Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Social Media, Or KM?

There is much debate about the friction between Knowledge Management, and Social Networking. Venkatesh Rao has written an interesting piece about Social Media vs. Knowledge Management ... interesting because he treats these two as being the tools of two different generations. And then there is a post by Jeff Kelly about KM vs. Social Media (ya, the terms are inter-changed) ... and together they make for interesting reading.

For one, i dont quite agree with Venkatesh when he says there is a war between two opposing ideologies. First of all, i dont believe they are opposing ideologies. Neither Knowledge Management, nor Social Media (at least within the organizational context) are ends to themselves ... these are means to other ends ... whatever those be (and i am not trying to define them here, because most organizations have their goals defined for themselves, and there is no single goal that they envisage for either of these two, at least not the way they articulate it, though basically, they are all similar). Once we see these as means, they become tools which are to be used for delivering something (in this example, greater effectiveness of knowledge work). And once we look at it this way, the idea of war doesnt seem to stand. Lets look at it this way ... each generation has their own way of doing things ... viewpoints change ... and there is ample interest in Social Media among members of a few generations, though this interest is varied in terms of magnitude, or usage.

And then, Jeff goes into something which i basically disagree with ... treating these different tools as generational. While they may be (and no, i am not saying that they are), its not serving any purpose to classify them as such. Why? Look at it this way ... for a large part of "millenials" they dont even exist. I am talking here, about one-third of humanity ... India and China ... both countries with a large proportion of young people, who are not focussed on social media, though social media can change their lives in a large way, maybe not even thought about.

Having said this, i quite agree with Andrew McAfee when he asks the question of technologies being at war with each other. As i have written earlier, while people are at the focus of KM efforts, we should be careful not to over-compensate for the emphasis on technology, and ignore it completely.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Competing ...

A rather interesting one about creating a knowledge-sharing company ... who can pass reading something with this kind of title? Which is why i changed the title to my post ... Well, the story told about GIant Eagle is quite informative.

This points out to an interesting thing ... most organizations do not have the policies and incentives to have people collaborate with each other. In fact, i like the way Russ Ross puts it ...

Now they’re competing in the marketplace of ideas.

And this is the basic difference. On the one hand, you have what some people call the "scarcity" mentality ... which is about scarcity of things going around. Which means that if there are two people, there is no way both of them can get what they need, there is some trade-off that needs to be made, and in the process of making this trade-off, either of them, or both, have to give up something they want. In fact, this is one of the basic assumptions classical economics is based upon, and this is something we have grown up with. The other is what people call the "abundance" mentality ... which is about their being enough for everyone's needs. As Mahatma Gandhi said, that there is enough for meet humanity's needs, not greed.

The question is, which mentality you subscribe to. In the knowledge sphere, of course, the "abundance" mentality seems more apt, but its not really possible to get people to actually move from one to the other with different contexts. Having said this, there is the whole idea of how an organizations can build up the environment to enable people to think abundance. This is not too difficult to do, actually ... what this requires is transparency, and removal of a threat perception ... though, as humans, we somehow find this is difficult to do.

Mashlogic ...

I have been planning to write about this for quite some time now, but travelling, and not keeping well, and so, here i am, delayed writing about this for more than a month ... no, not excuses, but ... well, ya, excuses! Natasha had written this one about Mashlogic. And, it seems to be a cool tool. No, i dont think this is what web 3.0 (if at all we ever reach it ... and why i say that is because, in all probability, by the time we are ready to reach 3.0, someone somewhere will come up with something promising to take us to 4.0 ... isnt that what happened with 2.0?), but its a really nice tool. This is a plugin for Firefox, which tells you more, context sensitive things about the thing you are reading. This sounds really cool, somewhat on the lines of snap, but quite different. In fact, i would like to take this further (if i had even an iota of technical sensibilities in my pea-sized brain). Imagine this ... you are reading a blog, and you come across an idea on the blog. select the text, and this little add-on shows you other possible blogs, which could be related to this blog. Or, in the organizational context, this add-on runs a search through your repository of content, as well as through the various communities you run in your organization.

Why would you want to do that? No reason, really. Except that, there was an interesting statement that came out of KM India ... that people are not really interested in KM. They are interested in doing their work, and so, if knowledge contributions are over and above their work, then it is, in all probability, not going to happen. If this sounds a little cynical, this is something which is happening in most organizations. In some of the discussions that i had with folks over at KM India, this aspect came out quite too well ... that no matter what tools, processes, you bring in, adoption is the challenge. And, this is something i have believed for some time now ... that your KM initiatives are as good as the adoption for these initiatives. And i have written about this before. Which is probably one of the reasons one of the labels i put to my posts is "People Aspect". Which is why you find that social networking, within and outside the firewall are two totally different ballgames.

Now, the question that this brings up ... if people are only doing their work, how do we get them to relate to the entire idea of knowledge, and management and sharing ... something which is important, but hey ... why should i do it! And this is where serendipity (hey, i am liking this word more since i found out its meaning) comes into play. I think more and more KM initiatives will need to be centred around people, and will need to consider knowledge sharing as a product of the work people are doing, instead of being something they explicitly have to do. Think facebook ... and its not really that difficult to do. Most of the aspects of people's work is already to be found in some systems or the other in the organization, so its a question of integrating these web 2.0 tools with some of the enterprise apps you already have in place, and viola ... XYZ is rolling off from this project in another 2 months time, so if you are a Project Manager, you should be able to see whome you probably want to talk with.

Coming back to the idea of mashlogic, a tool like this could be built into one where a person, when seeking information, should be able to use this for quickly having a look at stuff similar to what they are looking at, and see where they can get more details ... making discovery that much simpler ... in a search mode, rather than in discovery mode.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Train Journey ... Bangalore - Chennai

A new experience altogether ... Or so it seems. This comes to you from the top berth of the Mysore-Chennai (beautiful pitcure of Chennai Central) Kaveri Express. I had thought this would be the opening line except that it would have been coming to you from the platform. But just as I was thinking of writing, the train arrived and no matter its almost midnight, the arrival of a train at any major junction in India can cause the buzzing of the beehive of activity astir. And this was no exception.

To cut a long story short, between reorienting myself, deciphering the bogie number printed on the ticket (in the absence of the charts they used to stick), hauling myself onto the train, navigating my way through the crowded aisle, and managing to perch myself on the top berth thanks to some pretty amazing gymnastics, I couldn't start writing till I was lying down on the berth, which by the way, I am hoping is meant for me tonight.

To start the story, let me inform you that I didn't intend to write about this journey. After all, this is just another train journey. I have had more luxurious ones (AC IÌ class), and a whole host of adventurous journeys, usually eithout reservation, whether it be from Varanasi to Delhi, or Lucknow to Berhampur, or Varanasi to Nagpur. But going to Bangalore City Junction, trying to locate the platform number for the train, in the face of a General Enquiry window totally devoid of human habitation (by the way, they have some slick touch-screen technology which can do this for you), hauling myself, laptop, and suitcase to the platform, trying to decipher the mystery of two trains ... Chennai Express and Kaveri Express, and the entire set of activities which I told you about earlier, and most important ... Unravelling the disorientation ... I thought that I must write about this. Besides, of course, the general din of people sleeping might render any thoughts of sleeping ineffective (though I am going to try), so I might as well write.

The usual smell that you find in almost any railway station was around, though what was missing were the vendors selling kulhars of garam-garam Chai ... Extra strong, extra sweet ... Just the way you like it. What was the surprise element was the disorientation. I felt like I was doing this for the first time. That I wouldn't, in all probability, not achieve what I had set out for ... To catch the train. Getting to the platform seemed to be an enormous task, and the entire set of activities culminating in me hoisting myself onto the berth seemed daunting. And this makes me think ... There was a time when I wouldn't think twice about it. It was almost second nature. And that's when I realized ... This is the first time in over a decade that I am going on a train journey. Coming to the disorientation ... It was comprehensive. I felt as though I didn't even know how to board the train, much less take the journey.

