Home > Uncategorized > The value of what you write and the value of conversational data

The value of what you write and the value of conversational data

When you start writing something, consider where would you choose to put it? Would you put it in an email, a Word document or on a collaborative space?

Does it matter, you ask?

Well the first step is that you ask the question – that you’re conscious about it. Then you start to think, to what purpose do I write and how does the function of Word, email or collaborative space fit those purposes? Up until now, the default has been Word (or MS Office) and email.

However, at some stage or another you have probably wondered if a Word document file or email is the right habitat for the valuable work you do in writing. Developing content/intelligent is not a one-man show.

Consider these claims from Developing intelligence in the Enterprise 2.0 world:

The nature of collaborative work:

  • Any work we do is at one stage or another (if not all) collaborative in nature
  • When we collaborate our work is enhanced and enriched (given more value)
    (if we live in a true collaborative workspace that gives the right kind of output and receives the right kind of input)
  • In any work we do, somebody (or something?) else in our workgroup/company/related companies or organisations (even or most surely competitors)/country/the world, is/has been/will be working on the same or related issues.
  • Collaboration is the only true form of information/knowledge gathering
  • Any knowledge not shared is worthless

When it comes to collaborative effort MS Word or Office are not the right tools – they were not made for that, they were made with the typewriter metaphor:  appearance/print-out first, then content. If you don’t understand what I mean – see what happens when several people try to work on the same Word document. The Track Changes or comments quickly becomes messy as it mingles content changes and format/appearance changes. No. we need it in this order: First content, content and content, collaborative content. This is the important, the meat, the content of what we’re writing and getting feedback and multiple inputs, who cares about print-out or if it has the right fonts, etc. at that stage. A PDF generator that picks the right information items is a trivial task at the end.

And as you know – email has NEVER been a good content/information container.

No, for real knowledge work, that certainly entails collaborative efforts, we need real collaborative tools. I’m sorry that we’ve been fooled into thinking for so long that MS Office type applications is where we should put our valued work in writing. No actually, simple pure Hypertext systems (ie. how the Internet and www work)  are better suited for collaborative work than MS Office (see : Burton Group’s Peter O’Kelly said it so right (see page 2 of this presentation))

Do we agree that collaborative tools are the name of the game? That’s where we need to put our efforts and writings. That’s where it will live and develop. Next time you write something, don’t put it in an email or a Word document. Put it in a collaborative space using real collaborative tools.

Let’s see. Can we agree on some characteristics/attributes of real collaborative tools?

  • First, do we agree on the value of collaborative work as expressed in the bullet-points above here and as envisioned/expressed by Internet/www pioneers like: Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart and Tim Berners-Lee (see: Collective Intelligence) ?
  • The master artifact of a collaborative space/tool is the Information Item. This is the atom of the collaborative fabric. The tool needs to respect/value this entity and be very clever at handling. For example any paragraph I write will be an information item and should be http referencable. This is necessary to be eble to develop any content collaboratively. I think Dion Hinchcliffe expresses some good principles in Web-oriented architecture.
  • Thus it follows that all functionality, security etc. needs to be around the information item, not only the space, article, blog etc.  Ie. a discussion thread or information stream will contain several information units, but may appear differently to different users depending on their access rights. But nevertheless it’s all kept in the same context/thread.  See an example here
  • I question whether it is wise to spread our collaborative/conversational data out on several tools/platforms. It might not matter because it is all referencable (ie we can link to the discussion thread), but why have so many tools, it is not user-friendly, and usually it is the ERP/CRM or whatever vendor that tells us we should use their conversational tool.  But what if we found one good conversational tool that covered all our needs. It could be used in all settings and application environments. We need to transcend the tool world and embrace the issue/case/subject. It is this (the issue) that need to be followed/developed, etc., spanning multiple tool-environments and easy to track and find.
  • what more ….
  • (be my guest) …..

The value of conversational data

See this video with Patrice Livingston – describing the importance of conversational data as part of the context for explaining the why’s and how’s  of an article/work/effort. The whole session is worth listening to for real work-life experiences, but consider the thoughts she expresses at 3:37 and at 11:20
[blip.tv ?posts_id=2824309&dest=-1]

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2011-01-26 at 21:43

    interesting piece. Over the past couple of years I have come to realise the power of blogging tools, such as WordPress as a platform for true collaboration; perhaps a more practical option for sharing (i.e. easier to manage) than a Wiki, say.

    In the context of this article, I would suggest that it would have helped me to see some narrative about ‘Traction’ (?) which seems to be the topic of the interview with Patrice – without explanatory narrative the value of the conversational data does not reach its full potential.

    • 2011-01-26 at 22:54

      Hi Colin, yes blogging in the blogosphere is great, especially when you get feedback and your contribution can be enhanced/expanded upon by another’s input. I’m looking for more of this kind of dynamics within big corporations/companies. This blog was especially made for them for they are still in the email/Word doc kind of Information Management. I also believe that conversational systems are more than blogging and their comments at the end. Each paragraph in the blog f.ex. is an information item and should have it’s own anchor/URL so you can reference each of them and expand on one paragraph only if necessary. That’s just one example. Keeping all relevant info concerning a case within the same context/thread even if they reside in different spaces with different access rights is another. Flexible handling of information items is a prerequisite.

      Yes Traction Teampage is an example of a good, mature hypertext platform that handles conversational data in this manner. I would be interested in finding other good candidates.

  2. 2011-01-27 at 17:30

    Colin: It is also difficult to explain what Traction TeamPage is. Indeed, I find that the ways in which the company chooses to describe it did nothing to truly help me understand its potential — that required deep immersion on my part. They do the best they can to align it to what people are familiar with — blogs, wikis — and indeed it ‘can’ behave as either one of those, but in reality a blog and a wiki are simply no different than a word processor or a spreadsheet. They are mechanisms for formatting content in specific ways.

    Traction is architected with the content at the center of the design — the format is separate and can be applied at will (the only other toolset I’ve worked with that had this sort of powerful architecture was Ventura Publisher — but a different sort of a tool entirely).

    Traction can achieve this flexibility because it defied one very significant ‘standard’ — it doesn’t use a database. Clearly it has a storage mechanism, but since databases were designed to optimize data — and we’re dealing with content — it was entirely relevant to challenge this paradigm. Databases are structures built on top of logfiles. Traction is built directly to a logfile. Any structure needed is provided both programmatically and via metadata.

  3. 2011-08-23 at 06:01

    Hi Rolf,

    This is brilliant…we do think in the terms of tools, rather than content.
    And looking through your blog I see you have linked to one of my posts…actually Ieft a comment back then…hehehehe

    I’m also gonna read-up on your great post here
    …I like the way you describe how we have a need and the tool we automatically use to fulfill that need.

    I too wrote about Patrice…the “why things happened”:

    …and followed it up with

    HURDLE – MS Office is at our finger tips, whereas collaborative spaces are not

    HURDLE – when I start writing something (before it becomes a task) it’s too cumbersome to create a group space in advance. This is why microblogging networks are so groundbreaking. They are similar to email networks but online, rather than private and scattered. A group space doesn’t need to exist prior, you simply post and @mention some people…maybe keep it together with a tag. The issue may be solved, or it may become a task…at this stage the microblogging content can coalesce into a group space (with wiki, blog and forum).

    But sometimes you can use blog, wikis and forums without needing a pre-made group space

    This is where I think IBM Connections is groundbreaking as blogs, forums, wiki, activities also live outside of group spaces, in their own directories. It’s so re-freshing you don’t need a group space first to do something.


    Rather than word, I use a personal wikipage to write a document
    – when I save the page I’m able to @mention people and leave a description (and maybe it also sends them an email)
    – they can comment via email which will post to the wikipage, and if they comment on the status update it will also post to the wikipage
    – I could possibly leave a comment on the wikipage and at the same time @mention people to tell them about it (kind of like a poke or a nudge)

    If my case is not an evolving page but rather an experience or thought as the spotlight I can create a personal blog post
    – at time of posting a pop-up box asks me if I want to @mention people and leave a description…sure people already may subscribe, but I want to make sure they see this

    If my case is a question I’m not sure if I would create a new public forum (as the right forum may not exist) and then post my topic, I may just use my microblog or my blog.

    The point is in each example I write content and ping people in the same go and the conversations are stuck to the object.

    Hopefully the first example is easier to writing a doc, uploading to a DMS or attaching it to an email and then sending it to people…where the scattered conversations begin…and not online for posterity.

    Hopefully the second and third example are as easy as writing an email

    But for this to happen, when I have a thought about writing a doc I have to be able to click on a new personal wikipage as quick as I can click on the word app on my desktop

    When I have a thought about sharing an experience or thought, or asking a question accessing my blog or microblog has to be as quick as launching a new email.

    The the other part is that I need to be able to access replies in an inbox app, and I need to be able to always access my wikipage as quick as accessing a file in my documents folder…and I need to access my blog/microblog post as quick as browsing my email folders

    Anyway, as per your other post

    …once we find we have a case all the existing content can be moved into an official group space. What I love about this is the group space didn’t have to exist first in order to have conversation online

    I posted on ACM here (see end of the post)

    Here’s my thinking on doing group work without a group space…as a start anyway

    This may take you a month to read 😛

    • 2011-08-23 at 14:30

      Hmm – interesting about ad-hoc sharing/collaboration without having a home to start with. And also to your next comment where you quote Mike Gotta about non-directed collaboration, of which I left a comment mostly about his “communication” point (I wrote this comment before I read your first comment here – the one I’m commenting on now).

      I may perhaps have overstressed this with proper information handling, but it is a “protest” against all these collaborative tools coming in (because they are popular) without having an information gathering/integrattion focus (and of course like everybody experienced the terrible fate of email information scattering).
      Mostly for me anyway I have collaboration/communication need in my daily work projects, which usually have a home. But I agree in addition we may need public tweet/microblog for general questions/input. In this we should be able to tag (preferably tags from a known (to me at least) space, so it can be connected in some way, as this is usually the case – my question has to do with something else I’m doing in work projects).

      I also also protest a little against this wiki, blog, forum/discussion distinction as this has historic more than functional reasons. A “content” (or an intelligence development) may start as a question or a statement to test or something (tweet/microblog or blog – who cares). It’s the content (or the intelligence therein) that need to be collaboratively developed. See this example : How a leader could collaboratively develop content/intelligence with his team (http://bit.ly/oeMypz). Is this a wiki, is it a blog? Doesn’t matter – it’s editable (by a few), it needs to have in-line comments ability on paragraph level, a fork of the discussion can develop in a different space (as the leader decides it’s not the heart of this discussion, but interesting and valuable nevertheless and there is a relationship/connection between the two spaces on this topic, not everybody can see the two spaces but the thread is linked nontheless), and so on ….

      I will need to read more of your links at the end of your comment above. Also wants to understand and discuss your list of integration options mentioned in http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2011/08/17/the-integration-of-enterprise-social-software/

    • 2011-08-24 at 07:50

      Further to your thoughts on development of directed collaboration, I read this report from Clay Shirky’s presentation at LinuxCon North America 2011 “Clay Shirky Says Good Collaboration is Structured Fighting” http://rww.to/oqdmkO

  4. 2011-08-23 at 06:09

    Actually Mike Gotta explains it well…in the way we need collaboration that is not directed

    “workspaces tried to solve the problem of “directed collaboration”. Directed collaboration occurs when the structure of an activity (e.g., a process workflow, exception handling, or a project deliverable) compels people to participate in a collaborative context. The roles people have assigned to them within a structured activity can also direct them to collaborate. Workspaces can be a powerful solution for directed collaboration. However, not all collaboration needs are so explicit and “purposeful”. The narrow focus on workspaces left a tremendous amount of whitespace in organizations where people still needed to informally interact, communicate, share information, collaborate – but in ways where an activity-centric “sense of place” was either unnecessary or too structured. Social tools (Enterprise 2.0) helped fill the void for people to develop informal collaborative relationships in-and-around work activities that come and go. One could argue that these informal, emergent types of collaborative relationships are more valuable to an organization in the long run.”

  1. 2011-01-26 at 22:06
  2. 2011-03-05 at 10:53
  3. 2011-04-21 at 18:23

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: