Archive for May, 2006

New tech must consider tolerance for change

Michael is posting his reactions to Pip Coburn’s book, The Change Function on LibraryCrunch.

He posts that:

Successful companies must look to their users and find out what they want. But the current technology industry, Coburn argues, is supplier-centric. They don’t look to their users and try to find incremental improvements that users are willing to adopt on a large scale. Instead, most technology companies look for the big kill, the huge product that will “revolutionize” they way people do something. Unfortunately, as Coburn points out, users don’t always want a revolutionary new do-everything satellite-enabled-PDA-talking-phone, sometimes they just want an easier to use mobile phone.

I agree that too many developers and tech start ups are looking for the "next big thing" — after all that is where fame and fortune lies!

However, the develpers are not the only ones looking for the "next big thing". Their financial backers may also have this short sighted view.

On the other side of the table are the organizational purchasers who are not always aware of what their users need. This is true, whether they call their users staff, employees, patrons, clients, or customers. Too many organizations do not know their end users well enough and instead get what they think will be "cutting edge", assuming that is better. There are quite a few business articles that try to warn the business executives away from buying the "shiny new toy" that is really a solution looking for a problem. Thus, to be fair, perhaps the tech companies are responding to the market.


May 27, 2006 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

Constant change v. Revolutionary change

I already reflected upon how purchasers help create the glut of technology that is not user centered.  Michael also raises good points about the culture of change in general. 

Michal is reflecting on Pip Coburn’s book, The Change Function. Coburn is discussing ways in which technology developers interact with and induce change in our culture.

People do resist change — depending upon their personality the resistance can be quite strenuous. Coburn and other writers have raised the point that technology must solve a pain. If the tool is more onerous than dealing with the pain of a current situation — users will not bother with the new tool.

Michael concludes that:

Coburn’s argument parallels what many proponents of library change, including myself, have been saying all along – for change to be successful it must be continuous, regular, and almost imperceptible.

I agree that most people accept change better if it is not a complete upheaval of their work day. My first thougt was to the organizations that move slowly that change is ineffective. Decisions are weighted down in the quagmires of meeting after meeting to get "everyone on board." In trying to make everyone happy, I have seen projects fall so far behind that the technology has already been updated by the time implementation finally rolls around! So, how is it that in an organization that is paralyzed by change, that the change that emerges is threatening to the users?

In my experience, this immobility is related to fear. Fear of a loss of power — fear of not being the resident expert — fear of looking powerless — fear of losing tasks that are an integral part of their job. Caution may be warranted, but when it is accompanied by fear and distrust it is paralyzing and counter productive. I think the key element that seperates the slow moving fearful organization from the slow moving user – concious organization is that the change is contant. The fear driven slowness generates fits and starts when something is partly implemented, or implemented then rolled back. This becomes a choppy experience which will not create happy users! The slow and constant approach requires an overarching vision and steady hand that then uses tools as a means to solve asks in a way that is of benefit to their users.

May 27, 2006 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

DOPA: or more evidence that they don’t get the Net

Bloggers have been discussing this for over a week, so I'm a bit behind. This law in effect would do more than any spokespersons from congress have stated publically. Whether thay don't realize the far reaching impact — a possibility – or they actually want to control and damage the internet to this extent is something I can't guess.
From the law itself:

Search Results – THOMAS (Library of Congress)

`(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that–`(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are–

`(aa) obscene;

`(bb) child pornography; or

`(cc) harmful to minors; and

`(II) prohibits access to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors–

`(aa) may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material;

`(bb) may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or

`(cc) may easily access other material that is harmful to minors; and'.

There are problems galore with this legislation, worse than there were/are with CIPA. The stated intention, to protect children from sexual predators, is a noble one. It is a cause that no one can object to. However, it is overly broad. Others in the blogosphere are speaking to this with much more authority and knowledge than I. The legislation would make it illegal for kids to view 4 letter words (text on a screen is an image), even if posted by the kids themselves and anatomy diagrams.

