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:

SharepointCreate_SM

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).

SharepointSearch

 

 

 

 

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

KC_Small_Image

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:

Past

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

Future

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 – http://wiki.splitbrain.org/wiki:dokuwiki

TRAC – http://trac.edgewall.org/

Blog Posting on “Principles of Knowledge Management”

http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2006/10/24.html#a1684

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

http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/km/elsua

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


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