Posted by: gavinstokes | January 11, 2013

Information overload and Infinite scroll

Infinite scroll is a feature which has appeared lately on a few sites and I could never put my finger on why I didn’t like it, but after reading this article I think its down to the fact if you keep nicely fading in search results at the bottom of the page people will just keep scrolling. I think this is especially so in the Etsy case as its image driven and so are, we we just love images and are inclined to click through when the option is there for more. Anyways an interesting article on its failure here.

Posted by: gavinstokes | January 5, 2013

Interesting articles on channels and how companies see their interactions with customers and how customers experience it.

It’s more realistic to think of channels as having facets and defining them in more qualitiative terms, such as means of interaction, information, and context.

  • Interaction: What’s the means, or affordance, by which the customer interacts with you? Examples include touch devices, mouse and keyboard, keypad, or voice.
  • Information: What is the nature of the content being provided to or exchanged with the customer?
  • Context: What is the context—from environment to emotion—in which the interaction is happening.


Posted by: gavinstokes | August 29, 2012

Sketchboards: Discover Better + Faster UX Solutions

Great article on why using sketch boards before any other UX tool leads to better solutions and an inclusive environment with on target iterations.


Just finsihed reading this book and its does exactly what it says on the tin “A Common Sense Approach”, but as most people are aware sometimes common sense is not as common as what we think.

It basically covers the obvious stuff of designing interaction for websites and tries to drill home the point that users should not have to think about preforming simple tasks on a site. This may seem like an obvious thing but how often have you been on a site and playing pin the tail on the donkey when you just want to find the contact button or shipping details.

Its is defiantly worth a read for anyone starting into the world of web development and for those of us who just a need a reminder that the annoying signage or directional issue we encounter day to day we are sometimes responsible for as web developers.



Amazon link

Posted by: gavinstokes | August 20, 2012

Future May Be Stored on Strands of DNA

I cant think of an event in my lifetime that is more jaw dropping and has so many implications.

Posted by: gavinstokes | September 13, 2011

Learning to Fly (Collison & Parcell) book review Chp 10

Overall this is a great book if your looking to get to the practical elements of implementing a knowledge management/sharing program. It doesn’t cover theory and history or reference  any papers,  it is very much about actually getting in there and doing it. I will review the full book at a later date but for know I’m gong to focus on Chp 10  ”Finding the Right People” as I found this to be the most practical, but it does require the previous chapters to provide you with an understanding of KM.

Creating the environment to enable connections
How do you create and environment that puts people in touch with people, which is essentially what KM is about. It will usually require a bottom up approach and a good starting point is a knowledge directory. Basically a knowledge directory is like a more dynamic and informative phone index. Ideally its at its best in some electronic format such as online as part of an intranet or as a standalone tool, but it can just as easily be done on paper.

Ideally staff will be able to search the directory for relevant people with experience and knowledge. Each staff member should have a profile page which id rich not just in work related content but also in personal information. This personal content allows a speeding up of the familiarisation process which is part of developing personal connections.

Some key steps in developing a knowledge directory are as follows,

  1. Be clear as to what you are trying to achieve
  2. Don’t complete with existing HR systems,
  3. Ensure ownership of profiles resides with the individual.
The idea behind the  knowledge directory is to generate10 minute conversations that act as catalysts for knowledge exchange, but via the directory, this is done through populating the profile with personal information such as ” Whats your Job”, “Previous projects”, “Sports interests”, “Hobbies”, “Do you have kids” etc. One of the key elements being a photograph or photographs. By allowing people to get to know others through a less formal setting, without actually meeting them, it speeds up the familiarisation process and makes it easier for people to approach others.

One approach to encouraging less formal information in profiles is to use unusual prompts such as “What makes you happy”. Responses to this can vary from “BBQS and cold beer” to “working with people I trust”. Informal personal disclosure can make the difference and provide intrigue for members to look up their colleagues. How you structure it is up to you and what suits you organisation.

Structure Vs Freedom
This a biggy and I have come around to the idea that less structure is better. You are just not going to be able to provide a Taxonomy or method of categorisation that everyone is happy to work with and covers all possbile eventualities. Some people are happy ticking boxes others want the freedom to define it themsleves. So the best option is to provide some sort of overall high level structure that includes the freedom to add further tags and categorisation if needed.

Real world examples
Through the book the authors provide plenty of real world examples including examples which are not purely work based. I’m not going to list them here but suffice to say they are well laid out from start to finish and easy to understand. One of the key lessons learnt form examples in chapter 10 is that buy in  from management is key, it send a powerful signal to the organisation that they are taking this project seriously. The use of pilot phases which involve all of the key stakeholders in some form is also extremely important. Project champions are also of great importance, they should be chosen from the existing pool of staff and from any level, the only requirement being that they believe in the project. Along with all this there should be an internal marketing campaign which promotes the project through, competitions, email signatures, talks, positive success stories and even simple rewards.

Making it part of the day to day
Its important that whatever knowledge management/sharing project you undertake is part of the business process. This can be done as part of an induction process, leadership development courses and encouraging confrence attendees to check other attendees profiles. It can also be beneficial to add a link back to profiles from email signatures and any online content that staff members might be associated with. Integrity of the owner contact can be as valuable as the content itself, it allows users to obtain more up to date or relevant information by following the profile link.

So all in all in its a great chapter its probably the most practical of the lot but it does need to be read in the context of the previous chapters to prevent readers jumping in at the deep end.


  1. organizational structure,
  2. the inability of managers to understand the new levers of change,
  3. lack of understanding about how value is created using Web 2.0
  4. managers simply don’t know how to encourage the needed type of participation
  5. Executives who are suspicious or uncomfortable

They also demand a mind-set different from that of earlier IT programs, which were instituted primarily by edicts from senior managers.

What distinguishes them WEB 2.0 from previous technologies is the high degree of participation they require to be effective. Unlike ERP and CRM, where most users either simply process information in the form of reports or use the technology to execute transactions (such as issuing payments or entering customer orders), Web 2.0 technologies are interactive and require users to generate new information and content or to edit the work of other participants.

Spending on them is now a relatively modest $1 billion, but the level of investment is expected to grow by more than 15 percent annually over the next five years, despite the current recession. (We’re in on the ground floor fellas).

Critical factors

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top. Different leadership approach: senior executives often become role models and lead through informal channels.
  2. The best uses come from users—but they require help to scale.
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used. Web 2.0 and participating in online work communities often becomes just another “to do” on an already crowded list of tasks. If its not part of the work process interest will fall off.
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs—not just their wallet. Compulsory participation tied to monetary benefits leads to poor quality material. ’Desire for  recognition and bolstering the reputation of participants are stronger motivators for participatory platforms.
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants. With participatory technologies, it’s far from obvious which individuals will be the best participants. Without the right base, efforts are often ineffective. Targeted technology-savvy and respected opinion leaders within the organization.
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk. Participatory initiatives can be stalled by legal and HR concerns.  The problem differs from previous technology adoptions in that it’s no longer high cost and pure execution but is now low cost and undesired results. There must be a balance between freedom and control and at times fears may be unjustified and self policing of social norms regularly occurs.

Next Steps
Encouraging participation calls for new approaches that break with the methods used to deploy IT in the past.

This a summary of a white paper by IBM Institute for Knowledge Management

Four characteristics of relationships important for knowledge creation in networks:

1)      knowing what others know;

2)      having access to other people’s thinking;

3)      having people willing to actively engage in problem solving;

4)      having a safe relationship to promote learning and creativity.

Who you know has a significant impact on what you come to know, as relationships are critical for obtaining information.

Improving efficiency and effectiveness in knowledge-intensive work demands more than sophisticated technologies, it requires attending to the often idiosyncratic ways that people seek out knowledge and solve problems in organizations.

Little research has been carried out into the characteristics of relationships within organisations. Traditional means of mapping an information or advice network has been based on who helped whom with current or past tasks rather than who might be helpful in tomorrow’s opportunities.

It is often the case that people know of and are able to tap into a much broader network of relationships for information or knowledge beyond whom they have interacted with in the recent past for a given task.

Some people are often sought out for the specific knowledge they could contribute to some problem, often skilled in technical domains. Others are often sought out for their ability to help think through a tough issue either defining or refining complex problems.

Gaining access to someone else’s thinking requires an understanding of a person’s response style and what medium is effective.

A person who is tapped for knowledge would should first ensure that they understand the other person’s problem and then actively shape what they knew to the problem at hand. In the past the perspective of the acquirer of knowledge rather than the sender is looked at this study shows that this dynamic should be reversed.

Results in people being more willing to take risks with their ideas, with this often resulting in more creative solutions.

Assessing a Network’s Potential to Share and Create Knowledge
If we have mapped a communication network and find that certain people are not as connected as they should be it is difficult to tell what to do. Simply proposing more or better communication is the oldest consulting recommendation in the book.

Analyzing the networks (K.A.E.S) individually provides more precise means of improving a network’s ability to share and create knowledge than implementing a broad cultural intervention or distributed technology.

If we discover that people are central in these networks for legitimate reasons, management has an opportunity to begin acknowledging the work that these people do for the group. For those on the periphery it would be beneficial to provide them with opportunities to know what other people know in the organization. Developing practices that teach the group what other individuals know would also help deal with this. People are usually brought into the centre of the network primarily as a result of what other people understand about their knowledge and skills.

If we are interested in promoting an organization’s ability to react to new opportunities, we need to account for the ways in which people in network are able to leverage each other’s knowledge.

Promoting Knowledge Creation and Transfer
Understanding how knowledge flows (or more frequently does not flow) across various boundaries within an organization can yield critical insight. Possible restrictions to this flow might be, (based on organisational acquisitions)

1)      Not understanding what other divisions do

2)      Cultural Barriers

3)      Presumption of division offering being complimentary but not materialising

Once a critical collective of departments or groups has been targeted, the study found that applying network analysis based on the four dimensions of knowledge, access, engagement and safety can improve a network’s knowledge creation and sharing potential.

Knowledge Dimension: How do we know what we know?
Other people can only be useful to us in solving problems if to some degree we know what they know. Studies consistently show that when work groups form to engage in a task they experience what is called the unshared knowledge problem (e.g., Stasser, 1992 & 1995). Rather than engaging in discussions that help them to learn the unique backgrounds of individual members, they tend to focus on some domain that people have in common. Understanding of other skill sets usually comes at a much later date.

Possible solutions might be.

1)      Technical interventions (skill profiling system)

2)      Thematic groups that have Help Desks

3)      Knowledge Fairs

Access Dimension: How do we improve access to our collective knowledge?
Relationships accessible in twenty-four hours were by and large considered valuable relationships and ones that the person interviewed felt was worth maintaining. Alternatives to typical technical intervention such as email and phone might be.

1)      Knowledge sharing within the company’s code of ethics

2)      Associates empowered to speak with any associate at any level

3)      Centralise work groups

4)      Personal I think web 2.0 platforms are perfect for this.

Engagement Dimension: How do we improve engagement in problem solving?

A two-stage process of first ensuring one understands another’s problem and then actively shaping what one knows to generate a solution. Possible soloutions

1)      Peer review input to group, makes others more aware of unique skills and abilities others can bring to projects.

2)      Develops reciprocity and trust.

3)      Technologies such as VP Buddy at IBM, Same Time at Lotus or white boarding applications that allow for dispersed engagement in a common problem.

4)      Videoconferencing

Safety Dimension: How do we ensure that learning and creativity occurs

1)      Face to face interactions between people.

2)      Monthly meetings between various groups, show and tell.

3)      Code of ethics

Posted by: gavinstokes | July 22, 2011

Knowledge sharing and social media

Knowledge sharing in contemporary research is seen as a social dilemma, in that it is a social goods problem,  people can benefit from the public good without the need to contribute, this in turn leads to an incentive problem for those willing to contribute.

The traditional solution to dealing with this has been to increase the benefits to individuals or encourage a more pro-social behaviour amongst the group identity. This is where web 2.0 or social computing comes into play.

Social networking participation rates are staggeringly high across an array of various platforms from Wikis to Facebook. Not only are people contributing to not for profit communities but they are also contributing to communities that are managed by for profit companies, such as customer service, reviews etc.

Current theoretical research focuses heavily on the limitations of knowledge management as viewed through an abstract problem, which is distinct from the technology involved. When looking at web 2.0 sharing it is worthwhile seeing the sharing problem or knowledge management problem as a social-technical issue.

For knowledge sharing to be successful, an improved agility to act and not just share or access is needed. With online sharing there is a greater diversity of incentives, with there being little or no cost to sharing. With web 2.0 knowledge, sharing can actually benefit from free-riding behaviour. Non-contributing members add to the prestige of contributors by increasing the size of the community or followers, prestige as an incentive and driver to contribute is a strong motivator as is clearly shown in the article “Blogging at work and the Corporate Attention Economy” Yaradi, 2009, et al.


How knowledge sharing takes place in Web 2.0 communities can be the exact opposite of the ideal portrait of knowledge sharing within an organisation. Allowing users the freedom to create their own taxonomies, tags, and categories would seem to run against best practise for organisational knowledge management but it as has been shown in the case of Emergency Knowledge management in theHaitidisaster this was the most ideal model.

Knowledge management initially during theHaitidisaster was carried out in a structured predefined way with once weekly meetings between organisations, this left little room for questioning and open discussion as time was a factor during these meetings. It was also found the predefined structures within legacy systems limited cross boundary communication and sharing, and its lack of flexibility and configurability led to user apathy.

Upon switching to SharePoint and using more social media orientated platforms, it was found that knowledge sharing increased. Visibility of how colleagues where sharing and managing knowledge increased, this included how information was sourced and identifying what various functions where using similar information but from various end points. An example of this was the generation of an airfield radar map, due to a lack of complete maps of the area a request was placed which led to communications and airfield operations sharing a joint map, it then was adopted by other functional areas such as fuel stores and personnel movements. Social media facilitated the who, what, where and how of accessing knowledge, by centralising information and access on the one platform. Reuse also eliminated significant duplication of effort.

One of the factors that allowed knowledge management to succeed during theHaitidisaster was active participation of senior leaders. Actively engaged senior leaders could access and contribute at times that suited themselves and respond to requests for new information as they occurred. The most successful model proved to be one whereby managers setup an initial basic hierarchy with a basic suggestion guide of how users might contribute. Mirroring functional departmental hierarchy had already proved to be restrictive and inflexible leading to the failure of the site.

One of the problems encountered with the less rigid format of structuring information was management of information as the site grew.  With a lack of naming conventions and users failing to use meta data it became at times difficult to track down information.

Overall social-enabled knowledge management systems did seem to be a success with knowledge flowing across the boundaries of departments, agencies and organisations. It created an awareness of knowledge, which in turn allowed it to be re-purposed for new and innovative uses. With a greater ability to flexibly create knowledge this lead to internal knowledge being more easily transformed into more externally friendly content. In addition, external and internal users could iteratively transform this knowledge by the addition of comments.

There are challenges facing social-enabled knowledge management, such as accuracy of information, information overload and the need to constantly validate information. But overall social media supports faster decision cycles, a more complete knowledge resource, better coordination and knowledge reuse.

Posted by: gavinstokes | July 11, 2011

Knowledge Management and Web 2.0 Technology

Knowledge and knowledge-based skills are the engine of economic growth and social development engaging in lifelong learning and development not only allows us to continuously keep pace with development, but it also helps keep the mind sharp and fosters innovation. Due to the fact that technology is no longer seen as a way of gaining competitive advantage, there has been a growing trend over the lat twenty years which has come to see collective knowledge of employees as the key factor in producing innovative and competitive products.

In past  attempts in knowledge management have resulted in many failures with knowledge management “platforms” and “repositories” that tend to quickly collapse under the weight of their own complexity. Most of these failed attempts have been nothing more than, still data silos where information is safe and organized but inconvenient to explore and share. What was once knowledge has become a fossilised information moment in time does not grow adapt or change through collaboration and sharing.

These large knowledge management platforms fail to make use of the key factor that defines effective information collaboration, quality of user participation. A firm’s knowledge is scoially embedded and evloves over time along unpredictable paths making it diffcult to share and organise. Once the kowledge has been removed or detached from the indvidual  and stored in a static system, it is no longer knowledge and becomes informatio.

In the past Western managers and organisations have tended to choose an IT-Centric Top-Down approach, but Nonaka [1998], Sveiby [2000b] and Takeuchi [1998] argue that what succeeds is a people-centric approach, from the bottom-up, but properly encouraged and supervised from top management.  In the other words, giving people with knowledge the space and freedom to correlate the knowledge without being encumbered by technology and preconceived ideas of knowledge structures.

Current web 2.0 technologies are promising to provide users with an open, shared, personalized, multi-dimensional interactive knowledge management platform.

The effort to make use of social media and to seamlessly integrate social media into users’ daily learning and working has turned out to be one of the key challenges for the design and development of many knowledge management systems.

Social media networks already support the aggregation and sharing of information in a fluid manner. It also encourages people to contribute and to feedback. All are important elements for getting knowledge management to work.

Most knowledge is human dependent which is what makes it knowledge which in turn makes it more difficult to detach from its source. It is based on personal understandings and collective construction. This makes knowledge’s roots social as each person is a social individual within a social environment, in this case the organisation. Organisations need to see content as a “social object” and not as static fossilized Information. It is instead a highly social artefact that takes on a life of its own based on its interaction with the communities around it. Knowledge increment occurs with honesty, trust, responsibility and openness .It endows knowledge with wider and deeper social values.  The current  social web 2.0 platform can already supply all of these requirements.

Social media is able to support knowledge evolution in two aspects.  Firstly social media is bottom-up supporting a personalized experience through customisation, publication, style of presentation, sharing etc, this deals with the problems experienced by early knowledge management systems which used a  down predefined hierarchical structures . Tools are already in place which allows users share knowledge in diverse meaningful ways, not only are these tools in place but the knowledge of how to use them effectively is also in place. The new skills barrier and resistance to one element of organisational change has already been overcome.

Secondly it allows social cues through additional information such as date published, views, author’s background and standing within the community, amount of posts etc. These can also work for the author as they can actively see how many people are viewing there content and where it is being distributed. This in turn encourages them to publish more content. It also allows the exchange of the two sides to establish a trust relationship for more effective knowledge sharing, which in turn prevents the knowledge from becoming static.

Social media platforms can be seen more as an active creation space whereas knowledge management systems desperately try to persuade participants to invest time and effort to contribute existing knowledge with the vague and long-term promise that they themselves might eventually derive value from the contributions of others. In contrast, creation spaces focus on providing immediate value to participants in terms of helping them tackle difficult performance challenges while at the same time reducing the effort required to capture and disseminate the knowledge created.

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