Ultimately, this is another example of legislators attempting to legislate technical solutions to social problems. This approach does not work. Predators have simply updated their means of access. I'm not a parent, so I cannot credibly tell parents what they need to do. I can, however state that inducing fear rather than defensive smart behavior isn't helping anyone. Take away one avenue for criminal behavior — the criminals will find another avenue. They always have and always will. Legislation needs to focus upon citizen behavior.

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May 20, 2006 at 7:14 pm Leave a comment

WWW Expert Finder

Dave Pollard is writing
about creating a world wide web expert finder:

I've been waiting for Google, which has already provided a definitive 'know-what' information finder and 'know-where' place finder, to follow up with the definitive 'know-who' people-finder. My initial thought was that only Google and one or two other giants could get enough profile with this to get everyone to participate and accept it as the standard, and hence achieve the critical mass to succeed where so many Social Networking tools that have tried to do this have failed.

I received this reference from Stephanie Lemieux courtesy of the Taxonomy TOC.
This is an interesting reference and I read Dave Pollard on a semi-regular basis so I'm familiar with his tendency to think big!
Dave does note that this is only a start:

Here's my first cut at some of those principles and guidelines. We need the people who know the Internet best, both as a technical and social phenomenon, to add to this list — we won't get it 'right' the first time,

So in the spirit of that conversation, here is a rather long reaction to his post. (more…)

May 20, 2006 at 4:38 pm 1 comment

TelCos can charge ISPs ?

David Isenberg reports that the telcos are showing their true colors when it comes to Net Neutrality. They are allowed to charge an ISP when their customers use the Telco's phone lines? This seems absurd and certainly — gives me no reason to trust them with issues like…say…not charging competition more when a Teco X's customer access that content. I figure that when people, and comanies say "Trust me" it is like the college boys who would say "Hey, I'm a nice guy!" If you have to tell me…then you aren't doing a good job of being nice (or trustworthy).

Is dial-up is an "information service" now? This is a huge step backwards. Verizon is discriminating against POTS calls to an ISP. (In the UK, friends of mine had a successful Campaign for Unmetered Telephony based on the fact that dial-up charges inhibit Internet use. (They succeeded.)) Even if you don't dial up anymore you should be concerned!

The Boston Globe reports: Dial-up provider loses Net access amid fee dispute Ruling favoring Verizon may hike price of service Service to thousands of dial-up Internet users in Massachusetts was disrupted this week after a federal court ruled against a Quincy company in a lawsuit that could have broad impact on the cost of dial-up service. The US Court of Appeals in Boston ruled April 11 that Verizon Communications Inc. can charge per-minute fees for calls to local numbers that dial-up users need to connect to the Internet — in much the same way that they charge for long-distance or other calls.

To read more go to David's blog. He has links to some other perceptive people writing about this incident as well.

found by way of J's Scratchpad

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May 13, 2006 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

Low budget tech

Jessamyn comes through again !
She is a great source for low cost (free even!) tech that can help libraries (and other groups without the big bucks) still improve communication, creativity, and information organization. » SLA talk: Doing More With Less

. The talk is here: Doing More with Less, High Tech on a Shoestring. If you scroll all the way to the end of it and click on the “printable” link you can see the notes that I actually (sort of) read from.

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May 12, 2006 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

Knowledge Mangement in Libraries

Michael, of Library Crunch, writes a post called Managing Our Expertise

I'm so excited to see knowledge management mentioned in the library context! One would think, though, that libraries would be a natural environment for KM. After all, libraries are about storing and exchanging information. However, the vital missing ingrediant, as Michael notes is a lack of knowledge transfer. It is difficult to capture ideas and experiences beyond the required statistical and usage reports. However, organizations in general have found that we need qualitative information as much as we need quantitative information.

I am convinced to the marrow of my bones that these fields that have become my passion can and need to learn from one another! Anyway, just a quick look at this note tonight.

May 7, 2006 at 1:14 am 1 comment

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