Where Next For Social Media

Technology is no longer something to be feared or avoided – it’s part and parcel of how we live our lives in the 21st century, and it provides us with unprecedented opportunities to understand the world in which we live, and to tap into the collective wisdom of our fellow human beings. It’s good to be alive!

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A session I recently presented for the London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE) Conference.

A look at some of the current and emerging trends around social media, social networks and collaborative technology. We’ve transitioned from the industrial paradigms of the 20th century to a new age full of opportunities for shared knowledge and learning. But it’s an increasingly complex world and we need to be able to adapt and change if we are to make the most of our opportunities. Technology is no longer something to be feared or avoided – it’s part and parcel of how we live our lives in the 21st century, and it provides us with unprecedented opportunities to understand the world in which we live, and to tap into the collective wisdom of our fellow human beings. It’s good to be alive!

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Reflections: Online Information Conference 2011

Pretty exhausting, incredibly insightful and hugely enjoyable: that would sum up my three days as Chairman of this year’s Online Information Conference 2011, held at the Olympia Conference Centre between 29th November and 1st December. The last time the event will be run at this venue, but more about that later.

It was impossible to be everywhere and hear all of the presentations, so my reflections are by necessity limited to what I personally heard, saw or facilitated. To provide some overall context, the conference provided a forum dedicated to learning, debate, professional development, technology reviews and assessments, expert discussion and case-study presentations on what I would broadly describe as the ‘Information Professions”. There were four themed tracks:

  • Going mobile: Information and Knowledge on the move
  • Social Media: Exploiting knowledge in networks
  • Building a framework for the future of the information profession
  • New frontiers in information management
  • Search and Information Discovery

The conference opened with a keynote presentation from Craig Newmark on the topic “Effective Social Media: Past, Present and Future”.

Craig is possibly best known as the founder and inspiration behind Craigslist, the largest online local classifieds and community moderated forum service in the world. He modestly refers to himself as a “Customer Service Manager’ for Craigslist, which he himself describes as diminishing role. His time is increasingly devoted to his philanthropic efforts, as defined by the Craigslist Foundation (“….a connector to bring together nonprofit leaders, business, government, philanthropy and craigslist community members to take greater responsibility for where they live, play and work”), and the recently launched Craigconnects (“Using technology to give the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power”).

Craig covered quite a lot of ground in his presentation, from the earliest examples of “social media” as defined by Gutenberg, Luther and the role of the printing press in achieving massive social change, to today’s use of social media and the internet to engage with and connect people and groups with similar interests.

His focus is now very much on the nonprofits sector, where he spends about 60 hours of his working week. He referred to the scope and depth of the nonprofits sector as a “sea of help”, but pointed out that many of these people and organisations need help themselves in making more effective use of social media. He identifies Craigconnects as being a “hub”,  helping nonprofit organisations that have similar aims and objectives to connect and collaborate together. He also sees social media as a way of getting more people involved in legitimate nonprofits, and to maybe identify the fake nonprofits, i.e. those that spend most or all of their income on themselves.

Another key theme to emerge from Craig’s keynote was the issue of fact-checking in the news business.  Craig was keen to emphasise that he was not a journalist or an expert in the news industry, but felt that the disinvestment in investigative reporting and fact-checking had eroded the trust in news media. Craig was no doubt referring to the US press, but it seems to me there is some resonance on the issue of trust with the UK press, as reported via the Leveson inquiry . In fact, “trust” was a recurrent theme in both Craig’s keynote, and the keynote for the second day of the conference by Rachel Botsman (see later reference), and as Craig noted: “Trust was the new black”.

The key elements of the fact-checking debate is described in more detail in this article by Craig, recently published in the Huffington Post.  However, perhaps more memorable and particularly poignant is one of Craig’s remarks I noted from his keynote: “The press should be the immune system of democracy”.

A pre-conference podcast by Craig is available from the Online Information website.

Rachel Botsman was the keynote speaker on the second day of the conference. Rachel is a social innovator who writes, consults and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through current and emerging network technologies, including how it will transform business, consumerism and the way we live. She is the co-author with Roo Rogers of: What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. TIME magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption “One of the top 10 ideas that will change the world.”

Rachel is based in Australia and couldn’t be with us in London, so we had a 35-minute video that Rachel had produced especially for the conference, followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers via a live link-up with Rachel in Australia.