Ah ... The romance of the train! Taken away by the the tinted film on the window-panes, which, by the way, you can't open. And they effectively segregate you from the journey.

By the way, its morning, and I slept well ... Which is a relevation. Earlier, when I would travel bt train, I somehow wouldn't get sleep ... Or maybe, it had something to do with the way I used to travel. And I am reminded of a saying ...

Chaar aane ki Murgi, Baarah Aane ka Masala!

In other words, the Chicken costing less than the Masala used for cooking ... You would ask what brings that on. Delay of two and half hours for a five hour journey. But maybe I shouldn't be complaining ... Had the train been on time, I wouldn't have slept so well. Rather, I would have overslept.

Bangalore Trip ...

Usually, going to Bangalore is about work, and about business. This time round, however, it was a little different. To begin with, I was travelling from Bangalore to Chennai, by train (more on that soon), and then, we managed to eat at some of the places we usually don’t go to.

Take, for example, Kabab Korner, on St. Marks Road. Up a flight of stairs, down a narrow corridor, which doesn’t exactly inspire too much confidence, but does give a nice view of St. Marks Road, you reach the restaurant. The first floor has the AC restaurant, while the second floor is the non-AC outlet. And going by the difference in prices between the two, air-conditioning must be quite expensive here. But, the food is reasonably good. We had Chicken Pepper Tikka, which was nice, and Chicken Tikka Masala, but somehow, I feel they actually gave us Chicken Bharta. Nevertheless, it tasted good, so that was ok. Not extraordinary, but reasonably nice, I would say.
The next day, my friend and colleague, Uday Vipra, took us to quite a nice place. Tucked away on the lane next to K. C. Das, you could actually miss it if you walked too fast … this is a restaurant named Chung Wah. Reasonably priced, excellent Chinese food to be had in the first floor establishment. We started with Veg Manchow Soup, which is quite good, and followed this up with Vegetable Balls in Hot Garlic, which is reasonably good, lightly spicy. We had Ved Fried Rice, and followed this up with Veg Chow Mein … there were ample crunchy sprouts there. The piece de resistance, however, are the Pepper Salt Prawns … it would be ample to say that these are worth eating, anytime you go this part of town. If you haven’t eaten these, there is a wonderful Prawn dish you are missing out on.
Then there is the Moti Mahal Deluxe … the ambience does justice to the establishment they have setup at Gurgaon … in fact, it would be apt to say that the establishment here seems to be more posh, although I think they don’t serve alcohol here, which is a big negative given the general style of Moti Mahal. Nevertheless, the food is as delicious as anywhere … we started out with the Grand Chicken Tikka platter … this has the Methi Tikka, the Zafraani Tikka, and the Rajasthani Soola … the latter being definitely fiery, not for the faint hearted. And, they accompanied these with chilly coated Onion rings. Wonderful beginning. We followed this up with the Murgh Korma from Old Delhi … the Chicken could have been more tender, but the taste was definitely reminding of Dilli. Surely, a continuance of the legacy of Moti Mahal, with a bit more of the touch required, but nevertheless … this was accompanied by the Khushka, which is Buttered Rice … quite nice. Overall, an experience which one must savour … from my experience, Moti Mahal is a restaurant one must go to, again, and yet again … and this is no exception.
The food was not the only thing about this trip. I met an elderly gentleman on the street … and a conversation which got me thinking. He evidently took me to be someone else, but never mind. How old was he? I don’t know. And maybe it doesn’t matter, either. Suffice it to say he was toothless. Was he 70? Was he 80? Like I said, it doesn’t matter … so lets not think more about this. It turns out, this gentleman doesn’t work any longer. No, this is not the same as retiring. He has been forced into this. He used to sit outside the Bangalore GPO, and used to provide a simple service, yet one which was of more than adequate use for lot of people … writing telegrams. Today, he says, who sends telegrams? I don’t think there are many. He is of the opinion that with the advent of the mobile, telegrams have been made redundant, and this change has cost him his work. He doesn’t get clients any more. And this raised a question … how many such people are there … with skills which are becoming fast outdated, with skills which are no longer relevant in a changed world order. And more important a question … what are we doing to ensure that these people can be re-skilled? What are we doing to see to it that their experience, their productivity and efficiency can be tapped into, in order to build a society which is inclusive, and not uncaring for those who fall by the wayside, because a society which does that maybe cant even be called society … because the root word for society is social, and this, I think, is not.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

