Networks Replace Hierarchies

Jay Cross has synthesized many of the same themes discussed in my previous post on the The Dummies Guide to Change. There are also some good links on his post, which covers some previous material because Jay has been having problems with comment Spammers.

I am certain that we are about to experience a tipping point in business organisations as well as organisational learning. Observations made in The Cluetrain Manifesto are becoming obvious to the Early Majority. Informal learning is the huge growth area (not online courses), and will prove John Chambers (who said that e-learning will make e-mail look like a rounding error) correct. We are also seeing the rise of connected natural enterprises, as Jay says:

Networks are the next step in computing, business organizations, and more. As internodal communication costs drop, networks replace hierarchies.

The world is a different place because [almost] everyone can talk to everyone else. That changes business as well as learning.


Sakai 1.0 to be Released Today

The Sakai Project will be releasing the first version of its open source learning management system today:

The University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT, Stanford, and the uPortal consortium are joining forces to integrate and synchronize their considerable educational software into a pre-integrated collection of open source tools. This will yield three big wins for sustainable economics and innovation in higher education:

* A framework that builds on the recently ratified JSR 168 portlet standard and the OKI open service interface definitions to create a services-based, enterprise portal for tool delivery

* A re-factored set of educational software tools that blends the best of features from the participants?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ disparate software (e.g., course management systems, assessment tools, workflow, etc.)

* A synchronization of the institutional clocks of these schools in developing, adopting and using a common set of open source software.

It will be interesting to see if this changes the balance in the higher education marketplace.

Update: More information and related links are available at ICTlogy.

Furl helps to create the personal web

Via Weblogg-ed is a good overview of Furl, and how it differs from the usual bookmark managers. Greg Ritter goes into detail on how you can use Furl. It seems especially useful for students and researchers. I use Furl (see Home Page) when I’m too lazy to blog or if a want to share a series of web pages on a single topic. It’s a great tool for collaborative web research. I think that the use of tools like Furl may surpass blogs in the near future – they’re too easy.

The LMS Industry

Scott Leslie discussed the increase in LMS vendors in the marketplace in a recent newsletter, something that most analysts did not predict:

While it’s definitely true that a few of the 50 seemed to have slowed down their release cycles (no bad thing in a sector that at one point seemed to be averaging close to 2 major releases a year), none of them have actually closed shop. Add to these all of the small open source projects popping up (and some of the bigger ones too), as well as a seemingly neverending supply of elearning startups from India, and one could get the impression that this marketplace is somehow expanding, not consolidating.

Scott goes on to say that organisations should ensure that any system they purchase have the ability to export content in a standards-compliant format, and that this should be proven prior to purchase. This is good advice, as there are numerous purchasers who are locked-in to their sub-optimal systems because they cannot export their content to any other system.

The Utility of Learning Objects

Stephen Downe’s post about the value of LO’s reflects my own consternation – are they of any utility? (My emphasis added)

In the world of e-learning, meanwhile, the systems and protocols look more and more like jibberish each passing day as every possible requirement from every possible system – whether it makes sense or not – is piled into that tangle of 24-character variable names called Java (none of which will work at all unless you have exactly the right configuration, somewhat like my database). Again, maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that if you need an advanced degree to make this stuff work (and of course it have to be exactly the right kind of degree) then it’s just not going to work. It won’t, it can’t. Because learning, above all, must be a populist enterprise. Now I’m not proposing that we go back to the world of stone tools and chalk. But the last time I looked people weren’t using learning objects in any great number, either in the classroom or (even more so) to support home learning. Gosh, make sure you can float before building a battleship.

I see a lot more day-to-day value for learning in the use of simple technologies like blogs, RSS and trackbacks. Not all of the blog systems are compatible and you will find technical hurdles, but my blog is becoming a valuable learning tool, and it is very learner-centric. It’s also standards compliant, cheap and easy to use.

Dummies Guide to Change

In the Dummies Guide to Change … Rob Paterson synthesizes concepts like “tipping points” and the “law of the few”. In a recent paper from HP, Wu and Huberman indicate that their data confirms the law of the few:

Our theory further predicts that a relatively small number of individuals with high social ranks can have a larger effect on opinion formation than individuals with low rank. By high rank we mean people with a large number of social connections. [Connectors?]

but does not support the concept of a tipping point:

Our findings also cast doubt on the applicability of tipping models to a number of consumer behaviors.

The math in this paper is beyond me, but I am assuming that it is valid.

Below is an image that shows my interpretation of these concepts. I was wondering about the parallels between Rogers and Gladwell, and created this image to organise my thoughts. What I’m thinking is that if you want to create an epidemic, then would you first

  1. connect the right Mavens with the potential innovators,
  2. target the early adopters via the Connectors and then
  3. find the salespeople who will influence the Early Majority?

This gives you a potential 50% of the population, which should get you to the tipping point. As you move along the process, you constantly try to increase stickiness.

Might be too simple, or a good start. Not sure yet.

Open Source and Small Businesses

In a recent article in the Small Business Survival Guide, Raymond Keating states that the open source software development model will lead to economic stagnation.

The underlying question that open-source software brings to the fore is: do we want to go back to those dark days before intellectual property rights were clearly defined and protected? If one prefers robust entrepreneurship, invention, innovation, growth and job creation in the economy, then the only choice is to protect intellectual property rights. The open-source theory only opens society to stagnation.

There are better economic minds than mine that could refute his argument, so let me focus on my own case. As a very small business, I use Open Office as my desktop suite. It is free, stable and has features like "export as PDF", that the major vendor will not provide me. I can always purchase "Open Office for Dummies" should I need help, but haven’t required it yet. This zero cost option is money in the bank for me, and good for my business.

This website is built using an open source CMS. It is hosted by another local, small business. Open source gives me a powerful tool, at a low cost, that I could not afford otherwise. It also provides revenue to the hosting company. I am using open source applications for some of my client projects as well. These applications, like Mambo or Tikiwiki, allow me to implement pilot projects at about 25% of the cost of projects using proprietary enterprise software. My clients can test out new methodologies without software license fees; lowering the financial risk of innovation. Using open source software is a competitive advantage, and in some cases is the critical factor in getting a contract.

The bottom line – without open source software, it would be difficult to compete. Open source is very good for my small business.

Via Small Business Trends.

Professional Development – Cheap

As a free agent, I’m always on the lookout for professional development oppotunities, especially low or no cost ones.

  • Learning Economics Group – Free membership is available to this non-profit focused on the business metrics of learning in larger organisations. The telephone/ppt presentations are quite informative, and you get to link to some smart and innovative people. Sign up for information about monthly meetings, discussion boards and shared resources.
  • Business Process Trends – this website and the accompanying newsletter links many business process methodologies together.
  • Synchronous Web Events on e-learning, by Horizon Live
  • The e-Learning Guild has some free and some fee-based resources and events
  • ISPI‘s Performance Xpress has many good, free articles on performance improvement.
  • The Knowledge@Wharton Newsletter is a free service of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It covers knowledge management and business issues.
  • is an open community for education and training professionals. There are various learning events offered.
  • Work-Learning Research makes its publications and other research-based information available through its website at.
  • Jay’s Emergent Learning Forum, online or onsite.

Go ahead and add your own recommendations.

Community of Practice Ecosystem

In The Community of Practice Ecosystem, Miguel Cornejo Castro discusses blogs and their role in CoP’s. He sees blogs as:

  • towers of dissent and independent thought;
  • an outlet for fringe member initiatives;
  • private premises of the independently inclined; and
  • a sandbox for the yet unproven.

The described ecosystem consists of a common core (board, mailing list, groupware), blogs that may come and go, and other catalysts such as repositories and lists that co-exist within the conversational space of the community. The ecosystem lives in a state of creative destruction as knowledge resources compete for attention. This model of a community of practice shows how a decentralized approach in the architecture of the tools & resources may make the community more dynamic, as well as stable, in the long run.