The keynote was broadly based on the book (a highly recommended read). It gives a stark perspective of western societies’ 40-year addiction to hyper-consumerism, and the impact this is having on people, society and the planet’s resources. The key question is whether we can continue as we are for the next 40 years or more, or whether we have to consider other economic models. I’m guessing that the broad vote is for the latter, which is why we’re witnessing the explosive growth of what Rachel refers to as “Collaborative Consumption”

Collaborative Consumption is the process of sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting and swapping, reinvented and massively scaled using internet and social network technologies. Rachel described three main systems:

Product Service Systems

Based on the idea of paying for usage of a product without needing to own the product outright.  Car sharing or bike sharing are typical examples. Witness the huge success of bike sharing schemes such as London’s Barclays Bike Hire.

Redistribution Markets

Redistribute used or pre-owned goods from where they are not needed to someone or somewhere where they are. Examples of this type of market  include Freecycle and Craigslist .

Collaborative Lifestyles

It’s not just physical goods that can be shared, swapped and bartered. People with similar interests are forming groups to share and exchange assets such as time, space, skills and money.  Examples include The Tuttle Club ,  The Cube and Landshare.

Rachel was keen to emphasise that these new and emerging peer to peer (P2P) models, utilising the power and reach of the internet and social networks to massively scale, can and will co-exist with the traditional business to consumer (B2C) services. Though there is evidence that some B2C corporates are adapting their services to deliver the same sort of flexibility offered by the P2P market. For example BMW’s recently announced car sharing scheme.

Rachel’s video included a few case studies of how “micro-entrepreneurs” are creating products and services by renting selling or trading “idling time” – i.e. the time that a product or service is not being used. This could be the car that sits on the driveway for 22 hours out of every 24, the spare room that only gets used when there are visitors, or that power-drill in the tool cupboard that has only been used for 3 minutes. Services such Airbnp (room renting), Zipcar (car renting) or TaskRabbit (paying for someone to do a chore) were all mentioned. Rachel had asked the founders of TaskRabbit what was the most requested task. The answer – perhaps unsurprisingly – was assembling IKEA furniture! So, if there are any budding IKEA experts reading this – get yourselves registered on TaskRabbit and start earning some extra money!

Inevitably the issue of “trust” came up, as in who would we trust to drive our car, or stay in our house? Evidence from the many P2P services that have sprung up over the past two years would indicate that broadly speaking, people are good and considerate and that there have been very few instances of theft or vandalism (though not to trivialise the impact this may have had on the victims). Rachel went on to say that we will increasingly come to rely on our “Reputation Capital”, as an indicator of trust when transacting products and services in this emerging (and potentially huge) P2P market.

Reputational Capital might typically be defined or influenced by our engagement with online and offline communities and marketplaces. As such (and as I noted in my closing remarks), we’re increasingly familiar with “social media”, “social networks” and “social business”, we now need to seriously consider “social reputation”, i.e. how we act and behave online. Our own Reputational Capital will be a valuable commodity that we all need to nurture and protect as we become increasingly reliant on the internet as a marketplace.

I’m not sure if Craig or Rachel will be reading this blog, but if they are, grateful thanks from me, the organising committee and the delegates for your excellent and inspiring keynotes.

In the interest of brevity, I will limit the remainder of my reflections on the overall three days of the conference to a few bullet points. These are based on my personal observations or comments from the delegates.

  • There was a huge volume of “tweets” on Twitter – more than I’ve seen at any previous conference. The conference hashtag was #online11. Twitter was used by the conference delegates to share what they were hearing and seeing, and as a channel for raising questions to the presenter (there was a Twitter Moderator at all of the sessions to ensure any questions were picked up and answered).
  • We wanted to encourage more interaction with and between delegates at this conference. There was a “speed networking” event, facilitated by FutureGov Consulting and utilising the Simpl.co website for submitting new ideas or offers of help. This didn’t quite go as planned, mainly because it was scheduled against too many other events. A lesson learnt for next time.
  • Some great audience participation at the “Essential Competence – Demonstrating Value” session facilitated by Ian Wooler and Sandra Ward, where delegates were given real coins of the realm (pennies) to vote on a range of options for measuring the value of information and knowledge services. All of the coins were returned afterwards (clearly an honest crowd!).
  • David Gurteen ran one of his eponymous Knowledge Café’s. It was well attended and we received some good feedback. Speaking to a few delegates afterwards I was just slightly surprised that none of them had previously attended a Knowledge Café – which is a fairly well-established process for encouraging conversations and networking. At least they will now be able to take this process back to their respective organisations. Some photos from the Knowledge Café.
  • The was a lot of interest in the “Going Mobile” track. Maybe these statistics from a recent article in The Wall go some way to explaining this:
    • 35% of UK mobile users access social networking sites on their phones (European average is 23%)
    • Mobile social networking use in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK nearly doubled in the last year, with 55m mobile users accessing Facebook, Twitter, etc., in September alone.
    • 26% of mobile social networking users reported receiving coupons, offers, or deals on their phones.
    • Growth in the number of mobile users accessing social networks on a daily basis has surpassed the growth of total mobile social networking adoption
    • 71% of the European mobile social networking audience, accessed Facebook via a mobile device in September—the largest mobile audience of any social network—and an increase of 54% in the past year.
    •  47% of UK mobile users are using smartphones (European average is 40%)
    • 45% of the UK mobile users are using apps, (European average 35%).
  • There was a lot of interest in “Big Data” (part of the New Frontiers in Information Management Track). I moderated a number of these sessions, and came away with the impression that there is a lot of ‘activity at the coal-face’ in this field, but still relatively few examples of how business or user value is being created or delivered. For me, still on the hype curve, but some promising developments on the horizon.
  • Digital content (presentations, video, audio) from the conference is gradually being uploaded to the Online Information website and a live stream at Wavecastpro – so keep an eye out for new content appearing.

I’ll just round this off by mentioning that next year Online Information will be moving to a new venue at ICC London at ExceL, scheduled for 4-6 December 2012. This offers state of the art conferencing facilities, a much improved delegate experience, and better integration between the conference and exhibition elements. Something to look forward to in 2012.

I hope those who that attended the conference found it as informative and exhilarating as I did – I await to see the feedback with some anticipation.

For anyone else, I hope this brief summary might give a taster of what it was all about, and perhaps you might be tempted to attend next year’s event.

Until next year – have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!

Stephen Dale

Chairman, Online Information Conference 2011.

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Online Information Conference 2011

I was pondering the imminence of this year’s this year’s Online Information Conference (29 Nov to 01 Dec) and was reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln: The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time”.

Is it really almost a year since the last conference? Where has the time gone, and has life changed that much? We’ve seen the ‘Arab Spring’ and the riots in the UK; two sides of a coin that shows how social media can be exploited for both good and bad. We’ve also seen the rise and rise of mobile platforms and mobile apps; new digital publishing models that offer consumers a new experience when reading e-books or newspapers; the launch of (another)  new social networking service, this time  from Google (Google plus);… and so much more.

I hadn’t appreciated until taking on the role of Conference Chairman (this my second year) quite how challenging it would be to predict what impact the various technical, product and service innovations would have on the information profession. Add politics, policies and emerging standards into the mix and you begin to appreciate the difficulties in ensuring that we’re on topic for an event that gets planned many months in advance.

However, and with only a hint of bias, I think we (that is the Conference Committee) have got it pretty much spot-on for this year’s conference.

We have two internationally recognised keynote speakers in Craig Newmark and Rachel Bosman.

Craig will share what he has observed by government, not for profits, and NGOs using social media, as well as lessons learned from Craigslist. Called “The Wizard of the Local” by Time Magazine, Craig was named in its “Time 100”. He was named Person of the Year at the 9th Annual Webby Awards in 2005, and BusinessWeek named him one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

Rachel is a social innovator who writes, consults and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through current and emerging network technologies, including how it will transform business, consumerism and the way we live. She is the author of: What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. TIME magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption “One of the top 10 ideas that will change the world.”

The 2011 conference will once again provide a forum dedicated to learning, debate, professional development, technology reviews and assessments, expert discussion as well as case-study presentations and the sharing of research results and opinion. The tracks at this year’s event will cover:

  • Going mobile: Information and Knowledge on the move
  • Social Media: Exploiting knowledge in networks
  • Building a framework for the future of the information profession
  • New frontiers in information management
  • Search and Information Discovery

Just picking out a few of the highlights, we’ll be looking at the world of “Big Data”. Gartner Research predicts that data will grow 800 per cent over the next five years, with 80 per cent of it being unstructured. Unstructured information is Big Data. It’s that simple. We also have sessions that examine what the industry is doing with structured data, and particularly products, services and apps that use open and linked data.

I’m anticipating there will be a lot of interest this year on the “Going Mobile: Information and Knowledge on the move” track theme. Sales of mobile devices (phones, tablets etc.) are now outstripping the traditional desktop PC. With more and more mobile business apps being developed, breaking the shackles of the office environment is now a real option.

This year we will also be experimenting with a few activities to encourage more delegate engagement and interaction, with a Gurteen Knowledge Café, a business ‘speed dating’ activity facilitated by FutureGov, and maybe an on-line game or two.

However, it’s not possible to do justice to the depth and range of topics, presentations, expert insight and networking opportunities in this brief posting. You really need to be there to benefit from the full experience, and perhaps gain new perspectives on the information industry and the changing role of the information professional. Can you afford to miss it?

I hope to see you there. In the meantime, if you have a few minutes to spare, Richard Wallis from Talis did a podcast interview with me about this year’s event.

Stephen Dale

Chairman, Online Information Conference 2011

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Information Management: Evolution or Revolution?

What is the future for the Information Professional? ‘Big Data’, open data, linked data, data visualisation, social technology.  Data and information is coming at us from all directions and in a variety of formats. Are we managing all of this, or is it managing us? This presentation, recently given to the Information Management Directorate of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office is a small peak at a huge topic and is aimed at providing a broad perspective of the (information) changes happening around us, and the challenges (opportunities) they present.


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Surviving and Thriving as a 21st Century Knowledge and Information Professional

matrix_5 small

The above named article has been published in the most recent issue of Business Information Review. Regretably, under the terms of agreement I signed with the publishers (Sage), I’m not allowed to post the full article here. However, the following is an abstract, and many of the screen shots I used in the article can be found on my Slideshare presentation.

Abstract:

The volume of information continues to grow at an exponential rate; new products, social networks and web services appear almost daily. Government and public bodies are releasing more data for public scrutiny; companies are becoming more radical in the way they create and use information; global news and events reach us in near real time, 24/7. Professional and social networks proliferate. We are awash with data and information. This article describes five simple steps we can take and some of the tools we can use to become more effective in managing and using digital information and the social web for personal learning and development.

I hope that some of you will find this article helpful in equiping you with the tools and processes to better manage the daily information flood!

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LIS Research Coalition – Online Survey

It is now over two years since The LIS Research Coalition was established (see the history page) and a review of its value and impact has been launched.

To encourage a wide contribution to this review, the Coalition has designed an online survey that can be accessed at this link.

The survey will take no more than 15 minutes to complete. It will ask you to comment on your familiarity the Coalition’s work, your assessment of its activities and achievements so far, its value to your work, and your comments on plans for the next 12 months.

As an Information Professional I am pleased to support this review and urge you to respond to this survey, which will remain open until 17.00 on Friday April 8th 2011.

Please encourage your colleagues and networks to respond too.

The review is being undertaken by external consultants Sandra Ward, Beaworthy Consulting and Ian Wooler, IDW Ltd.

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Online Information 2010 – countdown

online information 2010

I’m privileged to be chairing this year’s Online Information Conference, which starts this Tuesday, 30th November and runs until 2nd December. The conference is linked with the Online Information Exhibition, with over 200 international exhibitors and more than 9,000 attendees from over 40 countries across the globe. The exhibition covers 6 different subject areas: Content Resources, ePublishing Solutions, Library Management, Content Management, Search Solutions and Social Media.

It’s hard to believe that 12 months have elapsed since the previous conference. Where did that time go?

The social media revolution continues apace, with many hundreds of new apps and web services appearing each day. The technology we use at home or in our pockets is often far more advanced than what we use in the workplace. We’re using mobile devices (iPhones, iPads etc.) that give us instant access to the web, and have a choice of literally hundreds of thousands of applications that support our on-line activities and lifestyles – over 300,000 apps for the iPhone alone.

Some commentators have likened the disruptive effects of social computing to the industrial revolution of the early 19th century. The main difference now is that whereas large Enterprise used to lead technology innovation, it’s now being driven bottom-up by users and consumers. We’re now all connected and far more willing and able to share knowledge and co-create.

I’ve lost count of the number of start-ups and services that have been spawned on the back of Twitter, which maybe demonstrates the inherent scalability of the intranet and the web, where potentially millions of users can be supported by a teenager with a PC working from his bedroom. Delivering services with minimal infrastructure is one of the new paradigms of the social web; the threat to traditional red brick business models is no longer confined to their traditional big business competitors, but also lightweight “micro” businesses that use web services to provide scalability and agility.

We’re also seeing a revolution in the use of open and linked data. Driven primarily by the public sector in response to the expectations of citizens for greater transparency in government, which in turn has spawned a whole new breed of Social innovators and armchair auditors. Everyone is now a data analyst. We’ve never had so much data and information to play with.

Coupled with this we have the “Google effect”, with users now expecting almost instant access to information as it happens. Accuracy and objectivity is becoming less important than speed and accessibility.

All of this is driving rapid behaviour change in both society and the workplace. Whether we’ve realized it or not, consumers are now driving the technology revolution and business is trying to keep up.

How are users and business adapting to this changing information and technology landscape? What innovative new products and working practices are emerging from the disruptive effects of these changes? This year’s conference will be looking at all of these issues, with presentations and an insight from some of the industry’s leading thinkers. This year we have four tracks or themes that will look at many of these industry trends and issues:

1. Exploiting open and linked data. Introduced as a track in its own right in 2009 and of growing importance especially in the public sector; open and linked data is creating new opportunities for information professionals and the creation of new information services and products.

2. Harnessing opportunity from the social web and the cloud. Although the use of social media is now mainstream in many organisations there are still barriers and limitations that are preventing the benefits of social media to be fully realised.  This track gets to the heart of the issues with many real world experiences.

3. Information Professionals demonstrating value and impact. In economically straitened times when information services are under scrutiny information professionals need to be able to demonstrate value and impact to justify their existence, focus will be on challenges facing academic libraries and new projects that are using cutting edge technologies to deliver positive bottom line results.

4. New platforms and user behaviours for delivering content. Focusing on using mobile and “the cloud” to deliver information services, how are libraries and organisations using these technologies, what are the opportunities, how will these technologies change the future role of the information professional?

We also have a great line up of speakers, with special mention for our keynote speaker Dion Hinchliffe, an Internationally recognized business strategist, enterprise architect, author, blogger, and consultant on Web 2.0, enterprise architecture and co-author of the book ‘Web 2.0 Architectures‘.

So, I’m hoping that all of the delegates will make the most of this year’s conference. The quality of the papers and presentations submitted to the organizing committee has established a new benchmark, and I for one will be looking forward to attending as many sessions as I can. If you are a regular reader of this blog, or know me in either a social or business capacity, please do come and say “hello”.

Stephen Dale

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The 21st Century Knowledge & Information Professional

The volume of information continues to grow at an exponential rate; new tools, products and web services appear almost daily. Despite the recession, nothing seems to stem the tide of innovation. If anything, the economic climate has enabled companies to be even more radical in the way they create and use information. These are challenging times for the knowledge and information professional. We all need to be able to work smarter, acquiring and developing the skills to become more effective knowledge and information workers.

I appreciate that everyone may have their own systems and methods for finding, categorising and using information; they will probably have their own networks for sharing knowledge and for personal development.  However, for anyone who can’t quite make sense of this increasingly connected digital world, or is bewildered by the volume of data and information that comes their way every day, or maybe feels intimidated by the social web, here are a few pointers to put you in control of the information monster and develop your professional skills.

The Slideshare presentation illustrates 5 steps (processes) described below – that will help you to:

  • develop the filters and lenses to overcome ‘information overload’
  • manage knowledge and information in a more systematic way
  • use ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Social Media’ tools to support personalized learning and self development
  • embrace the world of collaborative knowledge sharing

Step 1 Tune into the interesting stuff

We all have our own definition as to what is interesting, but the key point here is to choose what YOU want to read and listen to and not try to absorb everything on the web. One way of doing this is to subscribe to the RSS/Atom feed from websites and blogs that you visit and which you’ve decided are interesting. Using a feed aggregator (I’ve shown Google Reader) you can categorise the feeds according to various criteria, e.g. type of content, author, source etc. You can also bundle feeds together and re-publish to your own blog or website if you choose (we’ll leave that one for now in the interests of keeping this post fairly simple). The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to treat this as an email in-box. It’s not a task-driven process, so you can read and review at your leisure (and you’ll note there are many feeds/topics I haven’t got around to reading!)

Another option is to set up alerts to trigger an email or update a feed if a particular search term is found. I’ve shown Google Alerts. This enables you to use Google’s mega-index of web pages to discover topics/content that could be of interest. If a match is found on your search term, you will be notified by email (or through a feed, see above) with a link to the relevant web page and a few words extracted from the webpage showing the context. You can decide the frequency you receive these email notifications, e.g. immediately, daily or weekly, and you can define the scope of the search, e.g. everything or news, blogs, videos, discussions.

