Archive for June, 2006
From Geek News Central:
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Paid Product Evangelist that hide they are getting Paid
I have a friend that is a pretty popular blogger, and I asked him today why he had been talking about a certain product so much. He confided in me that he was being paid to be a product evangelist. When I told him that I had never heard him disclose that he was getting paid to evangelize the product he said that his contract had forbid him from disclosing this.
This is insane, especially considering how bloggers have been working so hard to be given journalistic rights! Ethical journalists are expected to disclose any possible conflicts of interest.
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Ok, a bit off topic. But, i often think and read about how old media such as newspapers, magazines and marketing are dealing with the 21st century.
It might come from my experiences as a Communications major that focused upon PR. The ideal of PR that I was taught was that you do what is best for the organization's image. Often, that means being honest and upfront. Focus upon solutions not upon excuses. But…how often does (and did) that happen?
However, the new paradigm of the 21st centure is a culture that has stood things on it's head. The web has provided an easy, quick way for people to share information and experiences. How often have we seen executives and politicians swear "I didn't say that"? They are still doing it…and obviously keep forgetting that our tools now allow us to not only store old footage — but to better find and retrieve what we want. I guess I'm not so far off topic — information retrieval is one of my passions after all!
An empowered public has become weary of one way ads that talk at them and increasingly cynical of claims made by those who want money and power. They are tuning out, turned off.
One major marketing co. seems to really get it — and they are helping a their clients along the way. In this particular case, Dunkin Donuts I came across the Hill Holiday blog via Slate's ongoing series of Ad Report Card. Brilliant! They really get it. Here is their blurb about the blog:
About the blog
Yep, we've read all the headlines, digested all the stats. The foundations of mid-20th century marketing are eroding all around us.
So what are we going to do about it?
5. War and Peace length: "A common mistake in Web design is to just [convert] a brochure to the Web. But the Web is its own medium, and communication has to change to reach users. Users are known to read 25 percent slower on the screen than on paper, read fewer words and don't like long pages which require scrolling down," she said.
This is not applicable to OPACS, as it does not fit their function. It is a danger to libraries creating home pages. However, I will credit librarians with seeming to know not to throw long pieces at their users. However, websites by librarians for librarians do sometimes violate this issue.
Many organizations, MPOW for one, are still struggling to transition from print to online writing. Many writers do address the various audiences by using the appropriate terms (parents, teachers, chemists, members, etc.). However, if there are legal issues the lawyers often won't allow them to reword things in the level appropriate for the general public. ARGH! In this case, I know the writers are not at fault and simply try to avoid having to rewrite things to please the lawyers. Thus, lawyers need some writing and usability training.
Many professionals (librarians included) seem to forget, or do not realize, that publications targeted for the general public are written at a sixth grade level for a reason. Bemoaning the state of education and lack of reading does nothing to reach these users. Even users who are highly intelligent appreciate a more friendly voice.
Scrolling for a lengthy piece is not user friendly. Throwing a PDF or other attached document at the user is not user friendly. Why should I have to use my computer resources to open your information? Reading something written in a formal voice is boring and sends the users elsewhere.
3. 'Leap of faith' links: that means disclosing information on content and file size.
For the most part, I think that systems that an organization purchases do this rather well. Most users do seem to know the pictorial symbols for PDFs, Docs and pictures. However, home grown sites rarely include this important element. I think that we get so spoiled by our fast work connections that we forget that many users may be on dial-up.
4. Attention-deficit Web sites: "Users have a special hatred of flashing icons and banners, because they draw the eye away from what is important and hinder their progress," Cunnington said.
Doing something because "it's cool" is a violation many organizations make in creating internal home pages. For some reason this has not lessened in intranet pages even as organizations have realized that public websites with these features give an unprofessional impression. OPACS certainly don't have this problem. If anything, they are notoriously ugly!
Sandra Rossi has written an article for Computer World that is posted in InfoWorld, "What Users Hate About Websites" She is sharing what she learned from interviewing Theresa Cunnington from iFocus.
Several of these are relevant for web services offered by libraries and knowledge management intranet/portal sites. I am leaving her numbering.
2. Re-inventing the wheel: people do not want to have to learn how to use a site before they can browse it, Cunnington said.
This is a BIG issue with many systems. I know that most OPACS I've seen present this issue. In fact this is probably one reason OPACS Suck. Users also have to learn the system just to search it. Similarly, enterprise intranet and portal interfaces out of the box are often not intuitive enough. I know that we have to train our users to search our portal. This just should not be the case. As I keep saying to my co-workers, users should not need to learn the system!
In our case, if a user wants to limit the search to a particular section, they must use the drop down next to the banner search box and select "search this folder". However, I don't think many realize that the dropdown is available until we point it out. Many of our users would prefer this option, so I have suggested that we change dropdown listing so that "search this folder" is the default. However, this requires quite a bit of programming! Users do not like using advanced search. While we can reasonably expect "power users" to need to learn to use such advanced tools — our call center employees should not need to do so.
Michael is responding to one of my comments:
MPOW is in the process of implementing a new telephony system that will include all employees — not just call center agents. This software adds VOIP, headsets, presence awareness and messaging for all employees. These are disruptive features that will require quite a bit of training. I know that if it could have been done incrementally — it would be better accepted. Yet — how can one do this in this example?
