Knowledge Work Effectiveness not Efficiency

The default marketing strategy for this category of tool is to emphasize efficiency….

The marketing from efficiency argument is simple to articulate and deeply rooted in an industrial mindset. Tools are good if they make workers more efficient; Frederick Taylor opined on the size and shape of shovels to improve the efficiency of strong-backed men moving stuff from pile A to box B. Knowledge workers aren’t shoveling coal. None of us work in typing pools.

These tools and their effective (not efficient) use are better understood from the perspective of augmentation laid out by Doug Engelbart. Saving keystrokes isn’t the point; redistributing cognitive load is.

Jim McGee – Knowledge Work Effectiveness not Efficiency

It’s not about easy; thoughts on a world without e-mail

I’ve been following Luis Suarez’ (@elsua) thoughts on a world without e-mail for quite a while now. His arguments have always made sense, and yet I’ve always had this nagging feeling of, “Yeah, but….”

Last week I had a chance to view/listen to a recent presentation Luis gave about making the jump from e-mail to social media tools, along with the mind map – no PowerPoint, either! – that goes with it, appropriately subtitled E-mail is where knowledge goes to die. I think I finally understand.

After listening to the presentation, and talking with some co-workers and others about it, one of the most common comments I heard was, “That sounds great, but it looks so hard. Why would I want to do make my life and my work harder?”

It was then that I realized that when most people who are tied to e-mail hear this argument about social media vs. e-mail, they apparently think that moving their work is supposed to make doing their job easier. But that’s not what it’s about at all.

Using social media isn’t about easy, it’s about better. More effective, more productive, less wasteful; however you define “better”.

In e-mail, there is no learning, no opportunity to learn.  In fact, e-mail practically screams “non-learning environment”. Despite what it is you are actually trying to accomplish in your work, you spend a good amount of time trying to stay out of “mail jail”. When someone new joins your team or your project, they will never catch up. How can they, when all the knowledge has died in e-mail archives that are “somewhere else”.

With social media, nearly every transaction is a learning opportunity. Sure you’ll spend as much time sorting through all your social media contacts and messages as you do processing e-mail. But with social media, you are forced to make sense of the information, all the while creating and sharing new knowledge about whatever it is you are working on.

Of course, if you don’t care about learning, about improving, about becoming more effective, then sticking with e-mail is fine.

Does your blog’s “personality” reflect your personality?

Recently, Dave Snowden and Jack Vinson have both typealyzed their blogs:  Dave’s is ENTP and Jack’s is INTJ.  Since I’m not sure exactly how Typealyzer works, I wasn’t sure if I’ve got enough content here at this new blog (15 posts so far) to get a type, but figured it was worth a shot.  The verdict:  INTP – The Thinkers.

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Interestingly, maybe not surprisingly, this is typically what I get back after taking a personality type indicator test.

Being the curious person that I am, I also checked to see how other blogs I write (or have written) are typed:

No Straight Lines: INTJ – The Scientists
29 Marbles: INTP – The Thinkers
Tramp and Tumble: ISTP – The Mechanics
St. Louis Elite: ESTP – The Doers

The first two are, of course, my personal blogs that have since merged into the current blog, so it is no surprise – at least to me – that they turned out to be what they are.  I write it primarily for myself, so the topics are what interest me and the style is what I’m comfortable with.

The third, The Tramp and Tumble Blog, is a site I maintain to get information out to parents, athletes, and coaches in the sport of Trampoline and Tumbling.  The topics I choose are still somewhat based on what interests me, since I’m a parent of a T&T athlete, but the style of writing is based more on what I think the readers would appreciate than what I would like to see.

The last, the web site for the non-profit that supports St. Louis Elite Trampoline and Tumbling, is primarily targeted at outsiders to the sport of T&T and intended to get them excited about the sport and the team so that they will support the team financially or in some other way.  It’s nice to know that this site comes across as a “Doer – They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities”.

In general, I agree with Dave that one shouldn’t take these types too seriously and that they shouldn’t be used for “categorising people into little boxes”.  I do, however, think that these types of tools can help individuals gain some personal insight into their ‘natural’ tendencies.  It is obviously possible to overcome these tendencies when the situation demands it, if you simply use it for what it is – another tool in the toolbox.

The importance of rehearsal

I learned the importance of rehearsal while in the military: Plan an operation, try it out, refine the plan. Last night I mentioned to some friends how I use rehearsal in my day-to-day life: Preparing for a presentation, walking through the steps of a plan, practicing a process. Especially when it is something important.

In Not my fault Guv…, Dave Snowden highlights the value of rehearsal on a larger scale:

I find it difficult to believe (well maybe I don’t) that after producing a major engineering project on time and budget, a combination of BA and BAA could combine to mess up the opening day of Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Delays at the staff carpark are in part to blame! People failed to unload bags fast enough, the queues were too long. Hi guys, ever heard of rehearsal? Simulation software?

Of course, the really sad part is how poorly BA and BAA responded when everything went to hell. Which, of course, Dave discusses as well. Check it out.

Blogging from OneNote ’07

My notebooks are littered with scribbles and notes of ideas for blog posts. Unfortunately, many of these ideas have never made it off of paper. If only there were an easy way to post from my quickly written out ideas….

One of the things that caught my eye when going through the things OneNote 2007 can do was the Blog This option when you right-click a page. This page is meant to be a test of that functionality.

Because of the way OneNote handles text and images – basically, put it wherever you want it on the page, I’m curious how it will handle the different placement of elements when it converts to HTML. This paragraph that I’m currently writing is a separate element from the text above, placed below and a bit offset from the rest of the text. I captured the graphic using the windows+S key combination and dropped it in on the right side of the page.

Update from within Word 2007:

Once I clicked on Blog This, OneNote sent the page into Word ’07. I kind of expected this based on my previous experience with Word ’07 and blogging, but I was hoping that OneNote would simply use the account settings from Word. As you can see (well, I can see it since I know what the original looked like), Word has taken the free-flowing format of a OneNote page and converted it into a more structured document. The only change I made to the page (except for adding this description) was to adjust the text wrapping properties and location of the image.

From here the process is somewhat familiar, but I’m still going to have to do some tweaking once I get it up into WordPress. For example, you can Insert Category from within Word, but you can only select one category – Ctrl-click doesn’t work.

Update from within WordPress:

Once I got into WordPress, everything in the post looked fine. I added the categories I wanted this post filed under and it was ready to post.

A quick recap of the process:

  1. Put together a rough (or not so rough) draft in OneNote.
  2. When ready, right-click on the Blog This option
  3. In Word 2007, adjust the flow of the text and images as needed, then Publish as Draft.
  4. In WordPress, open the draft, modify the post properties (Categories, tags, timestamp, etc). Then Publish.

Which is what I’m going to do now.

Protecting important files with TrueCrypt

… but sometimes you want to protect your key files as well, either on your system drive, an external hard drive, or a USB thumb drive.

In Information wants to be free, but you still have to protect it, I talked about Bruce Schneier‘s recommendation to encrypt an entire disk instead of just your key files.  But sometimes you want to protect your key files as well, either on your system drive, an external hard drive, or a USB thumb drive. 

TrueCrypt is one option for this and, as Lifehacker tells us today, it now supports Mac OS in addition to Windows and Linux.  For more on how to install and use TrueCrypt on Windows, check out this Lifehacker article.

Seven steps to make teleconferences more effective

Shawn at the Anecdote blog has seven suggestions for facilitators to improve the teleconference experience for participants. These all seem like common sense suggestions, but as a frequent participant in teleconferences I can tell you that it is rare to find a teleconference where even 2 or 3 of these guidelines are adhered to, much less all 7.

Shawn at the Anecdote blog has seven suggestions for facilitators to improve the teleconference experience for participants. The original post has a bit more description and justification for each of these items.

  1. Encourage everyone to be on time
  2. Introduce everyone
  3. Remind everyone of who’s speaking
  4. Reduce background noise
  5. Rotate start times to be fair to all timezones
  6. Use IM or chat room to increase richness
  7. Record the call

These all seem like common sense suggestions, but as a frequent participant in teleconferences I can tell you that it is rare to find a teleconference where even 2 or 3 of these guidelines are adhered to, much less all 7.

Shawn also recommends using a web-conferencing tool as support to the teleconference. Again from personal experience, I can say that this adds immensely to the usefulness and, dare I say, enjoyment of meetings that are all too often a painful experience to endure.

Test from Word 2007

I recently picked up a new laptop and decided to take the plunge into Vista and Office 2007. (Sadly, MacOS was not an option for me right now.) Although the verdict is still out on Vista, I am finding much to like in Office 2007. I’ll try to write more about both, but for now I’m simply testing out the “Blog Post” template / feature in Word 2007. rn

The set up process is very straightforward. I entered the blog service provider (WordPress, from a drop down selection that also includes TypePad, Blogger, and Windows Live Spaces), this blog’s URL and the log-in credentials. I was concerned at first that the reference to WordPress may have been specific to WordPress.com, but a quick check of the Manage Accounts screen (see image to right) showed that the Word had indeed successfully registered with my site. Another indication that the connection was successful is the population of the “Insert Category” dialog with the categories from this site. rn

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that I can select more than one category. (Even ctrl+click doesn’t work.) There is also an issue (for me) with images; I couldn’t find an easy way to add “alt” text for the image. If you select the image and then “insert hyperlink”, you can add the alt text as a “Screen Tip”, but Word won’t let you keep it unless you actually put a hyperlink onto the image. For (my) convenience, I’ve simply added in the URL to this site. rn

All in all, this feature of Word 07 seems to work well, but I’ll have to wait to see what the final post looks like before passing final judgment.rn

How paranoid, er, security conscious, are you?

I originally posted the following in October 2005 and thought it would be a nice follow-up to my recent post Information wants to be free, but you still need to protect it.

= = == === =====

Just as there is a fine line between genius and madness, there is a fine line between appropriate security and paranoia. On which side of that line are you?

Shred your sensitive personal documents before throwing them away? Appropriate security. Spread the shreds in the garden as mulch? Paranoia.

Passwords on your home network? Appropriate security. Issuing smart cards to your wife and kids? What do you think?

For a quick peak into a paranoid security expert’s approach to security, check out Security for the paranoid, which I found via Schneier on Security (one of the few things I make myself check every day).

I have to admit I don’t know if the author is serious or not, mainly because I don’t know him. My first thought when I read it was that he was serious, and seriously paranoid. I know people who think, and act, like this. And, in fact, some of the things he says make sense. For instance:

I frequently see people posting PGP signed e-mails to security mailing lists. It’s not that these people are afraid of someone actually spoofing fake comments from them on the latest CGI flaw; they just make it a practice to sign every e-mail, no matter how trivial it might be. Sure, these people are signing e-mails when it’s really not important, but I doubt they get caught not signing when it is important.

Or

I also delete unused services on my servers. I block unused ports.

But a few things make me think it is just a bit over the top, including:

  • I keep my PC’s turned around so I can tell if anyone has installed a hardware keylogger.
  • I never check in luggage when I fly.
  • It takes five passwords to boot up my laptop and check my e-mail. One of those passwords is over 50 characters long.

One of the keys to establishing good, and appropriate, security is an analysis of the risk/threat, the consequences of becoming a victim, and the cost of the security measure against the cost. This is what the author of this piece misses, as evidenced by comments such as:

  • Sure, the threat might not be real. No one may ever actually want what you have on your PC. But does that really matter? Does the threat have to be real to warrant strong security?
  • There’s no need to analyze the threat of every situation. Just practice strong security always and you should be okay.
  • I don’t do it because I think someone is going to go through my trash to reassemble bits of my research notes. I do it because it’s good security.

I’ve been giving some thought lately to the challenges of enterprise solutions to problems and my belief that “one size can’t fit all”. Though there are some security best practices (for lack of a better phrase) that can be applied in many situations, blind application of these practices to unique situations will likely result in more harm (less security) than it does good.