30 October 2008

Bad management ...

"First law of Bad Management: If something isn't working, do more of it." -- Tom DeMarco

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

BarCamp Sydney #4 - 15 Nov 2008

Major w00tage! BarCampSydney #4 is currently being (un)organised ...

Date: 15 November 2008
Venue: UNSW Roundhouse (http://www.unswroundhouse.com/)Time: 9am - 5pm (8:30 registrations)
Register: http://barcamp.org/BarCampSydney (do it yourself on the wiki)

Was good fun last time, past performance could predict future performance?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

29 October 2008

Social Implications of Social Computing #5

Because the way we use social computing is changing the means, times and places by which we interact with other people this gives rise to issues around boundaries. 

It also means that we are dealing with a radically different set of expectations – from our learners on the one hand and from their parents on the other hand.  Most of the parents were socialised in the old non-digital world; while our learners are the digital natives.  It’s going to be an interesting balancing act between those different sets of expectations.  

And in dealing with issues about boundaries (and different perspectives on what the boundaries are) we can expect discussions about: 
  • the times and places of learning;  
  • the nature of educational content;  
  • and the authority to decide all of this.  

And the interesting thing is, that what we think is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Just try to get a 15 year old to do something they don’t value or feel like doing.  

This notion of boundaries in a hyperconnected world is another challenging concept. But it is worth remembering that many of our most interesting discoveries are made at the boundaries of the currently known world.  

But some of the questions that arise are:
  • Why does school have to be at whatever the set time has been for generations?
  • Why does school have to be in the one place all the time?
  • What is legitimate content of learning? And how can we effectively assess it?
  • What about the role of authority? Who has it & why? How do we feel about that?  Is it generational?
A lot of what we seek to achieve in education comes down to sensemaking.  Dan Russell provides a nice definition of sensemaking: “Sensemaking is in many ways a search for the right organization or the right way to represent what you know about a topic. It’s data collection, analysis, organization and performing the task.” 

To a certain extent these changes mean that we need to become co-participants in the learning experience.  Become facilitators of the process rather than the experts.  This does not mean that our experience and empirical knowledge is not valuable.  But in the world we face we need to get learning back to our ancient tribal roots where a teacher was linked with the learner as part of a community or village.  We need to establish mutual respect and open dialogue. And luckily now we have the technological tools to facilitate that dialogue.  

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

28 October 2008

Perfection oppression ...

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life." -- Anne Lamott

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Social Implications of Social Computing #4

Technology is very seductive and it is easy to fall in love with it rather than viewing it dispassionately as a tool with utility for various tasks.

It is really important for us to avoid getting caught up emotionally in the technology.  This is important because the technology is changing every nanosecond.  What was cool two years ago seems unbearably slow and lame today.  We need to be strong and not fall in love with the technology so that we are ready to change when new technologies arise.  But we also need to be open to new ways we can use technology in different contexts.

Instead we need to retain our focus on what is important, not technology but people.  

This new technological landscape and its cultural and practical implications are going to create challenged for educators and their institutions.

The institutions of learning in this country are pretty conservative and slow to adopt new fangled technology - usually quite sensibly on the basis of cost.  

But now with social computing (sometimes called web 2.0) and open source the main arguments against new technology adoption are being destroyed.  The argument that institutions of learning should develop closed and proprietary information systems is no longer valid.  Why are we locking away access to educational information behind firewalls and security?  When institutions like MIT open up much of the courseware for free this should really make us think about our own institutions. 

Individual educators are embracing change. But sometimes these visionary folks seem more like revolutionary cells rather than part of the institutional mainstream.  

But the learners will eventually force our hands by disengaging if we do not respond to the shifts in their cultural practices.

See also:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

26 October 2008

Nasty taste with poor quality ...

"The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of meeting schedules is forgotten." -- Kathleen Byle, Sandia National Laboratories

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

New Improved Top 100 Twitter List

Twitter Top 100 List
Having become disturbed by the non-inclusive nature of many of the Twitter top 100 or Top 50 lists I have created a new one.  It is open to anyone to add themselves.  On these lists there is no pressure to perform or maintain standards.  It is a place to just be.  But please be there with a friendly smile and just a touch of snarkiness. 

There are about 40 more spots left on this Twitter Top 100 List, so if you're not already on a list get yourself on this one!

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Social Implications of Social Computing #3

  • Growth of knowledge
  • Too much knowledge to keep in our heads
  • No more epic poetry
In our tribal past there was a need to keep knowledge in our own heads for use by the individual and for sharing with others, hence the popularity of oral learning such as epic poetry.  For example, great literature as we know it today, but in their time the Iliad and Odyssey were spoken verse.  And that tradition was an important part of learning.

But now we have far surpassed the ability of any human to retain the sum of useful knowledge in their own head. This means that our learning practices need to change.  

This gives rise to two things related to knowledge and our access to it. Firstly, the storage media for knowledge is changing – from oral to paper to digital (and here I include text, hypertext, audio, video and whatever gets invented next.) 

