Archive for November, 2006

Plea for help: Anyone able to convert .swf files with audio to MPEG format?

Anyone? Anyone?  Are their any shareware tools for conversion that actually work?

A colleague and myself tried using a video conversion tool called Squeeze.  Looks like it’s possible just to do the video without the sound using some conversion tools.

On a related note, I found that it is possble to create a podcast with a slideshow. A Google search did lead me to instructions on Make magazine’s website on how to create “enhanced podcasts,” but unfortunately it looks like I have to own a Mac to use this technique.  Though I’ve been considering it lately… maybe making my second computer an Apple.

The New Sharepoint – Blog Features

So I’ve been playing around with the new version of Sharepoint (created for the Office 2007 release) to check out the features.  There were some things I did like about it, and I’ll try to capture these here. But honestly, I feel like I’ve been burned by the tool in the past. Specifically, I’ve been burned by some of the user-assumptions that Microsoft made.  This end-user slighting, has resulted in much of my disdain for Microsoft products and perhaps my skeptical view of their tools. But who knows maybe MS under it’s new leadership is really starting to care about what users think (now that they have to be concerned by some competition from the open source realm).  It is possible to re-gain a slighted end-users trust and loyalty. Maybe, just maybe Microsoft will be able to wash some of that “dorkness” off of themselves.  My husband noted the other night that maybe it’s just that the open-source world has made headway on some in-roads by developing more usable and ‘sexy’ products and so this is just Microsoft’s attempt to keep up.

My biggest questions in exploring this new version of SP were:

  1. Can I effectively use Sharepoint to blog?
  2. Can I effectively post wiki articles that are easily editable and searchable and editable by others?

In short the answers were:

  1. Yes will a lot of initial frustration (but I believe that’s a common business model held by companies or projects that assume that the users must deal with the shortcomings of their tools because they don’t have a lot of other choices – i.e. their company bought the software and now they’re being forced to use it)
  2. Yes, well sort of…

In the next few posts I’ll try to capture most of my observations on the ease of use of the tool as well as it’s key features.  What i’d really like to do if I had the time and better expertise is to evaluate the Sharepoint tool and it’s features using the Ten Usability Heuristics.  These observations are only from an ‘end-user’  or blog writer and wiki editor/author perspective. It would also be helpful to evaluate the tool from both a content management/admin perspective. 

Brief observations on Sharepoint blog features

  1.  It’s very difficult to figure out how to create a blog.
  2. Right scrolling for minutes IS NOT AN OPTION
  3. Search feature works okay, but you still can’t search for posts or comments.
  4. You can readily access blog admin features from your blog home page.
  5. Image posting has universally accessible features

1.)  :( It’s very difficult to figure out how to create a blog. The path to the  blog creation feature in this new version SP is NOT intuitive.  The designers did try to make up for the lack of ‘intuitive’ design by creating a mouseover menu feature that illustrates what each link in the “Create Page” section does. See if you can guess where you should click first to create a blog just by looking at the image:


2.) :( Right scrolling for minutes IS NOT AN OPTION.  The default settings on the blog feature post a list of all blogs at the top of the page. This list scrolls horizontally.  Unfortunately, Sharepoint is set so that the horizontal page content determines the entire length of the page. Perhaps there’s a setting or control that changes this, but someone needs to tell Microsoft that they should set page settings so that they fit common web usability standards.

3.) :) / :( Search feature works okay, but you still can’t search for posts or comments.  I was able to search for unique words in test postings and also for the names of posters without issue.  However, I wasn’t quite able to figure out how to use the categories for searching.

4.) :) You can readily access blog admin features from your blog home page. (See below image).






5.) Image posting has universally accessible features- You can use the same image library to post pictures to both your blog and a (Sharepoint) wiki page.

Knowledge Creation and Web 2.0

Ever since I attended a conference which introduced the concept of Learning 2.0 to me early this spring, I’ve struggled to understand how tech like Blogs, Wikis, Mashups, etc. can fit into an organizations model for learning and Knowledge Management (KM). Lately, I’ve been doing some reading on Knowledge Creation. I ran across this article from the International Journal of Information Management titled “Innovation and knowledge creation: How are these concepts related?” (S. Popadiuk, C.W. Choo; #26; 2006; p 302-312)

The article called out the Nonaka and Takeushi (1995) model of Knowledge Conversion (in a work environment). Nonaka believed that there were four modes of knowledge conversion he also believed that as participants in a work environment engaged in these modes, they would gain deeper knowledge and be able to apply this knowledge to their work.