People, Or Technology

As i have written before, Dr. Kavi Mahesh, moderating the panel discussion on the role of technology in KM, was of the opinion that at times its fashionable to downplay the role of technology in KM. My friend Anjali has raised a comment on this ... that people are the centre of KM.

I quite agree with that. In fact, theres no two ways about it. But, the way i see it, in practically most systems (and Peter Senge has mentioned this in Fifth Discipline as well), it is very, very difficult to attain an equilibrium. And, the larger and more complex the system, and the larger the gap, in terms of time, or otherwise, between cause and effect, the more difficult it becomes. Which is why, we fine, inspite of economic theory, hardly any markets which are at equilibrium. The way i see it, its like a pendulum ... it goes from one end, to the centre, which is the equilibrium, but due to intertia, it overshoots, and so on ...

I think this is, to an extent, happening in the people or technology aspect today. People are at the centre of KM ... there is no way i am going to try to negate that. But, after a decade of overemphasizing technology, the pendulum is now trying to move towards the centre, which is the equilibrium between the three aspects of people, process, and technology. Having said this, the changes in the technology landscape are such as they cannot be overlooked, which is somewhat bringing the technology dimension to the centre, along with the people.

In fact, you would find that i have a separate label on my posts for "People Aspect", which is the way i can show that i believe that the people aspect of KM is critical, but at the same time, the technology also is very important.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

KM India ... Day 2

Day 2 at KM India brought some rather interesting discussions ... it began with Debra Amidon making a presentation about Knowledge Innovation Zones, and the implications for India. This made a very eloquent point about the way the knowledge economy is evolving, and the role specific knowledge zones can play in this. This almost flies in the face of current wisdom that geography is irrelevant. But then, one thinks ... is it? If it is, how would one explain that Bangalore happens to be the hub of technology development in India. Or, Silicon Valley, for that matter ... Not that i unerstand too much about this, focused as i am on how KM works within the organizational sphere, but nevertheless ...

This was followed by a panel discussion about the Role of Technology in KM. The keynote address by Mr. A. Srinivasan from TCS, was a very interesting one ... it began with Dr. Kavi Mahesh raising the point about it being fashionable to downplay technology, and focus on the people aspect of KM. While i do agree with his point, i think its more about re-emphasizing the importance of people in the entire KM scheme of things, given that KM practitioners have spent quite some time focusing on the technology aspects alone, with not much emphasis on the people aspects. But, he does have a point ... and, this point was very well illustrated by Mr. Srinivasan, when he said that KM has been around for long ... technology has changed the scope of the activities which can be done to facilitate KM on a much larger scale.

This is something i quite agree with ... that Knowledge Management has been around ever since Knowledge has been around. Whether it was the passing down of traditions from generation to generation, or the writing down ot texts, both religious and secular, or whether you look at the idea of guilds, transforming into apprenticeships, into training, and KM as we know it today ... and this is where the point Mr. Srinivasan made come in ... that today, the way we can reach out to people, exchange thoughts and ideas, is very different, and much larger in terms of scale, and this is something which has been enabled by technology. Another aspect which came out quite well was the idea that KM technologies must integrate, over a period of time, with enterprise applications ... something on the lines of what i have written about, from the perspective of CRM apps. What the panel also quite agreed about was the two aspects of the technology framework for KM, which they pointed out to be serendipity, and presentation. This looks similar to the idea that David Tai raised on day 1 ... that people are interested in doing their work, and not necessarily KM. Taking this one step further, people's contribution to KM could be seen as a by-product of their work, rather than being in addition to it. For example, take facebook ... when you join a group, you dont go about telling your friends about it. They just get to see it without you having to do anything additional. Something on similar lines within the firewall ...

Another interesting point that came up was about the contribution distribution. There seems to be a general picture that contribution to KM platforms comes from a minority of people, with the rest of the people being consumers. So, there are a set of people who actively contribute (say, 10%), another set of people who comment on these, or provide feedback (say, 20%), and the majority who simply read (say 70%) ... of course, these figures are something i just made up.

Raj Datta came up with the idea that social networks, with their people to people interactions, could be used as a catalyst for generating contributions from larger proportion of people. This could be because this gives them a trusted channel for collaboration. To an extent i agree with this, but i think serendipity would also need to play an important role for this to happen.

There was an interesting question which was raised ... that most companies seem to be using similar strategies for KM. Does this represent a convergence to a possibly right way of doing things, or does this mean that we have run out of ideas? To my mind, its the latter ... the way i look at it, we have yet to come up with a best approach to much older questions (remember the core competence vis a vis diversification debate?), and hence, i wouldnt think we could have arrived to a best approach to such a new question. This also brings to mind the fact that most organizations are facing similar challenges in taking KM to the next level, but this is to be expected because the basic, underlying problem they are trying to solve remains the same, irrespective of organization.

On the topic of Innovation, Venky Rao, from Satyam, made an interesting observation ... this is something i have been thinking for quite some time now, and it was nice to get validation ... that real innovation happens where the rubber hits the road. That ideas are aplenty in organizations, only thing is, not many managers actually listen to those ideas. This could, in large part, be because most managers, with conventional experience are not comfortable with some of these ideas, because represent something which is different from conventional experience.

This, more or less, covers the two informative days at KM India ... Day 3 was the master-classes, though i would think of them more as break-out sessions. More about them soon ...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

KM India ... Day 1

OK ... I am at Mumbai ... attending KM India 2008. So this is a little dated, considering that today was day 2 of the event ... but then, with the Cocktails and Dinner last night, you didnt think i would have been blogging, did you? I did think i would blog live from the venue, but then i realized i am yet to perfect the art of listening, understanding, and commenting about a topic, all at the same time. Hence the delay ...

Nevertheless, the opening day brought up some interesting topics. It opened with an address by K. V. Kamath. Needless to say, a large part of the address was about the current (ok, so most of us would like to use the word recent rather than current) financial crisis. This was followed by a talk by Suresh Prabhu ... and i must say that when K. V. Kamath said that he would go anywhere to hear Suresh Prabhu speak, he wasnt exaggerating. Prabhu made a strong pitch for integrating knowledge into the organizational structures. Of course, we know this is far easier said than done, but then, this did kick-off the proceedings in the appropriate way. Especially interesting point he made ...

A conformist attitude is a problem in any social setup, and can be handled if some level of deviation from the ideal is encouraged.

Of course, this makes sense. This was, in fact, brought forth quite strongly by S. K. Sharma from Airtel, who raised the point ... about the inherent tension between Knowledge Management, and Quality. This was in response to my question at the panel discussion with few of the MAKE award winners ... actually, i was trying to understand the difference between the communities they have been able to foster at Tata Steel (i still call it TISCO ... guess i am too old to call it anything else) and some similar initiatives which have been around for some time now ... especially Quality Circles. To cut a long story short, one way of addressing this tension could be to make the KM initiatives dovetail into the quality initiatives running in the organization. So, if you generate some great ideas, you work with the Quality team to bring them in as an integral part of the quality processes in the organization.

