Follow up on always on communication

Over the last 6 months I have written a few times about always on communication and the impact on workplaces, work life balance and productivity. Today is a follow up.

By the end of next week I will have had the Palm Treo 750 for 2 months. Verdict?

You take my Treo away I will hunt you down! Basically I am addicted to it.

My key uses of the Treo are in no particular order:

  • Phone
  • SMS client
  • Calendar
  • To Do list
  • Contact manager
  • Work email device
  • Personal email device
  • IM client
  • Mobile web browser
  • Twitter client
  • Facebook client
  • Camera
  • Notepad
  • Shopping list
  • Alarm clock

Why have I become so connected to my Treo? Several reasons but the 2 key ones are speed and portability. On the speed front I have an HSDPA data plan which averages 600kbps to 1.5Mbps which is about the same as my ADSL connection. (For readers outside of Australia just accept that fact that our broadband is poor.) As for portability the Treo goes everywhere with me.

These two factors mean I can be productive anywhere and at anytime.

The downside of all this is I have significantly increased my continuous partial attention issue in my life. I have also started to do develop some very poor social habits, for example I can read email and twitter while I am in bed at any time of the day. If you follow my Twitter stream you will have seen some of my 4am tweets when I wake up :-).

I am now a very Bursty person.

More on privacy, the workplace & social network software

Unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard about the sites called Facebook, or MySpace, and their professional cousin LinkedIn, you might even remember their predecessors Friendster. These sites are basically social network software/service (SNS) where you connect with other people and share information.

Today I read a great article by Cory Doctorow in Information Week about how the growth of Facebook within the workplace will eventually kill Facebook. Why?

It’s socially awkward to refuse to add someone to your friends list — but removing someone from your friend-list is practically a declaration of war. The least-awkward way to get back to a friends list with nothing but friends on it is to reboot: create a new identity on a new system and send out some invites (of course, chances are at least one of those invites will go to someone who’ll groan and wonder why we’re dumb enough to think that we’re pals).

Basically we will all run from these services as our workplace joins in so this example does not happen:

Here’s one of boyd’s examples, a true story: a young woman, an elementary school teacher, joins Friendster after some of her Burning Man buddies send her an invite. All is well until her students sign up and notice that all the friends in her profile are sunburnt, drug-addled techno-pagans whose own profiles are adorned with digital photos of their painted genitals flapping over the Playa. The teacher inveigles her friends to clean up their profiles, and all is well again until her boss, the school principal, signs up to the service and demands to be added to her friends list. The fact that she doesn’t like her boss doesn’t really matter: in the social world of Friendster and its progeny, it’s perfectly valid to demand to be “friended” in an explicit fashion that most of us left behind in the fourth grade. Now that her boss is on her friends list, our teacher-friend’s buddies naturally assume that she is one of the tribe and begin to send her lascivious Friendster-grams, inviting her to all sorts of dirty funtimes.

In the article Cory links to several really good pieces. Such as a Times article on how Facebook is using all of the data it collects about us to help targeted advertising. One part in particular scared me a bit:

He suggested that internet-users could no longer expect to remain anonymous online, but could control only the amount of information about them that is available on the web.

Cory also references Danah Boyd article (her stuff is truly amazing if you have not read any of it do so) on Facebook and Privacy. Her conclusion has some great advice, emphasis mine.

Yes, people reveal personal stuff to a website. They know that they revealed that information but they still have an assumption about how it is to be presented and the ways that make them comfortable and the things that make them go ick. This is really about context, context, context. As i’ve said before, there’s no way that people can comfortably negotiate all contexts at all time. They could retreat and go into hyper private mode but what kind of life is that? People choose to make risks based on what they assume the architectural affordances and norms of a space to be. I think that asking people to retreat into paranoia is completely unreasonable. Instead, i think we need to find ways of providing reasonable levels of protection and comfort, recognizing that there are always risks when you are still breathing.

Danah also lists her reason why she feels people “friend” each other on SNS:-

1. Because they are actual friends
2. To be nice to people that you barely know (like the folks in your class)
3. To keep face with people that they know but don’t care for
4. As a way of acknowledging someone you think is interesting
5. To look cool because that link has status
6. (MySpace) To keep up with someone’s blog posts, bulletins or other such bits
7. (MySpace) To circumnavigate the “private” problem that you were forced to use cuz of your parents
8. As a substitute for bookmarking or favoriting
9. Cuz it’s easier to say yes than no if you’re not sure

Some final thoughts.

First I really hope Facebook, and the other services, don’t “misplace” all of our data like the little event in the UK.

Lastly I can see a whole “HR” mess brewing to resolve a SNS disagreement between workers!

Privacy of personal data

I haven’t written about data privacy in a while but I could not help it. The “little” issue in the UK in the last couple of days has brought the topic back up. The UK Taxman has “misplaced” 2 CDs full of personal and banking details of about 25 million people. To make matters worse the data includes almost every child in the country.

Names, addresses, dates of birth, employment and bank details all went missing when two CDs containing the information were mislaid.

Alistair Darling told the House of Commons that the discs containing the highly sensitive information failed to arrive after they were sent in the ordinary internal mail between government departments.

But what there is more!

The Chancellor admitted that HMRC had made the same mistake on several occasions in the past six months.

Given most HR/Payroll systems have the same sort of data, it might be a good time to check a few things.

  • Who stores the backup tapes
  • Are the contents of the backup tapes encrypted
  • How are the backup tapes transported between your site and where they are stored
  • How secure is storage at both of these locations
  • Who in the IT department has access to the HR/Payroll system and do they really need to

Last thing you want is for all of your employee data to fall into the wrong hands.

We are such a creative bunch

Two things occurred to me this morning.

