Developing an eye and ear for Web 2.0 phenomena

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead
Benjamin Franklin

I’ve been following the controversy and conversation around Digg, HD-DVD keys, and the AACS-LA response. I’ve found the following to be among the more thoughtful and useful posts on the topic for my interests:

My views on copy protection and DRM (digital restrictions management/digital rights management) have generally been more pragmatic than ideological or policy oriented. I think the evidence suggests that copy protection and DRM schemes generally don’t accomplish what they ostensibly claim to. They don’t stop anyone who wishes to circumvent them, and they increase costs and interfere with the rights of those who do play by the rules.

In this most recent incident, we’re discovering that the latest generation of technology tools and services with explicitly social components are even farther ahead of law and policy than usual. “Cease and desist” letters begin to lose their effectiveness when the number of “offenders” starts to expand exponentially. “Deep pockets” lose their effectiveness when the conflict becomes asymmetrical.

The decision makers here are not stupid people, despite what their responses might suggest. On the other hand, they do appear to be “net deaf” or “net blind.” Their judgment is formed and informed by long experience in linear environments. Whether they can compensate for that experience in a changing world is problematic. Ed Yourdon in another post that just hit my feed reader offers some thoughts on why it may remain difficult.

The problems of hierarchy are largely invisible from the top. The power of new networks is hard to appreciate if you don’t immerse yourself in it. It’s a bit like trying to coach a sport that you’ve never played. There’s only so much you can learn by watching from the sidelines. If you want to make sound decisions, you need to invest in acquiring the requisite experience.


Using Mindmaps as Presentation Tools

Over the last several years I’ve gradually been replacing PowerPoint with MindManager as my presentation tool of choice. Most audiences seem to like it. Nick Duffill of Gyronix offers some excellent advice on how to make more effective use of mindmaps in presentations. Here are Nick’s key points, although all of his advice (and his blog, Beyond Crayons) is worthy of your attention:

Spiral Presentation Maps and Virtual Donuts

  • Use the structure of the map to address different levels of audience, so that you don’t have to reveal more than they really need. Software mind mapping tools will let you show or hide different levels of topics. Provided you use statements instead of headings, this lets you “layer” your presentation very effectively. Think about the map as a set of donut-shaped rings. The ring nearest the centre of the map is for your executive audience, who have short attention spans and grasp big ideas quickly. The next ring is for management, who are going to need a better understanding of the implications in order to deliver it. The outer ring is for the people who actually do the work, who will need real details. The true benefits of the tree structure become evident here, because you can position detail in the context of bigger ideas.
  • When presenting, start at the one o’clock main topic and walk through your map in a spiral, addressing the executive level first, then the management level, then the detail if it is appropriate. This takes you on a complete tour of your map in at least three passes, which helps your audience feel comfortable from the outset about the scope of your presentation, and critically, the way it is represented by your map. This might disappoint the few who enjoy suspense and surprises, so it is up to you as a presenter to make it entertaining and engaging in other ways, instead of by playing with the content. That’s like playing with food, and you can remember being yelled at for that. If your audience is still with you when you complete your tour through the management level, then they are ready for the detail. If you have already lost their good will, or are running out of time, then more detail would not have helped and could even have set you back.


This template gives you some ideas on structuring the content, and the kinds of information that you might include at the different levels. The numbers on the topics represent the presentation order.

So when using software mind maps to prepare and deliver presentations, use statements, translate different audience levels to layers, and develop a spiral route through your map to keep your audience on track. And don’t forget the donuts.

Eric Mack webinar on using MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool

I won’t be able to attend this since I wll be on Spring Break with the family, but I intend to watch it after the fact. Eric’s weblog is also well worth your time if you’re interested in knowledge work and personal productivity.

Sign up for my “How I use MindManager” webinar

MindJet has asked me to present a webinar on how I use MindManager to get things done. I agreed, and on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 10:00 AM (PST) I will present a free webinar, entitled MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool: How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done. That’s the fancy title. My working title is “Mind Mapping in the Digital Sandbox.” (See description below)   

I’ve provided a link to sign up for the webinar at the end of this post.

MindManager as a Knowledge Management Tool:
How I use MindManager and Lotus Notes to get things done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
10:00 am Pacific Daylight Time

Description: Consultant and eProductivity Specialist, Eric Mack, will give us a tour of his world and how he works and how he uses Mind Manager as a visual thinking and planning tool. He will discuss how he uses Mind Manager as a visual dashboard and planning tool for project and action management. He will also share how he uses Mind Manager on a daily basis as a support tool for getting things done with the GTD methodology and how he uses Mind Manager as a research support tool for Knowledge Management. Finally, he will show us how he uses MindManager to brainstorm and track projects and actions stored in Lotus Notes databases. In addition to using Mind Maps at work, Eric uses them when home-schooling his children and when coaching robotics teams. We’ve asked him to share a little bit about how he teaches the kids to use Mind Maps to organize their thinking and strategy when planning for a paper or a competition. At the conclusion of the webinar, Eric will be available to answer your questions.

Click to Enroll

Originally posted on Eric Mack Online

Auditors and Enterprise 2.0 technologies

[cross posted at FastForward blog]

Over a lunch conversation on Thursday with Andrew McAfee, a group of us discussed barriers and enablers for adopting Enterprise 2.0 technologies within organizations. One objection that I have often seen raised came up in this conversation as well; that blogs, wikis, and other collaboration technologies represent new risks in an era of increased scrutiny and regulation. The reasoning goes that there is already too much risk associated with tools like email and IM of inappropriate behaviors being subject to discovery and that, if anything, for sensitive issues no electronic traces should ever be created.

The primary fear appears to be that legitimate internal debate and discussion of complex problems will be taken out of context and misrepresented. I think this fear actually represents a powerful argument in favor of Enterprise 2.0 technologies as a decided improvement over today’s ad hoc environment of email, instant messaging, and scattered memos and presentations. By design, Enterprise 2.0 technologies contextualize the development and refinement of ideas as a social activity. By making the thinking and the debate visible and organized, you blunt, if not disarm, those who would try to portray the debate as something other than what it was.

Chuck Frey’s latest mind mapping research project

Chuck Frey is doing a new research project on the uses of mindmapping. If you’re using mindmapping tools take a few minutes to help with his research.

It’s now time for my next research project. This time, I’m focusing on issues like sharing your maps and collaborating with others, exporting maps into other data formats and a “wish list” of future software capabilities. This survey also includes several open-ended questions, where you can share your thoughts and opinions with me and your peers.

Please take a few minutes to complete this brief, 10-question survey:

I look forward to your thoughts! [The Mind Mapping Software Weblog: Please participate in my latest mind mapping software survey.]

Sensemaking practices

There is an excellent discussion of learning as sensemaking going on over at Creating Passionate Users.  Dan Russell has a series of posts (Sensemaking 1, Sensemaking 2, Sensemaking 3) about his thoughts and practices when he takes on a new research based project. In addition to the value of Dan’s thoughts, each post has also sparked excellent discussion threads, which are also worth your time.

Here’s a definition of sensemaking that Russell gets to today:

Sensemaking is in many ways a search for the right organization or the right way to represent what you know about a topic. It’s data collection, analysis, organization and performing the task. [Sensemaking 3]

Sensemaking is a concept I’ve found useful and valuable in much of my work in organizations. I first encountered it in the writings of organizational theorist Karl Weick (e.g. .The Social Psychology of Organizing). Central to Weick and Russell’s thinking is that understanding is something you build over time as an active effort.

My sensemaking practices run along the following lines.

Data Immersion and Convergence. Like Russell and many of the commenters on his posts, immersing myself in the data is a primary component in my sensemaking practices. If I’m doing work inside an organization that includes getting my hands on whatever previous work I can find, public information, interviews, and keeping my eyes and ears open. I am a fan of Yogi Berra’s advice on this; “you can observe a lot just by watching.”

I’ll generally wrap up the initial data collection when things start to converge and get repetitive. Sometimes, this represents a plateau and more data collection will be needed later. More often than not, I have reached to point of diminishing returns and more data by itself won’t help.

Mindmapping and Issue Finding. I’ll draw a variety of mindmaps over the course of most projects. In them, I try out various ways of organizing and relating what I currently know and don’t know. In particular, I’m looking for issues and themes that provide a way to account for the data. With the advent of good software tools for mindmapping (e.g, MindManager), I have started to use my mindmaps as the primary tool to organize and link to the various data I am collecting.

Trip Reports. I’ve mentioned trip reports before as one of my sensemaking habits. At the end of a day collecting data I write myself a memo trying to understand what I might have learned. In my early days as a doctoral student, these were Word documents. They’ve since morphed into private blog entries. They are not transcriptions of my interview notes. Rather, they are first attempts to put my thoughts into story form.

Pictures and Diagrams. Stories are one form of sensemaking, pictures are another. I will play with various kinds of pictures and block diagrams to see what they might reveal about the subject at hand. I almost always start with hand drawn diagrams. If I need to share the drawing, I’ll create an electronic version in Visio. One problem that I sometimes encounter with sharing diagrams in Visio is that they may appear more “precise” than warranted. A partial solution I have had some success with is to use a font called Charette courtesy of the folks at Mindjet. This is a font the mimics the hand-lettering you might see on blueprints and helps convey the notion that what you are looking at should be seen as provisional and subject to revision and elaboration.

Technography – a simple technology-enabled technique for improving meetings

Here is a simple, short, video introducing the notion of technography as a technique for using technology you already have for improving meetings. The notion is to use an outliner, a laptop, and a projector to create a running, transparent, set of discussion notes during the meeting. I’ve used the technique in the past with good results. With tools like MindManager, I suspect it would be even more effective.

The Not So-Obvious Art of Collaboration

I owe some apologies to Bernie DeKoven, the guru of Collaboration and Running Meetings. Some time ago Bernie pointed me to the following link of a very special video about better meetings. Bernie made this clip with Michael Schrage and Rob Fulop. They discussed Bernies Technography method for facilitating productive meetings. I enjoyed watching it,learnt from it and intended to blog it on Smartmobs. Today I am embarashed to say that I did not act according to my intentions, and forgot….. May the readers blame me for this and enjoy this video today. [Smart Mobs]

Cognitive Edge: They did not respect or sit still for the devotional sacrifice

Dave Snowden(pdf), formerly of IBM’s Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity, has been blogging at Cognitive Edge for a relatively short while. Here’s just a little tease from one of his recent posts. Go read the rest of the post and meditate upon it. No surprise, I suspect, that the wisdom came from the women.


Socrates: How was your son’s birthday party?

Glaucon: How did you know there was a party?

Socrates: Are you not still alive?

Glaucon: It was a glorious and treasured day. All the guests were ecstatic. The children were filled with joy. The gods have smiled on my family. I no longer fear for safety or security.

Socrates: And the cause of this surprising change in fortune?

Glaucon: I did what you suggested. I listened to the women

Socrates: What did they tell you?

Glaucon: Many things. But in short they said to make boundaries, create attractors, stabilize the patterns we desired and disrupt the patterns that threatened danger and harm.

Socrates: I do not understand. Is there a story here?

Cognitive Edge: They did not respect or sit still for the devotional sacrifice.

Why professors should blog

I agree with Espen’s assessment that this is a good general argument for why anyone who has an abiding interest in a topic might want to consider a blog as one primary outlet for their interests. Granted, I may be biased given that I started blogging when I was a professor.

Dan Cohen has an excellent article on this topic – which, if nothing else, is a pretty good argument for blogging in general and RSS feeding in particular.

Go for it. Nothing is as eternal (and as findable) as something written in silicon. Thanks to RSS, Google, and good ol’ Gordon Moore’s law, which pretty soon will lead to a situation where we are all working off the same (virtual) machine.

Link to Why professors should blog