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February 29, 2008

WikiWow

Wellllllllll...this week I learned what a wikiword is. I had to look it up - after reading the Stafford and Webb article. The readings for this week were very functional, I thought - really cementing in what it is we are doing and working with, for those of us who have never used a wiki before (or blogged before, for that matter). I was happy to see that we are following the suggested protocol from Stafford and Webb including locked off access and self contained sub-topics (p. 2)- it seems we are off to a positive start with our wiki. Some of the technical terms in the article were not explained very thoroughly for those of us who haven't done this stuff before - which was confusing considering their article was a how-to (ie what is a WikiWord I asked???)

I'm really looking forward to the 'doing' part of the project now - not just planning and sharing and learning about the new technology out there. The topic I've claimed is quite interesting to me and I hope we can all learn a bit about the history of bridges in our country via the info I gather. Hisotry is always so interesting because of our tendency to ignore/not be aware of what is around us. We'll see what is out there - I'm afraid it will be stories of bridge collapses that had the same structural malfunction that the 35W bridge did...not that 'we' would get around to checking for the same faults that caused collapses in other places. We'll see. I'm ready to get my hands dirty and hope you all are too. It looks like we have success ahead of us!

I can't wait for more hands-on.

The Wiki Workplace...what a concept. I have worked in the same mundane, hierarchy driven company for 25 years, I cannot fathom being able to have an idea that may actually be implemented. Oh sure, we can have our "skip-level" meetings with managers one step above ours but all that is just smoke and mirrors. They are just trying to appease the masses, make us think that what we say really matters when in actuality, it really doesn't. While this chapter talks about implementing wiki into the workplace to replace these skip level meetings, add valued insights from the people in the trenches, and build a resource available to all employees, I would really like to SEE how it works. The idea is great, and the example of Best Buy's "bottom-up approach" is fascinating, but I still want to SEE how it works. When Krista set up our wiki page, how did she go about it? How are we going to add all the information we have in deli.cio.us (and Thinkature)?
I can see how the Team will work, this is the fun part and the most important. If the teamwork is good, the time allocation, decision making, resource allocation, and communication will follow (Tapscott and Williams, 2006. pp. 259-263). The statement made by Ross Mayfiled, CEO of Socialtext says it best, he suggests that part of the reason wikis are popular and useful is inherent in the collaborative tools themselves; asking users to share control, and foster trust. "The more participation that you have...the greater quality you'll have in a project, in the same way that an open source works" (Tapscott and Williams, 2006. p. 254).
On p. 264 in Tapscott and Williams, clear goals, structure, discipline, and leadership in the organization will perhaps be more important in the virtual workplace because of the sub-existence of leadership. I can see that working it's way out in this class. It still confuses me as to where we will end up, but the hands-on learning on how to get there will be the reward.

iWiki

Especially since this is an online, emerging technology in STC course, I might be about to start a big debate here, but I’m willing to take responsibility.

My technology world runs on Apple. Ever since I started using Apple computers back in elementary school, I have been in love with them. Don’t get me wrong; I think that PCs have a ton of uses, like when you need to turn a ten-minute project into a thirty-minute project, or when you need a hacker magnet. How can you not applaud the fact that Vista takes nearly 2gb of ram to run right of the box, that’s definitely using all of your resources.

All right, I know, I’m being harsh. Mostly that all has to do with programming. I do applaud the work of Mr. Gates, as his dream has become reality, and given us all nightmares. Lets face it; even my phone runs off of a Microsoft OS. I do think that PCs play nice together in the business setting, but I do feel that when it comes to something like Wikis, an Apple is the healthier choice.

In my opinion, Apple has always taken steps to make their computers work for the user, not the other way around. With Apple, each of their programs works with the next.

Now before I sound too much like an Apple ad, I’m going to get to my point. For those of you that don’t know, Apple has developed .Mac, which as I understand it, Apple gives you space on their server, and software to manage it. With this software, you can upload files, photos, and videos, host web pages, and even have your own mac.com email. My point in all of this is that this is a major move towards collaboration by a large corporation.

The “What is a Wiki? article by Stafford and Webb, was very well done, and help to fill in the gaps with some of this wiki stuff for me. I do think that it is good that they mention that Wiki’s are “not so good for non-geeks, as you need to be reasonably tech-savvy and familiar with the concept of text markup.? Since everyone isn’t tech savvy, I think that it is good that companies like Apple are creating software that makes it easier for everyone to collaborate online. Apple isn’t the only one; Google is among them as well.

Online collaboration is great, but we need a way to run it. I am very much into modifying cars, and there is a saying that you always want more brakes than you have car. In other words, you always want to have more stopping power than you need. Lots of power is great, but if you don’t have any way to control it, you have problems. My point is that, I think articles like the one written by Stafford and Webb are great, because they really stress the point of being critical about the software that we use. The even caution users about upgrading, saying that “It’s not about the wiki, it’s about the project.? I think that this is a great point to keep in mind as we continue to explore the uncharted waters of Wikis. Know the goal, focus on the project, stay on task and don’t get caught up in making things look good. Just because the car has a nice paint job, doesn’t mean that it will go fast.

P.S. Here is a link to Apple's .Mac, if anyone is interested in taking a further look at it. I just joined a couple of days ago, and am still learning myself.

http://www.apple.com/dotmac/

February 28, 2008

WIKI WIKI WIKI *music to your ears*

When I think of the word Wiki, I think of Wikipedia. Wanna know what else I think of? I think of DJ's spinning records so the sound that comes out is "wiki, wiki, wiki". I thought I'd share my thoughts and hopefully that brought music to your ears. : ) Moreover, Wiki may bring music to anyone's ears. In the reading What is a Wiki , a Wiki is defined as "A wiki is a website where users can add, remove, and edit every page using a web browser. (Stafford & Webb, 2006, p. 1)" It's collaborative and many people are involved. That's like music. It takes not only the melody but the harmony . . . singers and instrumentalists (unless it's a capella [without instrumental accompaniment]). It all comes together to form one piece. I'm not just talking about music, I'm also talking about wiki's. . . All of us in the class are working on a particular area, and we will come together to form one amazing website. If we get it right (and all the areas flow well together), we'll come up with something audible. However, if we get it wrong (and the areas seem mismatched to one another), we'll come up with a scratched record. Try spinning a scratched record. I don't think it would sound like a crisp "wiki, wiki, wiki".

What else was music to my ears when reading this week? From the beginning, I loved reading Chapter 9 of Wikinomics. I was immediately hooked because it mentioned the University of Minnesota and Geek Squad and Best Buy. There are a lot of organizations/companies/institutions mentioned in the book; however, there are millions in this world, and Tapscott & Williams chose to mention those. I love it when I hear about anything that I have ties to. I go to the University of Minnesota! My sister's friends were part of the early team members of Geek Squad! I used to work right by Best Buy Corporate! When I was younger, my family used to take trips to Best Buy for fun! Okay, that was kind of geeky for me to say, but as stated, "[Geek Squad] was acquired by consumer electronics giant Best Buy (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 240)". So, if Best Buy acquired something with the word Geek in it, I think it's all right that I say geeky things every once in a while. :) Besides, those trips were actually very productive--we would get a lot of stuff done there while having fun of course.

In all of this, I think we should remember to have fun. Sometimes having fun is forgotten. Fun should be incorporated in everything we do because I think it makes situations more bearable. We should work hard and play hard/have fun. Think of music. Music is generally fun. Yes, there are some sad songs like "why did s/he break up with me" or "my life is such a mess" or "everything sucks"; however, bringing music into the situation lightens the setting. For example, establishments like bars/clubs/mall retail stores play music. Sometimes when I have a ton of work, I turn music on and get going. Working out at a health club? Look around and you'll see people listening to their iPods/MP3's. Music is fun. Let's have fun. Let our Wiki site be music to our ears!

Predicting the future in 1945

When I first started reading Vannevar Bush’s article, I didn’t realize it had been written in 1945. It mentions war, but it wasn’t until about the fourth paragraph that I had to stop, go back to the top and check out the byline. Once I saw the date, the part about scientists burying their competition in the demand of a common cause made sense because it sure didn’t in regards to the current war—there is still plenty of competition between companies and defense contractors in weapons development.

I know nothing about this gentleman, but he seems to be quite the visionary regarding where technology was heading or where he thought it should go. (According to Wikipedia, he’s the “patron saint of American science.?) Not so much the visionary when it comes to writing as he always uses “he? and “him? for a scientist because the “girls? are languidly keying the stenotype or are armed with key board punches. And yes, I realize he’s a product of the time.

For those of you who didn’t read the article, he discusses ideas regarding dry photography (I’m assuming he meant Polaroid, not digital…would digital be dry photography 2.0?), microphotography, voice recorders and translators, advanced arithmetical machines (calculators?), and the automated telephone. I had to laugh when I read about that. He says, “it could be made extremely fast by substituting thermionic-tube switching for mechanical switching, so that the full selection could be made in one-hundredth of a second. No one would wish to spend the money necessary to make this change in the telephone system? (7). Sorry, Mr. Bush, but I think they did and then they did more.

I thought the part on indexing was right on target (8). He believes the top-down method doesn’t work because “The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association? (8). To fix this, he discusses items being tied together with some coding (tagging?) in the memex, which seems to be a desk-sized computer, but with the internet inside the desk on microfilm. And he can share his information with a friend if he wants…is that a wiki if he reproduces his data and passes it on to a friend who could then code it however he wanted?

I know this is why we are reading this article, but it’s amazing to see what was written 60 years and see how it seems to have come true in some sort of way. When he talks about “trails of interest? (10), it almost sounds like browsing and “ His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important“ sounds like bookmarks (11). The writing style made it a slow read, but it was worth the time.

Moving on to modern times, Jaron Lanier’s essay was great. The idea of a “hive mind? makes a lot of sense, as do his thoughts on the collective. Collectives can be good, or can be stupid, which is really how anything can be given the right circumstances.

And I really liked this quote: “The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we’re devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.? Short of pondering this idea for an hour, I’m having trouble expressing why I like this quote so much. I just do. The internet is way to communicate with family and friends and learn from people I don't know (yet). It's a tool, not a thing.

As for Wikinomics and Best Buy, I think they’ve just become one of my target companies in my upcoming job search…I’d like to work for a progressive company for a change.

Wiki Away

While reading through this weeks assigned readings I found a quote that was really pretty brilliant. On page 243 of Wikinomics Robert Stevens said "I'm now going to try and discover their agenda, and serve it" in reference to the communication and collaboration techniques being utilized by the Geek Squad. I have personally seen corporate pecking order destroy creative talent. Stevens' quote really put into perspective how important it is to allow the users to generate and decide the mode of communication. In the case of Geek Squad, they found that communication through playing Battlefield 2 was far more successful then trying to collaborate on the wiki. This concept really brought the readings into focus for me.

Moving backwards a little, the whole concept of the wiki, as introduced by Stafford and Webb was a little narrow. They said that it could be used for writing essays or books but failed to illustrate the other functional aspects of the wiki such as the design example given in Wikinomics. Stafford and Webb spoke about their experience with the wiki while writing a book or the practical aspect of designing an essay in it since wikis let you work without notes. They missed the engineering and artchitectual aspects. The Geek Squaders used their company wiki to design a product that they thought would best serve their customers ( Tapscott 243-244). The wiki was their shared drawing board that had one major advantage, it never runs out of space. The use of the wiki to design the flash drive allowed mass collaboration on a very interesting level. Employees around the world could bring their ideas, drawings, and concepts to a preverbal whiteboard. It was an unlimited space with unlimited potential. Without the wiki only a small group would have been able to participate in the design process, the wiki opened the doors to everyone throughout the country.

Despite Stafford and Webb's lack of scope regarding the use of wikis they did very accurately illustrate the advantages: 1) instant collaboration without regards to location or time 2) One master document that everyone can view, share, and edit which prevents duplicate work and open one person's ideas up to everyone 3) Every page revision is saved and archived which allows the users to monitor the development of the project 4) Everyone has a say. No one is excluded as a result of geographic location or limited meeting space that happens in the standard board rooms. (2)

There was one more thought from Wikinomics that I would like to comment on and that is the concept that the "Net Generation" seeks to dissipate the pre-existing hierarchies in the corporate workplace. Networking, particularly wikis, allows workers to disperse over a greater geographical error which will potentially eliminate the role of the typical boss (246). I thought this was a great thought. Working in the corporate world I can say that I often push our office to adapt new methods of communication and collaboration so that physical boundaries no longer limit us. The internet has brought such a wide range of clients to many companies, why shouldn't it also bring a wide range of employees. i think one day we will see many companies who have employees located all across the country. Most of these employees may never meet each other face-to-face but will probably know each other only through the virtual world. In this completely virtual corporate world bosses will cease to exist and cubicles will be a thing of the past. Working where you want when you want through the use of wikis may be coming in the near future.