With this, the session on KM Strategy and Assessment got underway ... and Prof. Jayanta Chatterjee from IIT-Kanpur (or, IITK, to the old hands ...) made a rather impressive presentation about the work they have done with creating a platform for knowledge-sharing in the agriculture value-chain, from the farmer to the trader. Its quite an impressive model, bringing together all the participants in the agriculture value-chain. What i found stood out in this discussion was the description of the "knowledge-grid". Here, to take an example, they would take a particular crop variety, e.g. Pulses on one axis, and different aspects of cultivating the crop, e.g. pesticides, harvesting, etc., on another axis, and clicking on the intersection one can reach the discussions around the intersection of the two. The question this brought to mind was how they managed to address the fuidity in topics, or whether they did even have such a fluidity. I think not, if they can capture the various aspects of cultivating the crop, then all information related to this can be classified into one aspect or the other. Some sort of taxonomy, but what is interesting is the way they have worked out the intersection of the two dimensions.

William Miller gave a very interesting talk about the whole idea of knowledge and innovation. He used the example, where he likened inhaling to learning, and exhaling to innovation, to make the point that knowledge creation must lead to innovation, and vice-versa. Quite convincing, especially the way i look at it ... that we create knowledge through everyday work that we do. And in this manner, this learning, or the process of creation of knowledge, must lead to new ideas, new ways of doing things ... whether we know it or not. He also tried to bring in the whole idea of best practices, as not necessarily the place where you need to stop ... rather, to use best practices as the benchmark in a way so that you can use them as a launchpad to create something better.

Dr. J. K. Suresh from Infosys reflected on the idea that knowledge is communal property, which means that it belongs not just to one individual, but rather, by its very nature of multiplying by sharing, to the community. However, when we are trying to measure knowledge, we are trying to ascribe it to particular individuals. This is a basic mis-match which needs to be addressed. This, i believe, must be something which must be looked at, when we are trying to understand the basic dynamics of knowledge creation in the organization. One possibility is to encourage the treatment of knowledge as belonging to the entire community, rather than to the individual. Of course, this is far easier said than done, and i agree that this is a rather vague way of looking at things, but this mis-match must be addressed.

Ed Cohen from Satyam made a rather interesting point ... that the essence of leadership is collaboration. Or, in other words, that the main role of leaders is to facilitate collaboration. This makes sense to an extent (no, i am not going into the other aspects of leadership ... i dont think i am best suited to write about them), since collaboration is about getting people to work with each other, together, towards a common goal, in a way where the whole is greater than the sum. It made sense when i was listening to him, but i guess somewhere i lost my threads on this line of thinking ... need to think more.

Debra Miller made a rather interesting comment ... about the need to empower people to contribute and share knowledge as themselves, as individuals, rather than as parts of a business process. This is pretty much similar to the philosophy of social networking ... the focus being on people, rather than on the content, and the role of people in generating knowledge, and sharing knowledge, being central, and being acknowledged as such.

David Tai from IBM made a very impressive presentation about the web 2.0 initiatives being run at IBM. I say impressive, because this presentation described very well the journey IBM has taken over the years from the ICM days of Lotus Notes databases, to the new w3, and KnowledgeView, and the further step towards social computing. An interesting point that David made is about the way he uses his social network within IBM, and outside to learn, because people in his network have already synthesized knowledge, and he gets to see the outcome of this synthesis, so he has a lot to learn from his network, rather than searching for things. This is something i have written about before. This brought up an interesting conversation i had with my friend Nirmala Palaniappan, though i still do believe that social networking is not going to do away with search, though it is going to impact search in some ways.

