Gripping Twitter gently by the throat

In Breaking the Ubiquity of Stream Mode I wrote that, inspired by “Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment”,  I would start taking overt control of my Twitter use.

I shall use this post to both plan and report progress

Updated 12 Feb 2016

First part is to decide on the lists I want. I can’t disagree with the initial triumvirate described by Luis –  “Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From

I also think I need a couple more public lists that reflect my other uses of Twitter – probably one for local / London accounts.

I also think I need some private lists – certainly for friends/family.

And during the migration process I will probably put up a temporary public list for “People I used to follow” – this will be a good place to link to this post to explain what is happening.

Updated 15 Feb 2016

Moving people to lists and unfollowing through a normal Twitter client is SLOW – I estimated about 6 weeks work.

There doesn’t seem to be a tool that will do it all in one go, so I have split the task:

for updating list membership TwitListManager seems to do the trick, with a simple tabular display:

TwitListManager

Update 16 Feb 2016

From a couple of comments it’s clear that some people didn’t get beyond the title of the list “People I used to follow”, so I’ve renamed it to the (perhaps) clearer “Moving from follow to lists”.

Interesting as well to see the people for whom Twitter is only about the follower count. I’ve even been accused of being “passive aggressive” by a follower of one of the people I unfollowed 🙂  I suppose I shouoldn’t be surprised that a change which is designed to emphasise Twitter as conversation will seem odd to those who think of it as a broadcast channel.

To be continued…..

Breaking the ubiquity of Stream Mode

A blog post by Luis Suarez has served nicely as a catalyst to start crystallizing some thoughts from the last couple of weeks.

Discomfort

I’ve become increasingly aware of tensions I feel when I think about how I manage my personal sense-making. In hindsight the seeds were sown when taking Harold Jarche’s PKM in 40 days course. During that study I realised that although I “talk the talk” around PKM, mostly what I do is the “Seek” part of Seek-Sense-Share, with sharing only at the level of filtering a set of public bookmarks. My approach to sense-making is opportunistic, driven by the needs of the moment, and often quite ephemeral – knowledge is cast away to the depths of memory when not needed for the task in hand.

I’ve noticed a number of things, which I now suspect are related:

  • I become more and more convinced that email is toxic, yet find myself dragged back into using it by the unhealthy habits of those I work with. Although I find the collaboration in Luis’s #no-email Slack group to be a great support, I spent much of last year not participating
  • I’m increasingly aware of tensions whenever I think about long-form writing and thinking – a whole blog post feels like a lot of pressure! 🙂
    As an aside, I wonder if in fact my long-form thinking is being expressed in a different medium – code – although the job title might mislead you, I write quite a bit of code these days  – and “code is poetry” after all!
  • I find myself attracted to Federated Wiki – the combined timelessness of wiki ( = “no pressure”) with it being “my site”. The ability to quickly bang together related thoughts on pages which are never “finished” feels more accessible than the blank page, dated post, tyranny of the blog
  • I like the speed of Fargo (although the default blog style with dates is a bit reminiscent of timelines). Publishing via smallpict.com is baked in, if I plan to use this tool more I want my own server, and not just syndicate it.
  • Regardless of anything I say in this post, I’m still quite attracted by the immediacy of a Twitter timeline, the frequent updates on Facebook, the serendipitous comments that arise when I post the name of the film I am about to watch – I’ve realised that acknowledging that attraction is a key step in starting to build something else into my practice

Analysis

Part of recognising an issue is to be aware of the feelings of discomfort, and part is having the right concepts to categorise what is happening.

I came across Mike Caulfield‘s multifarious online presences when I started looking into Federated Wiki. The ones that have seemed most useful in this context are where he has drawn out the definition of StreamMode, contrasted with StateMode  (bloghighlighted version). In his words,

“You know that you are in StreamMode if you never return to edit the things you are posting on the web”
(context, src)

Mike recognises that StreamMode may have some advantages, and Bill Seitz makes an interesting contrast link to Tim Kastelle  on Managing Knowledge Flow, not Knowledge Stocks

But….

“We end up hitting Twitter refresh like sad Skinner-boxed lab rats looking for the next pellet instead of collaborating to extend and enhance the scope of human knowledge.”
(context, src)

Or in the words of Jack Dorsey – “Twitter is live, Twitter is real-time” – both its strength and its weakness.