The New Economics of Work

While “the days of lifelong employment and pensions are already long gone? (Wikinomics, p.265) that doesn’t mean that one cannot still yearn a day similar to those long gone. The work place is quickly changing and quickly. It still disturbs me when I consider that the Internet as a public place only came into being in the late 1980s to early 1990s. The Internet has changed the world in a very short time putting me into that group of people mentioned by Tapscott and Williams that has to learn how to work with all these new types of web technology. This fact seems odd even to me, considering how technological my life has been since my first experiences with the Apple IIe and Dos. However, computer literacy and experience has little to do with Internet literacy and experience, which is the type of experience that seems to be necessary in these new work environments. Although slowing down the changes in the work environment will probably never be accomplished even if a majority of people wanted it to happen. The work environment is attempting to change in time with the newest technology and is leaving people behind faster and faster. “The shift from cottage industries to the factory system unfolded over the better part of a century. The transition from industrial factories to today’s high-tech office environments took at least a few decades.? (Wikinomics, p.266), and today the transitions are happening even faster, forcing new levels of adaptation upon those of us trying to live in this accelerating environment.

Famous for Being Famous

—Sara 28.02.08

What I’ve learned from this week’s reading is that wikis are wonderful but they don’t measure up to the utopian ideals bestowed upon them by wiki worshipers. For some things, wiki wisdom is great. For others, the wisdom of the collective is really bad. Jaron Lanier, Chris Wilson, and Matt Barton discuss important philosophical and functional shortcomings and misconceptions of wikis and wiki wisdom. Their perspectives are important—knowing the limitations of the collective wisdom helps all Internet users evaluate projects like wikis and leverage their unique capabilities.

The philosophy behind wikis and other Web 2.0 technologies resonates with me: non-hierarchical consensus decision-making, equal access and participation, the people rule ... Reading about the philosophy and operation of PageRank, for example, should make my heart sing: The Google algorithm “ … relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. … PageRank results from a “ballot? among all the other pages on the World Wide Web about how important a page is. A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support (Wikipedia “PageRank?).?

If the philosophy of PageRank and the wiki is so lofty and honorable, why does it make me think of Paris Hilton? After reading Lanier’s article, I see the connection. Paris Hilton is famous for being famous. She’s not uniquely talented, smart or especially pretty but if she were a Web page, she would get a lot of “votes.? In the logic of PageRank, that makes her important and valuable.

The phenomenon of Ms. Hilton illustrates Lanier’s argument about the collective wisdom: sometimes it’s really stupid. Tools like wikis assume that consensual processes yield incremental improvements to their resulting products (Lanier “Digital Maosim? pg. 4). In reality, collectivism does not guarantee continuous improvement or quality or authority. That’s why Wikipedia isn’t an acceptable for academic research. That’s why Paris Hilton is famous despite being uninteresting and unimportant.

Lanier warns us that blind faith in the wisdom of the collective is dangerous. He doesn’t have to invoke Maoism to appreciate the negative machinations of the “hive? mentality however. It is evident in the degradation of media and culture treated “collectively.? Lanier argues for example, that digital collectives like Wikipedia and aggregators, in particular, have the effect of averaging content, eliminating the highs and lows, the controversial and unique (Lanier “Digital Maosim? pg. 8). The result is banality or worse—Lanier cites American Idol, popurls. The problem is, quality is by definition never average. Moreover, participation in online collectives is usually anonymous. Consequently, Lanier contends, personal voice and the subtleties that give language full meaning disappear along with authenticity, authority and accountability (Lanier “Digital Maosim? pg. 4). He concludes that “The collective is good at solving problems which demand results that can be evaluated by uncontroversial performance parameters, but it is bad when taste and judgment matter (Lanier “Digital Maosim? pg. 9).?

Chris Wilson augments Lanier’s views, arguing that even exemplary online collectives such as Wikipedia and Digg are neither wise nor collective. He reports that almost all social media sites are controlled by a minority of users and/or designated administrators. In many cases, a small group of the most active participants author the majority of the site’s content. Algorithms tend to favor the most devoted users while magnifying the disproportionate amount of control a tiny elite has over content and rankings. Administrators also adjust algorithms for specific ends in addition to regulating content on an ongoing basis. In practice, Wilson concludes, “ … it is a mistake to assume [these sites owe their] success to the wisdom of the online crowd (Wilson “The Wisdom? pg. 1).?

Matt Barton seems to have come to terms with the contradictions and shortcomings of the wiki way and offers very practical advice on the best uses of wikis. Although he accepts Lanier’s criticism that wikis abolish the notion of authorship and personal voice, his general rule is a more positive: “projects that emphasize authorship or require protection are not proper wiki applications (Barton “Embrace?5.21.04).? Accordingly, Barton rules out using a wiki for creative writing projects, portfolios, editorials or rhetorical argumentation. Projects well-suited to the wiki way include encyclopedias, bibliographies, handbooks or textbooks, or any type of document authored by a group.

Barton’s perspective is a welcome answer to the disillusionment Janier or Wilson might provoke. Although wikis and the collective wisdom do not add up to the “shining examples of Web democracy? they promise, they are well worth preserving (Wilson “The Wisdom? pg. 1).? Internet users need to understand what wikis do well and what they don’t. Knowing the limitations of the collective wisdom helps all Internet users evaluate projects like wikis and leverage their unique capabilities. In the process, we may all learn something about collaboration and digital democracy.


Sources
Barton, Matt. “Embrace the Wiki Way!? 21 May, 2004.
Lanier, Jaron. “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism.? Edge: The Third Culture. 30 May, 2006.
Wilson, Chris. “The Wisdom of the Chaperones.? Slate.com. 22 February, 2008.
Tapscott and Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006.

Geeks + Wiki's = Global Domination

I first noticed the ugly looking black and white beetle with the logo "Geek Squad" impaled on the side of it about five or six years ago. When I asked what they did, the only response I got was "they fix electronics." Over the years I have seen an increasing number of our Geek Squad mobiles roaming around, and it has heightened my curiosity about the company that once was independent. I had no idea that the Geek Squad was taken over by Best Buy, but then again I don't go into Best Buy a lot.

What I thought was interesting and amazing at the same time was the fact that Stephens struggled to set up an agenda that encouraged the collaboration of a systematic wiki so that members could keep in touch and stay focused on the "mission", and it so happens that the techo-weenies were a step ahead of him, but with a slightly different approach. They didn't want to collaborate the boring way, they wanted to brag to each other virtually while they were blowing each other's brains out. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the more engaging and fun the activity is at least in this case, the more collaborative and productive work can be on a global scale....especially among nerds. Stephens comments, "They're talking and they're hanging out, and often they're talking shop and swapping tips" (pg. 243). That is mass-collaboration at its finest.

However, as mass collaboration has matured the past three years with different methods of work strategies including tools like blogs, wikis, chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks and personal broadcasting, the hierarchy of old strategies used in traditional firms have been crumbling. Is this change happening too fast? "Will to much openness and self-organization in the workplace lead to disorganization, confusion, and a lack of focus" (pg. 264). I have been sitting on this question for awhile and I still have not found the answer even after Schmidt's comment, "you tell people what the company's priorities are, and somehow it works out, self-organization is better" (pg. 264). I have concluded that I just need to be in that working atmosphere to find out for myself, instead of taking everyone else's opinions. I am definitely more of a busy worker than a bursty one, so hopefully as our wiki project continues to grow I am able to focus up and rely on the collaboration and knowledge of others to help steer me in the right direction.

Virtual Collaboration

After reading so much the past few weeks about group collaboration it is finally time to begin this as a class. Our ideas and contributions will develop a website that will educate and inform the public. Wikis for the most part are new to me other than occasionally researching a topic and finding it on Wikipedia. Up until now I never realized that anyone could post a wiki to the public, and because of that we must be careful about the content that we choose to provide and how it will be presented.

There are definitely advantages to using a wiki. We can collaborate as a class without having to meet at specific times or keep at the same pace. We are able to keep our ideas in one place so that all can see and add, remove, and edit as we go along. As from the reading I think it can be best described as "A wiki is a website where every page can be edited in a web browser, by whomever happens to be reading it. It's so terrifically easy for people to jump in and revise pages that wikis are becoming known as the tool of choice for large, multiple-participant projects." (Stafford and Webb).

While the advantages to using a wiki are great, it is important to keep in mind that there are also some disadvantages. Since each of us are going to be contributing to this site it is extremely important that it appears uniform and well structured. By that I mean that we want it to be easy to use and not messy, because that may lead us to lose our intended audience.

It is our goal to create an informational site about the 35W bridge collapse to the public. In order to achieve that success we must take important steps to reach our end goal. Last week we each chose a topic to cover and become knowledgeable with. We then each prepared a task list that should keep us on track. Although everyone's list is different, they all keep us on a schedule that best suits our personal goals.

I predict that this class will teach me how to effectively collaborate using today's technology and will in turn help me succeed in the workplace. The web is reshaping workplaces in a profound way. "Increasingly employees are using blogs, wikis, and other new tools to collaborate and form ad hoc communities across departmental and organizational boundaries." (Wikinomics, pg. 240). A perfect example of how wikis can aid in collaboration and innovation in the workplace is the company Geek Squad. These employees use wikis to "brainstorm new ideas, manage projects, swap service tips, ans socialize with their peers." (Wikinomics, pg. 240). At the start this company had 60 employees and was earning $3 million in annual revenue. "Today Geek squad has grown to 12,000 service agents, and under Best Buy's umbrella the division clocks nearly $1 billion in services from over 700 locations across North America, and returns $280 million to Best Buy's bottom line." (Wikinomics, 239).

Companies are moving away from the hierarchial workplaces and implementing more collaborative and socially connected ideas. More and more companies are finding that they are becoming more successful by using the ideas from their employees. As Robert Stevens creator of the Geek Squad learned, " First observe, and then implement. I am deathly afraid of wasting time and energy trying to get people to do something they don't want to do. So next time, before I build that shiny new playground, I'm going to think about how Geek Squad agents are already organizing--it's just more efficient that way." ( Wikinomics, pg. 245).

Today's workplace is becoming more self-organizing. Mass collaboration is being created with the use of wikis and is changing the way good and services are created. Companies that change from a traditional hierarchial structure and allow the use of creativity and technology will be able to have a competitive edge and in turn be more successful.

There's a reason I love Best Buy!

I have to say, since I was a teenager, I loved Best Buy. I would shop there often and would think about the store when I wasnt there. And, still, today I have a desire and drive toward that company more then any other electronics company (nay, company in general). But what is it that drives people like me toward a, still, heartless, profit driven, behemoth beacon of capitalistic nonsense? First and foremost, they have always treated me well. I have purchased products that appeared new, but lacked the contents (due to some punk kid thieves) and was able to exchange copies without any hassel or questions asked. I am always greeted at the door when I enter (whether I want to be or not). They price things like new release movies at a decent sale price where other retailers charge full (or more) for quite some time before the prices are reduced. The reward zone program allows for the customer (namely me) to feel like they are part of the company by giving coupons that equal a certain cash value toward another bestbuy purchase in order to reward people for shopping there. Further this program gives periodic % off coupons for purchases as well.

But why does BestBuy do this and other competing companies dont? Could it be because Best Buy gives customers something more then the required purchase to item ratio and thus increases the confidence and trust they have so that they will come back in the future? Or are they simply insane to spend the extra time, money, and effort that their competitors seem to have no interest in? I, personally, think it is fantastic that they go above and beyond the call of duty in order to make their customers feel like they are apart of their organization and that they actually matter.

Now, I have worked inside the Best Buy corporate headquarters and I have been the "higher ups". They are your typical beaurcratic, profit driven, seemingly heartless business men and women. With few exceptions, they wouldnt give you the time of day if asked let alone treat you like a human being in person unless you had money to give them. Normally, I would avoid a company run by such people like a plague, but, I feel, as a customer, I am treated pretty well. That, and there are very few companies who arent run by people like that, and most of those companies dont make the customer feel welcome to any great degree.

But enough rambling about how great or not Best Buy is. Their company has flourished because they have been innovative and actually listened to those outside of their inner circle. Those refering to the customer base, their lower level employees, and even those who have no affiliation with the company what so ever. Things like taking a company of 70 employees and turning into 12000 employees while expanding across North America while filling a long sought after service (aka Geek Squad) shows just how willing Best Buy is to gain and maintain their customer base. (Wikinomics p. 239)

Bringing Geek Squad into the focus and reading about Robert Stephens impressed me a little. First off he was a student at the UofM which brings him a little closer to home then the "larger then life" mentality that I typically associate with names attached to big companies. (Wikinomics p. 239) Secondly, the fact that he actually listened and explored why his employees werent using his wiki and further adapted his system and setup toward their needs is inspiring. (Wikinomics p. 246)

The problems I see with many modern companies is that they still see the consumer and employee base as ignorant, spineless, and unorganized, when, in reality, the opposite is true. To an extent, the previous might be true of the older generations who grew up without the access to information that the younger generations are privilaged and they have been the customer base for quite some time now, but the more educated and flexible generations dont fall for the same tricks. Therefore, the companies who hang on to the mentalities of "work place hierarchy" and "consumer ignorance" will soon fade away.

A news report I read some months back indicated that Generation Xer's are causing drastic changes in the business world. They demand moderate days, decent wages, significant amounts of time off (paid even) to raise a family, and flexible working environments. It basically indicated that the younger generations dont simply want to work their lives away doing meaningless work while missing out on the joys of life. I wish I could still find that article so that I could quote it, but it is long since buried in the archives of yahoo! news. I have to say, we should demand no less. Life is too short to simply work 24/7 and miss out on what really matters in life. Companies like Enron show us that it's just not worth it.