Raj Datta (looking quite different from the picture you see in the profile) from MindTree Consulting came up with a very interesting idea ... of breaking up knowledge-space into four quadrants:

  • Q1: i know what i know
  • Q2:  i dont know what i know
  • Q3: i dont know what i know
  • Q4: i dont know what i dont know
From here, he went on to raise the question that since the largest of the four is the "i dont know what i dont know" quadrant, and this is also the fastest growing of the four, why is it that most KM strategies focus on the "i know what i know" Q1? The interesting part here is that the Q4 "i dont know what i dont know" quadrant, while being the most difficult to discover, is the one with the most possibilities. Of course, this is easier said than done, but this does take us somewhat into the realm of innovation, but this is something that William Miller mentioned, too, describing knowledge and innovation as being two parts of a single whole.

As you can see, it was quite a packed day at KM India, and this was followed by Cocktails and Dinner, and though i couldnt commune with the Old Monk (please read the odes penned by a number of followers), with Mr. Walker for company, you wont be surprised at the delay in writing, would you?

Oh, and please do look to the right, to see the most interesting aspect of KM India ... and no marks for guessing why there's only half a plate of Cookies there!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wikis ... Practical Example ...

I like to see examples of some of the things I talk about and work on, in daily life. Why? As we shall see, this provides an invaluable way to illustrate the principles. Such an opportunity is at hand ... Planning for a wedding. Planning for a wedding, you might exclaim. But allow me to hasten to mention that illustrations of the kind I am talikng about are usually to be found in the unlikliest of places ... Preparations for the wedding, for example.

The wedding is of a Brother in Law ... Poor fellow finally succumbed, and is getting hitched this month, actually happy with the prospect. You se, he doesn't know any better. Ah well ... But let me not digress. Planning the catering for the days leading up to the wedding is turning out to be a far more complex activity than one would think. This is, in part, due to the distributed nature of the team. Allow me to explain ... The boy and his family are in Mumbai, while the wedding is to happen in Delhi. So, the requirements definition is happening in Mumbai, while the delivery of the project has to happen in Delhi with a local caterer.

Now, this is a simple scenario, except that requirements keep on changing, and there are a number of iterations the menu has gone through, and promises to go through quite a few more. As a result, in trying to co-ordinate the menu, we have come up with four different versions of an excel file which contain four different versions of the menu, and with at least five people taking part in the planning (the stakeholders and the participants), noone is quite sure which is the latest version of the menu. While someone believes the final version contains Bhetki, others think it contains Rohu.

This is the type of confusion which usually crops up during projects. The larger and more complex the projects, the more this type of confusion. Now, bring in a wiki into this mix, and the scenario changes. If all the updates, all the iterations to the menu are simply recorded on a wiki, then firstly, everyone participating in the project gets a single view of the work being done and the deliverables, and secondly, nobody needs to add to the confusion by sending out multiple updates multiple times.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What People Are Saying ...

One of the important aspects of blogging is reading. Yes, reading, understanding what people are saying is probably a more important aspect of blogging than the actual writing. Many a times, ideas come from some of the conversation that goes on. And this brings me to the blogs i subscribe to. And this is what gives me the idea to write this.

On the blogs that i am reading these days, there is a lot of stuff being written about technology. About the technology of web 2.0. Thing is, there is not much being written about the basic concept, and the implications of something like the tools which we are seeing today, on the organization. Does this mean that we have figured them out? Not many folks think so ... we are yet to completely figure out the web 2.0 tools, and their impact on the organization. We are yet to figure out what are the possibilities for trying to attract people to the corporate blog, or the wiki, or to communities which are there within the firewall.

On the other hand, I am reading more and more about the disillusion with web 2.0. There are more folks writing today, about the non-utility of web 2.0 tools. I have written about this. This then brings up the question ... does this mean that web 2.0 tools have no utility? No matter how cynical one might be, this is not what one would think. Then, could this mean that some of the tools, and hence, their potential, was maybe hyped beyond actual utility? Could be. But by and large, i feel, more and more of the discussion, and the euphoria about web 2.0 has been directed to outside the firewall, with not much thought going towards how this would work within the firewall.