Secondly, there are still some essential knowledge frameworks that must be resident inside our heads for us to be able to decode the storage media. For example, the ability to read is critical.

Thus we still need to equip people with the basic tools of literacy.  But those tools we need to use for broader sensemaking are changing. 

Perhaps it is time to consider adding some tools for thinking to our educational repertoire  – Getting Things Done, goal setting, lateral thinking? Also perhaps time to consider how we can meet affiliation needs by offering collaboration opportunities via technology tools – such as wikis, blogs, social networks?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

And how do YOU decide how/what/when to blog?

GirlTUB mafiaUnlike the esteemed SilkCharm who tapped me to answer this question my blog is essentially self-indulgent.  

This blog is called Aide-mémoire for a reason, primarily because I wanted a place to record my musings and ideas that seem interesting to me.  It's a personal blog. For some reason I cannot think while writing on paper so an electronic medium is more effective.

Usually my posts are sparked by a conversation (either online or offline), something in the media, an RSS feed, or on Twitter. Generally the inspiration is from a person or a relationship of some kind (the picture above shows some of the people who've inspired me to write stuff - photo credit @Trib).

Because it is a personal blog focused on things that interest me there are a variety of themes. Including - LOLcats, social computing, the changing nature of traditional and new media, people, communication, politics, technology and humour.  But since I really am a bit of a geek the themes tend to revolve around technology.  

The how is easy. An idea hits, I think about it, discuss it with friends, research it a bit if necessary and then write it. This can be anything from a 5 minute to a 5 week process depending on the idea. I don't pay any attention to SEO or analytics.  I am really happy when another human reads these posts and engages in a comment or tracks me down on another channel, like Twitter (@kcarruthers), for a constructive conversation.

Now there's a bunch of great blogs in my RSS reader - here's a few worth a look:

Sramana Mitra - where I go to learn about tech business
ChiefTech - he is da man for enterprise RSS
Stilgherrian - always charming & erudite [Update: @PeterBlackQUT  rejects this characterisation & suggests "offesive or provocative" is a better fit.  I respond that @Stilgherrian can be charming but that I make no warranty as to when he might do so. No debate was entered into regarding the term "erudite".]
Meterand - serial entreprenuer & all round nice guy
Catherine Eibner - Microsoft geek guru girl

I wonder how these folks will answer the question (shoulder tapping here) how do YOU decide how/what/when to blog? 

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

25 October 2008

Social Implications of Social Computing #2

Consumption of media is now happening on the user’s own terms.  I can access what I want when it is convenient for me, and in the media format that I prefer on my preferred device.  This means that the consumer of today has a lot of personal discretion, and this has implications for expectations of learners.  We are moving away from the passive consumption model of my youth and moving towards a demand driven culture.

Anyone who knows a teenager probably already knows about Bit Torrent – people can download their preferred shows and watch them when they want and on their own terms.  In the music space iTunes and LImewire have done the same thing.  No longer do we have to buy the whole album for just one song.  There is bandwidth being chewed up at a great rate to satisfy these demands.

We are wired to deal with smaller groups and wired for small chunks of information.  The fact is that we seem to retain our tribal brains.  And we often seem to work best in small groups – like basketball teams or football teams – who join together with a common purpose.  

This is a critical construct for addressing some of the challenges facing us.    There have been many studies of human working or short term memory and many are familiar with Miller’s idea of the ‘magical number seven’ – being the number of items we can hold in our working memory.  We used to need skills like remembering oral information to keep us safe and transmit important information to others.  

But now this is no longer required as we can just Google the information or phone a friend.  There was even a recent example at PLC school in Sydney where the exams were not merely open book  The students were allowed to use any materials, even mobile phones or the internet.  This is how we would undertake a task in the real world anyway.

Since we are still tribal creatures we are stuck with limits on how many people we can meaningfully interact with.  Many cite the Dunbar number of 150 people as the limit of effective group size.  And we can already see the answer to the question of how we deal with being connected to large groups of people all the time.  We chunk up our larger groups into subgroups based on common interests, habits or physical location.

Ultimately we are social creatures and want to create social networks either online or offline. A good example is Facebook where ordinary people of all ages and with little technical skill are routinely creating affiliation groups.  These online groups are even creating real life relationships – for example the Twitter community in Sydney often meets up physically with most of us having met online originally.  

See also:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

24 October 2008

Action = wisdom?

"Action should culminate in wisdom." -- Bhagavad Gita

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Sydney 1-5 Dec 08: 6th International Conference on Service Oriented Computing

Just wanted to let people know about the 6th International Conference on Service Oriented Computing (ICSOC 2008) which will be held in Sydney Australia 1-5 December 2008. 

This has been described as the "top-tier academic conference in the area of service-oriented computing, an area of ICT focused on enabling that different businesses can collaborate and achieve common business goals despite the fact that their software systems might be distributed over the Internet, run on different platforms, and implemented in different programming languages".