Tapscott and Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006. Pg. 239-267.

February 26, 2008

notes from the New Media Ethics Forum

Last night, the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists and Minnesota Public Radio hosted what was billed as “a UBS Forum examing the present state of journalism, the effect of new media on mainstream media (MSM), and ethical issues and quandries created by evolving communication, expectation and collaboration.” I was unable to attend because of prior commitments. but the lovely folks over at Metroblogging Minneapolis live-blogged the entire thing. If you're interested in citizen journalism, take a few minutes to peruse this.

One of the featured panelists, Chuck Olsen of The Uptake, has posted some after-thoughts on how things played out. If you don’t have a passing familiarity with the citizen journalism landscape or are offended by mild cursing, this probably isn't for you, but I’m posting it for those of you who are invested in or interested in the local blogging scene.

February 23, 2008

No External Measure.

Our metrics for success with this project won't be the same as with a typical informational or commercial website. Many of you have hit on the idea, informed by the readings, that we will achieve success by including various content and usability functions in the site. Hit count is always a way to assess a website's popularity and thus is attractive as a proxy measure of success. Feedback is another possible measure, and establishment of a recurring user community would be an unmistakable sign that we've done a good job. All of these are useful, even unquantified, and we could choose any combination of them to define our success by the end of the semester. But that won't work for us.

We are working toward a fixed deadline with the end of this class, and that's where our point of measuring success has to fall. Whether some or all of us continue on as site administrators, contributors, etc. won't be relevant for the direct purpose of this class - determining whether we are successful in this context is fixed. For this reason, we will not be able to rely on hit counts, feedback, or the potential development of a user community to gauge our results. These metrics will simply take too long to develop.

So it's back to the first idea - the content and function of the site itself. Here we have total control over what happens, and can define our success exactly as fits our objectives and timeline. We've already done most of the groundwork for this, in the Forums this week and last, on Thinkature, and with Krista's audio/slide presentation. We have a functional outline of our site and how we want it to work. We can now define our success as following through with that outline, creating and posting our wiki to the web. Giving ourselves a little more specificity will help too. One way to do that would be to set content targets for each of our subsections (or for each contributor): 5 text articles, 10 photos, 20 external links (arbitrary numbers), and I'm betting some of you will have other creative ideas on this.

It might sound like none of this gets directly back to our very important question of audience. We can't account for the audience directly in our measurement of results, but we are doing so by design, and measuring the implementation of that design. In this way, we are still placing due attention and importance on the question of the audience.

February 22, 2008

Blueprints for Success are Provided by the User

Every person has a different opinion about what success is. For one individual, success for this site could be creating a well researched website that covers all aspects of the bridge. Another person could define success as having done extensive research on just one topic. It all can vary from person to person. For our purposes, I do feel that we need to agree upon an audience if we want to determine success with our user base, outside of an exit survey or a hit count.

I realize that we are shying away from the thought of a general audience. I would agree that this shouldn’t be used to define our audience. However, since we are developing a website on a topic that has already been researched, I do feel that we should use some type of academic anchor point, even if everyone is going to have access to our website. I believe that this will help us to create a better website by being more specific, and will also give us the chance to talk with real users of our site. I don’t think that we should be worried about those that just happen to stumble upon our website. I do believe that we should try to retain a specific user base be creating a site that they will keep coming back too.

In information architecture, they stress the importance of realizing that everyone has different perspectives. “The fact is that labeling and organization systems are intensely affected by their creators’ perspectives.? (O’Reilly, 2007, p.57) Because of the various perspectives we have when creating this site, it will be difficult to pull the topics together in a way that all of the creators (us) will be happy.

In the same regard, we could put together the best site in the world on this subject, and if no one wants to look at it, or come back to it, have we succeeded? We may say yes, or users may say no, for many various reasons.

Because of these two issues, I feel that it will be much more beneficial to our users, and much easier for us to compile information if we are putting together a website that will be based on an audience, and not what we THINK people want. I believe that when we have a happy user base, getting the information that they are seeking, we WILL be successful.

If there are a thousand websites out there, compiling information about the 35w bridge, there really won’t be any reason for users to choose our website over the next. If we just provide information to a broad, unidentified audience, we will just be an Internet echo.

We need to be unique, and it is my belief, that our audience’s need will determine our success.

Organization? Ahhhh, The A Type Personality in Me Loves This.

In our chapter, there was so much great information on how we can make this website a success. The main issue I see as a problem is classification. This issue encompasses all the subtopics like organization, heterogeneity, perspectives, politics, schemes, structure, and social classification. How will we classify all of our bookmarked areas so our website will be full of the correct information with an easy browsing system?

Labelling, classification schemes, and cataloging are all parts of organizing information in a way that is useful to all who visit. (Morville & Rosenfeld, p. 54) . Here is my take on how this can be successful, of course, keep in mind I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have visited quite a few sites and some are just plain crappy. I think we are all on the same page when I say we want ours to be wonderful, so here is my opinion.

Ambiguity and heterogeneity may be good ideas. I thought we had way too many labels on del.icio.us, but this could work towards the ambiguity and heterogeneity on a sub-topic level. Morville & Rosenfeld say "The heterogeneous nature of web sites makes it difficult to impose any single structured organization system on the content." ( p. 56). Classifying all of this information into a main group of topics is going to be the hardest thing to do.

To classify this information on a main topic level, we should look at schemes like the exact organization scheme (Morville & Rosenfeld, p. 59). I know the topic scheme shows under the ambiguous scheme but I think we can use it as an exact also. Since our website will have a more defined aspect than that of, say, Google with its total ambiguous style, the exact organization scheme with some ambiguity included seems to be the best answer. A chronological scheme may also work, but maybe as a subtopic.

I am not sure we need to concern ourselves with task scheme since we will not include a comment section or any interactive aspect. Our audience scheme, per Krista, will start with the University, however these audience schemes break a site into smaller, audience-specific mini-sites which I cannot see a use for yet (Morville & Rosenfeld, p. 65). Metaphors scheme might be fun to play with. As for using multiple schemes (hybrids scheme), except for a few cases, Morville and Rosenfeld state, "...when you start blending elements of multiple schemes, confusion often follows, and solutions are rarely (balanced)" (p. 67).

Organization seems like it will follow right along with whatever scheme we use. Using the top-down approach sounds feasible. "Because hierarchies provide a simple and familiar way to organize information, they are usually a good place to start the information and architechture process" (Morville & Rosenfeld, p. 69). This is where Thinkature was supposed to come in, if it worked, (sorry Krista, but it was a bear!). We have to think about a good balance in breadth and depth: do not give too many options, group info at page level, USER TESTING! (Morville & Rosenfeld, p. 71). Hypertext may work to lead us from a topic to a list of all the subtopics.

Anyway, I feel I have just rambled because, again, this is all new to me until I can use it and apply it. I really cannot wait to see what others are saying and how this thing ends up. My parents are excited, my kids are excited, even my dog, Brutus, wags his tail every time I mention the words "Information Architecture".

Windows to Success... Take a peek if you dare!

Success comes in many forms, shapes and sizes. Most often, success is measured in $ and is vastly business oriented. I, personally, have never found money to be a means to success, nor an accurate measure of success. My reasoning is because it is purely quantitative and lacks the qualitative component to make it viable. There are other measures of success that diminish the singular quality of wealth. Things like happiness, freedom, and control. Now some might say that those are all qualitative and lack the quantitative component and to an extent, they would be right. This is because people compare themselves with other people. They measure success based on others. In this, they become limited and essentially achieve no success at all because they lose their freedom. They are bound to the worry that another might get ahead of them and so they strive to produce more. In this production they essentially waste time out of their limited life which they will never get back and still "end the game" with less then those who have "more" life left. Does this make sense?

So to measure success, we must take into account that our real success is based in the realms that are difficult to measure and that aren't based on a comparison with others. So long as we learn something from this project, we carry away from this course something of immense wealth that is worth far more then numbers can count. Simply knowing that we are supplying others with our knowledge and points of view from as many facts and references as are needed will be sufficiently successful.

Many people believe that happiness is derived from the things that can be purchased, but this is a common misconception. The things we are able to obtain through quantitative measures provide pleasure, but pleasure only lasts as long as our interest holds. Once our interest disolves, we are on to the next item on the list in a never ending cycle to achieve... what? Contentment. Being content with yourself and your situation increases the happiness in your life 10 fold because you are no longer bogged down by the fear associated with losing your place in the "human race".

This is all well and good, but contentment is boring. Life suddenly has little meaning. This is why we further take our contentment with our situation and branch out toward helping others achieve contentment as well. Things like dontating to those in need helps them to not worry about "losing their place" and keeps them sustained.

But in order to help others, we have to help ourselves first right? And to do so we strive to make lots of money right? Well there is nothing wrong with making money so long as we dont use it toward our measure of success. Then the tool works for us rather then the other way around. So, if we help others first and then achieve our contentment, everything else falls in line to help us achieve happiness and success.

Therefore, success is not based on a quantitative measure, but more of a qualitative measure. One that is almost abstract and is very individualized. If we can help the individuals across the globe achieve contentment through our site by finding the proper information easily and enjoyably while learning something in the process, then I feel we've succeeded.

February 21, 2008

Defining our success.

We will know we have succeeded when our goals have been met. That is, we build a media-rich site, we include original, well-researched text, we provide links to primary resources, and we provide audio and video components. From this broad base, ‘success’ can be more clearly laid out as the accomplishment of our sub-topic goals. So, each general goal should be tailored to fit our individual areas. Within each sub-topic, the content should reflect our goal statement, and the sub-topic success can be measured independently from the other sub-topics. There are some additional goals that we should meet that are more general – for instance, our ‘media-rich’ site needs to not only be built, but must function as well. Our search feature should return relevant results, our links and audio/visual files must work, and editable areas should function as designed for users.

Updated note: Okay, reading my post I feel pretty closed off to elaborate thought compared with most of you. Mut, my basic premise is this: the idea of success is so general that defining it can become overly broad...just like we needed to clarify what topics make sense for our project given that we are an STC class, I think it is important to get down to the bare bones of success for our project. A rubric, of sorts, of minimal points which must be addressed outside of our general, individual ideas of what success really is. In completing certain points of the success rubric, I would hope that we would all learn something. For instance, just in selecting our individual topics, we all learned/continued to use del.icio.us - a success, clearly for us as individual students...but not really a point that the success of our final product will be measured against. If we don't clarify a few points to define success for our project, we may never feel like we have succeeded, as clearly the site will continue to morph and grow - and will not reach a traditional end-point.

schematics of a usable web wiki

Throughout the past couple of weeks I think that we have successfully implemented our thoughts throughout newer developments including delicious and thinkature. I do believe that the hardest part is over in the beginning phases of development, because just getting the ideas down onto something concrete is half the battle. I feel that the audio file pointed out a huge gray area for the class, which was that our audience was not general and that it was variable. The audience analysis depends on the topics brought about by the concerns and repercussions of the collapse. Although, the collapse of the bridge could affect many people around the country, our wiki will be very successful if we can narrow the focus of the audience. Step one in our success should be accurately narrowing our audience analysis.

The second main focus for success should be shed upon developing task lists. In BrownEtAl, task lists "help you to create a more accurate schedule, and a detailed task list helps to better track the progress of the project." I agree with this 100%. Task lists can always change throughout the course and development of a project, but to get them down in a sequential order is again half the battle. You can map progress with office project or excel which gives you duration time slots which is extremely useful.

The third and main focus for success is putting the wiki together in a usable way on the web so that people that seek out information can easily find it and gather it in a timely fashion. How do we do this? Organizing our information under categories that cater to the cognates of visual rhetoric (emphasis, arrangement, conciseness, clarity, and ethos). Usability.gov claims that 63% of web users don't find the information they need on their first try, and it takes the average person 7 seconds before they give up on the site altogether. If we can develop a website that is pleasing to the eye and user friendly, I think that is success entirely.

Success is Relative

I decided to consider the question of success in terms of past work I've done on websites. Generally we gauge the success of a site based on the number of hits it receives. Since attention is the new currency as we have heard in both the books Connect! and Wikinomics, the number of hits a site accumulates directly correlates to the revenue it produces. However, the more I thought about what would constitute success for our wiki the more I believed that it would very from my typical understanding of success.

i think that the wiki will be successful if it accurately presents the plethora of information, regarding the bridge collapse, found on the web. The wiki will no thrive on the number of the people who visit it but rather the number of people who contribute to it. The better we are at adding and organizing information the more successful it will be. If it's only purpose is to help one person understand the true magnitude of the bridge collapse then it will be successful. If each of the 14 of use involved in the course contribute, it will fill that position and be successful.

I'm not sure we will actually know if it is every successful. It is hard to measure it's value to those who visit it. However, we will be able to measure both the quantity and quality of information contained in it. The success will ultimately rest on the quantity and quality of the information we contribute to it and the usability and understanding it will provide to those who visit. While we can measure what we do we will never really know the impact it has on the readers.

S-U-C-C-E-S-S That's the way you spell success. Let's go!

I remember in my younger years, I heard the cheer that goes: S-U-C-C-E-S-S That's the way you spell success. Let's gooooooooooooooooooooo! The [team] is the best. Let's goooooooooooooooooooo! They stand out from all the rest. Let's gooooooooooooooooo! Let's go, let's go, let's really go! That may not be much, but something so lighthearted (like a cheer) could really have a lot of meaning.

Krista asked, "What does success look like? Based on what we've said so far about our project goals and plans, how will we know if we've succeeded or not? What specific indicators should we look for?" Take the part of the cheer that says, "They stand out from all the rest." If we have a website about the 35W bridge collapse that stands out from all the rest, we have something that sets us apart. That could be thought of as success. People flock to sites that stand out due to a number of reasons--because it's refreshingly different, because people pass on the word about the site that they remember because it stood out in their mind, and so on.

If you take what was written in the readings this week, it was summarized in Project Planning and Tracking, "Every project needs a project plan. Ideally, project plans need to include the scope, assumptions, requirements, tasks, schedule, and costs for the project. The more detailed your plan, the better you will be able to track your progress as time goes by (Brown et al, 2007, p. 113)" From this, if we completed all the steps of our project plans (scope, assumptions, etc.) and stay on top of it and not lag behind, we'll be successful because we completed all the necessary steps to make the website a reality.

When we are completing our tasks, we have to remember that: "Time is money, and for most projects, the cost of your team's time will be the largest percentage of your expenses. (Brown et al, 2007, p. 107)" I totally agree with that, so we should definitely use our time wisely! If we do, we could accomplish so much more than if we didn't use our time wisely, thus success is closer to our fingertips. Related to time, I was surprised to read, "Whenever two or more people share a task, the total amount of time required to complete that task goes up just a bit because the people involved need to spend additional time coordinating their efforts (Brown et al, 2007, p. 97)" I thought that it would take less time because you have two people instead of one to complete it. Honestly, I thought that it would take 1/2 the time because two people were sharing the task. Nonetheless, there are advantages such as getting a second opinion and the ability to cover more ground or cyberspace rather. They also say "two heads are better than one!"

Regardless if we have a partner for a task or not, we all are a part of a team. I'm not trying to sound like a coach or a cheerleader, but we can do it! If we all complete our work, the website will be on its way to launch into the world wide web. That is the first step of knowing that we succeeded. Let's not stop there. Let's go above and beyond. Let's stand out from the rest (as I mentioned at the beginning). If we stand out, we know people are going to our site. If we have a site that's working--great, we succeeded! If we have a site that's working and heavily hit--great, we really succeeded! Bring in your talents! Search far and broad so that serendipity comes to you! Sometimes I think success is not the definition of others but each individual's definition . . . If we are happy within ourselves and know that our effort was spent wisely (and we didn't waste time as I mentioned time is money earlier), we have succeeded. In the end, I hope everyone is proud of what they have contributed to the site.

In addition, let's not forget about ethics. Chapter 14 of Information Architecture is on the topic of ethics. "The truth is that ethics is one of the many hidden dimensions of information architecture. (Morville & Rosenfeld, 2006, p. 341)" I believe if people do things ethically, with integrity, it goes a long way and those people will go far!

A Measure of Wiki Success

What does success look like? In contemplating this question, I was rather stunned by the realization that I have very little professional experience to inform my answer. In theory I “collaborate? with others everyday yet neither my teammates nor clients rarely—if ever—pose that question. Given my inexperience, I found the ideas presented in this week’s readings very helpful. The way Brown et al. structure the question of defining success is very constructive. Morville and Rosenfeld offer many specific indicators of quality and pose important ethical questions. Together, they comprise an effective framework with which to measure the success of collaborative projects like the wiki we’re creating for this class.

In their book, Managing Virtual Teams, Brown et al., frame the issue of success by asking “Why are you doing this project?? and “What will be different when you finish the project successfully (Managing 2007 pg. 99)?? Both these questions ask about the purpose of our project: to provide the public with a comprehensive, informative site that focuses on scientific and technical aspects of the bridge collapse. (Thank you Krista for providing the purpose statement!) In addition, everyone probably has academic or personal reasons for taking this class that are also important measures of success but which can be evaluated individually. In my case, for example, I am taking this class to advance my career.

While the first question is more general, the second question leads to specific answers and terms of success. Applied to our class project, my answers would be:
• there will be a new, and hopefully unique, wiki about the scientific and technical aspects of the bridge collapse;
• the wiki will meet our stated goal of being a media-rich site containing original, well-researched text, and direct links to primary resources and media.
Academically and personally, I will have learned about emerging technology by using Web 2.0 applications to participate in the class, write about our reading, and collaborate on the creation of a wiki.

These answers include broad, qualitative terms such as “comprehensive,? “well-researched,? and “media-rich? that are easier to evaluate when they are redefined in more precise and measurable terms. Some of this work is already done:
• “Comprehensive? refers to the breadth of the wiki’s content. The content of our wiki will include the twelve topics we will research individually.
• “Well-researched? could be defined by the same general standards applicable to all University writing and research.
• “Media-rich? implies a mixture of content in various media including video, audio, still images as well as text.

“Informative? is another qualitative aspect that Morville and Rosenfeld suggest many specific ways to define and measure. Applying their principles of good information architecture to our wiki will lay the foundation for an informative site. They discuss various methods of organizing content but argue that good information systems have a cohesive organizational scheme and a structure that enables the user to form a quick “mental map? of the site (Information 2007 pg. 69).

The authors argue that organizational schemes based on topics are most cohesive. Logic is the primary advantage of topical organizational schemes. Topical organization “ … defines the shared characteristics of content items and suggests logical groupings of items (Information 2007 pg. 58).? Topical schemes also define the “universe of content? encompassed by a site, giving users a good idea of what they will find there (Information 2007 pg. 63).

Morville and Rosenfeld recommend top-down organizational structures because they aid users in forming a mental map of a site. Top-down structures anticipate the most likely questions of users including: where am I, what’s important and unique about this site, how do I get around this site, how do I search for what I want, what’s available on this site, what’s happening on this site, and where is the contact information (Information 2007 pg. 44). The top-down structure has the additional advantage of being more familiar to users and simpler to use than systems structured from the bottom-up.

Other characteristics of good organizational structure identified by Morville and Rosenfeld involve taxonomy design and labeling. In their view, the most effective taxonomies are hierarchically structured with content organized in discrete or mutually exclusive categories (Information 2007 pg. 70). Well-designed taxonomies also strike a good balance between exclusivity and inclusivity, the amount of cross-referencing and the breadth and depth of the site (Information 2007 pg. 70). Good labeling systems have the following important characteristics:
• representative of the content they link to or precede
• consistent style, syntax, specificity, comprehensiveness, presentation
• differentiating
• user-centric
• contextual, i.e., meets the user’s expectations not personal associations
• narrow in scope (Information 2007 pg. 98–100)

Finally, I think another important measure of success involves addressing several ethical issues. First, we need to make our site accessible to people with differing physical abilities. Secondly, although our content will not focus on social aspects, I think that in general, our treatment of the subject must be dignified out of respect for those who were injured physically and emotionally by the bridge collapse.

This seems like a daunting list! At the same time, breaking success down into specific indicators makes success seem by far more attainable than lofty-sounding but vague goals. I look forward to applying these new ideas to both the wiki project and my own job.


Sources
Brown, Katherine M., Huettner, Brenda, James-Tanny, Char. Managing Virtual Teams: Getting the Most from Wikis, Blogs, and Other Collaborative Tools. Wordware Publishing, 2007.

Morville, Peter and Rosenfeld, Louis. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. O’Reilly, 2007.

The Metafilter model

How we will know we're successful? I think the best way to approach this is to examine other sites. I'll rely on my old favorite, Metafilter, for inspiration. Now, Metafilter isn't a wiki, and isn't specialized like our site will be, but it's a highly successful community site that draws hundreds of thousands of users. I think we can draw some lessons from the Metafilter model.

First, the navigation is clear, easy to find and simple to navigate. When the site requires participation, the authors have provided thorough, concise directions that guide EVERYONE through, not just those who are familiar with the internet. Second, there's quality control happening, which I think is applicable to our site, as well. Matt Haughey's (Metafilter creator) goal was to gather the "best of the web," and while not everyone agrees, Metafilter has interesting, intelligent content. It's a filter, which is an important concept for us. We don't want every single scrap of 35W information on our site; we want the most accurate and pertinent. I think it can be tempting with sites like this to make an encyclopedia, but I think we serve our audience best if we filter the information.

Metafilter's also successful because everyone has a voice. Now, this is difficult to police, but I think if our audience feels like they can contribute or participate somehow, they'll feel more engaged and more likely to return to the site. Whether this is through editing the wiki or uploading videos or providing additional research, I think audience participation is essential, especially with a topic like this. Disasters feel universal, and if we're especially gearing this to a UMN audience (as suggested in the Moodle), then the site will feel even MORE personal. A wiki, in its purest form (as I understand it), belongs to everyone.

We'll know we're successful when we have a clean, coherent, interesting and engaging product - not just by our standards, but by our visitors', as well. We have an organized task list and game plan - as long we stay focused, we'll have a successful site.

Achieving Success

It's really difficult for me to explain what success looks like, so I am going talk about what I took from this weeks readings and apply them to our project . To achieve success it is important to start with a plan that includes a purpose and goal to help you get there. The fact is that the Internet is such a largely used tool that it makes it difficult to narrow in on a specific audience. You cannot assume that our audience is going to have the background knowledge for every topic that we cover. It is imperative to provide comprehensive material that is well-researched and accurate. This will include informative text, photos and video and presented in a way that is fun and interesting.

Creating a task list has helped us come up with a plan and now our goal is to effectively organize and present them in an interesting way. The topics we have come up with include: environmental factors, chronology, structural causes of collapse, charities/victim compensation funds, taxation issues, similar collapses in US, internet/citizen journalism, political repercussions, redesign plans, traffic impact and preventative measures. While all of these topics are related to the bridge collapse, they provide a variety of information for each individual interest.

The organization of information is a major factor in determining success. Our audience is variable and not general. There are many different reasons people may seek out our site. We need to organize the information so that the people can find the right answer to their questions. For this reason it should be easy to navigate so that they don't get lost and frustrated. For if people don't get the information that they are looking for they are not likely to return and that would leave us unsuccessful. A piece from the readings that relates to this is "As the Internet provides users with the freedom to publish information it quietly burdens them with the responsibility to organize that information." (Information Architecture, pg. 54). Anyone can create a website, but not everyone can do this successfully. "By recognizing the importance of perspective, by striving to understand the intended audiences through user research and testing, and by providing multiple navigation pathways, you can do a better job of organizing information for public consumption." (Information Architecture, pg. 57).

So to conclude, I feel that every project needs a plan. This will help to ensure that the information is presented in an organized, informative and use-friendly way. By doing so we should be able to achieve success.

Success looks like…consistency and organization

What does success look like? I’m not sure, so I’m going to ramble for a bit and see what comes out. I’ve looked at the scope and I’ve looked at the requirements. I’ve got a laptop, a digital camera that can make movies, a digital voice recorder, software, and I’ll have plenty of gumption once I am free of my job in a week. So far—nothing scary. Whew!

To relate this to the readings, I think Morville and Rosenfeld’s best bit of advice is “…it is impossible to create a perfect organizational system. One site does not fit all!? (57). I think it’ll be a good thing to remember because sometimes it can be easy to get wrapped up in the little details and forget the overall goal. I guess that’s the project management part…speaking of which, the Brown chapter on PM was an excellent and easy to follow overview of the process. Most of the info was not new to me—I’ve worked in a logistics department, so I am used to seeing project schedules and assumption and requirement lists, but I’m not so familiar with task list generation.

But the main ideas that jumped out at me this week were consistency and organization. I liked that consistency => predictable systems => easier to learn (99). Users come to expect certain things when they click on certain links and if they don’t get the expected result, it’s confusing.

As for an organization system on the bridge site, I see both exact (chronological, 60) and ambiguous (topic, 63) schemes being used. Chronological because the collapse happened on a specific date and events have occurred since then (rubble clearing, examining rubble for structural defects, bidding new bridge, choosing design, building begins, milestones, etc.).(I also chose chronology as my area in the task list.) Topic because someone might just want to use a “serendipitous mode of information seeking? (62).

In terms of structure, I see a hierarchy being used. The example of breadth and depth on page 71 was a good illustration of what seems to be a fine line between too much clicking and topics spread too far. I don’t think the database model has much use here, so if someone disagrees, please chime in.

I liked how the authors used conversation to describe the interaction, or lack thereof, between users and a website (83) and the purpose of labels, “…information architects must try their best to design labels that speak that same language as a site’s users while reflecting its content…Labels should educate users about new concepts and help them quickly identify familiar ones.?

One last thing, when I was reading the chapter on labeling, I had a sudden flashback to when I worked at National Car Rental about 8 or 9 years ago. I remember sitting in an office with a Perot System’s contractor and a res dept supervisor doing content analysis. At the time, I didn’t know she was an information architect, but after reading this book, I guess that's what she was. Perot Systems was converting a paper-based resource to online help, so she would quiz us about how it was used by the different users, what the sections were, what the topics and subtopics were in the chapters, and so on. She also asked what we thought was missing since the new software was rolled out. She was very thorough and detailed in her questioning—so much so that it began to seem tedious because we just sat there while she typed. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how it turned out or if it was ever finished since there was some turmoil and movement with the company.

February 20, 2008

35W Bridge Model from U of MN

The University was contracted to construct a model of the previous 35W bridge to be used in the NTSB investigation. Reports about the model aired on local new shows last night in addition to reports about the debate in the state legislature over transportation funding.

MODEL OF FORMER I-35W BRIDGE, built by civil engineering junior Rachel Gaulke, is being sent to Washington, D.C. today. The 1/200th-scale model will be used by engineers at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), for various presentations to help visualize and explain information related to the bridge collapse and its causes. NTSB contracted the U to produce the model because of its familiarity with the bridge. The budget for the model was about $6,000, including labor and materials. Read the news release and watch the video on the construction and presentation of the bridge model.

February 19, 2008

Could this be Web 3.0?

Someone shared this video at a gathering of designers I attended last week. Being more of a right-brained sort of person, I really enjoyed it. Whether you're right-brained or not, however, it is poetically and politically thought-provoking about where the Internet could go:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/26

February 18, 2008

Article in Sunday's Star Tribune (2/17)

So, I was reading the Star Tribune on Sunday and saw this article about the kids on the schoolbus and life after the 35W bridge collapse. I was really touched by it. The article title (which suits well) is "One day at a time for Waite House kids". I could not imagine what they went through. Nonetheless, this article is full of hope.

http://www.startribune.com/local/15686767.html

I also added it to our del.icio.us

NOTE: You may or may not be able to access the URL/web address via Star Tribune site. I was able to access it without logging in the first time. Thereafter, it asked me to log in.

February 17, 2008

so, what should we call this thing?

What should our blog name be?
Awhile back, I asked you folks what we should name the course blog. Several of you had some interesting ideas about that. Please vote on the one you'd like to see us use. (All responses are anonymous.)

Urgent Emergents
Connectonomics
Aspiration Toward Collaboration
Web 2.0.4.6.6.2
The Neo-Techno Shift
Socially Climactic Technologies
Heck, let's just keep "Emerging Tech in STC"


MPR wants info on bridge collapse

Public input re: 35W bridge on Gather.com
In doing my research of MPR's content re: 35W bridge collapse, I came across a posting soliciting Web resources on the subject from the public. It's dated from August 2 last fall but maybe we could link up our Wiki anyways... The author, Julia Schrenkler, is the interactive producer for mpr and has regular posts on gather.com, an interactive discussion/commentary/social networking site associated with MPR/APR.

http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977073865

There's another MPR project called Public Insight Journalism that solicits story leads, information and resources from the general public that we may want to contact too.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/publicinsightjournalism/

February 14, 2008

likely of interest to many of you

The Resume Rebooted: A Look at Web-Enabled Job Hunting from ReadWriteWeb.

February 13, 2008

category fix

How in the world did we manage not to have a 35W Bridge Collapse category from the get-go? That's fixed now, and I appropriately categorized the relevant entries.

February 12, 2008

Social Media breakfast

Short notice, but there's a Social Media Breakfast tomorrow in Minneapolis. Looks very similar to what we're studying!

February 10, 2008

Comcare - Informed Emergency Response

Check out this video if you get a chance -

http://www.comcare.org/Video.html

Interesting tie-ins to our discussions on open communication...and the 35W collapse.
Part of a Clinical/Public Health Informatics course presentation last week.

February 9, 2008

I-35W Bridge Presentation

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation about MN/DOT's Photogrammetry Unit response to the bridge collapse. A summary of the presentation is below. This may sound dry, and I may be biased by profession, but there were some great technical achievements and a good anecdote or two as well.

Presenters: Pete Jenkins and Dan Ross, MN/DOT; and Miles Strain, AeroMetric. AeroMetric is a major private aerial photography and mapping firm that maintains strong partnerships with MN/DOT and many other governments and agencies at all levels, and is a recognized leader in the field.

At 6:05pm 8/1/07, bridge #9340, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River, collapsed. By 7:30pm, AeroMetric had contacted MN/DOT to offer all of it's capabilities in generating new imagery for the emergency response and rebuild efforts. Around the same time, Gov. Tim Pawlenty had publicly stated that the bridge would be rebuilt as soon as possible, and Pete Jenkins at MN/DOT had received authorization for all necessary action and expenditure to facilitate the rebuild effort. MN/DOT and AeroMetric personnel met and established a contract by handshake early on the morning of 8/2.

By approx. 2pm on 8/2, operating for MN/DOT, AeroMetric's helicopter was over the site and took over 300 high-quality digital aerial photographs from every possible angle of the site. Incident Command including airspace authority was not 100% unified at that time, and upon landing, AeroMetric's photographer and pilot were briefly detained by State Patrol officers who had followed and landed behind them in another helicopter. The proper authority was established in fairly short order and the crew was released and delivered the photos, which were rapidly put to use by all parties involved in the response.

By 8/3, the FBI, NTSB, and others were all involved on site in Minneapolis, placing additional demands on coordination and making physical and data security a greater factor for all responders. A second mission by airplane took extremely high-resolution photography and LIDAR scans, and flew directly to a processing facility in Ohio to expedite completion. This photography and the LIDAR data enabled MN/DOT and federal agencies to generate an incredibly high-accuracy three-dimensional model of the terrain. The photos and model were essential to the emergency workers, cleanup crews, and rebuild teams alike. Additional flights continued over the following weeks, providing frequent updates on the changing ground conditions.

There is much more, but I'll cut the technical review short in the context of this blog. In addition to the data itself, the raw speed of the response for this highly technical work and the ability to coordinate the efforts of AeroMetric and multiple layers of government was very impressive. I'd also like to point out that, as you may recall, rebuild plans were finalized and a bid awarded faster than just about anyone expected (mid September) - this work conducted by the Photogrammetry Unit and AeroMetric was pivotal in making that possible.

Unfortunately, the highest resolution photos are not publicly available at this time due to ongoing investigations by the FBI and NTSB. MN/DOT's official bridge website contains downsampled versions of much of this data, as well as more information about the process. A link to the presentation itself (.ppt) should be online soon, and I will update this blog when that goes online.

Theory & Practice on Moving Ground.

A few short points here, then I'll share something from outside the course outline in a separate entry. First, I finally subscribed to the Lifehacker RSS about a week ago, and lo and behold, a new IM/social network/email aggregator was listed: Digsby. See the Lifehacker entry for some details, I haven't signed up yet, but will by tomorrow.

Connect! This week again offered some great tips. The Orienteering method (starting on p.118) is essential to having any confidence in what you are researching online (or rather, in any answers you find), and frees you from the vagaries Google's or Yahoo's first-page search results. It's a bit slower on the front end, but you are certain to build more than enough knowledge to compensate. I also like the suggestions on page 138 for "renewing your beginner's mind". As Zalenka notes, it's easy to stagnate when you don't have a new look at the information you're working with - even when the information itself is new. I've inadvertently done a few of these things in the past when I've reached this point, and intend to practice them more frequently in the future.

Wikinomics seems to be the topic of the week, and I'll make most of my comments on the already extensive blogs by the rest of you. However, I do want to note that the chapter was somewhat troublesome to me in the same way as our Week One readings from Connect! (blog), in that Tapscott & Williams seemed to be going back and forth. Throughout Chapter 4 (p.97-123), they make strong prescriptive statements, but often immediately hedge them against current realities. The conclusion on page 123 brings that all together. Both sides are indeed necessary, and I fully agree with advocating the advance of technology and with pushing perspectives on innovation and open-sourcing, etc., but to me the argument is hurt by trying to play both sides in this fashion.

tweaks and items

1. I’ve added our del.icio.us to the sidebar.

2. People besides you are reading this blog. Some of my colleagues (both here at UMN and other places) have stopped by, and have commented on how smart you folks are sounding here. And Jenny blogged about her "talk" with us over on the Intuit Innovation Labs blog, which means some Intuit folks have stopped by as well. (In a perfect world they'd have left lots of comments for you, but instead we'll just consider this proof of all the research on lurking, eh?)

3. With Hillary's permission, I’ve updated one of her blog entries with embedded video of the Dick Hardt presentation she linked to. If you're interested in the future of identity security in online environments, you should carve out 15 minutes to watch it. I teach with this video all the time — just not in this class. (Also, the other thing she talks about there is totally true: I am indeed available for IM appointments, and I generally find that they’re helpful for everybody involved. Don’t be afraid to set up one.)

Caught in the Web

Like the majority of web users, I have spent my fair share of time getting caught in the web. I have spent time running down back alley urls only to find myself so far from where I started, that I had no idea how to get back. Generally, these searches resulted in me ending up with the content that I was seeking; I just had to travel in ten different directions to get it.
This week was the first week that I worked with “social book marking? tools. The book marking utility that we are using, Del.icio.us, is quite an impressive tool. In my opinion, its one of those things that you stumble upon (no website pun intended) and ask yourself, “Why didn’t anybody think of this sooner??
Being able to source quality information from essentially a limitless amount of users will be very bitter sweet. Arguably, with social book marking, the user chooses the quality of information that they list. So you might still find yourself with a few bumps in your research road, but, for the most part, the information should be good.
Along the same lines as social book marking, “Ideagoras? as described by Wikinomics, are “Marketplaces for ideas, innovations, and uniquely qualified minds.? (Wikinomics, 2006, p.97) InnoCentive is one of the ideagoras mentioned in the book. This idea mill now offers solutions to an estimated “thirty-five Fortune 500 companies.? (Wikinomics, 2006, p.98)
I’m not quite sure how I feel about these ideagoras. The major benefits are obvious. The question becomes, what makes you stand out to a company. If they can get your services from places like InnoCentive, InnovationXchange Network, YourEncore, and others, is there justification for spending $1.5 billion on internal R&D, such as Procter & Gamble did in the late 1990s? (Wikinomics, 2006, p. 103) Where else would these kinds of funds come from? If it is a multiple company investment, which companies get the rights to the patents? Who gets to work on the project? How are they chosen? With global collaboration, where is the R&D conducted? I could go on listing questions. These all spiral from the original ideagoras. My main curiosity will be how the industry chooses to manage the work done with ideagoras and the intellectual property rights. Since this is so new, there are still a lot of pieces that need to get sorted out. Only time will tell how the pieces fall into place.

February 8, 2008

Meeting of Minds

Apologies again for the late blog post. I guess I know where my weakness is!

Wikinomics was fascinating this week. The concept of an "ideagora" is exactly why I love the internet, and the Pringles Print example was inspiring. I love that a business solution could be found by an Italian university professor, a continent away from and completely unrelated to the business at hand (Wikinomics 108). I can't imagine a world anymore where solutions would be confined to in-office, analong thinktanks. Ideagoras work on a personal level, too - I've fixed cars and plumbing and planned parties and large-scale work events, all by pulling ideas from the internet. My favorite "marketplace of the mind" is Ask Metafilter an online meeting of minds where people ask all sorts of helpful (and bizarre) questions.

I appreciate the quote from Alf Bingham, though "'"It requires a lot of trust to believe that you can accomplish your goals by relying on freelance scientists to come up with solutions. (Wikinomics 113).'" It's easy for me to ask an online community how to fix my toilet, and not worry about the quality or rapidity of the answers. I can see how this element would feel rather renegade and stressful for a business - in a sense, the business has to relinquish control over the process. I could see how a lot of businesses run by older CEOs (or Luddites) might feel uneasy with the ideagora concept.

Switching to this week's data mining exercise - I use del.i.cious for my personal links, and I've always found it a fabulous application. I love its barebones design - so many apps go for flashy, complicated designs and control panels, and I've always appreciated del.i.cious's urge to shy away from that. It's been interesting to gather bridge links, as well. While I've read a fair share of news about the bridge, I admit I've stayed away from the bulk of it because it seems too fresh for me. An acquaintance was injured in the collapse, and it's been difficult - though inspiring - to read about her recovery. It'll be interesting to see how we tie all of this into the wiki.

--
Tapscott and Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006. Pg. 97-123.

February 7, 2008

Knowledge as a Commodity... Hmm...

Live on the web is becoming more and more prominent with the expansion of fiber optics, satellite connects, and digital infrastructures. With such infrastructures, the ability to input and output data quickly and readily becomes more of an art then a skill. I have spent years becoming proficient in the art of searching for obscure data, items, or whatever else might come to mind and without the search engines, news feeds, and online participation with group forums, these endeavors would be futile. The concept of orienteering (Connect p.118-119) has proven most useful over the years in allowing me to take bits and pieces of incremental data and combine them into something grand. For example, some of the most unique gifts that I have found for people came from obscure and difficult to find areas that weren't even found on ebay.

Given the age where knowledge is a marketable commodity, it becomes important to expand ourselves into the digital world and to know all that we can in order to succeed. That said, I do find this whole concept a little overwhelming. Even with the advanced search tools and ability to communicate with nearly anyone who's connected, there is still far too much data for any single person to follow, find, or utilize effectively within their lifetime. This results in the need for a coordinating system based on market principles. I think this is what the final pages of wikinomics were getting at. (wikinomics p.122-123). The ability to R&D globally within a controlled environment in order to maximize IP while maintaining progress.

1. Tapscott and Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006. Pg. 97-123.
2. Zelenka and Sohn. Connect!: Web Worker Daily’s Guide to a New Way of Working. Wiley, 2008. Pg. 113-139.

If my post sounds a little incoherent, it is because I've had the flu for a few days now and its just wiped me out. I've been trying to play catchup in my academics, but its an uphill battle. Anyway, I hope this finally breaks before next week. I cant afford to miss any more class.

Today's News? Wikinomicists replaced by more uniquely qualified minds.

As a previous poster commented, I too read the Wikinomics arguments with a bit of skepticism. The arguments in favor of ideagoras from the perspective of the companies are compelling, but don’t address the greater circumstances of capitalism and job security. For instance, the authors describe the win-win situation in the case of Werner Mueller, where the company benefits because they can “tap? talented individuals without employing them full-time (Wikinomics, 98). Mueller was satisfied because he was able to exercise his love of science and was compensated for his idea. What the authors failed to discuss was the fact that Mueller was a retired research scientist. While it may be great for companies that they are able to escape insurance, pensions, and family leave by contracting their ideas via outside individuals…the authors must realize that many people are not retired and are looking for regular employment. Are large-scale ideagoras more suited to retired folks or particularly “enterprising individuals? (Wikinomics, 99)?

The full-on push for an open inventions market leaves me questioning…What of the people who are not particularly enterprising? What about the people who have busy, stressful lives? Who have children to take care of? Do these sorts of people fit into the “new? marketplace of ideas? I wonder what sort of marketplace we are setting up for our society if we take all of the authors’ arguments to heart. Certainly it would be a more competitive one, driven by profits for businesses with the spoils going to “uniquely qualified minds? (Wikinomics, 97). The authors seem convinced of the infallibility of the capitalist model. While companies streamline their R&D, perhaps new IP marketplaces will create more jobs for deal negotiators, and companies will need staff to add value to their new inventions (Wikinomics, 106). I’m just not sure I want to be a working individual in the transition period.

In a completely different direction, I was inspired by Zelenka to revisit my “ideas? files. In my file cabinet, there are a few files where I stash different articles I stumble on (now want to check out StumbleUpon!), stick notes with interesting ideas I’ve heard, or jobs I’ve wanted more information about. These files go back 10+ years, and I have never followed up on the majority of the topics. Zelenka’s information about notebook applications and scanning articles (Connect!, 117), declarative tagging tips (Connect!, 124), and prospective searching (Connect!, 130) all inspired me to dig into the files and start making some sense of my ideas. There is some good stuff stashed in there…and I am looking forward to applying my new searching/organizing methods to delve deeper into it all.

What’s really radical about open innovation

The authors of Wikinomics effectively convince readers that ideagoras are a fascinating and novel business phenomena but not one deserving their unqualified praise. Tapscott and Williams tend to overstate how revolutionary ideagoras are and obscure the negative impact of open innovation on labor in scientific and technological industries. Nor do they appreciate that the business model is bred by and profits from contradictions generated by the capitalist system itself. Nonetheless, ideagoras are an important development. The genius of ideagoras, however, is that they can do what business won’t: free resources for the creation of social goods, not just profits.

Tapscott and Williams argue that ideagoras are making permanent structural changes in traditional research and development processes. They report that venerated global corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Dow, DuPont, and Eli Lilly are seeking external sources of intellectual capital and resources for innovation via the Internet rather than using their own R&D departments (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, pg. 98). Ideagoras make it possible for corporations to engage and profit from the world’s best talent and resources without the cost of employing researchers and maintaining laboratories. Although most research and development is still conducted internally, Tapscott and Williams predict that companies will increasingly abandon the previous “invention model? for free market mechanisms that promote “fluid exchange of ideas and human capital (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, pg. 101-102). They cite Proctor and Gamble as a trendsetter, stating that the company seeks to source at least 50 percent of ideas for new products and services externally by 2010 (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, 106). They also cite AT&T, IBM, and Texas Instruments as trendsetters in another open innovation enterprise: licensing out intellectual property (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, 104).

Advertising patented ideas and inventions to the world is indeed a radical idea but not one that is revolutionizing business. By Tapscott and Williams’ own account, this ideagora concept was an attempt to resolve systemic problems bred by business itself. They point out that many of the pioneers of ideagoras realized their companies possessed thousands of unused patents that cost millions to develop but which their own business models prevented them from using. Companies found that 70-90% of their patents were considered unprofitable or “…a poor fit with a company’s brands and strategy (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, 102).? It seems only natural that these companies would develop a way to profit from these costly idle assets.

Nor is externally sourcing human capital and ideas a revolutionary concept. Tapscott and Williams argue that to remain competitive, companies must keep accelerating the pace of innovation. Businesses are now confronted with a dilemma of their own making: innovate or die. Moreover, keeping pace requires finding and tapping new and larger sources of scientists and engineers. As the authors point out, however, companies can’t afford to employ an unlimited number of researchers. Again, it seems only logical that businesses would seek to resolve this problem. Offering cash prizes to “freelance? researchers is providing both a cost-effective and highly profitable way to find and take advantage of top talent.

Ideagoras provide the optimal solution for both systemic contradictions. But Tapscott and Williams observe that “As companies climb up the open innovation learning curve, however, they soon discover that the real value of an open market for innovation lies in getting access to external ideas that can fill performance gaps or fuel their product pipelines (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, pg. 107).?

IBM, for example, has profited handsomely from the open innovation economy. An article published in The Economist last fall reports that the company made the radical move to using Linux software while continuing to churn out record numbers of patents for which they earn licensing fees of approximately $1 billion dollars a year (Economist.com, 11 October, 2007). Moreover, “Since an army of programmers around the world work on developing Linux essentially at no cost, IBM now has an extremely cheap and reobust operating system. It makes money by providing its clients with services that support the se of Linux—and charging them for it. Using open-source software save IBM a whopping $400m a year… (Economist.com, 11 October, 2007).?

Ideagoras are not truly revolutionary because they are not changing the fundamental structure or dynamics of the capitalist system. They are nonetheless, serendipitously ingenious. Tapscott and Williams hint at the ways companies like yet2.com and Innocentive enable progressive enterprises to transform propriety knowledge into important social goods. They report that through yet2.com, one small company was able to purchase a drug-delivery technology developed but neglected by Proctor & Gamble that offers an attractive and innovative approach to diabetes management (Tapscott and Williams, 2006, pg. 105).

The drug-delivery technology cited in Wikinomics is only one hundreds of the socially responsible ideas and innovations now available through open innovation communities. Yet2.com, for example, is currently featuring a patent for a biodegradable plastic that is “ … a more economic alternative than probably any other “green? and biodegradable plastics—and in fact more economic than most other non-“green? plastics, too (Yet2.com, 4 February, 2008).? They are also selling an all-natural preservative composed of white mustard essential oil that is an effective and cheaper alternative to artificial preservatives (Yet2.com, 4 February, 2008)? as well as acid extract from birch bark with potential agricultural and pharmaceutical applications including treatment of HIV, cancer, MRSA and skin protection (Yet2.com, 4 February, 2008).

InnoCentive has gone a step further and is actively seeking opportunities to apply open innovation models including crowdsourcing, collaborative competition and user-driven innovation to benefit people in developing countries (InnoCentive.com, 4 February, 2008). Of these models, user-driven innovation is the most “revolutionary? because it draws on the natural resourcefulness, creativity and competency of poor people to develop culturally and socially-specific solutions for their particular problems. InnoCentive is emphasizing two nonprofit approaches to user-driven innovation: Positive Deviance and Rural Innovations Network. Both are grassroots, organic models that evolve from the intelligence and creativity of local communities. These initiatives are finding effective, sustainable solutions to malnutrition and disease, human trafficking, illiteracy and corruption.

Innovation models like positive deviance and rural innovations networks are the real genius of ideagoras. It’s unfortunate that Tapscott and Williams mistook as revolutionary what amounts to more business as usual.

Sara 7 February.2008

________________________________________________________________________
References

InnoCentive.com
http://www.innocentive.com/servlets/project/Pavilion.po?o=Rockefeller%20Foundationv
Retrived on 4 February, 2008.

Tapscott and Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Portfolio Hardcover, 2006.

Yet2.com
http://www.yet2.com/app/insight/techofweek/41645?sid=200
Retrived on 4 February, 2008.

Innovation = Success

Like a broken record we are learning that innovation starts with combining many ideas, expertise, and talents across a diverse blogosphere. The chapter in Wikinomics just shed more light on how businesses have expanded their capacity to provide products and services faster by opening up their intellectual properties to the world to help solve problems that they could not do from within, and like the title of my last post; two heads are better than one. This is especially helpful when the budget is tight. Like InnoCentive, NineSigma, Innovation Relay Centers, and Eureka Medical that "post R & D problems on their web site, [while] solvers submit their solutions in a bid to capture cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 (Wikinomics, pg. 98), are prospering using these global marketplaces or "ideagoras" to push past the closed silo idea that, "retain[ing] all of your best people internally" (Wikinomics pg. 99) is the best solution.

Revenue has boomed within companies that are willing to open up their resources to the world and are presently breaking down monopolies that rely on outsourcing alone. For every action there is a re-action. Does this mean that companies that take full advantage of open source networking will down-size or lay-off their existing employees from within? If this new innovative strategy helps to rake in more money annually, and costs less, what are they paying their employees for, who cannot come up with such qualified solutions? Where do businesses draw the line between who they want to keep and who they want to get rid of? I would imagine that these employees are kept on their toes by these new innovation strategies. "The corporate R & D process must look two ways: toward its internal projects and competencies and toward the external marketplace to leverage new IP and capabilities" (Wikinomics pg. 123). So I think it is safe to say that businesses need to have a happy medium between both to prosper and not just one or another.

The reading in Connect really helped to clarify some problems I was having to fully understanding the concept of bookmarking. The chapter provided me with sites that I never even knew existed. I especially liked memorandum.com because I realized that I had been missing out having not been informed about meme trackers. I also did not know that research had a better name: Orienteering. I found myself using this approach last semester when I was researching Facebook applications. I initially tried to use the teleporting approach, but I soon realized that I did not even really know the definition of applications or where they originated from and why. As I took smaller steps towards my goal of researching Facebook applications, I became much more knowledgeable about web applications in general, and in the end I was able to write a more insightful and fulfilling paper, and, “that confirm[ed] [I’ve] found the right thing? (Connect! Pg. 119).

As this week is coming to an end I have realized how much information I have swallowed up. The delicious site is easy to navigate through and tagging is very simple thanks to Connect and Krista’s web blog about using tags. I have only tagged a few pictures of the 35 W bridge collapse under the creative common licenses, but if you have any suggestions for me, I would be more than happy to listen.

Making the World Wide Web a Community

Last week, David S wrote in his blog, "Connect! Chapter 6 is chocked full of websites and tool sets for communicating. This is all great and wonderful, but the problem comes down to... which one(s) to use?" I totally related to what David wrote. This week, I read in Connect: "The web makes available so much more information that you could access before. Sometimes it might feel like too much information. (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 113)" Yes, it does feel like too much information to me at times, thus I get overwhelmed at times. However, there was a ray of hope. A couple of sentences further down, I read: "You just need the right tools and the right attitude to ensure it's a positive in your life and not a negative. You don't have to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information and communication available online. You can feel inspired and motivated by it instead. (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 113)" Attitude is the key word. I remember when I was in high school, I was selected to go to this Leadership Weekend for chosen high school students in MN. The theme for the weekend was: "Attitude is everything." It is such a simple line; however, it goes a long way. I was inspired by the saying "Attitude is everything". Although it is hard sometimes, I try to live by it because life is so much simpler if you have a positive attitude. Take that saying and apply it to the world wide web. I could have a positive stance toward the www and be "inspired and motivated by it" or have a negative outlook and be afraid and stray away for it. I think I'll go with the first!

Besides, there are tools out there to make the web easier to navigate through, up, down, and around . . . tools that make the world wide web like a community. For example, we touched on Facebook and Twitter last week, tools that made our Writ4662 feel connected, thus a community. This week, we touched on del.icio.us, a social bookmarking site. In Connect, it uses del.icio.us as an example of a tool that makes our web surfing experience more positive and a tool for "better bookmarking" (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 114). Also mentioned was: "Now owned by Yahoo!, del.icio.us is the largest and most widely used of the social bookmarking services (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 122)" If it's used most widely, it has to be good! It went on to explain that tagging is used in del.icio.us and why tagging is so important: "Tagging is easier than filing into a folder system because you can add as many tags as you want instead of having to choose just one folder. (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 124)" Furthermore, David Sturtz explains that, "folksonomy is the complete set of tags—one or two keywords—that users of a shared content management system apply to individual pieces of content in order to group or classify those pieces for retrieval. Users are able to instantly add terms to the folksonomy as they become necessary for a single unit of content. (Sturtz, 2004, p. 1)" It was also mentioned that, "The three most commonly cited folksonomies in action are the websites Flickr, Del.icio.us, and Furl. (Sturtz, 2004, p. 2)" Go Del.icio.us! When Sturtz had written his paper in 2004, he mentioned: "While it is clearly a popular phenomenon, it is not immediately apparent what use, if any, these organizational schemes are, and what their potential benefits might be. (Sturtz, 2004, p. 1)" Four years later, the popularity has not died down but the benefits are more apparent. Benefits include being able to log into del.iciou.us anywhere and keep your bookmarks with you as well as finding common tag words among different sites. I'm sold!