So what, one might ask. Not much. Except that some thought needs to go into this as well. Lets face it ... web 2.0 is not a tool which is the end by itself. It has to be part of a larger picture, and somehow, i think this aspect is not being discussed too much. And this is where i think the problem is.

For one, inside the firewall, web 2.0 tools may not be deployed the way they are outside the firewall. For instance, wikis may be more acceptable within a team, where the team-members can collaborate, using the wiki as a notice-board kind of application. This is different from the wikipedia style of implementation, which a lot of organizations are looking at. Or, blogs which are centred around a particular aspect of the business, which are part of a group of tools, which are focussed around the business function. In other words, i feel that web 2.0 implementations in organizations would be people focussed, but demarcated based on business functions or processes. These would probably not be the one big-bang application the way we see it outside the firewall.

I would like to hear your opinions about this. All thoughts more than welcome. Do drop in a note.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

About Driving ...

Sunday morning ... plenty to write about feminine automotive sensibilities ... brought to mind something i had written earlier ...

If you have driven in Kolkata, or Mumbai, you would know how much of a nightmare it can be. Well, Gurgaon is well on its way to becoming a world city, and hence ... Can Gurgaon be far behind? Just today ... there was a lady, driving a SUV ... no, i have no problems with that. Never ... wouldnt even think about it. Just that she was driving while having an Apple, and trying to call up someone on her mobile. Now, this surely is a juggling act highly difficult to emulate, and i would hope not many folks try to do that, either. At least, not the eating ... its always much more wonderful eating in peace, dont you think? Now, this is not to say that this is the preserve of women, but being the MCP that i am (ya, ya, i heard you say this earlier ...), i just had to write this! No, no ... i dont hate women. In fact, much the opposite ... tongue in cheek ... its just their driving skills i am worried about.

Like today, for instance. I was trying to be a good boy ... here was a girl, driving a green Santro (a la Jatayu? ... from Feluda, remember ... yes, he has moved from Ambassador to Santro). As the usual rule, i give them side of way. Like a nice guy, i stopped the car on the side of the road, so as to let her pass. And, whats the next thing that happens? She is seen hurling abuses at me ... cigarette smoke bellowing, along with those words! No, i didnt hear it, thanks to my windows being rolled up, and Junoon playing in the car.

Moral of the story? Dont give right of way! Thats what everybody seems to be doing, anyway. Actually, this is not such a big deal. The issue, i feel, is the way we are becoming more and more narrow-minded. Take this post, for instance. An incident like this probably wouldnt have got me writing about it, but i guess i am also part of the larger human society, and hence, prone the same level of intolerance as the rest of us. Whether it is religion, or region, or for that matter, any parameter which divides man from man ... today, more than ever before, probably, it is successful in dividing man from man. Tempers are growing shorter as the bank-balances of people are becoming longer. Today, there is far more affluence than there has ever been, and yet, there is also far more anger. There is far more frustration.

Having said this, i feel this is part of a cycle of human existence. From a state where tolerance levels were high, people were content with what they had, and happiness measures were higher, society seems to be moving to a state of high intolerance. The good news is, this cannot persist. The cycle must move, so i believe, which means, this intolerance must make way for a world order of greater trust, love, happiness, and tolerance.

Well ... now that i have raved on and on, heres the other side of the story ...

On the subject of Gurgaon ... i think Gurgaon is growing up, and quick. The other day, i was out buying Beer (yes, this was before my Diet, for the record ...). Two girls came in (i would call them girls, given the grey hair in my goatee, and the fact that they looked much, much younger) ... They asked for strong Beer. Now, thats cool ... Girls can drink anything they want to ... What i would like to write about here is that the shopkeeper didnt bat an eyelid. The usual glances, head to toe, sizing them up ... they were just not there! And, this, to my mind, is a sign of a city where the boys are finally growing up!