Michael posts: Great question and one that, in my opinion, illustrates that no matter how hard we try to integrate change into our regular organizational structure we will at some point always face moments of disruptive change. Disruptive change is not always bad! The situation you describe, moving to VOIP telephony, will be good in the long run. There may be growing pains, certainly, but the end result should prove the effort worthwhile.
But moving to a VOIP system is not something that is planned overnight, and it is this sort of big move that can benefit from having a structure already in place that allows an organization to implement change smoothly and with as little stress placed upon customers and staff as possible.
Read the full text, I'm only including snippets!
There are many ways to integrate change into an organization’s structure, but my favorite way to is to create an environment where customers and staff are involved in facilitating change and maintaining the ability to change at all levels.
Michael makes a good point that even a large project does not come "out of the blue" and will generate a better rate of change if multiple levels of stakeholders are involved in the process. In this case, it comes down to the work environment and leadership style. If the environment is not open and transparent, it is more difficult to implement Michael's very good suggestions. (more…)
Jane suggests that LC Subject Headings are Dead
Are we afraid that a simple tagging structure might be more effective and make more sense to our users than headings that look like this “United States — History — Civil War, 1861-1865 — Participation, African American”? Are we just afraid to learn something new? What are we afraid of?
I will be the first to allow that certain LoC headings are outdated and LoC needs a more efficient and effective means of updating the headings. I will even say that some of the ways that the headings are formulated (reverse listing such as Participation, African American") are outdated and could be much more user friendly now that we have the ability to link the terms without needing to flip terms around in order to collocate them.
However, as I stated on her blog:
I’ve participated in this conversation many times within the taxonomy community! I don’t know that “afraid” is the operative term
I assume you are discussing allowing user tags in a specific resource (perhaps a library OPAC or intranet). I find that internal and focused collections really need the structured terminology more than the enormous collection we call the World Wide Web. When we are talking about Subject Headings, we are really talking about controlled vocabularies (CVs). Taxonomies and thesauri are often used to inform CVs, hence the cross over into the taxonomy forums.
The short answer is that loose tagging is a great way to provide *additional* access points and gather potential updates to an internal controlled vocabulary. However tagging alone can muddy the results in a specialized and/or relatively small resource.
When you are searching the web, you are statistically more likely to surface relevant results using algorithms that include free tagging because of the sheer number of possibilities. When you have a finite group of resources being searched, such approaches tend to pull too many results to be useful to the user. Free tagging can become as problematic as only providing free text searches in a smaller resource. There are a number of organizations that benefit from free text, usually users that do not require complete resource listings nor the most precise result. These users have a lower satisfaction level and may benefit more from user contributed tagging than they do from LoC headings (and other controlled vocabularies) (more…)
Does leadership style affect Community of Practice effectiveness?
But what of the leadership style applied to the CoP? Can the executive sponsor, or community leader, or other influential champion of a CoP be an autocrat when it comes to managing the community? Must a community leader be collaborative, participative, sensing, and so on, in order for the community to function effectively? Read: the rest.
As Ron notes earlier in his post, Community of Practices (CoP) are meant to create a democratic, egalitarian environment. I recall a discussion on one of my KM lists not so long ago as to what differentiates a project team from a CoP (particulary when describing internal groups). I would postulate that an internal group cannot develop into a CoP under autocratic leadership. I would question any group's ability to develop into a CoP if they are not free to share, make mistakes and learn. Thus, even your less autocratic but still authoritarian cultures will have difficulty developing internal CoPs. Of course senior management attitudes will vary depending upon the group of employees and it is possible that specific groups could develop into a viable CoP. However, note that the management attitude would still need to be more liberal toward this specific group.
Bulletin boards are a great example of a tool that can be used by a project group or a CoP. Many bulletin boards (and blog comment tools) have a setting for moderation. I have experienced debate over how much moderation might affect dialog and how much moderation is effective in several forums. The style of moderation would reflect the style of group leadership. If members are strictly constrained in their posting to simply commenting upon the linked object or project and not about concepts and ideas – the discussion benefits only that particular project and not the greater good of the participants and/or team and/or organization.
One bulletin board failure I experienced failed because management insisted upon heavily censoring topical discussion posts. These message boards were set up to provide a space for employees to ask questions about specific topics. These were not related to organizational projects. So, without this linkage this was not a project team communication forum. Anyone could (as far as the technology set up) post a question or answer. Only specifc Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) could post a summary and close and archive the thread. Thus, from a technological stand point we provided a fairly egalitarian environment in hopes of developing CoPs.
However, leadership style affected our outcome dramatically. Rather than seize a teaching opportunity, they removed any posts they saw as incomplete or incorrect. The really sad thing about this is that it demonstrates how clueless organizational senior management can be about the informal lines of communication and status. The same person who posted the censored post will simply return to verbally telling their peers the incorrect or incomplete information. So knowledge sharing among peers is still occuring just not in a way that will benefit other groups and future queries and can not inform employee education.
I found Ron's post via Jack Vinsen's blog