ICSOC 2008 in Sydney offers a diverse program with presentations of peer-reviewed papers, 4 keynotes from leading researchers and industry experts, demo sessions, 5 workshops, a PhD student symposium, and several tutorials by world-renowned experts. 

This is a great opportunity to learn about the recent advances in service oriented computing and the benefits that they offer to businesses.  It's also a good excuse to come to Sydney, which is pretty nice this time of year.

You can still get 'early bird' registration rates until 31 October 2008, and there's more info about the conference at http://www.icsoc.org/

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Social Implications of Social Computing #1

Social computing has exploded and is changing the world we knew in a number of ways that impact on education. But social computing is not so much changing the world as it is changing student’s expectations of what kind of technology they should use in their everyday life and how they should interact with other people using that technology. This is a revolution akin to the telegraph and radio in its capacity to change the world we live in. For our learners technology is just part of the furniture for them, they are truly digital natives who have different beliefs and expectations.

A great example of this was at a friend’s place recently and her 3 year old brought over the TV remote and said it was broken. We finally worked out that she thought it was broken because she was unable to interact with the TV in the same way is with the PC.

This change gives rise to a number of interesting questions about learning and by implication about teaching.

Mark Pesce said recently that we are now connected, not by 6 degrees of separation, but by as little as one. Hyperconnectivity is being experienced by participants in the social media and social networked worlds.

Realtime, all the time, people are connected with their social networks and via mobile devices (not just phones anymore). This is not just a western phenomenon, as Mark has mentioned, even fishermen in remote villages are using mobile phones to help them to run their businesses better.

Thus there is a generation gap, but it is not based on age any more. Instead it is based on our relationship with technology. This gap is in relation to technology use and expectations. We have on the one side people like some of my friends who have only recently become comfortable with using email, and who only the use their mobile phones to make phone calls and who can’t imagine why you’d do anything else with a mobile phone. These people watch TV when the shows are broadcast and would probably be surprised and/or uninterested to hear of a different way. On the other side we have people I tend to call the digital folk – they use a plethora of digital devices, PCs, iPods, mobile devices, etc. They use these devices to do their work and to manage their social lives. One group is still living in the traditional world and the other inhabits a highly connected digitally connected world.

The interesting thing about all this social media is that users are starting to mix and match – consume it on their own terms. The digital folk, and this includes many of our young people, are mixing and matching platforms and devices to form a web of connections. They are interconnecting their activities on different media and platforms, for example, Facebook takes Twitter feeds which feed into SMS and are sent to mobile devices. And now with data capable phones like Nokia’s N95 or E71; Apple’s iPhone (a.k.a. the Jeebus phone); or the HTC Touch series of phones – data connectivity is mobile.

Think about this, some of our digital folk don’t remember when you could not buy stuff online; they think it is normal to order groceries online; and can’t imagine queuing all night to purchase tickets to a gig. They get it online and when they want.

One common thread in all of this that digital activity – social networking, shopping, consuming media – is no longer necessarily happening while stationary at home in front of the PC. A lot of this consumption is on the move using mobile devices.

More on this later ...

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

23 October 2008

New Twitter Top 100 List

This top 100 twitter list is different to all the other top 100 twitter lists - it has no morally redeeming value, it is an open inclusive space for those who are not on all the other twitter top 100 lists.

When the current list fills up people are encouraged to create more top 100 twitter user lists - go for it!

The List is at: http://snarkytwitter.wikispaces.com/

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

6 Things, 6 Tags (Chain Letter ‘08)

Before I re-launch normal transmission, I must play the 6 Things game because @shoesmitten tagged me. So, here are Six (Interesting?) Things About Me That You Might Not Have Known:

  1. I am the eldest of five siblings - some have linked my bossiness to this.
  2. All of my handbags are black and I often think I should get another colour but never do.
  3. My favourite foods are chicken laksa and es cendol.
  4. My one real addiction is shoes, even though I tend to wear my riding boots most of the time.
  5. I'm studying law part time but it might be early next century when I graduate at the rate I'm going.
  6. My hobby is my work and I really enjoy helping people to use technology effectively to drive their build their business.
Tag you're it - would be good to post your links in comments so I can find out about you too:


By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

22 October 2008

Over web 2.0 and not talking about it any more

bye bye web 2.0
In fact, I've always been uncomfortable with the term web 2.0 and it is seriously starting to annoy me now.  Thus I have decided to excise it from my vocabulary.  

Henceforth it shall be referred to throughout my domain as social computing - and that term encompasses all ideas, notions and stuff (like social media, new media, social networking, etc) that used to be called that other name.

There I feel much better now!  But I still like my reflective logos :)

UPDATE 23 Oct 2008:  I'm including the term web x.0 in this ban, so don't expect me to talk about web 3.0, web 4.0, or any other x.0!   Thanks to @wmeissner for helping to clarify this :)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Change & acceptance ...

"We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses." -- C. G. Jung, Psychological Reflections

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

20 October 2008

Success & failure ...