The Firehose is addictive – it makes us feel “in touch with the pulse” at the same time as it weakens our ability to pause and take stock – it is the refined white sugar of the knowledge world.

What’s Next

Change relies on motivation and a plan.

So you have an addiction – do you really want to fix it?

Why would I want to reduce the hold that StreamMode has over my online interactions?

Put very simply, if I’m going to spend time online, I want it to be useful in some way – personally, professionally.

And the plan? Reinforce positive behaviours, and manage those which are inefficient, unhelpful or not-fun.

Although I complained above about being dragged back into the toxicity of email I have had some success with “Working Out Loud“:

  • Using a product management toolset that within the scope of a single user licence allows me to make my planning work visible across the company, and for colleagues to comment, and create their own ideas for change (sorry for the plug, but I really like the tool)
  • With internal and external technical teams, reinforcing the use of DVCS repositories, and using comments and pull requests as a way of documenting our design discussions
  • Wherever I can, moving more general internal discussions to a combination of Yammer and internal blogs

So a big part of my strategy is to keep using these, and move more and more of my “inside the firewall” conversations to them.

Outside the firewall, in many ways I feel I have been going backwards, not least because outside the firewall is where the stream is so pervasive.

I think the first step is to take back some control, and of all the things I have read, Luis’s approach to gripping Twitter by the throat and bending it to his will is the most appealing.

So I’m planning my own version of the “Great Unfollowing

That will do for a start. There will be more on evolving practices, but another secret to making a change is not to try too many things at once.

And change often needs a public commitment – here it is!

 

Personal Knowledge Management – why and what

I’m refocusing my study and practice around Personal Knowledge Management (and taking Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge mastery in 40 days course).

A few short points on the “why and what” of PKM – this is a placeholder post that I will expand with more links over time.

Why is Personal Knowledge Management important?

In very simple terms, we all need to earn a living, and in the modern workplace some of the most important facets contributing to that are:

  • what we know
  • who we know
  • how well we acquire, internalise and apply new knowledge

Beyond that, there is the change in the nature of work – more and more work is being automated, and not just at the level of manual labour or transaction processing. The jobs that are left will be those where work cannot be standardised, and this sort of work relies heavily on tacit knowledge.

Harold Jarche has done the homework, here’s his post on “Why mastering personal knowledge is critical to success

What is Personal Knowledge Management?

In 2009, Jo Smedley, Newport Business School published “Modelling Personal Knowledge Management” which links PKM to experiential learning and communities of practice.

Harold Jarche offers the Seek-Sense-Share framework as a way of framing and embedding practice. He draws the distinction between collaboration (working together on a shared goal) and co-operation (sharing information and knowledge), and notes that PKM bridges the gap between work teams, communities of practice and social networks.

Seeking is about choosing the right sources, and using the right tools to select high quality information. One of the best ways of doing this is to use human filters – people whose views you trust and who share knowledge.

Sensing is about internalisation and action

Sharing is the giving back, the act that establishes you as a valuable member of the network in your own right.

Email makes you stupid – so what can we do about it?

Luis Suarez (@elsua), curator of the Life without eMail G+ community, has posted a Vodcast co-presented with Claire Burge (@claireburge)

Here’s the full video:

30)

Here are my notes on the highlights of what Luis and Claire think is wrong with email:

Email creates a dumber workforce” (3:02), because (4:02) the structure of email forces an obsession with emptying the inbox without action.

Email is a selfish tool (4:59) – centred around individual, not team or company goals (because you cannot see the impact of your email on the other person’s workload).

Email doesn’t help people focus on work (7:20) – it misdirects focus and attention. Stuff just flows in, recipient is expected to filter and sort (7:45). People don’t have time, so fall back to just emptying the inbox and treating their email as a task list. This leads to inefficiency through constant task-switching (8:10).

The inefficiencies are not about the technology, but about the human behaviours it engenders (8:58).

[more and more] people justify their workload by how many emails they process (9:22) – so if we take away the email you they have nothing to do. The implication (10:27) is that all the company knowledge, contacts, content and tasks are locked in email

Email gets used as a tool for covertly managing staff (10:45) – yes some interactions need to be confidential, but most aren’t.

