful discovery

What a day! Can you believe that - as the first decade of the 21st century works it way to close (less than 18 months, unless you buy into the 2001-side of the start of the millennium debate) - there are still major government organisations that don't provide an RSS feed of their media releases and site updates? To get this info, you still have to sign-up to the old email newsletter. Now, I have always maintained that a good KM system/tool can be as simple as an email account, but I want a way to keep that email account uncluttered. I also want to be able to clip and blog things I think might be of interest to people, without having to create my own stupid email list.

So today was all about answering the question: How do I turn an email alert into an RSS feed from the user end? It took me about 4 hours to come up with the answer (yes - there is one).

For this answer, I must stand on the shoulders of giants. My thinking was guided by this blog post on the subject. The solution didn't work for me, but it got me thinking in the right direction.

Now, the process for me is convoluted, but works. It involved the following steps:

  1. Create a new Google account

  2. Create a new Gmail account

    • This probably isn't necessary if you want to use an existing account to receive your alerts, but since you've got to create a new Google account and a Blogger blog, you might as well manage it all from the same place

  3. Subscribe to the alerts you receive using your GMail address

  4. Create a Blogger account

  5. Enable your Blog to accept posts via email automatically

  6. Create a Gmail filter for each alert you have subscribed to

    • You can create an autoforward of all emails in one step, but I have this notion of creating multiple alerts in different blogs, so I want to keep the ability to differentiate where emails are forwarded to

  7. In each filter, specify that you want to forward these emails to the email address created by your Blogger account

Voila! Your new blog now posts automatically every email you receive as part of the alert. You can then subscribe to this feed, pass it around, etc.

Those of you familiar with copyright law are probably wondering if we aren't entering into some dangerous water here in regards to republishing content on a third party site, and you are quite right. I have made the feed undiscoverable, however, so it can only be found by people I give the feed to, which salves my conscience a little. I'm also attributing the material back to it's source, and most of the emails are identical to a blog post anyway, since they pretty much all redirect back to the parent site. Still, if the AG comes knocking on my door asking me to not do this anymore, I suppose I will have to comply, and go back to forwarding his emails to other interested parties in an uncontrolled manner.