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." -- Sir Winston Churchill

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

From Microwaves to Light: Biomedical Applications of Numerical Electromagnetics

Anyone who has some time to spare on 27 Oct should check out this seminar by an eminent woman in engineering Prof. Milica Popović.  She's from the McGill University, Montréal, Québec in Canada.

Venue: Macquarie University, North Rye, Building E6A, Room 133
Time: 2-3pm, Monday 27 October, 2008

Topics covered are: (1) research on microwave breast cancer detection. The novel screening technique, based on electrical contrast of cancerous and healthy breast tissue at microwave frequencies, is still at the infant stage. Studies to date suggest that this method could resolve small, early-stage breast tumors in a safe, non-ionizing, non-invasive, comfortable and cost-effective manner. The presentation will address the several aspects of our study related to microwave breast tumor imaging: design of a suitable broadband antenna sensor, multiple antenna arrangements for co- and cross-polarized tumor response, sensitivity of the novel technique to the presence of heterogeneity inherent to the mammary tissue and proposed design of the screening device.

And (2) high frequencies: numerical study on light interaction with human retinal photoreceptors. The chemical processes, which occur during this interaction, as well as how they result in our perception of color, are well known. The goal of the investigations was to tackle the following question: do the geometrical and electrical properties of the photoreceptors result in filtering effects that also participate in the color perception? Results suggest that this may well be the case.

More info: 
Electronic Engineering Department, ICS Division
Phone: + 61 2 9850 9141 Fax: + 61 2 9850 9128
Email: esselle@ics.mq.edu.au or karu@ieee.org

Seminar jointly sponsored by Macquarie University Electronic Engineering Department, 
IEEE NSW AP/MTT Chapter and Macquarie University IEEE Student Branch


Please note that visitors who do not have Macquarie parking permits can park only in designated “casual” parking areas. Parking fees apply. Several campus maps are available at http://www.ofm.mq.edu.au/maps_campus.htm, some with parking information. One colour maps shows the casual parking areas in yellow. Finding a parking spot could be difficult at the time of the seminar. You may have to park in the west end of the campus (close to building X6A or Australian Film, TV and Radio School) and walk for about 10 minutes to reach the seminar venue (E6A) in the east end.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

New Improved Twitter Top 50 from @nickhac, now with web 2.0 goodness

The indefatigable Nick Holmes a Court over at Shifted Pixels has updated his Australia's Top 50 Twitter Influencers (aka The Twitterati Top 50)

Using the power of web 2.0 goodness his list now updates automatically and can be embedded - guaranteed to keep people tweeting madly!

I notice that it has also upgraded to the top 100 twitterers, follow them at your peril ...

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

19 October 2008

@nickhac shifting the pixels again with Twitter Oz Top 50

Well an astonishing amount of chit-chat on Twitter today with Nick's Oz Twitter Top 50 post.  

What will be even more interesting is how his post changes the relative ranking of the people listed. 

Will definitely be watching this little social experiment to see what happens.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

More thoughts on Enterprise 2.0

Was trying to clarify my ideas about Enterprise 2.0 recently and realised the most important thing is that it enables the agile enterprise. Social software or web 2.0 technology allows connection of core business systems and processes with the people that need to access them.

That is, it enables an organisation to be more flexible and respond quickly to changes in market conditions, new technology, regulatory and consumer demands.

It also enables the agile enterprise to reach out beyond its organisational boundaries and to initiate conversations with stakeholders that were once almost impossible. It provides the ability to create an environment where dialogue is possible – dialogue between managers and staff, between company staff and consumers, and between company staff and suppliers.

One of the biggest challenges facing organisations is that of silos - of information, connections and power. It has been very difficult to effectively direct organisational resources in a focused way.

One approach to address this dilemma has been stronger attempts at top down control, better reporting systems like balanced scorecards and data marts. Using the maxim if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it businesses have measured and reported in an attempt to better harness organisational resources. But in fact, we still find it difficult to get people to work across the internal boundaries of the organisation to help deliver the kind of results we need. This is where Enterprise 2.0 comes into its own.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

18 October 2008

"I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do something I can do." -- Helen Keller

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

17 October 2008

Poor old NAB & their latest social media debacle

Let me preface these remarks with some facts - I get banks and what they do and believe we are pretty lucky in Australia with our banking system; I've even worked for several banks; I don't hate banks (except in that normal way when there is some administrative stuff-up with one of my accounts).

I feel sorry for the brave folks at NAB who tried to get a conservative bank to experiment with social media.  But my advice to them would have been along the lines of Sir Humphrey Appleby in saying "... yes Minister, a VERY courageous decision" for a number of reasons.

This adventure had the potential to be train wreck from the start.  We are talking about the kind of organisation that does not dialogue with any stakeholders at all in the consumer space. NAB is not different to any of the other Australian banks in this orientation.  It is not even a bad thing in itself.  But it is problematic when embarking upon a social media campaign.

One of the ground rules of social media is authentic dialogue and NAB did not appear to understand this.  Also instead of engaging in dialogue with the bank staff got a bit defensive and there was the whole sockpuppet issue. Moderation of user generated content is one thing but rejection of negative comments is another that does not fit well into the social media milieu.

NAB staff really should have understood the social compact they were entering into by setting up My Future Bank. They said: 

"What is the bank of the future? What will it look like? How will it work? How will it meet your needs? Imagine your ideas realized. That’s the plan of the My Future Bank project.

We need your help. Please share with us and our visitors what frustrates you about your bank, and more importantly, what you would do differently to improve your banking experience.

Regardless of the issue:  rates, fees & charges, customer service, transparency & integrity or touch points (e.g. ATMs, branches, phone or internet banking), we want to hear from you!"

And then they got upset when people told them answers to those questions, or questioned the way that NAB was interacting online.  Then NAB's final response via Corporate Affairs spokesperson Luisa Ford was to just pull the site down with the comment that:

“It was an experiment to gather data, and we’ve gathered all the data we need,” said Ford. “It was always scheduled to run for a few weeks.”

Well that was an experiment that worked! It got a whole lot of negative press; a lot of negative blog, social media and social network chatter; and made people feel like an opportunity for genuine dialogue with a key consumer institution was lost.  If NAB had been able to pull this off it would have differentiated them significantly for web savvy consumers.

The sad thing is that if the well meaning NAB folk had understood ideas like those in Who are you? And why should I trust you? they might have known that dialogue means having a two way conversation, that relationships are built upon trust that is built up over time and with many conversations, and that we don't always need to agree to continue the dialogue.

Also a bit sad is that they did not understand how robust the dialogue might possibly become; and that they were not prepared to respond effectively.

I'm sorry that this happened, and hope that other conservative institutions learn lessons from the NAB experience and do not merely turn away from social media.  However, it is likely that this saga has merely given the naysayers in banks and other similar institutions more evidence to block any future experiments.

A couple of other blog discussions of this issue include:

Why bankers are wary of social media
Blogger pulls post against NAB’s social media site
NAB (again) flamed over Social Media ineptitude

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

16 October 2008

Australian Technology Showcase, helping innovative tech companies

Attending the Australian Technology Showcase session in Sydney tonight. ATS describes itself as a "promotional and networking government program targeted at small and medium sized Australian business enterprises with innovative, cutting edge technologies."

They actually introduced themselves as "we're from the government and we're here to help", strangely enough I suspect that this is actually true.

Some interesting innovative technology companies participate in the program and it is great to see them getting this support. One outcome of this program is the building of a community for these hi-tech companies in Australia.

Of real interest to many tech businesses is the strategic export assistance that ATS can provide. There is a real focus on getting Australian businesses exporting and providing support to enable export.

More businesses should know about the Australian Technology Showcase so tell anyone you think might be interested - the ATS contacts are here.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

3 simple ideas for assessing a web page

I have been out visiting regional areas in NSW and talking to small business owners about their websites, online marketing, social media and social networking recently. It has really clarified three things I think a website needs to tell a new visitor within the first few seconds:

  1. who you are
  2. what you do
  3. what you want them to do on the site
Lots of websites don't do these three simple things and so I click away and, very likely, many others do the same.

It is a simple idea and it is worth having another look at your website in the light of these three items.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

15 October 2008

"Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." -- Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Blog Action Day: poverty is a strange thing when you think about it

There is plenty of stuff in the world overall, it's just distributed unevenly. And poverty is around us even in rich countries like Australia. 

A real question for those of us living comfortable lives is what can we do to make the world a better place?

Now I'm not advocating a socialist nirvana. But I am thinking about some positive steps I can take that could help other people to move out of poverty.

My current thoughts are around education since it is an area I'm passionate about and I know that fewer educated people live in poverty. 

This is the question that it is worth considering on Blog Action Day

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

14 October 2008

Some well meaning job loss advice is wrong ...

Lots of sites are starting to dish out ideas about how to handle losing your job. This one in the Washington Post is a good example, suggesting that the best thing to do is to wait until you've lost a job and then "Start the climb back by rebuilding your self-image."

Nice advice, but I think wrong.  Your job is your passport to living the life you want. The resource that enables you to get a job is you, together with all your skills, competencies and experience.   

But the work starts long before you lose a job - and it starts with: 
  • taking an inventory of your skills and capabilities
  • keeping your resume up to date with recent achievements 
  • joining appropriate industry bodies & networks
  • identifying knowledge gaps & planning to fill them
  • participating in networks & forums both online and offline
  • getting to know other people in your industry
If you wait until the moment you lose your job to do all of these things you are at a disadvantage. Even if lucky enough to get a good redundancy payout the negative feelings associated with losing your job still hit with force.  Also you might not have the financial or emotional resources to undertake these activities after a job loss. 

Far better to be prudent and be ready - ready to take advantage of new opportunities as well as dealing with a job loss.  As they say "Always plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark."

[* Richard C. Cushing ]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

13 October 2008

Differences between Australia & the rest of world - a Fable

Sugar Glider eating a grasshopperI don't know the provenance of this fable, but it does illustrate some key differences between Australia and other parts of the world ...