At the beginning, I had mentioned what a fellow student wrote last week in his blog. Going further back, there was another blog post that mentioned how much diversity there is in the class. I have mentioned this previously that I think diversity makes the world go 'round and if we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place. Lasting words from Connect that have held onto me are: "Seek diversity of sources. If you limit your information consumption to only sources within your own frame of reference, you are limiting your chances for fresh new ideas to burst you out of the same old thought patterns. (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 129)" That brings us to Wikipedia which introduces us to the topic of Ideagoras in which it was explained: "We call these marketplaces Ideagoras, much like the bustling agoras that sprung up in the heat of ancient Athens . . . Modern-day ideagoras such as InnoCentive serve a more specific purpose: They make ideas, inventions, and scientific expertise around the planet accessible to innovative hungry companies. (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 98)" Pretty much, they are going outside the internal boundaries and reaching for external means, thus diversifying their talent pool. The web allows them to do that. InnoCentive chairman Darren Corroll responds with: "We're breaking down traditional laboratory doors and opening up an exciting new frontier where solution seekers--well-respected global corporations--can reach beyond their traditional R&D facilities and tap into more of the brightest scientific minds in the world. (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 99)" Furthermore, "think of [it] as the first virtual trading floors in an emerging global idea bazaar (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 99) and that "best people reside outside your corporate walls (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 100)" All in all, "companies still need to break down deep-rooted biases that inhibit them from seizing opportunities to open up innovation (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 112)" Once they do, they will excel. Furthermore, the world will become more of a community because they are going outside their internal walls and getting acquainted others that they might have not been acquainted with if they stayed within their corporate walls. Soon, the person from China that they do work with via e-mail or IM will seem like a click away...literally!


Quotes from this week's readings that have really stuck with me and why:

"Ideagoras come in two principal flavors: solutions in search of questions and questions in need of solutions . . . Solutions in search of questions are those 70 to 90 percent of ideas and inventions that go unutilized . . . because they are too costly or a poor fit with a company's brand and strategy (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 102)"

This is an alarming statistic to me, and I had no idea that 70-90% of ideas/inventions go unutilized. It seems like a lot. When I read it, I was like: "NO WAY!"

"In-house innovation alone will not be enough to survive in a fast-changing and intensely competitive economy (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 123)"

When I read this, I thought of companies outsourcing. I've always linked outsourcing to off-shoring for cheap labor. I never thought of outsourcing as a way to innovate.

"The web is one of the most powerful tools ever used to extending our minds. (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 133)"

That statement just sounds so profound when you think about it. Our mind is already powerful as is, but when you add the web to it, our mind is a powerhouse. That's what I got from reading that quote. Use the web in a positive way!

Before ending, this is just an FYI and nothing more: one of my companies that I used to work for was mentioned in Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 128. They wrote it as PRNewsWire. It is actually PR Newswire. No biggie! I read it and was like, "Hey, they mentioned my former company!" It made me feel like I was more connected to Connect :)

Memorization and it's affects on specialization

“Your job as a web worker is not so much to memorize and absorb everything as to bring your self into connection with it all at critical points so that you can navigate the space when you need to.? – (Zelenka Connect!, p.137)

This view of Zelenka’s is not only a popular one, but one that has quickly become the dominant view in American society. Whether this view on memorization is a factor that has arisen because of the increasing availability of easy to access information or vice versa is not one that can be easily answered. The actual cause of this point of view while important to understanding how changes in popular beliefs happen it is not very relevant to how people deal with this view in their lives. However, like Zelenka mentions understanding this point of view is important to knowing how you can alter your thought processes to “make your job during web surfing much easier? (Connect!, p.134). She continued to augment this thought with the condition that you need to know a certain amount of the subject you use to be able to understand the information you find while searching. This level of knowledge about a subject is still significantly easier to reach than the level of knowledge that was required in specific subjects before information gathering online was prevalent. While this means that it is easier to become proficient in more subjects than before it means that people are specializing less then before the popularization of online knowledge gathering. This can probably be best seen in the increasing popularity of scientific and technical communicators who can act as intermediaries between those of differing and more specialization.

Virtual bookmarking

Each week of this class I have been introduced to something new in the world of Web 2.0. It is in a way overwhelming to grasp all of the different ways to socially interact now days. While I have been accustomed to surfing the web, there is so much more information to access than ever before. There is no table of contents that clearly lists all of the topics available. You simply start at a given point and see where it takes you. As Zelenka states "You need to embrace serendipity, even when you're searching for something specific" (Connect, pg. 113).

I find it interesting that I have never encountered any of the sites that I have been introduced to in the past few weeks. I have always spent my time on the web for personal reasons such as finding answers to questions that I had. I have never taken part in collaborating information with people that I have never even met. Up until now I have used my "favorites" option to mark websites that I find useful and email them to my friends if necessary. Now that we are using del.icio.us I have grown to like it and even use it for my own personal reasons. I have also introduced this to my friends and taught them how to use it. It is amazing how much information you can obtain simply from a mass collaboration. Information that I more than likely have never come across has been given from a complete stranger. The web has provided us all with an abundance of information and it keeps growing everyday. I think this quote from Maria Mitchell sums it up best "We have a hunger of the mind which asks for more knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing" (Connect, pg. 114). Also, "The web is one of the most powerful tools ever used before for extending our minds. You don't have to bring the web into your mind to expand your mind. You just have to connect out and extend out the offerings of the web" (Connect, pg. 133).

While I find ideagoras to be useful in today's marketplace, I can't help but question the purpose of having people internally. This would have a great impact on the future job market. Companies today face such tough competition for new ideas and innovations that they may start to devalue having employees and embrace the new way of outsourcing. There would no longer be such a thing as job security. You would be more of a contract employee and would only get paid if your ideas and/or solutions were used. As in the case of the Werner Mueller story who stumbled across the web site InnoCentive and submitted a valuable solution to a scientific challenge. "Companies can tap emerging global marketplaces to find uniquely qualified minds and discover and develop new products and services faster and much more efficiently than they have in the past" (Wikinomics, pg. 98).

On the other hand, if you look at ideagoras in the perspective of a customer and not an employee they can be amazing. They make it possible to find out what customers really need and then invent it. They can also "lower transaction costs, deliver innovation faster, and make all participants in the marketplace more efficient. Customers would get more of what they want for lower prices" (Wikinomics, pgs. 100-101). Constant change and growth are now essential for most businesses today. I think that it is important for companies to find a balance between utilizing internal sources and ideagoras that allow accessing people with the right combination and expertise that might not otherwise been found.


Clearing My Confusion

I have become overwhelmed because there is so much on the web we can use for bookmarking and "social interaction". I put quotations around social interactions because of the lack of face-to-face interactions done through the web instead of its pre-web meaning of meeting in person. This idea intrigues and confuses me. I am a social person; I like the social interaction of meeting new people, being able to see their eyes, reading verbal and non-verbal queues. In an online world, this is not possible. Of course a picture can say a thousand words, but not the words that are necessary to really know whom you are talking to.

While reading through our chapter, "Surf Waves of Information" in Zalenka, I am coming to the conclusion that I do not have to give up this face-to-face communications, I can enhance it. First, our class set up our Facebook, and then we set up Twitter, now we are using del.icio.us, this all adds up to brainstorming in the virtual sense of the word. Like a well-tuned group of workers, we can accomplish virtually most of what we could accomplish if we were together in one room. Zelenkas idea about orienting (Zelenka, pp 118-120) is outstanding for this setting. I think I am in love with del.icio.us. Well, not really in love with it, my boyfriend might have an issue with that, but am feeling the pull towards using it more and more. It seems indispensable for any class that requires a research paper, or for brainstorming new ideas for marketing. This last idea is defined as what wikinomics really is: openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p. 99). The idea of ideagoras is perfect for this application. Even though, in my own little world, I may be a little afraid to go globally, even using it with a group of people I work with to get some new ideas to enrich a solution to a problem would be good.

One fallback to an ideagora would be the amount of solutions that may pour in. The sifting through of all the material submitted may become too time consuming and costly. However, just think about this...maybe that is where we, as Tech Writers, come in. Hmmm...a new market will arise and make us rich!! Just kidding, but it would not be a bad place to start looking for work. As stated in "Wikinomics", "Science and technology now evolve at such a great speed that even the largest companies can no longer research all the fundamental disciplines that contribute to their products" (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p 101). It further states that they cannot control their end-to-end production process nor retain their talent inside their company, but that may be another supporting point in the work we could do online as tech writers. Pushing the envelope to "...lower the costs of communicating, collaborating, and transacting...".

February 6, 2008

Not the best forum perhaps, but...

FYI fellow techies:

I was dealt the dual blow this week of a) internet breakdown, and b) water dumped into the laptop (I couldn't even look at my cat for a few hours). Internet is now fully functional again, but fate of the laptop is unknown. Currently drying out for "a few days" as the mac person instructed me. I'm borrowing a friend's for the moment...so I'm sorry I've been MIA for the last few days. There are a few notes from some of you which I intend to respond to momentarily! Also can't seen to remember my twitter password without my computer's help...trying to resolve that, hence I'm posting here.

IM ing is very useful....If you have questions ask Krista online

Hey guys... this week has been pretty intense especially with the workload and responsibilities of twitter, facebook, delicious, flickr, pimping out your firefox browser, and especially our blog posts. I was feeling a little on edge about my topic, which is using flickr and downloading images of 35W bridge collapse under the creative common licenses. First of all I had never used flickr before, and I did not know how to search items under CC licensing. I posted a twitter to Krista and asked when she would be online because my schedule was too busy to see her in person. I chatted with her online and she walked me through step by step on how I could go about collecting images under CC licensing. She was incredibly helpful and it did not take me long to figure out what I was doing... the IM experience was well worth it. Krista's screen name is iamkristak in case you forgot. Don't be afraid to holler at her. She is here to help guys.

By the way.... the identity 2.0 presentation I linked on the group wiki page is below... if you haven't seen it now is your chance
Hilary, signing off!!!

If this doesn't work.... just type in Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0 presentation into google or firefox

What is RSS? Why should you care?

NOTE: I'll expand this entry later when I get a second (or one of you steps up). But for now, since people have questions, I'm putting up some small notes.

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, will make your life much easier because it will help move all the various things you need to check for this class into one place. David managed to set up his RSS in such a way that all the tweets, all the FB updates, and all the blog posts into his. I use an aggregator called Bloglines to read 135 blogs each day -- a number I could never keep up with if I was clicking on them individually. Here's a screenshot of what a typical RSS reader interface looks like while you're using it.

You don't need to know code or even how this works in order to set it up. Seriously.

Here is a pretty good one-page intro to RSS. Here is a quick little tutorial.

Here is a link to Bloglines, which will aggregate anything with a feed, not just blogs.
Here is a link to Google Reader.
NetNewsWire, a premium reader, is now offering a free lite version.
If you use Safari or Firefox, they also have built-in aggregators. Checking the Help pages will, well, help you with that.

If you are among the happy few in the class who already grok the magic of RSS and you use a different reader, pipe up in the comments (or volunteer to flesh out this post!). kthxbai!

Tagging and Stumbling Around

I’m glad I read Communal Categorization: The Folksonomy (Sturtz) before I started working with tagging—even though it says a complete set of tags is one or two keywords (1). It was my understanding that you shouldn’t limit it yourself, but rather use as many as you think you need (Zalenka, 124).

One of Sturtz’s comments that I found interesting was “A major benefit of the folksonomy is beginning with a blank slate on which the structure of a content space can be allowed to develop through use until patterns emerge (Haverty, 2002). Once those patterns have emerged, methods are needed to formalize those structures and form them into solidified supports for the content they describe? (5). I found that when I began using del.icio.us to move my own bookmarks online, I would see what words others had used, and I would frequently use the same words, so while there is no formal structure for tagging, there is some structure. I started working on tagging the NYTimes and it’s kind of amazing where all the links are leading me.

What I really like about Connect! is that it’s almost like an interactive book. I’ve been taking notes while I read so when I hop online I can check out what Zalenka is talking about. On Wednesday morning, I tried StumbleUpon (Zalenka, 115), and surprisingly, I was able to download it onto my work computer. Who knew that the Jackson Pollack site was interactive and that Halliburton was charged with selling nuclear technologies to Iran (http://www.projectcensored.org/censored_2007/index.htm). I like this; it’s fun and I now have a new recipe for cheesy bread that looks delicious (and it has been del.icio.us’d as a personal bookmark). But if I’m not careful, I think the entire afternoon could have been taken up by stumbling around.

I also plan on trying out a RSS and a notebook application. And once I’m unemployed, I think I’ll try setting up a custom search engine for job searches.