Sociailization – comes from shared experience with others, networking to share experiences. It can also come from “direct interactions with suppliers and customers and walking around inside the organization.”
Externalization - information or knowledge becomes “crystalized.” People within the organization start sharing what they’ve learned (sort of like how I’m sharing it here) in the form of “concepts, hypothesis, diagrams, models, or prototypes.”
Combination – knowledge takes the pace of shared presentations, meetings. The knowledge items become categorized. The knowledge items start to undergo classsification and are morphed by people in a format that the organization can use and apply.
Externalization – knowledge items are shared throughout the organization. Also, they can take the form of formal documentation or training to be referenced by people.  Also, at this  point that benchmarking and prototyping of new programs, products starts to take place.

This is my first stab at trying to apply or determine where some of the Web 2.0 or 3.0 (this is what I hate by assigning version numbers to things, by using the earlier version you risk looking like a tool) technologies fit into a model of knowledge management so here it goes . In this model I’ve applied blogs, forums, discussion and post-mortems as examples of the “Externalization” mode. Wikis as I noted earlier can be a interim or preliminary form of knowledge definition, categorization and classification. Training and formal documentation comes in the last mode or “Internalization.” Ideally, this formal conversion of “Tacit” knowledge into “Explicit” could draw from the forms in the previous modes.

This is just a start of a model or map of where the new technologies might fit into a larger picture of K.M.  One more thing, in creating this model it occurred to me that making formal and concrete assumptions about any model and trying to apply them literally and directly, can paint yourself into an uncomfortable corner where you end up looking at the very least mildly 2 dimensional. So it’s with that caveat that I will say, that this model is not a prescription for developing a formal Knowledge Management system.

Hastily created model/image of Knowledge Conversion Model


Let’s talk about people here for a minute

Ever since Train Man, I’ve been fascinated by the Japanese cultural phenomenon called Otaku.  In short, Otaku are individuals (usually from the younger generation) who are fascinated by the electronic and fantasy world.  Extreme hermetism has always fascinated me.  Perhaps this is because I feel that I’m a social person who needs to connect with and learn from others and I cannot imagine not being able to do so.

Not long ago I ran across this article on Wired magazine on Otaku and read exerpts from an interview with a prominent member of the Japanese Otaku community who commented, ” They should realize that we are the future – more comfortable with things than people… That’s defintely the direction we’re heading as a society.”

Maybe, but I doubt it.  Human beings have survived because they can connect with each other.   Even within the e-world people seek out connections with one another. The story of the Train Man stands as testament to this.

I feel that you really can’t take people out of the equation… just ask countless Business Process Engineers whose efforts have failed because they forgot to consider how end users would react to the re-engineering of their tools and processes.

Wikis as a learning supplement

I’m excited.  Just finished talking to a group of my colleagues about the potential of using wikis as a supplemental addtion to a training package.   I know that this isn’t a new idea, but I’m excited to see that other people within this environment are thinking about doing this as well.

Consider the training packages of the past:


Now consider what we could make possible with showing people how the embrace the concept of ‘democratizing’ and ‘taking ownership’ of content:


Of course, there will be a lot of questions and concerns about allowing free reign to folks and assuming that they can develop ‘good’ content without ‘proper’ supervision. But consider the power of allowing people to collaborate on content and maintain it themselves. It doesn’t have to be considered the ‘training word.’

But  at least it’s offering an interim solution between being able to develop ‘formal’ training content… in the world we work in today… elearning content becomes obsolete before it becomes end of lifed. Perhaps one way of determining which content should have a more permanent and formal form is to track which wiki content pages are being accessed often as opposed to changed and editing often.

I recently found some open source wiki software which I’d like to look into using to create sample wiki environments within our group.  I’d also like to be able to capture as many of the lessons learning and good practices applied by others to eventually develop a quick RLO (Reusable Learning Object) on good wiki usage.