The Squirrel and The Grasshopper

The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving.

The ABC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food.

The Australian press informs people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so while others have plenty.

The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Housing Commission of Australia demonstrate in front of the squirrel's house.

The ABC, interrupting a cultural festival special from St Kilda with breaking news, broadcasts a multi cultural choir singing 'We Shall Overcome'.

Bill Shorten rants in an interview with Laurie Oakes that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his 'fair share' and increases the charge for squirrels to enter Melbourne city centre.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The squirrel's taxes are reassessed. He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders,
for the work he was doing on his home, and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.

The grasshopper is provided with a Housing Commission house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel's food is seized and re-distributed to the more needy members of society - in this case the grasshopper.

Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home.

The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Australia as they had to share their country of origin with mice.

On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Australians' apparent love of dogs.

The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody.

Initial moves to make then return them to their own country were abandoned because it was feared they would face death by the mice.

The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people's credit cards.

A 60 Minutes special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel's food, though spring is still months away, while the Housing Commission house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain it. He is shown to be taking drugs.

Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper's drug 'Illness'.

The cats seek recompense in the Australian courts for their treatment since arrival in Australia.

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks. He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him.

Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery.

A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost $10 million and state the obvious, is set up.

Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers.

Legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased.

The asylum seeking cats are praised by the government for enriching Australia's multicultural diversity and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats.

The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose.

The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison.

They call for the resignation of a minister.

The cats are paid $1 million each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in Australia.

The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses, their taxes are increased to pay for law and order, and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.


PS: the image is an Australian Sugar Glider, not quite a squirrel, eating a grasshopper

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

12 October 2008

Is it time for web 2.0 to grow up?

For a while now I've been uncomfortable with the direction of much of the stuff referred to as web 2.0. It seems to be full of amusing trifles that don't offer any real substance in terms of sustainable business models.

For example, while I dearly love Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the hyperconnectivity and community they enable, I still have no idea how they plan to make any money to sustain these services.

Late last year Steve Rubel was stating very strongly that Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid (a view that I was in sympathy with at the time). And as he said: "I am sorry to be a party pooper on conventional wisdom, really. But I miss the days of 2004 when the class that includes Flickr, del.icio.us and others started. They really were about changing the web, not making a quick buck (they did so only because they added value)."

This idea of adding value, or at least of being self sustaining is important.  Especially if we want to transfer the genuinely revolutionary web 2.0-ish ways of building systems and new cultural approaches to software into the enterprise.  Thus we need to become serious agents of change.  

A good example of this is the fact that waterfall software development gives us failure upon failure and we need to find a better way to deliver enterprise software.  Putting software built using rubbish processes into the cloud is not the right answer.  Instead we need to take the cooperative and iterative development methods we've used to build cool web 2.0 stuff and show that agile and scrum are scalable and real solutions for the enterprise. 

One of the reasons we have so many user friendly, functionally rich web 2.0 applications is that they were not built the same way we've always done software.  One of the most revolutionary things we can do is transfer this kind of capability into the enterprise. This will enable us to build better systems that are not just for fun but which are better for people and for business.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

"Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy." -- Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Enterprise 2.0 Survey

I'm doing some research on Enterprise 2.0 and need your help.  You can help by answering a brief online survey. 

Click Here to take survey

It would be very helpful if you could complete this online survey and also ask your friends and colleagues to as well.  

Many thanks for your support. 

[Cartoon from: Geek and Poke]

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Openness, personal and community action

For those folks who don't think social networks are real life ...

One of my Twitter buddies, @mspecht, has been very brave and open, sharing about his personal experience of depression that led him to take some positive action.

He set up Blue Day 2008 and asked people to participate in marking this day to help with building:
  • awareness of depression & mental illness, and
  • understanding that this can happen to any of us
Michael, good on you for taking the step of sharing your journey and thanks for asking us to participate. It is good to note that members of the Sydney tech (@STUB, Silicon Beach etc) community got together on Friday night with a Blue Day theme.

And, a final word from Michael: "One last comment. If you are suffering, even if you don’t think you have depression but are just down, reach out and talk to someone. If you are in Australia and in need of urgent help contact Beyond Blue, in other countries reach out and contact your local support groups before it is too late."

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

11 October 2008

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." (Frank Herbert, Dune, "Litany Against Fear", 1965)

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Credit crisis and its impact on social media?

I've been reading the new George Soros book, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means.  While Soros takes his usual pessimistic view he does have some interesting insights into the causes and consequences of the current credit crisis.   Interestingly some of his ideas align with those of John Robb in seeing smaller more localised solutions and responses.

One thing to ponder in all of this is what will happen to social media.  It has undergone explosive growth in the last few years and has become integral to many people's lives.  But we have never seen how much value people actually place on connectivity to each other via the internet or mobile phones during a time of severe economic stress. The last time we had a major recession the internet was only an infant.  

What will happen in a recession where people are losing jobs or homes?  Will they retain access to mobile phones and the internet?  How how much importance will people in difficult financial circumstances place on connectivity?  We do not know what impact this looming recession will have on the demand side of social media and digital.  One thing that is certain, changes on the demand side always impact on the supply side and this is no different for social media.

Since social media has already struggled with monetization during good economic times it will be interesting to see how we can address issues of demonstrating value (i.e. profit) in difficult economic times. 

There is one sure thing, the social media industry and practitioners need a compelling narrative with good evidence about demonstrating real value to business.  Now might be time to get over the feelgood theory of social media and get with the profit theory of social media?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

10 October 2008

Operating systems are merely hygeine factors ...

Many people in the ICT industry don't seem to realise that operating systems are not drivers of customer delight. PC operating systems - like Windows XP or Vista, MacOS, or Linux - are mere hygiene factors.

Management theory tells us that hygiene factors, while important, are not drivers of increased satisfaction. That is, we notice if they are not present but they do not increase our satisfaction when they are there.

Thus while an operating system does a number of important things for the computer user, at its best we don't notice it at all. And we certainly don't want to have to keep upgrading our operating systems for no good reason.

That is why I just don't get vendors trying to sell me an operating system in the 21st century. Yes it enables me to do a bunch of stuff, but it does not actually do any of the stuff itself. Selling an operating system seems a bit like trying to sell a car by selling a chassis & then trying to sell me the rest of the car.

With Linux we see an operating system that is free of up-front costs yet expensive in terms of effort for the average computer user. With Windows we see an operating system that is trying to win our affection & expenditure against Apple which is selling a ease of use.

All this is happening in the context of cloud computing where Larry Ellison's old idea of the network PC is being resurrected especially in relation to mobile phones. With mobile phones most people don't even realise their phone comes with an operating system.

Of these approaches it feels like Apple are taking a more customer satisfaction driven approach. Not sure where this leaves Windows and Linux? Perhaps this video holds some truth?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

9 October 2008

Risk & the Illusion of Centralized Control

A key myth of modern business is that of centralized control in general and of brands, messages and media in particular.

In the past, while it was possible for ordinary consumers to hijack brands and messages, it was too hard, time-consuming and expensive for anyone to bother. Thus companies and their marketers assumed that they were in control.

Further, because marketing in traditional media was an expensive and time consuming activity only larger organisations could afford to it. This meant that there were high barriers to market entry for many smaller competitors.

With the advent of the Internet and web 2.0 we see power shifting away from the larger companies and towards smaller competitors and consumers. Lower marketing costs and broader reach with digital marketing mean that smaller companies can now compete more effectively with their bigger rivals.

Consumers are now using web 2.0 technology together with social networks and social media platforms to answer back to the marketers. And we are all still getting used to this new world of digital connections. (UPDATE: Check out what users can achieve, e.g. with this Comcast clip on YouTube - HT: Charlene Li)

There remain a lot of unanswered questions about doing business in the digital age. Some of the questions we need to ask about digital & online and their impact on enterprises are:
  • What elements of our brand & communications should we/can we try to control?
  • What are the boundaries between personal and business activities for our staff in relation to online?
  • How do our human resources practices and polices need to evolve as a result?
  • How do the demands of the digital age align with our corporate values & practices?
  • How do we protect our intellectual property in the digital age?
  • How do we control the risks in opening up our internal systems to the Internet & do we understand those risks properly?
  • Are our people skilled and educated to deal with these kind of issues, and if not how do we fix that?
  • What new technical and operational risks are we opening up for our business with digital and online channels?
There remains a lot of thinking about enterprise risk to be done in relation to digital. Seemingly simple decisions can have significant flow on risks for finance, operations and personnel.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

8 October 2008

CMOs report reduction & shift in marketing spend to digital

According to recent research by Epsilon "Chief Marketing Officers at many of the biggest brands in the nation [USA] are seeing a major shift in the marketing landscape. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the 175 marketing executives surveyed see an increase in their spending on interactive/digital marketing while 59% report a decrease in traditional marketing spend."

Already we are beginning to see evidence of shrinking marketing budgets due to the financial situation and the reallocation of traditional media spend to digital.

Also interesting was the adoption of new media focused mainly on social computing and blogs, especially by bigger brands. It is early days yet and marketers are still getting used to some of the newer channels available to them.  I expect to see growth in the use new media channels such as mobile and continued expansion into blogs, social networks and social media in general.  

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

7 October 2008

Death of Newspapers - I don't think so ... not quite yet

While I've said before that I think that the imminent death of traditional media, such as newspapers or free-to-air TV, is over-hyped ...   

There was an interesting synopsis of Michael Gawenda's A.N. Smith Lecture in Journalism in the Sydney Morning Herald by about "the need for a new model for newspapers in the digital age" and the butchering of "profitable newspapers".  In this view, recent cuts to editorial staff at Fairfax are the result of "a failure of imagination and commitment, a result of a lack of experience and knowledge and love of newspapers" precipitated by a dramatic fall in advertising revenue. 

