Documentation 2.0 – or how to fire your employees

A colleague and I recently had a chance to visit an amazing government office.

Among the many things we were shown, which included an office of the future, prediction markets, and collaborative strategy rooms, we were shown a simple little tool for documentation. Documentation is important in the government because employees are only let go for proper reasons. Most companies provide this documentation when they fire you to avoid lawsuits and the like. Governments require even more documentation, which is often so hard to acquire that many bad employees skip by for years.

How to solve this?

RSS Documentation. Put the data flowing out of our work into a personal file for each employee. Review that file during performance reviews. Whammo, you have an auto-documentation system for firing (and promoting) people.

The key here is that our work needs to be in programs that have RSS feeds. Some of the newer technology has this (like this blog) but many of our old programs don’t. There does seem to be a trend to move our daily business work into programs that can have RSS feeds.

Once you have these feeds that represent actions taken by employees. You will need a program that parses the data to recognize the name of the employee. It will then go into their file. If you want to get crazy you could also parse it by project, roles, or duties. Then you would have a running record of the actions taken for each project.

Gaming.

Ya, I know, the system can be gamed. Anything can. I really don’t know how to solve that problem. I can say that having tons of data documented is a huge step. Remember most are coming to the table with no data other than a bi-yearly review.

With tons of data you could start to perform trend analysis, comparison analysis, independent review. You could even establish milestones and deadlines and allow the employee to meet or not meet them. Imagine having that happen several times and auto-tracked in your personal file.

You could also do team analysis. This is something we viewed during our tour. The manager in charge would find a successful team and see what happened when those folks left the team. Did they also improve another team and did their current team see a drop. Imagine how powerful that is, you could find dead weight and determine powerful pairings.

Well, this seems so perfect for performance reviews and firing people. It has to be only a matter of time before this happens. Management is going to know what i am doing all day long, at specific times, and going to be able to call me on it 6 months later…

Scary.

Web 2.0 Terms for the Intelligence Community – pic

Hey All, just created this for a panel on the utility of Web 2.0 in our community. I welcome feedback and missed terms:

Also, for reference here is the orginal I used to create this one. Taken from: http://www.suniljohn.com/blog/?p=14

Vidcast of day 1 from Web 2.0 Expo

Well, day one came and went. We had some fun, some disappointment, and a little hangover this morning. Luckily enough we put our thoughts to video before the after partying took are brains away. Check it out and send any questions.

Also, here is Andrea’s blog-up of day one. Especially check out her links to the twitter acct, flickr group, and hash tags for this exposition.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWNd38mBDiI[/youtube]

Live Blog – Dion Hinchcliffe on Next Gen Apps

One man, one very long powerpoint. Still interesting facts and stories can overcome the inefficiencies of 8 gillion words on each slide.

On to the story:

Dion Hinchliffe – Speaker – Next Gen Apps

Links: summary, reviews, personal blog, slideshare (not including this presentation)

API

API’s. The world of the interwebs is being taken over by them. The most common distribution methods for these open API’s are (1) RSS, (2) REST, (3) JSON, (4) SOAP.  An API is:

  • An interface for letting a program communicate with another program.
  • Interface that enables one program to use facilities provided by another,
  • The specific method prescribed by a computer operating system or by another application program by which a programmer writing an application program can make requests of the operating system or another application.

So, as you can tell an API is pretty complicated. The version we are talking about is an Open API. Which basically means you give out your data. You give up control of your data for a greater gain. When you do so, many things can happen. The current success stories for this new method are web platforms where folks interact with the site, share with it, link to it, and more. Dion, now dives into that.

Of these API’s RSS is by far the most popular. Althoug, the more complicated (sophisticated uses for) version is REST and is generally considered, as stated by Dion to be “the best practice” one in the community

  1. RSS – its a news feed. It sends you new things (news, photos, videos, etc.) whenever they are posted. The basic function is for a site to offer this service and a customer to subscribe to it. In the middle are several clients that read them, sites to store them, and much more “middlemen”.
  2. REST – “an approach for getting information content from a Web site by reading a designated Web page that contains an XML file that describes and includes the desired content. For example, REST could be used by an online publisher to make syndicated content available. Periodically, the publisher would prepare and activate a Web page that included content and XML statements that described the content. Subscribers would need only to know the URL for the page…”
  3. JSON – “a lightweight data-interchange format. It is easy for humans to read and write. It is easy for machines to parse and generate. It is based on a subset of the JavaScript Programming Language.”
  4. SOAP – “a way for a program running in one kind of operating system…to communicate with a program in the same or another kind of an operating system…by using HTTP and XML as the mechanisms for information exchange.”

Widgets

Using an API to build a platform…use widgets. Widgets allow others to take your content and put into a nifty little box on some other site. These boxes are very cutesy and usable, the web loves them. Each user of this box counts as a customer for you, even though they may never visit your site, just use your widget.

Mash-up

Originally a term used by musicians to combine different music genres. Now, in “technology, a mashup is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool; an example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data from Craigslist, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source.” [1]

AJAX

This is the new fab. It is the darling of the web world and for good reason. “Ajax (sometimes called Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a way of programming for the Web that gets rid of the hourglass.” Designed to provide rich websites with incredible speed, the example provided on this link talks about, Google Maps. Stating that you should “try out Google Maps for a few seconds. Scroll around and watch as the map updates almost before your eyes. There is very little lag and you don’t have to wait for pages to refresh or reload.”

Recommendations

  • Learn the business of web (i.e. attend his talks).
  • Study the competition (and then one-up them)
  • Really get to know your customers (they are in your backyard, go have a chat and/or spy from the upstairs window)
  • Fundamentals (what are they? ask your customers…)
  • Be open to the latest tools (as soon as the new iPhone comes out buy it!)

Analysis

Great overview. He goes really quick, but takes the time to explain everything. I would still like to see the fundamentals continually presented throughout the presentation. This is a lot to take in and its not about just learning every programming language. Its more about the fundamentals and concepts of this new technology.  I would like to see someone think deeply about what the core fundamentals are and then provide a presentation that fits everything into those core concepts.

Twitterati and the twitter addiction

First thing to say is watch your cell phone bill. If you start using twitter and you like it, you might as well upgrade your texting package. ‘Cause almost every twitterati I know has forked over some cash to the evil empire of cell phone companies.

So, first you say, what is a Twitterati? Not sure yet. Guy Kawasaki is using the term on his site Alltop that collects stories from the web and sorts into topics. In his site for twitter he pulls together some big names from the tech industry and he is calling them Twitterati. I guess it means the super-cool or elite class of twitter users….??

Of which there are tons of them. In fact, anyone can be a twitterati. It is so easy to gain 10,000 friends. The only real challenge comes in getting those same people to follow. There must be some sort of unique metrics play you can put onto the following:followers ratio.

However, a true twitterati has influence over folks. The recent SXSW twitter a–hole event shows just how that influence can spill over into social gatherings, shared experiences, and emotional outbursts. There are really only a few of those folks and their influence comes from everything they do, twitter just being one of their media outlets.

Still, that doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t twitterati. In our own worlds we are kings/queens and can have just the right amount of friends we want. Grow to follow everyone or just simply keep it close and personal.

Me…I’m completely addicted to twitter. I fall into the “grow to follow everyone” category. I am following 140+ twitter accounts. I use it to get my weather, world/science/tech/political news, talk to friends, plan events, complain/rant/rave, and a nice little companion during my twice daily dog walks. Better yet I am finding new ways to use the tool everyday. Just this morning I installed Brian Shaler’s Twixxer, which allows you to view photos and videos on the twitter site.

My addiction means that I had to upgrade to unlimited texting through ATT, a 15$/month charge. I also think I’ve broken the iPhone and ATT data transfers. I get so many updates now, about 100/hr, that my service is becoming spotty and the phone is going much slower and sometimes freezing. Worse, I even start to think in terms of 140 character thoughts.

Frankly, I think the only thing keeping my sanity in tact is my respect for other people. I always try to just plain ignore my phone when hanging with others. I’m not perfect by any means, but hey admitting you have a problem is the first step right?

“Hello, my name is Steve and I have a problem, I’m addicted to Twitter”

/twitterati crowd somberly echoes “Hello Steve”

Library of Congress Partners with Flickr

There is a quite a hubub about this new partnership and its well worth it. Everyone needs to take a look for themselves. The Library of Congress (LoC) is not only releasing their photos on Flickr. They are also providing context about the photos, links to the full URL, blogging about this, and being honest about the copyright restrictions. Most of which so far say “no none copyright restrictions”.

