February 2004 Archives

Learning Object Repository Software

Scott posts a good list of learning object repository software. I had a conversation with a colleague yesterday on the subject of repositories...the focus/conclusion was that repositories will probably not remain in their present form for long. A repository is essentially a database that organizes data. Not much different from data organization models used for managing content or other organizational data. LO repositories should develop on the back of that infrastructure...otherwise, we end up with separate systems developing at different a different pace.


Find Wi-Fi in Google's Labs

I was thinking today that I haven't used an ethernet or phone cord in over a year. I guess I am lucky, everywhere I go has a WiFi connection.

Google Tests Aggregating Hotspot Directories

"Google Lab's new Search by Location service lets you aggregate results for hotspots: This is nifty idea which aggregates the address information that Google is parsing from its results (any time it sees anything that looks like an address) and tying it to keywords.

It's particularly useful for Wi-Fi aggregation, because you're finding locations that not only my business partner JiWire lists or libraries that Bill Drew has assembled, but you're seeing even individual locations like coffeeshops that mention they have Wi-Fi, community wireless pages, and other randomly related content.

I've pumped in my office Zip code in the link above, but try other combinations.

Note that JiWire's listings are prominent because of how they structured their site. As a group of former Cnet.com'ers, they know that if you expose URLs that are permanent and look like "good" URLs (not full of argument junk after a question mark) then search engines will well index their hierarchy. This is hardly a secret, but many sites still haven't discovered it. [link via Jim Thompson, Doc Searls]" [Wi-Fi Networking News]

Very nice! Another reason for libraries to make sure they PROMOTE wireless service when they offer it!

Also, note Glenn's last paragraph, because it's actually quite relevant to libraries. Jon Udell never would have been able to run with LibraryLookup if the OPAC vendors hadn't constructed their URLs in such a way as to expose them as "good." Those libraries whose ILS vendors DON'T support these types of services need to push them to do so.

The web is interactive and integrated, and the last thing we need is for libraries to exclude themselves by letting the vendors build walls around us. If you're in that type of situation, tell them to tear the walls down. Now.

[The Shifted Librarian]

I have discovered a new blog with insight on creating a company that I found helpful. Loïc Le Meur writes about entrepreneurship, social networking and technology in his Weblog. Since I am creating Coherence Group and have been working extremely hard to get my business off the ground, Loic's assertion that execution is critical is relevant. Starting a small company, especially in this economic environment, is risky, but the potential is huge.

Ross Mayfield has posted the experience of Mike Pusateri, Elisabeth Freeman and Eric Freeman at Disney. They shared their enterprise blogging initative at Etech. Their report, in fact, includes much more than just weblogging and tells how wikis and RSS are used for project communciation.

The team from Disney spoke at ETech on: Leveraging RSS at Disney: from Collaboration to Massive Content Delivery


I copied this post from Knowledge Jolt with Jack because I thought it was important.

"There is too much information to pile it on the floor."

Marjorie Hlava of Access Innovations an excellent overview of the state-of-the-art with taxonomies, including both basic background and discussion of where and how taxonomies are used in the business world.

For those that don't know, taxonomy is generally a hierarchical means of categorizing a subject matter. Hlava includes in her definition all the data associated with each entry in the taxonomy - the term records that give each term its context, history, status, cross-references, etc. Others prefer to use "taxonomy" to strictly refer to the hierarchy and "ontology" to include the additional information about the terms. In either case, to be useful, you need this additional information, as the taxonomy continues to change as ideas emerge in the subject area.

Taxonomies fit in a number of places in the organization. Libraries use them, as you might expect. Websites tied to content management use them to help users navigate and provide consistent information displays. They are used to help stay abreast of the industry and keep up to date with terminology. They are used to filter newsfeeds and other data sources (for syndication to various clients). They are used in filing and cataloging. They can even be used in translation, either across different subject areas or even languages, given enough capability to create synonyms.

Hlava indicated that taxonomies themselves are a knowledge repository. If one were to "read" a taxonomy from a given discipline, one should be able to get a good overview of the important areas of focus within that discipline. Or within an organization, the taxonomy tells a lot about the organization itself. Hlava even reads taxonomies for fun.

In this vein, Hlava gave an example of taxonomies being used in support of communities of practice, particularly those that form around critical issues and need to be up-and-running as quickly as possible. The taxonomy can help with correlation across functional, regional and national languages; support navigation of information; help layout knowledge maps; improve search queries and results; and judge authority.

Hlava discussed how organizations go about building taxonomies, which sounds a lot like standard life cycle projects anywhere else: scope, requirements, collect, build, apply, continuous improvement. The critical aspect for me is the last piece of continual renewal of the taxonomy terms. Language changes, preferred usage changes and new terms come into favor.

Throughout the talk, Hlava provided some interesting visualizations of taxonomies that go beyond the traditional indented list, particularly since these make it difficult to see the cross-references and interrelations across branches of a large hierarchy. There are some graph techniques that show the density and connectedness of a given taxonomy. And these visualizations help see things within hierarchies that may not have been obvious.

Summary: Taxonomies create opportunities for knowledge sharing. They add value to any discussion, creating a common context around which people can speak.


This article was clipped from the February 2, 2004 copy of the New York Times, technology section. I agree with the assertion that new software is allowing people to adapt more quickly to changing business situations. Collaborative technologies and social software allow fast problem solving and innovation in distributed teams.

"...John Seely Brown, former director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, says he believes that recent changes in software technology could allow big gains in productivity and innovation. The opportunity, he says, is to move beyond the limitations of centralized systems for automating business operations, like enterprise resource systems. "Those systems are prisons," said Mr. Brown, who is scheduled to speak at today's conference.

The software plumbing of computing, Mr. Brown explains, is evolving, and so is Internet-based software for individual workers. Software systems built on Web standards, he said, can be used as pick-and-place building blocks, instead of the more formal hierarchical systems of the past.

Mr. Brown also points to the rapid development of what he calls "social software" like instant messaging, Weblogs, wikis (multi-user Weblogs) and peer-to-peer tools - all of which make it easier for workers to communicate and collaborate online, almost instantaneously.

The combined result, Mr. Brown said, is information technology that can amplify social interaction and enhance workers' understanding of what is happening around them. The benefit, he added, could be to increase their ability to "collectively improvise and innovate."

That is a key to productivity and peak performance, according to Mr. Brown. Business, he said, is a lot like soccer. In soccer, there are some set plays, but the best teams also display a wealth of effective improvisation based on the players' deep knowledge of one another. "It's the same in the best corporations or start-ups," he said.

Mr. Brown insists that the relentless pressure of global competition and the migration of skilled jobs abroad adds urgency to the pursuit of technology-enhanced productivity gains. "We can get a lot more out of people here if we really tap into them as new sources of innovation and productivity," he said. "And we're getting the right kinds of technology tools to move this along.

"It's the only way we can compete."

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