Ideagoras (Wikinomics, 98) are an interesting idea, but I can’t help but think of the existing R&D people within a corporation. I’m sure I’m putting too much thought into this and it is probably because of my current job situation, but do you think they are told that they’ve failed and the company is going outside of their group? Or maybe they aren’t even told and then one day, voila, the solution arrives. Or maybe they suggest it? I don’t know, but I think it might make one worried about job security, which I realize there is no such thing. Ok, enough ranting about jobs and employers…my baggage.

I was happy to see that on page 118, Tapscott doesn’t believe that all R&D should be outsourced. “Companies that invent get an opportunity to shape the future.? Not only do they shape the future, they make their own future. If you don’t own your ideas and are just making another company’s product, then you’re just a manufacturer. Or on the flip side, like the Dell/HP example, Dell isn’t the manufacturer, but just slaps their name on a (potentially) inferior product. I like the idea of a company using “its internal projects and competencies, and …the external marketplace to leverage new IP and capabilities? (123). Very smart.

Gold in Orienteering and Ideagoras

I must admit that when I read the title of the Connect! chapter assigned for this weeks reading, "Surf Waves of Information" I was disappointed. However, upon reading the chapter I was pleasantly surprised by the content. The discussion between teleporting and orienteering was one that I had never heard of before. Teleporting is what I most often do, moving straight to what I am looking for. (Zelenka, 2008, p. 120). Teleporting seems more common because often times when we are looking for something we want it immediately. I think this concept plays into the fast-pace society we live in. We strive for speed and productivity, this can be seen with drive-thru windows for food and banking and the constant demand for multitasking. Any time in which at least two activities are not being completed is though of as wasted time, particularly in the corporate world.

However, Zelenka's discussion of orienteering should be regarded as productive in that is allows for "serendipity". Orienteering is making small steps to your goal and exploring new outlets. If you choose the wrong direction or click on the wrong link you can simply backtrack and continue on (Zelenka 2008, p. 120). I personally feel that orienteering is a process that should be used more often. Although it may take more time. it also provides for the opportunity to find information that would often be skipped over with teleporting. Orienteering allows the searcher to see not only the information they are seeking but also the steps and thought patterns that lead to it which provides for greater learning (Zelenka 2008, p.121)

Zelenka provided an great segway between the Connect! reading and the Wikinomics reading, provided you read them in that order, with the topic of prospective search. According to Zelenka, prospective search is the process by which a web page informs you of updates since the last time you searched it. However, it can work for more than one page. Prospective searches can cover the entire web and will alert you when a desired topic to mentioned anywhere (Zelenka, 2008, p. 130). I personally love prospective searches and use them all the time. I currently have about 5 set up on a variety of topics related to my job. For example, anytime an article or mention of one of our clients appears on The Wall Street Journal I get a notice. This allows me to have a complete background of not only the person I am working with but the company as a whole. The more I know about my clients the better I can serve them.

Prospective searches segway well into the Wikinomics reading in that prospective searches can provide companies using ideagoras an advantage. If a company is looking for intellectual property of a certain topic or related to certain problem they can set up a prospective search to flag any discussion of these in order to find solutions quicker.

There is a difference between ideagoras and open-source software that Tapscott discusses in the chapter. Ideagoras make ideas, inventions and expertise available without regard to physical boundaries, however these usually are available for purchase (Tapscott, 2006, p. 98). Open-source software, a discussed in a previous, open data and software up to the world for modification and interpretation in an attempt to solve a problem. The individual who is able to devise the best solution is compensated for their work. Open-source software does not sell intellectual property as ideagoras often do.

Ideagoras allow companies to expand research and development past the confines of their walls and to utilize the knowledge of the entire world. This process is necessary in order for the companies to succeed in the every competitive marketplaces. (Tapscott, 2006, p. 101). I really enjoyed Tapscott's discussion of ideagoras. I often see companies protecting their intellectual property to fiercely that it inhibit growth. The idea of selling patents or intellectual property that is not benefiting the company any longer frees them up to pursue new research or to focus funds on a successful project (Tapscott, 2006, p. 104).

These readings in regard to "Mining the Web" opened my mind to the possibilities of growth and development for the company I work for. It appears that intellectual property is the new currency not in the old way of the more you have the richer you are but rather the better you utilize it the more success you will find.

February 5, 2008

Tapping Talents To Create Growth And Innovation

Like a broken record we are learning that innovation starts with combining many ideas, expertise, and talents across a diverse blogosphere. The chapter in Wikinomics just shed more light on how businesses have expanded their capacity to provide products and services faster by opening up their intellectual properties to the world to help solve problems that they could not do from within, and like the title of my last post; two heads are better than one. This is especially helpful when the budget is tight. Like InnoCentive, NineSigma, Innovation Relay Centers, and Eureka Medical that "post R & D problems on their web site, [while] solvers submit their solutions in a bid to capture cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 (Wikinomics, pg. 98), are prospering using these global marketplaces or "ideagoras" to push past the closed silo idea that, "retain[ing] all of your best people internally" (Wikinomics pg. 99) is the best solution.

Revenue has boomed within companies that are willing to open up their resources to the world and are presently breaking down monopolies that rely on outsourcing alone. For every action there is a re-action. Does this mean that companies that take full advantage of open source networking will down-size or lay-off their existing employees from within? If this new innovative strategy helps to rake in more money annually, and costs less, what are they paying their employees for, who cannot come up with such qualified solutions? Where do businesses draw the line between who they want to keep and who they want to get rid of? I would imagine that these employees are kept on their toes by these new innovation strategies. "The corporate R & D process must look two ways: toward its internal projects and competencies, and toward the external marketplace to leverage new IP and capabilities" (Wikinomics pg. 123). So I think it is safe to say that businesses need to have a happy medium between both to prosper and not just one or another.

In the

accidental networking

So Sally, a past student whose passion is Animal Behavior, copied me in on this email a few days ago, and she says it's okay to share it with you folks.

You will not BELIEVE what happened to me yesterday. I still can’t believe it myself.

So Etsy, right? The site that Krista referenced. It’s this big website where people who make jewelry and clothes and hats and scarves and art and knick-knackery can sign up for an online “store? and sell their stuff direct to buyers. The site takes a cut, but it’s a really good deal for the crafters. I buy tons and tons and tons of jewelry from them because it’s affordable and they’ve got some amazing designers and I love giving my money right to the artist.

There’s a necklace that I’ve been considering buying for about 4 months. After much hemming and hawing, I committed a whopping $25 of my birthday money to it.

My username on Etsy is badger* [NOTE: truncated by Krista to preserve privacy]. The woman who sold me this particular necklace commented that, since she studies badgers, she is always cruising around Etsy looking for badger-related things.

THAT’S RIGHT SHE STUDIES BADGERS. In fact, her study concerns a particular vocalization that ground squirrels make when they see badgers, a badger-specific alarm call. So not only does she study badgers, but she studies animal communication and vocalization … the OTHER topic I’m most interested in.

Long story short: we chatted back and forth a bunch over e-mail and, if she can secure funding, she’s invited me to come out to California and work as a research assistant. This will be in a year or more, I have no idea for how long, and it may never happen. But I am still so ridiculously excited. It would be fantastic for me to get some field work done while doing my undergrad, and for besides … um … badgers!!! And all because I bought a necklace from her. It’s amazing to me that I found a fellow badger-lover, and one who studies them to boot, through Etsy of all places.

Fascinating, no? You never know where these things will happen online.

February 3, 2008

Too chummy with your co-workers?

First, a general comment: as I mentioned in my introduction, I've been extensively involved with the internet for years now, but I've always been better at the observer role. I rarely comment on blogs I read; I rarely write on Facebook walls and my own blog - though this hasn't always been the case - is updated every month or so. (Twitter is the exception - something about the snappy entries and the single-person nature of it makes updating easier for me.) What I've always liked best about the web is that a passive role is OK, and generally accepted. I can respond if, and when, I feel like it. It's strange to have what I've considered a leisure activity bumping against school and work. While I generally like the internet's role in business and other formal communication, I'll be interested to see how I shift gears.

A thought about the texts: In Connect!, the authors mention that web communication allows "team members to get to know each other on a human level" (Zelenka 56). This is advantageous - especially for those members working cross-country or transcontinental - but I see downfalls. With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., the internet rapidly exposes more detailed information than one might hear around the water-cooler. In five minutes, I could discover my colleague's birth date, marital status, weekend plans, kids' names and even religion and sexual preference. I'll have a pre-determined idea of them before we even begin a project. Instead of meeting a blank-slate co-worker, I've already painted them. Another disadvantage is that the line between co-worker and pal becomes a little blurry - while, often, co-workers become friends, there often needs to be a level of professionalism present to get the work done. I think the internet makes this professionalism more difficult. What do you think?

I've really enjoyed reading everyone's thoughtful entries. I look forward to next week - it's fun to see how everything's coming together.


--

Zelenka, Ann Truitt. Connect!: Web Worker Daily’s Guide to a New Way of Working. Wiley, 2008. Pg. 141-171.

February 1, 2008

Warning: Another non-programmer, never-has-blogged, what-is-twitter student has joined your class!

I’m a senior biology major in my final semester at the U. My education has spanned 7 years as I took some time off to work and have a family to support. It seems impossible that this degree is finally (almost) done. I’m planning to start my masters this fall in the school of public health – epidemiology, though my acceptance remains to be confirmed! A future job may involve medical school…or not. That remains to be seen. I like to read, knit, and find a few moments for friends. Life changes after children come into one’s life.

May I join in the learning, please? I certainly need it. While I consider myself generally computer literate, I’ll quickly admit that until this class it has not been my priority to stay on top of new web developments. At least I do come from a generation that has had computers present in school and at home from the beginning so that they aren’t intimidating. After the first week in this class, I feel like I’m one of those crazy 13 year olds who can’t detach from their computers, cell phones, and ipods - and who know about all sorts of new technology that I usually don’t find essential to my life. I’m already grateful that I’m being forced to learn about the new technology that is out there because it will be essential in future endeavors, especially for job-hunting. I can see direct ties to jobs that I’ve had in the past where it would have been useful to have someone with the skills we are learning here.

I’ve at least heard of most of the Web 2.0 applications we’re talking about and using – if not actually used them myself. My personal feelings about the internet are mixed. While it has and is functionally changing most everything we do, I sometimes wonder if its negative impacts are being ignored…or what the unintended consequences will be. At this point I don’t have a real firm grasp of just what unsettles me about our wired world, but there is something there at a gut level that concerns me. Certainly doesn’t keep me from playing scrabulous though!

While I respect the Wikinomics take on business post-Web 2.0, I’m concerned at a possible lack of concern for the ‘little guy.’ The authors have started a compelling argument for how the coming changes are inevitable and good for businesses (ie for shareholders)…but I wasn’t impressed by the lack of consideration for what happens to the workers. On the other hand, I did respect the nods in Connect! to problems associated with constant availability and the possibilities of information overload. I concur with the author that the busy/bursty work-flow must be balanced. I know too many people who are great at bursty working…but find it incredibly difficult to sit down and really focus in on one small task. Tasks which could be completed in 30 minutes take 3 hours.

Apologies for excessive length – and the delays! I look forward to figuring out what these emerging technologies are, how to apply them in my personal and professional life, and the dialogue about just what role they should have…and I’m Jessica LaRoque.

Perfecting my Practicing

Setting up Facebook, Twitter, my information on our moodle forum...what a week! I still feel a little lost, even with the crazy amount of time I have spent on these things. So, Twitter is used for "ambient intimacy" (Zelenka, 2008, p147), Facebook is used for networking (Zelenka, 2008, p149), our classes blog page is used for providing information we have learned from the work we did the previous week, I am not quite sure what the moodle forum is used for, where can it all come together? Do we have to have all of these tabs up so we don't miss anything? The answer, I am finding out, is yes. Even though Twitter will feed to your Facebook page, it is not "real time" so having the Twitter page up in a separate tab is necessary. I am curious as to where it ends. Will there come a day when we have one homepage where all of these things can be displayed? Kind of like our own web page with our moodle, Twitter, blog, and Facebook displayed for only those we allow to see. If I am understanding this weeks reading in "Wikinomics" correctly, a mashup may accomplish this. The stories of housingmaps (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, p183), and PeopleFinder (Tapscott & Williams, 2006, pp185-187) explains how "mashing" together existing platforms can create a website that is what you want it to be.
Before I can go even deeper into this conversation, I needed to look up what a platform was. according to The American Heritage Dictionary (2008) it is "the basic technology of a computer system's hardware and software that defines how a computer is operated and determines what other kinds of software can be used". Supposing Twitter, Facebook, a blog page, and a forum page are all platforms, or on another platform, can it be possible to incorporate all of these things onto one page, set up specifically for the user? And then add del.icio.us and Flickr at a later date? Only time will tell, as I said above I am perfecting my practicing.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
Thanks ever so much to David, I have now learned RSS feeds. I set up a feed for our blog and our twitter onto my Facebook page. I guess we could consider Facebook as our platform and twitter and our blog as added platforms? In any case, I am no techno geek, that is for sure, so learning how all of these applications can be used is daunting and exciting. Thanks, David!

short on Google Maps & Privacy

One of the (too many) things that fascinate me are popular conceptualizations of Internet issues. Sometimes they demonstrate paranoia, and sometimes they're right-on. Here's one on privacy issues and Google Maps: