Posts Categorized: Technology

Blogging’s Perfect Pitch

Lee leFever has won Judith Meskill’s Perfect Pitch Competition. If you didn’t know about the competition, it was looking for the perfect elevator pitch (e.g. no pictures) explaining the business benefits of blogging to the uninitiated. Here’s a piece of Lee’s pitch:

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 ?��Ǩ��� context that can profoundly affect decision making.

If I could have referred to this pitch last week, I would have appeared much more erudite in Halifax 😉

Congratulations, Lee!

Wikis help to develop political policies

Last week when I decided to talk about blogs in Halifax, I was told to keep it simple, and only discuss blogs themselves, not other social networking software tools. Most people in the audience knew what a blog was, and a number said that they were bloggers. In later discussions, I found out that few knew about wikis.

Well it seems that wikis have gone mainstream, so you had better learn about them. The Green Party of Canada is using this tool to collaboratively develop its policies online. So if you don’t know about wikis, or are looking at real-world applications of wikis, then check out democracy in action. This is not an endorsement for the Green Party, but it’s nice to see some democratization of policy building.
In the early years of radio in Canada we also saw the new medium being used to encourage democracy and learning – witness the National Farm Radio Forum and the Citizen’s Forum. Perhaps these social networking tools will rejuvenate our democratic processes.
Via Constellation W3.

Further analysis of this use of technology in politics is available from Mark Federman’s What is the Message?.

Clay Shirky does not believe that this is a true wiki, because changes have to be submitted through e-mail. The problem with completely public wikis is that not everyone is working in the best interests of the community. I guess that filtering change requests via e-mail is a good compromise in such a public venue, but a bit labour intensive. Maybe this isn’t a true wiki, but I hope that the underlying wiki nature helps with the aim of developing policy from the ground up.

Free Online Course – IT Fluency

The University of Washington is offering a free, self-paced course in Fluency in Information Technology. According to the website, the course covers the basics, concepts and capabilities. For example – Basics: e-mail, word processing, searching for Web information; Concepts: what’s a "graphic user interface," how do networks send pictures; Capabilities: troubleshooting problems, thinking up IT solutions. There’s even a section on SQL.

A cursory review of the course shows that it is based on a published book, and requires about 150 hours of study time, which includes projects and quizzes.

What is missing from this course is interaction. I understand that a free course cannot offer mentored support or instructors, but why are there no blogs, student-generated FAQ’s or discussion boards? These would not cost much more, but would add a lot. It will be interesting to see what the uptake on this course will be.

Anyway, I commend the university for making this course available.

NS eLearning – Blog Follow-up

On Thursday, when I discussed blogs in business at the NS eLearning Summit, I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of interest. The fact that most learning is informal, and that our education and training programs only address about 20% of our learning needs, seems to be understood by many. Blogs are one way of encouraging conversation, which leads to individual knowledge creation and can result in increased business value.

Blogs are also a way of supporting more formal learning offerings. They can be used to engage potential clients through meaningful discourse. Blogs can also be used as a follow-up of a formal course or workshop, to keep the conversation going. These applications were appealing to a number of people in the audience.

There are many sources of information on how to use blogs. For the academic sector, I would recommend beginning with Weblogg-ed;, while Blog Kathleen is a good starting point for a business perspective. Other Blogs (learning, work, technology) are available on the left "Links" section of this website.

NS eLearning Summit

I attended the Nova Scotia eL Summit in Halifax yesterday, and it was a resounding success. Over 100 people in attendance; a number who were linked-in via the Net, thanks to Phil O’Hara of Dalhousie University. A quick review of what I learnt, with more to follow when I get home:

From Julie Kaufman of IDC – Linux developers generally prefer informal learning while MS developers generally prefer more formal learning. (It’s always important to remember who your audience is, when designing any learning intervention)

From Phil O’Hara – small incentives along the way work better than one large incentive at the end of a learning programme.

From the Education panel – the main driver for e-learning in NS schools is "equity of access".

From Joe King at Tecsult-Eduplus – you can create a sustainable e-learning business model by sharing costs and profits with your clients/channel partners.

From Jerry van Olst – has some of the most interesting clients: Nerds On Site.

Many thanks to Barry Nicolle for organising this conference.

Explaining Blogging for Business

Tomorrow I’ll be in Halifax for the Nova Scotia eLearning Summit. As a panelist during the "eLearning in the Corporate Environment" forum, I will have ten minutes to focus on weblogs and provide:

Practical, real-life examples of how companies/organizations are using elearning to strengthen their competitive position, streamline employee training and bring value to customer relationships.

This is like getting the perfect blogging elevator pitch, which is currently being sought by Judith Meskill, but unfortunately her competition isn’t over yet, so I can’t view the collective wisdom of the blogosphere.

So far I’m cobbling together ideas from Rob Paterson, Jay Cross, Robert Scoble, Kathleen Gilroy, and Lee Lefever. I’ll also tell how blogging has become an essential part of my free agent business. I’ll publish the feedback when I return.

Wikis becoming mainstream

Via Seth Godin is this reference to EditMe, which is a commercially supported wiki service. Most wiki software is open source, and can be a pain for non-programmers (like me). EditMe offers hosting, support and a better interface for a reasonable fee of $5 to $25 per month. I was involved in a recent healthcare project that used a wiki, and the learning curve was a bit steep for some people. EditMe seems to be an easier tool to use, which would mean less time to accomplish the goals of a collaborative build project.

Canada drops to 11th place in e-readiness rankings

From the BBC News World Edition are the e-readiness rankings [defined as: connectivity and technology infrastructure; business environment; consumer and business adoption; social
and cultural environment; legal and policy environment; and supporting e-services] produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Canada has dropped to 11th place while nordic countries, with Denmark on top, are holding their own.

According to the EIU, "for most countries – particularly the top-ranked ones – the change has had a dampening effect… because broadband adoption is still very low".
The US, for example, slipped to sixth in the survey from joint third a year earlier. The Netherlands dropped to eighth, while Switzerland fell to 10th, Canada 11th and Australia 12th.
"In a digital world, new technology will constantly move the goalposts," the EIU said.

This is where Canadian governments and businesses have to constantly work together – in creating the necessary infrastructure for innovation.

Stephen Downes provides this view on the flaws in the methodology of this report, as well as last year’s report.

Blogs in Business

Seek and ye shall find. In response to my question, the Otter Group’s Kathleen explains some of her current business-related blog & RSS projects.

I believe blogs are ideal peer-to-peer learning and communications channels. Because they are so inexpensive to produce and maintain, they can be cost-effectively used for small groups and small projects.

It seems that the participation levels are higher with blogs. This was an issue that we had a few years back with a community-building project using a hefty document management system (think expensive) – it was just too cumbersome. This post is much more practical than what was reported in the NY Times on BloggerCon II and blogs for business, via Weblogg-ed.

Thanks Kathleen!