Dokuwiki –


Blog Posting on “Principles of Knowledge Management”

A good/thorough list of principles which help guide good information/knowledge content handling. Great principles for a blueprint for a KM system. Note for myself, would like to translate principles into tactical practices and applications.

elsua: Knowledge Management Blog

Great resource and links to other Knowledge Management Articles.  Of particular interest, articles and commentary on the realities and future of ‘social networking.’

What’s wrong with Sharepoint?

I LOVE Sharepoint!

I live and work in a world where we tend to view Microsoft Sharepoint as a solution to everything: collaboration,  communication,  and (I have to laugh at this one),  document storage.  Lately, we’ve been looking at it as a component for a knowledge management system. However, my gut feeling tells me that Sharepoint isn’t an adequate platform for the collaborative elements in a knowledge management system such as expert mapping,  information/document sharing, archive of communication, social networking, collaboration tracking and performance support.  Not to mention, that security, access, space,  and backup issues continually plague the Realm of Sharepoint.

Sharepoint does some pretty neat and fascinating things… it has some helpful features such as a limited but adequate widget for creating surveys and a some nifty meeting workplace features.  Still, I have a number of frustrations with the tool: for example,  it’s not very user friendly, and searching for a particular document, library or list on a Sharepoint site can be at the very least problematic, and like most Microsoft tools it works in theory – the theory that all human beings act and interact with tools in the same darn way.

I tend to use Google for affirmation on many different topics, which in a way is a broad example of using the intranet to create a social network.  Apparently other people do this too. So assuming that others had a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the Sharepoint, I typed into the Google search the words: Sharepoint, criticism of.   I found a number of critical and evaluative articles on Software application publications*, but nothing really from hearts and mouths of the “End User.”  So I typed instead, I hate Sharepoint. (Later this was followed by a search on Sharepoint Sucks.)

Not surprisingly, I received a number of different responses which painted much more colorful picture of the tool and how it’s  perceived by countless people who have to use it.

I tend to agree that Sharepoint sucks. Using it is like closing your eyes, holding your breath and spinning around for thirty seconds. When your done you dont know where you are, you are very dizzy, and feel like you might throw up… I might create something in one place, but cant delete it or rename it there. After 15 minutes of searching, I cant find the same tool I used yesterday to do one thing or another. Its like that house in 13 Ghosts, everything SEEMS to move around on you… What really bothers me is this is not version one. It is a great idea gone horribly implemented.

…STAY AWAY… Sharepoint can be an incredibly useful tool, but in any office where I’ve seen it deployed, it’s acting merely as a web-based front-end to the file-system. If that’s all you’re going to be using it for, you might as well just use the file-system, via Explorer and mapped drives, and do away with the glorified front end.

…i absolutely hate sharepoint even though it seems to be serving purpose here of a company with over 9,000 employees. i have to do the support and administrative stuff for it and have several users I can’t get connected to our Portal for some reason we can’t figure out.Sharepoint.

…I hate Sharepoint with the passion of 10,000 burning Lotus Notes users

…Sharepoint is a decent enough idea but it lacks a logical flow for navigation. Also, sometimes it just seems more cumbersome than it’s worth but eh, it works too.

… Honestly, I found Sharepoint so inadequate and typical of a first generation MS product that I could only shake my head at it.  If it was made by anyone else than MS and had to compete on its merits I suspect most of us would have never even heard of it

As a result of my mini-quest to find others who are of like mind when it comes to Sharepoint, I started to find more information about other tools which could be used for collaboration and document sharing other than MS Sharepoint.  Another alternative for collaboration on projects is Basecamp. The Basecamp home site actually includes a  short screentour of the Basecamp application.  Now, I haven’t had the time to assess whether or not Basecamp would suffice as a knowledge management system… or even work well as a component of a healthy one, but it might be worth it to look into this. 

As I was reading through the Basecamp Manifesto, I remembered a reference to a collaboration and information publishing tool a friend sent to me called “Backpack.” Suddenly, it all came back to me… Backpack and Basecamp are from the same company (37 Signals.)  37 Signals is a small company with a mission to develop simple and usable software for organization.  Their repetoire of tools is interesting, their mission statement  and design principles and are refreshing.

I’d like to look at a way to perhaps employ their tools to create a working Knowledge Management system; however, I realize that coming up with the analysis and design for such a system is one thing. Actually, putting into practice and making it usable and successful with a group of people is another, but still, I believe it’s a proposal worth looking into.

Addendum to post…

Looks like Microsoft may be taking the hint about Sharepoint’s rather inflexible nature. It appears that they are incorporating SocialText’s wiki features into Sharepoint.  Apparently,  the notion ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ driving Microsoft’s new openess to open-source and externally developed solutions extends past the Novell/Linux incorporation to wikis too.

As noted on Innovation Creators (blog)…

Instead of building one system that tries to do everything, build a system that is capable of integrating with everything. From an IT perspective, Enterprise 2.0 is about gaining network effects from various systems, rather than choosing one limited strategy that is supposed to be all things to all people.



Alternate solutions:

Basecamp –

Zoho –


Sitepoint Forum question:

Applications that Make the Blood Boil:

Alternate Universe Forum Posting:

*I found this article which names a number of things wrong with the Sharepoint application from a developer’s perspective, namely that, “It’s a crappy mish-mash of multiple technologies.”

Proof that blogs, mavens and all that _ _ _ _* from the “Tipping Point” might be right


I bought a copy of Why Business People Speak Like Idiots  yesterday.  My purchase was motivated by my weariness of all the project managementese I was hearing in meeting after meeting.    It might not be the idea that I  bought it because the title actually made me chuckle or that the main premise of the book (the idea that speaking clearly and concisely without unnecessary jargon will help you get ahead in business not to mention effectively get your point across), but I learned about the book from the Presentation Zen blog, which I visit regularly. So me, willing to purchase a hardcover book (with a 20% discount) at “the mall” in a large chain bookstore, because I heard about it from someone’s blog is a marketing phenomenon in itself.

But here’s how sequence of events in this purchase actually worked out…

  1. Natalie is tired of sitting through countless bulleted presentations at work which do little to ignite her desire to engage in truly creative and productive work. More she’s tired of hearing the excuse and (using it too) that there is no time to spend on crafting visually effective presentations.
  2. Natalie links to Presentation Zen from a blog in her aggregator  called Creating Passionate Users.
  3. Natalie reads the Presentation Zen blog and notes the list of books that the blog author has posted as recommendations for improving the quality of presentations as well as producing effective ways of getting the message/content across to audiences.
  4. She personally relates to the title of the book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.
  5. She clicks on the image link from the blog and reads through the book preview of the  first chapter provided by
  6. She sits through several meetings through the week where some of the concepts from the chapter presented in the Amazon book preview actually hit home.
  7. She suddenly makes a conscious decision to go and buy the book, more she decides that she needs the book as soon as possible.
  8. She goes the the nearest chain bookstore and asks the store clerk to look for the book titled Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.  The store clerk chuckles upon hearing the title of the book, but then directs her to the location of that branch’s only copy.
  9. Natalie purchases the book despite the hard copy price (because she has a 20% discount on all hardcovers from her $25 dollar yearly membership- realistically she will probably only save a total of $50 dollars on purchases from this store in the upcoming year)**

* Junk

**Marketing strategies around discounts are often an intellectual work of strategic art – at least to me, even when I realize that I’ve been had.

More on ADT – Busting of Fluster Culture

I want to come back to this idea of ADT (Attention Deficit Trait) plaguing the corporate world, because I think subduing the effects of ADT and then preventing them, will provide the key to having a workforce that provides a competitive edge in the ‘new creative economy.’ 

Note, I will also add to my exploration here the subject of “the creative economy” and supporting concepts and definitions.  I’ve brought the idea of “creative economy” up a couple of times in conversations with others and I get the feeling that many people think (some in horror) that this means turning the business community and it’s practices into some sort of artistic colony where creativity reigns.   Of course, I’m speaking with slight hyperbole here.  But I feel very strongly, that in order to be successful in business you have to exercise a balanced partnership between ‘left’ and ‘right’ brained thinking.  I have some notes somewhere on “Creative Econ,” that i’ll have to dig up and post.

 Attention Deficit Trait

Definition  on LifeHacker:

Article – “Why you can’t pay attention anymore”

Attention Deficit Trait and Multitasking in the Modern Workplace:

Creative Economy

Article with a good definition of Creative Economy:

Good reference article. Understanding the Engine of Creativity in a Creative Economy: An Interview with John Howkins :

Presentation on Preparing for the Creative Economy 


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