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Some blog and RSS admin…

One of the more difficult parts of replacing a blog (or, in my case, two) with a new one is how to keep your current readers informed about the change and, ideally, how to keep them subscribed.  Fortunately, FeedBurner has made this easy for me (or would have, if I had paid attention!).

Since my blog 29 Marbles was specific to autism, it was straightforward enough; I simply changed the feed title and the feed details to reflect the autism category feed.  Before I did this, though, I wrote one last post letting my readers know of the change.  I also informed the admins of the sites that aggregate that feed so they could decide if they wanted to continue to include my writing about autism.

It wasn’t quite as easy with No Straight Lines, though in retrospect it should have been.  Due to technical issues, I’m unable to post anything new.  So instead of just switching the feed, like I did for 29 Marbles, I created a new feed.  As Tony pointed out to me a couple of days later, though, no one knew about the new feed (or the new blog, for that matter).  As an interim, I bookmarked my initial post here in delicious.  My delicious feed is spliced into my feed by FeedBurner (thank you, again, FeedBurner), so I figured my subscribers would get the word that way.  And then I finally figured out I should simply update the original NSL feed to point to this new blog.

Lessons learned:  Use FeedBurner (or something similar), it really helps when you need to make changes; don’t forget about your current readers when you make changes; and no matter how well you think you’ve planned ahead, even for something relatively simple, keep in mind that you will always forget or overlook something.

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On the internet, no one knows you’re autistic

When people with autism or other disabilities try to engage in face-to-face communications, it is often made difficult because of a bias, intentional or not, on the part of the other person in the conversation.  Another aspect of the value of social media to autistic people and others with various disabilities is the fact that they are judged not by their appearance nor the quality of their voice, but by what they have to say.

Consider the following excerpt from an autism advocacy blog:

What started the conversation was a person we know offline who has acquired a new condition over the course of the time we have known her. She has always been extreme in both her ableism and her refusal to even contemplate thinking politically about disability, more extreme than most people. Her entire identity has been tied up in the work (paid and unpaid) that she can’t do anymore. And she’s currently mired in some of the worst kinds of self-hatred because she appears to have transferred her bigotry towards disabled people (which she never acknowledged as such, and would probably be insulted by that description, but it’s true) to herself, and is busy thinking of herself as the useless burden on her family that she thinks of disabled people as in general. And she does not even have the solace of understanding disability in a broader sense than her own feelings (that she believes come out of nowhere and are therefore not things she can change), because while she is capable of thinking politically in that way, she fears it and refuses, believing it would make her miserable. There’s nothing I or anyone else can do about this, but I hope one day she’ll realize that the kind of thinking she fears would actually both be closer to reality and make her less miserable and fearful over the long run.

Was that written by a man? Or a woman? Young or old? Black or white?  Disabled , or not?

As someone who spends a lot of time on the phone, e-mail, and IM, it is safe to say that I’ve never met, and will likely never meet, as many as half the people I interact with in the course of a day, week, month. Occasionally, however, I do meet face to face someone I’ve known virtually for a long time. Without fail, my thoughts of what they will be like are completely wrong. (Imagine your favorite radio DJ, then look up their picture online: you’ll see what I mean.)

Unfortunately, the norm in our society is to allow a person’s physical appearance and behavior affect our impressions of that person. In the case of autism, especially what is commonly referred to as ‘low-functioning’, this is especially problematic.

The beauty of social media, and the internet in general, is that your physical appearance doesn’t matter. Your method of communication doesn’t matter (granted, this is mainly because everyone communicates in much the same way online). People accept you – or not – for what you say, for who you are.  Not what they think you should be capable of because of how you look or sound. We can only hope the offline world catches up.

BTW, the excerpt above comes from the Ballastexistenz blog. For an example of someone caught in the act of judging by appearances, check out Kev Leitch’s post If Someone’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix Them.

Most of this post originally appeared  on 27 June 2006 on my blog 29 Marbles.

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Do you have a coach? Do you need a coach?

If you ask a competitive athlete if they have / need a coach the answers will likely range from “Yes” to “Of course” to “Are you kidding?”. If you ask a knowledge worker, or concept worker, the same question the answers will likely range from “No” to “Huh?” to “Are you kidding?” Obviously, the “Are you kidding” answer has very different meanings in the two different contexts.

I’ve often wondered why this is: why is it acceptable, expected even, that athletes have and need coaches but considered a luxury if someone has a work/life coach and actually a detriment – a sign of weakness – if someone wants or needs a work/life coach?