Beyond the basics they are also tagging the heck out of each photo. Inviting the community to comment, tag, and add value to the photos. See a missing fact, add a comment about it, notice the location is wrong, comment it. Take a read about what Matt Raymond from the LoC had to say about this initiative:

“The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.”

This is like a breath of fresh air in an age of constant battles over sharing, transparency, and public data. Here is a group of folks that are trying something new, building closer relationships with their customers, and finding new ways to make themselves relevant. Thank you Library of Congress.

Now I’m off to see some amazing photos and join the worldwide community in this amazing experiment.

Legal full-length embeddable high-quality movies. Unreal

Yesterday, I was able to watch Master and Commander on hulu.com. What a strange experience…

Watching a “tv movie” on my laptop, except it is hooked up to my tv. I’m using a DVI cable to make the video connection and an audio jack to get the sound going. Streaming across a wireless connection I get a high-quality movie for free on my 40 inch LCD tv.

Weird, that some folks are critical of hulu for leaving you tube, but it is part of a growing trend. Personally, I don’t care. I watch content from tons of sites and whichever one can get it right is where I will go.

The interesting part is going to be how Hulu handles commercials going forward. In the movie embedded below there is one about every 10 minutes or so. The normal tv shows are still under 1 hour, coming in at about 45 minutes. Those episodes usually have 5-6 commercials total.

This is obviously a huge improvement from what cable and broadcast tv offers. Its free, on demand, and with less commercials. I just hope that Hulu doesn’t get greedy and start pumping up the amount of commercials…

If they do the internet is open enough that I can just move somewhere else!

Here is Master and Commander for your feature movie enjoyment:

The title of this blog is a quote pulled from the comments about the film, written by user, mos6507

Digital Exhaust

A quick, but non academic search, shows no definition of this term. It is one that my colleagues and I have been using for a while. I hope to get a quick sketch of this term here, for a piece I am writing.

Digital:

  • Expressed in numerical form, especially for use by a computer. [1]
  • Digital information is stored using a series of ones and zeros. Computers are digital machines because they can only read information as on or off — 1 or 0. This method of computation, also known as the binary system, may seem rather simplistic, but can be used to represent incredible amounts of data. [2]
  • Traditionally, digital means the use of numbers and the term comes from digit, or finger. Today, digital is synonymous with computer. [3]

Exhaust:

  • To let out or draw off. [4]
  • Pertaining to steam, air, gas, etc., that is released from the cylinder of an engine after having preformed its work. [5]
  • to draw off or let out completely, as from a container [6]

Two very interesting terms. One relating primarily to computers and electronic mediums. The other relating mostly to automobiles and their exhaust systems. The combination of the terms is designed to bring a similar thought to mind. One where the electronic medium produces its own exhaust system. The output is not air, gas, pollutants but instead photos, videos, blogs, and more. It is this representation that leads me to this definition…

Digital Exhaust:

  • The output of human beings using the internet.
  • The production of vast amounts of information in binary code, represented as words, texts, videos, photos and other mediums, expressed on computers and websites, and distributed across the internet.
  • The individual representation of a person using the aggregate of their past interactions on the internet.

Senate Hearing Discusses Web 2.0 to Improve our Democracy

Wow, I am really excited. Something amazing happened yesterday, Dec 11, 2007, for the American people, democracy, and my work. I will try to break it down for you in a simplified way. The story is pulled from several statements, 60 plus pages, and a Senate Hearing. Here it is:

A Congressional Hearing was called by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins to discuss the state of the web, our government, and web 2.0. They invited Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Google, the OMB, and the Center for Internet and Democracy.

The session was all about opening up our government websites to the people of America (and the world) by introducing collaboration and transparency into the process of democracy. Senator Susan Mullins, in her opening remarks, states that the internet has been around for 20 years, but the “federal commitment to the web…is only 5 years old” (see E-Gov, 2002). Meaning that they have a lot of catching up to do.

First on the agenda was search engines. A Pew study conducted in 2004 shows that 77% of Americans get information about their government via search engines [1, pdf]. Furthermore JL Needham, of Google, stated that, “we can assume that this already impressive number has risen farther” since 2004. I can easily imagine this number today being in the 90th percentile.

The speakers go on to demonstrate that a surprisingly large amount of publicly available government information is not searchable. They cite various reasons, one being that websites are using *robots.txt* files, which prohibit search engines from “crawling” the data. The conclusion and recommendations from all was that this needs to change. Senator Lieberman, even questioned whether this was an accident or just simply “not going the extra mile”.

Imagine what resources could be made available to anyone using a search engine once this issue is resolved. We are talking about science reports, emergency information, available grants, and much more.

The second recommendation was for the government to embrace collaboration and openness. Not only within the government but with the American people. In the words of Senator Lieberman,

“Today, we will also examine how new collaborative technologies can strengthen interaction among government agencies and the public. Jimmy Wales – the founder of Wikipedia, the most thrilling example of what collaborative technology can produce – will walk us through the concepts behind Wikipedia and how similar technologies can be applied to government for greater information sharing, collaboration, and communication both within government and with the public.”

That was his opening line! To his credit, Mr. Wales impressively laid out the business process and features of Wikipedia in a clear and simple way. Making sure to answer some of the more controversial aspects of the online encyclopedia, while also providing examples of how the process can be used for government agencies.

His prepared speech impressed me the most and I recommend reading it (pdf). In it he discusses how the First Amendment, freedom of speech, is being both protected and fulfilled in Wikipedia, and how this very same process can,

“…improve our government’s ability to gather and share information for increased security, for increased governmental responsiveness in our open society, and for the preservation of democratic values.”

His final recommendation was for the American government to use wiki’s, both internally and for the public. The public wiki angle excites me the most as this is something I have been asking for and speaking about for a while. Engaging the American people in a dialogue about our laws, amendments, problems, programs, and more using a wiki can have a tremendous impact on democracy in America. I can imagine our laws being drafted in a public wiki, and citizens can directly edit, discuss, and impact the laws of our federal, state, and local governments.

Forget, “get out the vote”, lets go with “wikify the government”.

I know things like this will definitely take time, but this is an important first step. Having the right people, saying the right things also helps too. What an exciting moment and an invigorating era to be alive in!

Reference Materials:

Further interesting observations:

Who knew lobbyists, or rather Google lobbysits, would be pushing for this?

Even more so, who knew that in 6 years a little known project called Wikipedia that called for “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” would be before Congress asking them to join in?

Senator Lieberman – Both the Legislative and Executive branches must “increase its transparency and expand its interactive relationship with the public “ [2, pdf]

JL Needham – “Making publicly available government information more accessible and useful to citizens…makes our democracy more transparent, accountable, and relevant to its citizens.”

Mr. Needham, again – “In the Web 2.0 world, where more and more citizens are using blogs, wikis, online mapping, video sharing services, and social networking sites to communicate and collaborate with each other, there will be even more demand for government to bring information to citizens where they are through these new platforms. This information will also help serve as a core component of the user-generated content that is driving the deeper engagement of Americans with each other, and with our democracy, through the Web.” [3, pdf]

President George HW Bush – “…expanding the use of the Internet and computer resources in order to deliver Government services, […] for a citizen-centered, results-oriented, and market-based Government.” [4]

Jimmy Wales – “it is important that governments use technology wisely to communicate with the public, and also to allow the public to communicate with the government.” [5, pdf]

The new Chief: CCO, The Chief Collaboration Officer

CCO – Chief Collaboration Officer

Get used to it. This acronym will be haunting our lives for the next 20 years.

Web 2.0 will bring about many changes in corporations. One of which will be a reshuffling of management. Most of this will take place at the low and mid management levels, but their is always room for one more Chief at the top.

A colleague and I recently discussed the value of establishing a CCO. Will it be a hindrance to innovation and growth? Or, an enabler that provides top-level support?

I think that a CCO will be an enabler who radically changes the landscape of the corporate environment. The transition will not be smooth, though, many will fail and a few will succeed. Those who succeed will be copied incessantly until the role of CCO is fleshed out, understood, and books are written about it (The 7 habits of highly effective CCO’s…).

In the end, the CCO will be here to stay.

P.S. – Those CCO’s who succeed will be the ones who use the tools at home. See you on myspace!