Knowledge is power (11:25) – share as little as possible. Which means (12:09) that when someone leaves the company, much of the knowledge they created is lost.

In an increasingly-complex world, email is no longer an effective productivity tool (12:48) – nowadays the environment is complex – multi-project, multi-team, multi-geo – this means companies need open collaboration (13:36) which email cannot provide. Email has been around so long (13:50) that people are scared to try other things. Email doesn’t engender the behaviours we need to be effective in the modern business world (15:08).

Some behaviours need to be unlearned, some need to be taken from email to a new environment (15:27):

Deep parallel between closed inbox mindset and static fixed job descriptions. What results is a series of blockages to the flow of work. (27:30)

Collaborative environment exposes the blocks, (27:56) but this leads to enquiry into the root causes of blockages, making it about the flow of work rather than about the person (28:24)

But, if you keep evolving the process to make the work better, then the job descriptions have to keep evolving too (29:08)

Social Bookmarking

Going back to basics, but on the principle of narrating my work, here’s a short post I published today inside the firewall…

What is it?

Most people will be familiar with the idea of “bookmarks” (aka “favourites”) in a web browser – the menu option on IE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox etc. to save the site links that I use most often, or find most interesting.

Social Bookmarking tools take this idea and extend it in ways that are not only useful to me as an individual, but which also make it simple to share links with other people.

At their simplest they are a web application to which you can add links (and they mostly provide little browser plugins that mean you can do it inside your browser). Two of the best known examples are Diigo and Delicious, and each of these also allow options such as tagging, marking links as private etc.

Beyond that, different services off different features, for example Diigo provides extended capabilities to annotate and highlight web pages

Why would I want to use it?

At a personal level, keeping links in a social bookmark service means that I can:

  • access my bookmarks wherever I am,
  • access my bookmarks on whatever device I am using to browse the web
  • use tagging to organise my bookmarks

Beyond the personal use, these tools have even more value when I work as part of a group or team:

  • choosing to follow other people’s bookmarks, as a way of using their knowledge as an intelligent filter of the “firehose” of information on the web
  • choosing to use specific tags for sharing information within a team
  • on some platforms, forming groups (private or open) into which I can post bookmarks and comments

Social Bookmarking in a learning context

One model for thinking about how individuals can best manage and create knowledge in a networked environment is Harold Jarche‘s “Seek Sense Share” framework.

Social Bookmarking is a key part of Seeking – “finding things out and keeping up to date”. The social aspect supports the practice of finding colleagues or commentators whose judgement I trust, and who I can use as “information filters”.

Other Resources

Diigo About Page

Delicous.com FAQ page

Social Bookmarking on Wikipedia

My public links on Diigo

An experiment in working aloud

As part of the site revamp, I wanted a place where I could put “narrating my work” type posts that were outside of the main site flow – the nature of these are that they are often quick and partial, and I find having them in the main flow inhibits my writing.

The obvious place to start, was with a Custom Post Type, but unfortunately most of the things I use to write to this site (Word and the WordPress iOS app) don’t support CPTs.

A bit of digging, and I think I may have a workflow – certainly something I’m willing to try for a while:

  • writing in FargoDave Winer‘s nifty in-browser outliner
  • import of posts via RSS using FeedWordpress, posting as a custom post type (I love that you can choose a different CPT per feed if you wish)
  • a simplified theme design for the Working Aloud area of the site

Now I just need to use it….

 

Can paragogy help technology production?

A sticky idea…

Howard Rheingold has thrown up a new idea – Peeragogy – which has found a sticky resting place in my brain.

In a blog post written as a pre-cursor to his 2011 Regents’ Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley he reflects on his experience to date with collaborative learning, and sets out the stall for his next project – to collaboratively create a guide to collaborative peer-to-peer learning:

I’m calling it “peeragogy.” While “paragogy” is more etymologically correct, “peeragogy” is self-explanatory. In my lecture, I’ll explain the evolution of my own pedagogy and reveal some of what I’ve discovered in the world of online self-organized learning. Then I will invite volunteers to join me in a two week hybrid of face-to-face seminars and online discussion. Can we self-organize our research, discover, summarize, and prioritize what is known through theory and practice, then propose, argue, and share a tentative resource guide for peeragogical groups? In theory, those who use our guide to pursue their own explorations can edit the guide to reflect new learning.

This idea has definitely struck a chord with me – and slightly tongue in cheek I tweeted:

Is it me, or is #peeragogy about doing learning in the way a lot of “real” work is done?

More going on

As is so often the way, I then read further to discover that someone else had not only spotted the connection but grounded it with references. Rheingold acknowledges the work of Joe Corneli and Charles Danoff, who have termed this area of study Paragogy, have co-authored a paper on it, and are writing a book. In their paper Corneli and Danoff make an explicit link between Paragogy and Peer Production.

Relating this to technology production

When I tweeted, what I had in mind were the complex loops of idea exchange implicit in any kind of technical product development (either for external customers or internal company users):

 

Most, if not all, of these conversations imply some sort of mutual learning:

  • what sorts of things might surprise, delight or downright disappoint the customer/user
  • what sort of product and business model might work
  • what are the technical options
  • what does the industry provide
  • how can we adapt the current technology to meet the needs
  • what would we like the industry to develop next
  • and so on…..

If the future of work is learning, or more bluntly work is learning- so what, how can we exploit the developments in paragogical theory and practice to make such work work better?

My questions

it’s turtles all the way down, but a few starter questions that spring to mind are:

  • does treating these processes as learning exercises lead to better performance? (and how might we measure that?)
  • what support do teams need to surface learning goals around their work?
  • what team and organisation culture will best support rapid learning?
  • how beneficial is it to make the learning explicit?

Right now this is mostly a “lightbulb” – I need to do more thinking and have some dialogue to explore further.

if any of this strikes a chord with you, please comment.

The Architecture of Personal Knowledge Management – 1

Back in July Harold Jarche posted a useful deconstruction of the processes involved in web-based personal knowledge management (PKM). Building on this, and in order to make a lot of implicit stuff in my head explicit, I’ve started developing the model into a full mapping of processes to tools.

I’ve chosen to use Archimate as a modelling language, and as I develop the model offline I will be posting views of it to pages liked from this wiki page.

Harold’s model looks like this:

As I began to unpick Harold’s seven processes I realised that although they are primarily focused on “self”, one key aspect to understand them is to identify the different roles that “self” (and “others”) play. This aspect of the model so far is shown in the Introductory View :

PKM Architecture - Introductory Viewpoint

Alongside the work of developing models for each of the processes, I began to develop a view of the key information artefacts manipulated by the PKM processes.

PKM Processes - Information View

I’ve also created pages on the wiki for the first iteration at modelling the  individual processes, linking them down to a core set of application services, and over the next couple of weeks I’ll write blog posts for those.

Comments welcome to help refine this modelling effort.

The boundaries of GTD

Ton Zijlstra has some provoking thoughts about the limitations of GTD-like systems :Ton’s Interdependent Thoughts: Thoughts on GTD System Weaknesses

In short, Ton highlights the increasing need to apply qualitative (and often social- and/or network-based) approaches to filter the info-glut before you can start putting actions into a GTD-like process.

I think he’s spot on, and it made me think a little more analytically about my personal organisation system, loosely-based on GTD, but heavily reliant on the capabilities of MindManager enhanced by ResultsManager.

ResultsManager adds a project– and action-planning capability to MindManager by allowing any topic in any mind-map to be tagged with task-related metadata, and further, the ability to define “dashboard” maps which cut across the information, pulling together a view based on whatever criteria the dashboard author chooses.

In the most GTD-like aspects of the process, this makes it easy to create a mindmap of “Today’s Next Actions” across all of my projects, but the filtering capabilities are very powerful and allow many other views to be created.

Key aspects of this system which, I think, go some way to addressing the issues Ton raises are:

  • Ability to store, manipulate and interpret information within the context of a given project or concern, yet pull out and record cross-links;
  • Clear signalling of which ideas do not have any current “Next Action”, and which therefore may need further thought to continue developing actionable sense;
  • An easy way top bring in external information sources – for example by using a MindManager map part to import the content of an RSS feed, I can connect this information management system to my wider information-gathering and filtering processes.

Ton’s closing challenge is for a system to present patterns about activity that could in turn become “inbox” items – this definitely needs further thought, but my intuition is that a combination of tagging and feed-derivation could take some kind of a log for re-ingest to the “machine”.