Blogs, Markets & Conversations

According to Lilia, in Mathemagenic, blogging is about conversations, and "Conversations are different from publishing, they require listening to others, require investment of attention and energy". This is also the central premise of the Cluetrain Manifesto, in that "Markets are conversations".

In order to have a lasting relationship between producers of goods and services and their markets, conversations are essential. This means listening, not just sending out marketing hype. There is a simple way to determine your markets. They are where you have the best conversations. Now figure out a business model around these conversations. Blogging can help you open these conversations.

Currently, my blog is mostly publishing, not conversations. Some of my previous blogs have produced some good conversations, and my aim is once again to publish enough blogs, so that I can get the conversations going. I participate in other blogs, where I am part of larger conversations about those things that interest me – learning, work systems, technology, sustainable development …

Better than Bloom?

A recent Google search for “Bloom’s taxonomy” reveals over 50,000 hits.

After almost 50 years, Bloom’s taxonomy is still being used by educators and trainers as a pedagogical tool for the analysis of learning objectives. Originally designed as a method for the development of test questions, the six levels of the cognitive domain (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) have become almost standard in the “learning business”.

I used Bloom’s taxonomy about ten years ago, while developing an estimate for the cost of CBT development.

We assumed that the higher the level, the higher would be the cost. With hundreds of performance objectives, we quickly reduced the six levels to three, but I now realise that there could have been many other ways to address the problem.

For instance, in Problems With Bloom’s Taxonomy [scroll down] Brenda Sugrue states that Bloom’s taxonomy is invalid, unreliable and impractical. According to Sugrue, the six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain ” … are not supported by any research on learning.” Basically the taxonomy was a “best guess” by some knowledgeable educators of the time. The six levels make for nice matrices and provide a simple tool for analysis and evaluation, but Sugrue shows an even more effective way to create a Content-Performance matrix. Sugrue is not the only person who considers Bloom’s taxonomy passé. Another critic of the taxonomy is Robert Lewis [dead link] Professor of Knowledge Technology at Lancaster University.

Unfortunately, old chestnuts like Bloom’s taxonomy stay around longer than they should, because after a while we take them for granted. Every once in a while, it’s good to take a long, hard look at our practices, and make sure that we are using proven methods, and not second-rate tools.

Update: Donald Clark adds to the fire, stating that, “The weaknesses are so strong that it is simply sensible to abandon it altogether.”

Also, Carl Bereiter & Marlene Scardamalia of OISE offer Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy: Rethinking Knowledge for the Knowledge Age.

Quote of the Day

Here’s a gem from Jay Cross:

"This morning, when separating the e-wheat from the e-chaff in my mailbox, something compelled me to click open a mass mailing from ASTD." [bold is mine]

How much of our daily routine is spent doing this?

Books I Would Like to Read

This is my constantly changing list of books that I’m thinking about reading. Comments and suggestions are very welcome. While my list is relatively short, you can visit the GBN Bookclub Selection for a much more comprehensive list.

Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century, Edited by Thomas W. Malone, Robert Laubacher and Michael S. Scott Morton, (2003)ISBN 0-262-13431-4

The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks by Verna Allee (2002) Butterworth-Heinemann (ISBN: 0750675918)

The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility: The Ideas Behind the World’s Slowest Computer by Stewart Brand, 2000 (ISBN: 0465007805)

Breakaway: Deliver Value to Your Customers–Fast! (2002) by Charles L. Fred (ISBN: 0787961647).

Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change by Seth Godin (2002) (ISBN: 0743233387).

The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life (2004) Richard Florida (ISBN: 0465024777) Perseus Books.

OpenOffice.org for Dummies (2003) (ISBN: 0764542222)

Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, David Christian, 2004 (ISBN 0-520-23500-2) University of California Press.

The Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Secrets of Continually Developing a More Profitable Business Model by Donald Mitchell, Carol Coles, Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Pub; (March 2003) (ISBN: 1576751678).

Surfing the Edge of Chaos: The Laws of Nature and the New Laws of Business
by Richard Pascale (2001) Three Rivers Press , (ISBN: 0609808834)

Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook by Michael Allison, Jude Kaye, 1997, John Wiley & Sons Canada; (ISBN: 0471178322).

Strategic Tools for Social Entrepreneurs: Enhancing the Performance of Your Enterprising Nonprofit by J. Gregory Dees, Jed Emerson, Peter Economy(ISBN: 0471150681).

Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8 by Stephanie Harvey Publisher: Stenhouse Pub; (1998) (ISBN: 1571100725).

The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth by Clayton Christensen, Michael Raynor (2003) Harvard Business School Press; (ISBN: 1578518520)

Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies; by Ben Shniederman; (ISBN: 0262692996) 2003; MIT Press.

Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do; by B. J. Fogg; (2002) Morgan Kaufmann; (ISBN: 1558606432)

Performance Intervention Maps: 36 Strategies for Solving Your Organization’s Problems by Sanders & Thiagarajan (ASTD 2000) (ISBN 1-562862-93-6)

Handbook of Human Performance Technology: Second Edition
Improving Individual and Organizational Performance Worldwide
Edited by Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps (ISBN 0-787911-02-9); ISPI/Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer/1999

Visual display of quantitative information, E. Tufte, (2001)

Leveraging Communities of Practice for Strategic Advantage: Saint-Onge & Wallace (2002). Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Who is Using Open Source?

Scott Leslie posts on who is using open source course management systems and makes the suggestion that the open source community advertise itself, and become more accesible to the mainstream learning community. Have we reached the tipping point for OSS yet? I noticed that as of today, there are 29 Canadian organisations using Moodle; mostly academic and many in the K-12 sector. Atutor’s clientele seems more eclectic, while dotLRN has fewer installations posted, but the international Greenpeace site is pretty impressive, and yes it includes RSS feeds.

Free Agents as the Future of Work

I have been trying to organize a group of independent consultants and micro-businesses here in Sackville. This is a small town with a population of 5,000, plus the 2,400 students at Mount Allison University. I think that micro-businesses are very important because many of us have options on where we can live, as our clients are distributed, and the Internet has made distant/virtual work much easier. We could attract more "free agents" to our area, without significant infrastructure additions.

Having a number of micro-businesses in a small community provides a diverse and more stable economic base than having larger, single focus firms. The closure of a few micro-businesses would not have the destructive effects as the closure of a single distribution centre, as happened here a few years back. As in nature, diversity in economies helps with adaptation and growth.

My aim over the past six months has been to find out how many people in our area work as non-retail, externally focused knowledge workers. I’ve set up a discussion board, but there hasn’t been too much activity to date. I have a list of about 10 people/companies, but I’m sure that there are more.

I think that as a group we can do a few things:

1. Show that we are significant contributors to the local economy (anywhere from $500K to $2M, is my estimate)
2. Share information on being free agents, and help each other. So far our monthly coffee meetings have generated some good conversations.
3. Look into creating a virtual storefront to share our stories, and perhaps attract others who would like to move to a lovely small town, with heritage homes and a great community to raise kids and enjoy the arts.
4. Lobby the three levels of government. If they are going to continue to play the economic development game, then we should have some input.

I’d love any comments, or ideas on how to grow the Sackville SOHO Society.

Laptop Schools

I have generally been against the use of technology for technology’s sake, and this includes laptops in schools. An article in Syllabus has raised a good point to make me question my anti-laptop stance. According to the author, having laptops available to all students provides more opportunities for advanced students. "As the schools embrace full access to online resources, they are importing services and resources. They are also giving kids access to online Advance Placement (AP) courses that are produced and distributed by colleges and corporations. These school districts could never afford to support as many AP students as is possible electronically." Perhaps I’ve been wrong.

Open Content

Thanks to Stephen Downes’ OLDaily for pointing this out. The PEW Research Centre states that 44% of American Internet users put content online for free. I think that there are a couple of inferences that one can make. First, that it is possible to have content online without paying someone. Second, that if you are going to launch a business that offers content for sale, then it has to be better in some way than all of the free content out there. As I’ve said before, just putting content online is not a viable business model.

RSS & Aggregators

RSS (really simple syndication) is a means of keeping track of the web logs that you read. It’s a push technology so you don’t have to keep checking for news, it comes to you. I use bloglines, a web-based aggregator, and my blog subscription is publicly accessible. There are many other services available, free and for a fee, some which use client software on your computer.

If you’re interested in the use and future of RSS, go to Stephen Downes’ discussion: "So, RSS could succeed. It will probably succeed. But it is important to keep our focus on what it does well: it allows an individual to scan, filter, and pass forward. That’s all it ever has to do. The network will do the rest."