However, the simple fact is journalism has never been able to stand alone as a revenue generator - it has always been subsidised by advertising revenue.  This means that readers have rarely been willing to fork out cold hard cash to cover the real cost of creating news.

Now that there are so many other online opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers there is less need to advertise in traditional media (especially print).  Thus we are seeing a shift to digital media channels for advertising.  And, with the economic downturn, marketers will be trying to stretch their advertising dollars even further making digital a more likely choice.

Even rusted on newspaper junkies like me are starting to read the news online (except on weekends when I sit down with the SMH, Oz, FinRev and a pot of coffee).  This just reinforces the advertising revenue drop and the inevitable need to reduce costs for the print version.  Also the drive for cost reduction means we are likely to see more social media & user generated content featuring on the digital news sites, together with raw feeds unedited from news sources such as Reuters. 

In Gawenda's view newspapers "...need to build on their strengths: Forget big headlines and huge and often meaningless graphics. Instead, arresting photography, great illustrations and wonderful editorial cartoons. And stories, well-written and compelling stories, well-edited and with smart and entertaining headlines, if possible, without lousy puns."  I suspect that this is the fond hope of someone who loves the traditional newspaper (in spite of the costs associated with creation of this content) and who remains uncomfortable with new media.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Continued erosion of traditional broadcast media channels

The old media (a.k.a. heritage media) versus new media discussion continues to rage amongst the cognoscenti but the facts are speaking for themselves.

Brian Steinberg writing in Ad Age reports that:

"Continued audience erosion, combined with the effects of the writers strike, helped drive the average cost for a 30-second commercial in prime time down 4.1% to $130,089 during the 2007-2008 season, according to an analysis performed by independent media agency TargetCast TCM. The drop marks the second consecutive seasonal decline in pricing for 30-second TV ads and represents a noticeable widening over last season's 0.7% drop. The analysis showed prime-time ratings for the four major broadcast networks fell 13% last season. TV-ad time pricing is based on the number of viewers a network can deliver for a marketer. When ratings go down, so do prices for the ads."
Advertising will move to where the audience is no matter what esoteric debate the professionals want to have about which media channel is better or more appropriate. The trend towards erosion in advertising value of free to air television continues. The trend towards advertising via new media channels also continues.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

6 October 2008

What is all this "social" stuff about anyway?

Everywhere you turn these days there is another "social" something or other - social media, social networking, social bookmarking, social news, social web, etc.  But what is all this "social" stuff about anyway?

I think that some people have focused on this social aspect of web 2.0 and missed out on the really radical and transformative features of the fully networked world it offers.  Tim O'Reilly talked about this recently when he said:
"Web 2.0 is ultimately about understanding the rules of business in the network era. I define Web 2.0 as the design of systems that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, or more colloquially, as "harnessing collective intelligence." This includes explicit network-enabled collaboration, to be sure, but it should encompass every way that people connected to a network create synergistic effects."
Yes, the one of the network effects arising from use of web 2.0 technology is social, but this is a limited view of the phenomenon. It is from "harnessing collective intelligence" that the true power of the web 2.0 revolution arises.

Further, we have yet to really harness this revolution in the workplace.  Enterprises remain largely untouched by web 2.0.  What has happened up until now is a burgeoning of consumer web 2.0 sites (a.k.a. all that "social" stuff) that has readied people to accept the revolution in their personal use of technology.

The next step is to move this revolution into the enterprise.  We've been talking about Enterprise 2.0 for a while now, and it is still developing.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

5 October 2008

Tough times, web 2.0 & high principles

The test of our commitment to principles is not what we do in good times.  Rather the true test of our principles comes in difficult times.  The current economic situation seems to be setting us up for such a test.

Recently I've been thinking about the principles of collaboration, collective intelligence and democracy that are so much entwined with my view of web 2.0 and asking how convinced I am about their contribution to value creation and profit.

There is no point in adopting these kinds of ideas in good times only to find that insufficient business value is created to sustain them in difficult times.

The process has been interesting and resulted in some case studies of business value creation and barriers to the creation of value.  I'll share some more on this topic soon.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

4 October 2008

Telstra and Twitter

It sometimes seems as if Telstra and BigPond have missed all the terabytes of stuff that has been produced describing how to do social media or social networking effectively.

Their latest foray into this part of the world - via Twitter - has been amusing to observe. It is almost as if some people heard a garbled story about Twitter at a pub and then went home to experiment. Instead of checking out some of the really successful corporate users of Twitter - like Comcast or Zappos - they've just dived into a social network without taking the time to understand the culture.

It is amusing to see that the most common response via Twitter is a very Telstra-like just fill out this form and wait for us to get back to you.

Given what we've seen with up until now with nowwearetalking I suppose this outcome was predictable. It will be interesting to see if Telstra can learn how to use this channel effectively or if it will be just another amusing anecdote to explain what not to do in social media.

UPDATE: Just catching up on RSS and noticed that @mspecht has a good post on similar theme too

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire