Winner in the perfect weblog pitch competition

We have a winner! Judith has dutifully tabulated the results and Lee LeFever is the winner of the Perfect Pitch competition for the best “elevator pitch” on weblogs in the organization. Here’s his winning pitch:

First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.

With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?

Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company context that can profoundly affect decision making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.

You might also want to take a peek at the runners up:

Second Place Randal Moss
Third Place (tied) Michael Angeles & Jack Vinson

Judging Panelists:

Dave Pollard, Dina Mehta, Don Park, Flemming Funch, Jim McGee, Lilia Efimova, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff, Ross Mayfield, Scott Allen, and Ton Zijlstra

[The Social Software Weblog]

The power of questions to create knowledge

Lilia has been on a roll lately with lots of great posts on her blog. Here, again, she raises important points and offers her usual insight.

Too often knowledge management initiatives are sold and implemented around prospective benefits. They try to collect and organize knowledge assets of one sort or another on the notion that they ought to be useful to someone, somewhere. You can pretty much guarantee that these efforts will fail, regardless of how clever an incentive or punishment system you contrive.

Absent real questions, the materials contributed are stale and lifeless. With real questions in context, however, you get answers. I can’t recall a time when some expert hasn’t given me a helpful response to a sincere question in context. Sure, sometimes the response is a series of further questions that demonstrate that I don’t yet know enough to ask an intelligent question. But we get a dialog started that ends in new and deeper understanding. Sometimes it even ends in answers.

This is the magic of vibrant weblog communities that excites those of it who see their promise as a knowledge sharing tool. Unlike email, a community of weblogs and webloggers creates a space where those knowledge questions turn into the seeds of new knowledge creation. It isn’t likely to be neat and orderly and engineered. Instead, like the real world it will be messy and organic and fertile.

Knowledge flows are powered by questions.

Don’t know if this piece will survive in the paper I write, so post it here. This is pretty much what I think on “why people share knowledge”.

One of the goals of knowledge management is to improve knowledge flows and knowledge reuse in an organisation. While there is much discussion on knowledge sharing, motivation and culture, the demand side of knowledge exchanges seems to get too less attention.

I believe that knowledge flows are powered by questions: in many cases employees do not mind to share their knowledge, but do not do it because nobody asks them or because they are not sure that others need to know. This could be one of the explanations behind the success of on-line communities where knowledge bases fail (e.g. in Shell EP case, see Petersen & Poulfelt, 2002 or ask Andy): many communities work in a problem-solving mode, where knowledge sharing starts with a question or problem. In this case knowledge is shared to help others, and it is rewarding. In contrast, submitting a document (for example, “lessons learnt” from a project) to a knowledge base doesn’t have an immediate question behind it, but more of an expectation of future questions that may never arise, so the motivation to share is much lower.

And, as I wrote before, asking is more difficult then answering and reinventing is more fun then reusing.

Guess what my conclusion is? KM is about motivation to learn 🙂


John Seely Brown on knowledge creation and storytelling

I’ve also been a long time fan of John Seely Brown. There’s been a recent spate of references to him and his work showing up in my aggregator. Most important, perhaps, is a pointer to his own website where much of his published work is available.

John Seely Brown.

I’ve long been a fan of John Seely Brown. His views of how knowledge is shared, how people work, and how digital media are impacting society are visionary. Thanks to Maish for providing a link to JSB’s website.


Much of Seely Brown’s work focuses on the processes and dynamics by which knowledge is created and shared. Seb Paquet points to and excerpts from a recent interview with Brown that talks about his work and about the crucial role of storytelling in the realm of knowledge work:

John Seely Brown on stories and knowledge flows

Jay Cross points to a terrific Seth Kahan interview with John Seely Brown, touching on storytelling, innovation, creative abrasion, and the dissemination of ideas. He quotes this incredibly clear paragraph on the connection between stories, emotion, and personal change:

“Why storytelling? Well, the simplest answer to your question is that stories talk to the gut, while information talks to the mind. You can’t talk a person through a change in religion or a change in a basic mental model. There has to be an emotional component in what you are doing. That is to say, you use a connotative component (what the thing means) rather than a denotative component (what it represents). First, you grab them in the gut and then you start to construct (or re-construct) a mental model. If you try to do this in an intellectual or abstract way, you find that it’s very hard, if not impossible, to talk somebody into changing their mental models. But if you can get to them emotionally, either through rhetoric or dramatic means (not overly dramatic!), then you can create some scaffolding that effectively allows them to construct a new model for themselves. You provide the scaffolding and they construct something new. It doesn’t seem to work if you just try to tell them what to think. They have to internalize it. They have to own it. So the question is: what are the techniques for creating scaffolding that facilitate the rich internalization and re-conceptualization and re-contextualization of their own thinking relative to the experience that you’re providing them? Put more simply: how do you get them to live the idea?”

On why, somewhat counterintuitively, strong internal social capital in a group is not always all good because it can result in the buildup of a membrane around that group and push members into “us vs. them” thinking:

“We all talk about social capital, but some of the worst labs that I’ve ever been in had extraordinarily high social capital within the lab. But social capital can create the feeling, “I’m better than anybody else,” and this creates dysfunctional work relationships. It creates the idea that “you’re a bad guy.” One of the best ways to build social capital is to have a common enemy. If that enemy is in the outside world, then guess what? You’ll have a very hard time transferring ideas from the inside to the outside. So, social capital can work against you. Communities of practice are not necessarily very open. They can become very rigid structures, just as rigid as hierarchies. Look at the guilds in medieval times, like the stonecutters. They were very exclusionary. They were seats of absolute power. They were evenable to challenge the church!”

Speaking of JSB and stories, there’s a page I’ve been meaning to link for months now. I figure if I don’t do it now I’ll never get around to doing it. It’s a great bike-riding story he told that illustrates tacit knowledge. Read it – I promise that you’ll be surprised. [Seb’s Open Research]

Finally, Seely Brown shows up in today’s Technology Review blog thinking about the connections between storytelling as learning tool and how online games extends the power of storytelling:

Why study Rome when you can build it?

…focus on the game itself which involves all the players building and evolving a complex world, and you see a new kind of nonlinear, multi-authored narrative being constructed…


In the past, I had tended to think of narratives as being basically linear and but they arent necessarily. As Steve Denning has pointed out part of the power of a narrative is its rhetorical structure that brings listeners into an active participation with the narrative, either explicitly or by getting them to pose certain questions to themselves. [Technology Review RSS Blog Feed]

The power of story then is twofold, at least. One, stories connect at an emotional level making action a much more likely outcome. Second, storytelling that engages a group in creating a tale collectively, also imposes a thought structure that helps the group organize its thinking.

Ernie on weblogs as smart filters

Good advice from Ernie that applies to more than law students and explains one of the key values of weblogs as a key element in your personal knowledge management strategy (you do have one don’t you?).

Read the dissenting opinion first. Here’s a tip for law students: read the dissenting opinion first. Assuming you can glean the facts of the case from the dissenting opinion (and, if not, then skim the main opinion until you have the gist of the case),… [Ernie The Attorney]

Here’s Ernie’s key point:

This concept of ‘reading the dissent first’ is applicable to weblogs. In fact, I’d say it is a large reason why reading certain kinds of weblogs makes news gathering more efficient. Reading opinion blogs changes the news gathering process from one where the reader is a ‘passive receptor’ to one where she is an active participant.

Go read the whole thing, it’s worth your time.

Mark Hurst on bit literacy

I continue to track Mark Hurst's thoughts about bit literacy with interest. I came across this originally reading Richard Saul Wurman's Information Anxiety 2, which should definitely be on your reading list if you haven't read it already.

Good Experience: Bit literacy: an overview. Obviously, bits have become more important to the average technology user since then. In fact, I find that the essay – although it predates those developments – is even more relevant in 2004. Thus I plan to write more about bit literacy this year. [Tomalak's Realm]

Here's the key graf:

To have a chance to survive the infinite bits in the future, we'll need a lot of bit literacy: in our behavior (letting go of bits), in our beliefs (searching for the meaning behind the bits), and in our technology — with simpler tools granting us control over the bits, and working with bits in their simplest formats. And as we shift to becoming not just consumers but *creators* of bits, the discipline of bit literacy will show us how to *create* bits differently: mindfully, meaningfully, and with an acceptance of their essential emptiness.

In a world where information is carried in physical containers (e.g., books, reports, papers), the containers set limits for us. With bits, we need to exercise explicit managerial control.

'Perfect' Corporate Weblogging 'Elevator Pitch' Competition

This is shaping up to be an interesting effort.

You might want to take a look at Blogging's Three Cores: Discover, Read, and Write, which contains some excellent ideas from fellow judge Phil Wolff. You might also want to look at Shel Israel's 12 tips on Giving Great Presentations and Doc Searls It's the Story Stupid for good advice on distilling messages.

Perfect Pitch – Corporate Blogging.

Judith reminds us of the 'Perfect' Corporate Weblogging 'Elevator Pitch' Competition.  Go on, take that ride :

Don't Forget The 'Perfect Pitch' Competition…

Have you submitted your ‘Perfect Pitch’ entry yet?

The rules of engagement for this contest are listed in: The ‘Perfect’ Corporate Weblogging ‘Elevator Pitch’ Competition, which was posted on March 29, 2004.

We have the honor of hosting this competition with an awesome group of internationally respected judging panelists:

danah boyd, Dave Pollard, Dina Mehta, Don Park, Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Flemming Funch, Jason Shellen, Jim McGee, Lilia Efimova, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff, Ross Mayfield, Scott Allen, and Ton Zijlstra.

So submit your entries soon as the deadline is Midnight [EST] April 15, 2004!

Please submit your entry to: pitch at weblogsinc dot com. Thanks! (-:=

 [The Social Software Weblog]


[Conversations with Dina]

Knowledge work process analysis and photo selection at Sports Illustrated

Not only is this a fascinating analysis of a magazine process, it's also an excellent case study of a classic knowledge work process. What I found particularly interesting were how issues of scale were factored into the design of the process and the selection of tools.

The secret to SI's photography. The secret to SI's photography: This is perhaps the most fascinating analysis of a magazine process I have run across while doing the rexblog. It is a look at how the photographers and photo editors of Sports Illustrated use digital cameras capture the incredible images they use in each issue of the magazine.


In 2003, Sports Illustrated's photo department processed 1,028,000 digital photographs shot by staffers or freelancers under assignment. In 2004, an Olympic year, they estimate they will process closer to 3 million. Though a small amount of the work done for the magazine is still shot on film, the vast majority of its photography is now digital.

So, there you have the secret: A few million images to choose from taken by the some of the greatest photo-journalists working today.

(via /.) [rexblog: Rex Hammock's Weblog]

Sturgeon's law and RSS

This is another of those wonderful things you discover in a world where everyone is free to post and publish their passions to the web and bloggers are there to report on their explorations and discoveries.

Sure, Sturgeon's Law still rules; but there's so much more wonderful stuff to be found. As the absolute volume of stuff out there goes up, so does the volume of the 10% that is good (and the 1% that is absolute gold). Add in those intelligent agents that make up my subscriptions and you have the option to fill your own time with that 10 or 1%. Life is good.

TV cliches catalogued. Here's a Wiki cataloguing, with cited examples, all the eye-rolling idiot plots from sitcomdom.

Gilligan Cut
The Gilligan Cut is a classic staple of comedy. A character protests vehemently, “What, you expect me to wear a grass skirt, stand up on top of Empire State Building and belt out the chorus of 'New York, New York'? Well, I'm not gonna… I'm just not gonna…” And then you cut, and see the character doing just that. The Gilligan Cut. Comedy ain't pretty.

Link (Thanks, Gnat!) [Boing Boing]

The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes

I've certainly thrown these numbers around myself from time to time (here and here where I get my facts wrong, for example). And I've found them to be valuable heuristics to keep in the back of my mind. It's nice to see that someone has pulled together and organized much of the underlying relevant work. It will be handy to have this available.

The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes. Lately I've been noticing the spread of a meme regarding “Dunbar's Number” of 150 that I believe is misunderstanding of his ideas. (post continues with a discussion of Dunbar's Number, the size of groups, some empirical and anecdotal experience with sizes of groups. [Life With Alacrity]