Step 2 Sharing, Reciprocation and Trust

I’ve long believed that social bookmarking is the foundation to effective knowledge and information management. Bookmarking in itself is a useful way of filing away those useful webpage links that you have found for later use or reference even if not shared (the “social” bit of social bookmarking). It works in much the same way as “Favourites” on the Internet Explorer toolbar, but I’ve shown one of the many bookmarking services that operate in the Cloud or in other words, accessible via a browser and not tied to a particular PC or device. That way you can access bookmarks you saved on your home PC from your works PC, and vice versa. I’ve shown the Delicious bookmarking service, but there are many others, e.g. Diigo, Stumbleupon, Digg etc.

The social element is where you can share bookmarks with friends and colleagues who may have the same interests as yourself. They may spot something you didn’t, which you can add to your own bookmarks. I’ve shown my Network page, displaying the bookmarks my networks of contacts have saved. My network is shown at the top right of the page.

Sharing useful information with colleagues, friends and peers has never been easier. Most websites will have embedded links or a widget which connects to other web services and networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google etc. Quite often all that is needed is one click and the link is shared with other networks that you belong to. Has it ever been easier to share content?

Reciprocation is the process whereby people who you share content with are likely to return the favour and share content they have created or discovered with you. This is really what the social web is all about,  sharing what we know with others.

And so we come to trust – who can you trust? I can’ t remember the source, but someone once said “trust arrives by foot and leaves by horseback”, meaning of course that it takes time to build trust but it is easily lost. We can gain confidence in numbers, e.g. if the vast majority of feedback on – say, Amazon –  is favourable for an item we wish to purchase, then we will tend to trust that aggregated opinion. If only one person gives feedback – good or bad – and we don’t know that person, then we can’t really trust that opinion. However, if we get to know that person and recognise that what they have to say is usually sensible or correct, then we will trust their opinion, and furthermore, will promote that opinion to our followers and friends. So briefly, trust has to be earned.

Step 3 Get Organised

This is a further refinement to the feed aggregation that I mentioned at Step 1. Creating a personal dashboard of information and content will enable you to assemble in one place all of the potentially useful sources you have discovered. I’ve shown iGoogle as an example, but there are other similar services, such as Pageflakes and Netvibes. Any of these will allow you to assemble your own personalised view of various content sources. This can be a mix of RSS/Atom feeds, email applications or pre-configured widgets, such as news, weather maps or currency converters, etc. that you can choose from an application store and just drop into the dashboard. Furthermore, you can share an entire personalised page that you’ve set up with your contacts, i.e. the “social”  element once again.

Step 4 Pick the right tools

Ok, easier said than done. Knowing what the “right” tools are usually involves some experimentation with the tools, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all environment. I’ve started with what is arguably the most important tool in the toolbox – the web browser This is your window into the World Wide Web, with all its millions of services and billions of users. Having a web browser that supports plug-ins is a fundamental requirement for me, since I can then integrate other products and services into the browser and access with one-click. Tabbed browsers are also useful in managing windows real-estate and PC resources, i.e. I don’t need to have several browser sessions active for different WebPages. I’ve shown Firefox, but I also use Google Chrome. Wherever possible I avoid Internet Explorer browsers (a personal thing). However, if you are a public sector worker, you may have no other choice than to use IE6, which effectively hobbles you from the start. It doesn’t support plug-ins or tabbed browsing. It doesn’t even support W3C standards and is without any doubt the worst browser currently in common use. It’s a bit like using a hammer to finely adjust the coil-spring tension on an antique clock!

I’ve shown the Delicious social bookmarking plug-in on the left hand side, which gives me immediate (one-click) access to any page I’ve bookmarked. I also have various bookmarklets installed in the toolbar, e.g. Amplify (a Twitter/Blogging service), again accessible with one click.

Step 5 Connect with Peers and Experts

In other words, grow your network. This could be achieved by joining one of the many social networks (e.g. Facebook), but if your goal is to improve your skills as a Knowledge or Information Professional would advocate joining a special interest group or a Community of Practice. I’ve illustrated the Local Government community of practice platform, but there are many specialist knowledge and information communities, e.g. KM4DEV, CPSquare, etc. I don’t think there is anything wrong in “lurking” on these networks to pick up useful information and to grow your contacts, but the real value comes from getting involved, posting questions, providing answers and just, well, collaborating and sharing knowledge.

So, with apologies to anyone for whom all of this is second nature and a bit basic, but maybe this isn’t aimed at you. I hope it is of some help to anyone who is perhaps just exploring the possibilities of the digitally connected world, or just looking for some help in getting themselves organised as a 21st century knowledge and information professional!


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Thriving as a 21st Century Information Professional

NETIX logo

I will be addressing the Network for Information and Knowledge Exchange (NetIKX) members at their meeting on Wednesday 29th September about the challenges and opportunities facing information professionals in today’s information rich, time poor environment. To some extent this is going back to my roots, having been more closely involved in the dark arts of knowledge management (and specifically on-line communities) these past few years. However, information management and knowledge management are two sides of the same coin, and I’ve always made the connections between them when talking about either.

I quite like simple definitions, so for anyone confused by the terms “information management” and “knowledge management”, here’s a useful pointer:

Information Management is about organising stuff..

..Knowledge Management isn’t!

So, having cleared up any confusion there, I’ll just mention that my presentation to NetIKX will be about organising yourself to become more knowledge aware. The full synopsis (an oxymoron?) of the presentation is as follows:

The volume of information continues to grow at an exponential rate; new tools, products and web services appear almost daily. The recession has hit hard but nothing seems to stem the tide of innovation. If anything, the economic climate has fuelled even greater innovation and allowed companies to be even more radical in the way they use the information tools and platforms now available. These are challenging times for the information professional. We all need to be able to work smarter, acquiring and developing the skills to become more effective knowledge and information workers. The talk/presentation will pinpoint the tools and behaviours that can help us develop and sharpen our skills and embrace the opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing now available. Specifically:

  • how to develop the filters and lenses to overcome ‘information overload’
  • understanding the barriers to engagement and collaboration and how to overcome them
  • how we can break down the information/knowledge silos that exist in the organisation
  • how ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Social Media’ tools can support personalized learning and self development

I will make the slides available on slideshare subsequent to the meeting, but don’t want to spoil any surprises (and there are some) by posting prematurely. Suffice to say I’ve identified five key steps to help information professionals make the most of the information-rich environment we now live in, and how to tap into and connect with the ‘networks of knowledge’ that are fast becoming the fundamental DNA of the social web. On a slightly more provocative note, I will also challenge the perception that we are indeed information rich and time poor; trends over the past several hundred years have given us increasingly more leisure time – it comes down to how we as individuals use this time. Much food for thought!

If any of this stirs your interest or curiosity, come along to the session on 29th September.

A note from the organisers:

If you are a NetIKX Member there is no charge. Non Members are welcome to attend at a charge of £50. If you have not attended a NetIKX meeting before we are offering a reduced fee of £25, refundable if you join, so that anyone interested in joining NetIKX can come along and try us out. join NetIKX now

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Knowledge Hub Advisory Group

The second meeting of the Knowledge Hub Advisory Group took place yesterday, 7th December. ( For some background to the Knowledge Hub see previous posting).

It was regretable that we didn’t get more attendees from local authorities, but those who did manage to attend were involved in some excellent workshop sessions aimed at teasing out their vision for how the Knowledge Hub would deliver efficiency and performance improvements for the local government sector. This was a valuable exercise because we managed to put some flesh and bones onto what has been up until now an abstract concept for many people. Before reporting on the outcomes from the meeting, a brief summary of the terms of reference for the Advisory Group:

The Advisory Group membership will be made up of technical and social innovators and local authority officers each with practical experience in helping deliver Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 solutions within the public sector or workplace, and with experience in cultivating a culture of knowledge sharing and self-development. The Advisory Group will:

  • Provide technical advice and strategic insight for the procurement and development of the technical platform.
  • Identify opportunities and sources for seeding and pump-priming content for the knowledge hub.
  • Provide expert advice in the development of a new ‘knowledge ecology’ for the sector, where the sector can learn from its own experience and where barriers to participative learning can be identified and resolved.
  • Advise on new and emerging knowledge sharing techniques such as social reporting, narrative & storytelling, and development of games for simulation of behaviours.
  • Identify training needs and other support requirements for the sector.
  • Provide on-going help in resolving problems and provide a quality assurance function for the Programme.

The main element of the meeting was a workshop session where delegates worked on two scenarios and my thanks to Ingrd Koehler for making these both challenging and a reflection of the sort of issues facing local authority staff.

Scenario 1

You work with Hubville City Council. You are new to the Youth Offending Team. In a meeting with the Performance Officer in charge of LAA (Local Area Agreement) monitoring and another officer from the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership you discover that councillors are concerned that your area doesn’t look on track to meet a key monitoring figure for its LAA : NI 111 (national indicator) – First time entrants to the Youth Justice System aged 10-17. It’s a single measure, but part of a wider set of priorities about reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour among youth in general – and in some ‘blighted’ communities in particular. You are going to conduct a snapshot review of your current programme and try to identify a network of people who can help you. How will Knowledge Hub help you to: Identify your current performance and compare it with others. Understand how you can track and monitor information which might be related to or influence NI 111 (for example – reported crimes, prosecution rates, NI 117 the number of 16-18 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs))

  1. Know what ‘best in class’ are doing
  2. Identify people locally who are working on similar issues
  3. Identify people across the country who are at the same stage in your improvement journey.
  4. Find resources to help you deliver improvement against NI 111
  5. Share your story and help others find the resources that worked for you.

Map your journey using the paper and materials provided. How will you come into the hub? What will it look like? What data sources do you expect to find? How will you navigate through it? How will you others be able to see and learn from what you’re doing? What ‘new’ data, aggregated data or mashups do you expect to create with the resources you have found? How will you make these new resources available to others?

Use the sheets provided, markers, stickers, etc to draw your map.

Output from Scenario 1

Scenario 2:

You work for Hubville Primary Care Trust. You’ve never worked for local government, but now you’re looking at working with Hubville City Council on a partnership target of reducing: National Indicator (NI) 39 Rate of hospital admission for 100,000 population for alcohol related harm. As well as a serious problem with binge drinking among young people, there is an older workless population with a high incidence of alcohol related illness. This has only gotten worse since the Hubville Automated Industries closed down last year. As people in the council don’t feel the direct financial impact of this indicator you have to work to influence council partners and other local public service, business and voluntary sector partners. You know something about Local Area Agreements and the local strategic partnership, but you’re unsure how to find out all the information you need. How will Knowledge Hub help you to:

  1. Identify your current performance and compare it with others and identify how the council’s performance is contributing to this indicator.
  2. Understand how you can track and monitor information which might be related to or influence NI 39 (for example NI 20: Assault with injury crime rate NI 21: Dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime issues by the local council and police )
  3. Know what ‘best in class’ are doing
  4. Identify people locally who are working on similar issues
  5. Identify people across the country who are at the same stage in your improvement journey
  6. Find resources to help you deliver improvement against NI 39
  7. Share your story and help others find the resources that worked for you.

Use the sheets provided, markers, stickers, etc to draw your map.

Output from Scenario 2:

The key fetaures that surfaced from this mapping process process were:

  1. A central dashboard function, allowing you to choose types of information and subject areas – it would allow you to see what’s new, what’s hot and what’s relevant to you
  2. High levels of personalisation – you can choose your own dashboard – the functions that you want, but at the same time it would help you make links to things you didn’t know existed.
  3. It would allow you to make associations with ‘people like me’ – those who had similar responsibilities in their work – as well as to identify ‘experts’ in different specialised areas. Or be recognised as an expert yourself.
  4. It would make it easy to share your experience and your views – even if you didn’t always know that you were doing so – that is – just the fact that 20 performance officers in a council had downloaded a document would have more weight than if no one had – or that only external consultants had.
  5. It would help central and local government facilitate the development of a community (of interest or practice) around a particular indicator, where the community would define the performance parameters and measurement criteria for the indicator.

We followed this up with a Knowledge Cafe, where we posed the questions:

  • What social media skills are required to navigate and share information and stories of improvement?
  • What’s the best way of explaining what the Knowledge Hub has to offer? (i.e. it’s not just another website)

Outputs from these discussions as follows:

And finally, the wrap-up courtesy of David Wilcox, Social Reporter:

So, grateful thanks to all who attended the meeting and for both arcticulating and mapping out for us what the Knowledge Hub is all about. The next stage is conveting all this into a real product – which is well underway as part of the procurement process. The next meeting of the Advisory Group will be in the first quarter of 2010.

In the mean time, if you’d like to contribute to the conversations around the Knowledge Hub, head over to Social by Social and join the Khub Group.

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