The discussion around a recent question on LinkedIn got me thinking about this again:

Q: If you can’t afford a coach, what are you doing to support your professional growth?
A: I love (?) the assumptive nature of this question: that everyone needs a coach;…  Do professionals need coaches? No, certainly not.

The answer I quote above is just part of one response, but nearly all of the answers (so far) seem to dismiss the idea that a professional coach is desirable or needed.  The alternatives range from talk with friends, study the success of others, and read and continue to develop your knowledge on the subject of your job.

Going back to the world of sports, such an approach would be a sure path to the loser’s circle (unless you are Roger Federer, of course).  What is it about our work as professionals in business that makes us different from the work of professionals in sports?

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Getting the most from LinkedIn

As I’ve started exploring social media a bit more seriously recently, I’ve taken a fresh look at LinkedIn.  Since I first signed up, more and more people I know have started using LinkedIn as well – or at least they’ve signed up.  I’ve also reconnected with a few folks from way back, so that’s been nice.  But I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to make it work for me.

Tony Karrer has given the question quite a bit of thought and has some good suggestions in his post LinkedIn Connection Approach Rethought.  In this post, he looks at his use of LinkedIn using Christian Mayaud’s ideas on Right Sizing your PANs, FANs, and CANs. *  Interestingly, what Tony found is that the LinkedIn recommended approach of only connecting with FANs and CANs really limits the value of LinkedIn. The true value of LinkedIn, at least for Tony, is in building his PANs.

As I described to Lilia in an interview with her last summer, I got to know quite a few people in the KM field through blogging.  However, with few exceptions I didn’t feel that I knew them well enough to request a connection in LinkedIn.  Reading the summary of my interview and Lilia’s collected thoughts on KM blogs and networking in general have “loosened” me up a bit, so that I am connecting with more “casual acquaintances” than before.  (In fact, I finally connected with Lilia just this week!)

Check out this Common Craft video for an example of a practical use of LinkedIn; thanks to Matt Homann for the link to the video.

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From knowledge work to concept work

The nature of knowledge work, and the value of the term itself, is a much discussed question.  See, for instance, this conversation on the nature of knowledge work from earlier this year.  Although I don’t believe that the term “knowledge worker” is irrelevant, I do share Tony Karrers’s unease with the almost generic application of the term:

I’ve often been a little bothered by the fact that we categorize the a person working in a call center handling customer service requests in the same category as an engineer working in R&D – they are both called knowledge workers. That’s not as helpful as it should be.

To make the distinction more useful, Tony prefers the term “Concept Worker”.

That’s why I’m liking the idea of referring to work that involves figuring out unknowns as concept work and the people doing this work as concept workers. This more succinctly and clearly differentiates the issue for me.

I like it, too.  (Except for the “worker” part, of course, but I think we are stuck with that for now.)

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Does social media make you more social?

A common misconception about autistic individuals is that they shun social contact, that they are all introverts.  But in many cases it is simply the means – not the desire -  to be social that eludes them.  Face-to-face, real-time conversation can be difficult, but it is not because their there is no interest in communicating.  Enter social media.

To get an idea of what some autistic individuals have to say, check out the autistic bloggers at The Autism Hub.  These individuals have embraced what blogs have to offer in terms of a way to get their ideas out to the world and to engage in conversation with their readers through the comments.  These same people are also prolific users of social networking sites – such as Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, and even their own Ning communities – to connect with their friends.

I’ve been thinking of this in the context of making use of social media in the enterprise.   One of the problems that many implementations of KM had (have?) is its “mandatory” nature:  “you will contribute to the knowledge store, you will reuse, etc. etc.”    As different as SM is from KM, I see SM in the enterprise facing a similar issue. Just because it is available doesn’t mean that everyone will use it.  Just because social media is a good tool, doesn’t mean that everyone will naturally know now, or want to, use it.  If someone isn’t social by nature, giving them a tool that allows them to be social isn’t really going to help.

In other words, social media doesn’t “make” people more social.  Social media simply provides social people an opportunity to better express their inherent social nature.

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Are Knowledge Management and Social Media at war?

According to Venkatesh Rao in his Enterprise 2.0 Blog post Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War, KM and SM are indeed at war, albeit an undeclared one.  Kind of.

Following a brief history of events that made him come this conclusion, he provides 5 social and 5 technical dimensions of this war:

Social:

  1. Gen X is currently neutral
  2. KM is about ideology, SM is about the fun of building
  3. The Boomers don’t really get or like engineering and organizational complexity
  4. The Millenials don’t really try to understand the world
  5. Boomers speak with words, X’ers with numbers, Millenials with actions

Technical

  1. Expertise locators are not social networks
  2. Online Communities are not USENET V3.0
  3. RSS and Mash-ups are Gen-X ideas
  4. SemWeb Isn’t Next-Gen, it is Last-Gen
  5. SOA and SaaS are Gen X; Clouds are Millenial

By the time I got to the end of the piece, what came across to me was not that the ideas of KM and SM are conflicting, but that the Boomers, Gen-X’ers, and Millenials all have different ways of doing things.  (More to the point, the article buys in to, and / or reinforces, the stereotype that Boomers don’t want to learn new ways of doing things.)   And I guess I should have expected that, considering the title of the article.

Still, I think that Rao has some excellent points.  If you leave out the generalizations about age, and simply look at in terms of “KMers” and “SMers”, there is much to consider.  At the risk of reaching too far, it is almost like looking at “conservatives” and “liberals”.   (Which, by the way, I think would make for an interesting study, the relationship between KM vs. SM and Conservative vs. Liberal (in the U.S. political sense of the word).)

So what do you think?  Is there a KM vs. SM war based on the generations?  Or is this more of a philosophical question that knows no age boundary?

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The Cynefin framework and the global economic crisis

With all the talk about the ongoing global economic crisis and the desire to find out what caused it and how to “fix” it, I found myself wondering if this is something that we actually can figure out, especially while we are still in the middle of the situation.   I turned to the Cynefin framework to help me try to make sense of what kind of problem this is that we are facing.

Graphical depiction of the Cynefin framework

This is most definitely not a simple problem, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious.

I also don’t believe this is a complicated problem, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis and/or the application of expert knowledge and the approach to solve it is characterized as Sense-Analyze-Respond.  I do, however, think the decision makers early on in this situation treated this as a complicated problem.    The sensing part came from the realization that their was a problem, an analysis (quickly and crudely conducted) showed that the problem was liquidity (they thought), and the response was to funnel nearly a trillion dollars to various people in the hope that this would improve said liquidity (they hoped).

Over the past couple of weeks, the decision makers seem to have gone into a chaotic state, grasping at straws because there is no apparrent  relationship between cause and effect at the “system” level of the economy.  They seem to be using the Act-Sense-Respond approach to trying to solve the problems; they try something to see if it works and then respond with another action so they can see if that works.  Of course, you could just as easily say that they have been acting in a state of disorder, with no clue of what type of causality exists and simply making decisions based on what has always worked for them.

Which leaves complex, where I think this problem actually belongs.  In a complex system, the cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, which is why I wonder if we will be able to figure out the cause while we are still enmeshed in the problem.  However, just because we can’t yet determine how we got to this point doesn’t mean that we can’t find our way out of it.  Using the approach of Probe-Sense-Respond, those making the decisions can get an idea of what’s going on and what effect possible actions would have before taking action to understand the emergent practice(s) that can help us get to the point we need to be.

One of the reasons I think it is taking a while – and will take a bit longer – for people to accept this as a complex problem is that, from a political perspective, it does not present a quick fix.  It doesn’t even present the illusion of a quick fix.  Even worse, those in a position to fix this have to admit (gasp!) that they don’t know how we got to this point.

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Government 2.0

Stories earlier this week about President-elect Barack Obama and his Blackberry got me thinking about how our elected leaders and their staffs are (or not) using the potential of  “stuff 2.0″ (“stuff” = “web”, “enterprise”, “KM”, etc) in the execution of their duties.

For example:  It used  to make sense for Senators and Congressmen to basically live in Washington, DC and go back to their home districts on occasion; after all, they have to be present in order to vote.  But does that still make sense?

With the technology available for collaboration, and the security of PKI and other technologies to support digital voting, why not flip that around?  Set up your main base in your home state / district and travel to Washington, DC for special occassions.

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Balance is BS? It all depends on how you define “balance”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi has a section entitled “Balance is BS”.  The “balance” he is referring to is the work/life balance that so many people talk about.  If you hadn’t read the rest of the book, or if you don’t know anything about Keith, you will likely be thinking, “This guy must be some kind of crazy workaholic.”

But once you understand how he looks at balance, you realize that he may be a “workaholic”, but he’s far from crazy.  Consider this quote on the subject from his blog last summer:

But you’ve also probably heard or read me say that balance is BS – that if you’re living a life driven by genuine relationships, where you are constantly being yourself, it’s a lot harder to separate personal and professional into their own tidy boxes. This idea of “balance” we read about in newspapers – usually followed by a statistic about grueling American hours and a thumbs-up to the French 35-hr work week – also seems to be driven by the idea that work is inevitably bad and unpleasant. Happy at … work!?! Incroyable!

Seems to me that Keith has discovered one of the secrets of the Art of Living.

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