  1. Humans are naturally a creative bunch
  2. We are more than willing to share our creations

How do I know this? Just look at the number of mashups (video, audio, software, & services) that are created everyday.

My questions is. Why in a personal lives are we so openly creative but when when get inside an organisation we shutdown?

Could I be so bold to say because of the organisational culture?

It has been written many times that organisations are striving for innovation, collaboration, and creativity from their employees. So you would think a management team we would want to ensure we have an environment to foster this openness and creativity.

But we don’t.

Just think of the benefit to your organisation if these 2 girls (I would embed the video but my WordPress theme keeps borking when I do) had focused as much of their time and energy on a new product for your organisation as they did on making this video? Would your organisation be better off?

We should all try and do one thing everyday to ensure our organisations foster this open creativity that humans so desperately desire.Full credit needs to go to Laurel Papworth for inspiring my brain with this simple post.

Twitter influence and follower growth

There are several classic cliché’s such as “money makes money” and “success breeds success” that basically mean the more you have of something the more you get. Normally I would dispute these concepts but I am starting to question my personal perspectives.

Two things have happened to make this happen. Firstly I spent an hour or so finding as many active Twitters from Melbourne to find out more about what is happening locally and secondly the launch of TwitterPoster Australia. Key here is TwitterPoster rates people with more followers as having a greater influence.

Why are these things important? A proportion of the Melbourne Twitters I “friended” also friended me and this in turn increased my so called influence on TwitterPoster, which drove more friends and the spiral began.

It took almost 6 months to get the first 100, but in 3 weeks my followers have grown from around 180 to over 330. Ok for some with 1,000’s of followers this is nothing but for an average shmuck like me it is very cool.

But really what has changed? Not a lot, other than another 150 people listening to my Twitter dribble.

The next trick is to work out what to do, if anything, with all this influence :-). Actually that starts to move into personal branding which is a whole other post.

Wordcamp Melbourne

Yesterday was Wordcamp Melbourne 2007. I arrived a few hours late, overslept a long story, but what I did see was great. Some of the highlights for me:-

Darren Rowse: Good insight into the different types of ads and how the perform on different types of blogs. I need to think through some of these things and will probably make a few changes.

Christine Davis: Tags vs Categories finally I now understand! Someone from the audience provided a great analogy categories are like chapters in a book, where as tags are the index at the back of the book. Now I need to add tags into this blog.

Alister Cameron: CSS rocks! Alister showed us how you can make major changes to your blog without hacking in PHP (which is what I do) all by using CS. He specifically spoke about a theme called SandBox, I will be looking at this carefully in the coming weeks. To use the theme I had to upgrade my blog, and I have begun playing with Widgets on my sidebar.

Roundtables: I sat in on 2 different roundtables, the first was open topic so we discussed tags, mobile web, broadband, mesh networks, OLPC. Really good discussion and very hard to summarise other than the world is changing! The second was on blogging as the new media ok topic but nothing really to latch onto to discussion.

Panel: Alister, James, Christine and Alex Sheils sat down for a panel discussion at the end. Slow to get going, aren’t they always, but gathered momentum as things progressed. Topics included will be sold, no according to Alex but yes they have been approached, and does RSS need to be expanded.

There are photos up on Flickr of the day.

Once again thanks to James Farmer for organising and Simon Chen of Eight Black for the sponsorship.

WordCamp Melbourne this weekend

Australian WordPress evangelist, Edublogs owner, James Farmer has setup up WordCamp Melbourne for this weekend, unfortunately if you have not already registered you will not be able to attend now as it is sold out!

The day kicks off at 11am with drinks and a pre camp chat, then we have some amazing speakers. Alex Shiels from Automattic, Darren Rowse of Problogger, Christine Davis, and Alister Cameron a Blogologist, Simon Chen Eight Black (sponsor) and of course James Farmer. There will also be roundtables and lots of corridor discussions.

If you are attending make sure you bring your digital camera, laptop, video, audio recording device to create content, still awaiting word from James on a common tag for now maybe WordCamp with another tag of Melbourne?

You can also follow the action via Twitter by following WordCampMelb, and if I get motivated a bit of live blogging.

Organisational change management

While there are lots of reasons for project failures, both IT and non IT, a major reason is poor execution of organisational change management. During the implementation of the project each individual impacted needs to come to terms with the change. Back in 2000 William Bridges and Susan Mitchell Bridges provided a good way of looking at change in their article on Leader to Leader, Leading Transition: A New Model for Change. They highlighted 3 phases people transition through during change, I have similar before so I am fairly sure the are not the original authors but I just cannot find the original reference, The phases are:

  1. Saying Goodbye
  2. Shifting to Neutral
  3. Moving Forward

The first phase is where you have to saying goodbye to the way things were, for many the hardest part!

The second phase is when people basically come to a complete stop they don’t go forward or back. They are overcome by the fear, uncertainty and confusion of the change and this can take all of their time and energy.

Remember many people fail to let go, or fail to see through the haze in the neutral zone but many also are scared of moving forward especially in organisations that penalise mistakes. They just get stuck!

The final phase is moving forward when people begin to behave in the new ways and adapt to the change. Only once people are at this stage will your project be a success in their eyes, too many people failing to get to this stage will result in total project failure.

The life of being small

We all know that work life balance is important, so much as been written about it in all forms of media that I suspect we have almost become immune to the message. As a reminder Lee Lefever (CommonCraft) posted about a story we have all heard before.

Small town fisherman gets told by a Harvard MBA to work hard for 25 years to build a business, move to the big city, sell for millions, so he can have the life he already has. D’oh!!

Lee then summarises:-

It’s all about lifestyle and doing what you love on a day-to-day basis. We will continue to work hard and push for success, but at the same time, build a business that supports the life that we want right now, not in 30 years.