Jacks Blag

Web2.0 and the Culture of Tertiary Education.
October 11, 2009, 11:50 am
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

Our final project for Enterprise 2.0 is to create a business proposal for implementing web2.0 in the QUT library. This is paralleling an actual project being performed by this faculty. Likewise, I know UQ is also currently looking at how to incorporate Web2.0 into their university systems. Web2.0 could be extremely valuable to an institution. A university very trade is knowledge and Ideas and one of  Web2.0’s key benefits is the capture and sharing of this knowledge. Also, students teaching each other is bloody cheap.

QUT library currently employs a little of the technology behind Web2.0. They are, however, using it all in a web1.0 capacity; that is in a centrally managed manner. A fundamental concept behind Web2.0 is that you have a service that becomes better the more people use it;  as more people contribute, create and link content. The QUT library is still centrally managed, A site, page or service is only as good as the staff member assigned to it.

The problem that must be overcome for Web2.0 to be successfully employed within in a university environment is one of culture and competition. Students in a university are in direct competition and their only tools are knowledge and understanding. Students in the same subject must compete within one-another to set themselves apart. Even if they are not being explicitly bell-curved, there is the assumption that one must still do something to separate themselves from their peers.

Layered over this is the extremely individualised focus of secondary and tertiary education in Australia. The education process is set-up as your responsibility for your education. I’m not suggesting that this is wrong, but the culture in education (even amongst friends) is on ‘Me’. The culture within highschool and then even more so in university is incredibly self-centred. Not only this (the culture at an undergrad level at least) is insular. As far as we are concerned, we are competing only against our immediate peers.

What we have is a two strong factors standing in the way of Web2.0 collaboration. Self-Centred individuals in perceived direct competition. Why would a student share a valuable resource, a valuable reference article, for a project if they are hoping to use this to set themselves apart. Knowledge, research, and understanding are central to success; what immediate benefit is can there be in a competitor raising the standard of the group with which they are being judged against.

Now, I am strongly of the opinion that competition alone is not enough to prevent collaboration. I have an example with which to illustrate this. I will use this as a vehicle to explore the major point of this post; culture. I sail competitively in a social environment. This is done at a club and national level. Like the university student I am in direct competition with my peers. Like the university student knowledge and understanding are critical to setting myself apart, they are the only path to success. Unlike the university however,  my sailing experiences are completely collaborative. People are eager and willing to share their knowledge, share what helps their success. I believe there are three very key factors that drive this difference.

Firstly. There is strong bonding between individuals; even amongst a group of unfamiliar sailors. We are in this boat (pun intended) together and thus share a strong affinity for our competitors. This is in stark contrast to the self-centred student, passing through university solely interested in their own goals.

Secondly. The group is not insular. A group of competitors are keenly aware that the group as a whole is part of a larger sailing world. There are always more talented more competitive groups. Although you may not be competing against them today, one day you may be. This is always in your mind. University, however, tends to get viewed by its participants as a closed group. If you are at the top of  the class then you cannot get higher. There is no grander competition and thus there is not sense in fostering a more competitive environment. This is of course hogwash, the grander competition is employment and life. I am talking about the prevailing culture. The culture of the university does not support a ‘common good’ or a view of arrogated success of the institution.

Finally, in sailing, enjoyment is almost entirely dependant on the competition itself. The closer the race the more enjoyable it is. Again, this is in stark contrast. The focus too is on self improvement, we push other to help push ourselves. University is a means to an end. A loop that an individual must pass through to move onto the next step. The prevailing culture does not derive satisfaction from competition, it is about reaching then end as easily as possible and in the highest final position. The culture of a university, at a student level, is not about self improvement. It is about getting the piece of paper you need to get a job. Somewhere along the line, the quest for knowledge has been replaced with a quest for marks and degrees. It is no longer about the process, but about the outcome.

These three factors drive against the concepts behind internal collaboration and Web2.0.

Now, I’d like to make an interesting observation. High school (and its has been a while), for most, is the direct precursor to University. One participate in them sequentially. In Queensland individuals are ranked in a school, like university. But then Schools are ranked against each other in the QCS ( Queensland Core Skills) exam. High-school has a very strong impetus for the cultural change towards supporting Web2.0 collaboration.

The very same principles apply in University. My Bach of Business and Information Technology will only be as good as the QUT paper it is printed on. But, sadly, the prevailing culture of the organisation does not place the responsibility of the reputation of the organisation in the hands of the individual. If it did; despite the direct competition, despite the lack of enjoyment derived the process, Web2.0 could flourish.

If the culture was reversed. It the focus was placed back on the quest knowledge for understanding and away from the end goal; the result. Then Web2.0 could be more favourably viewed by students as something they wish to actively contribute to.

Better yet, both cultural changes could be made.

In summary: The culture of a university is outcome based, not processes based. On top of this the student is self focused, they feel no responsibility or benefit in raising the standard of the whole. These two cultural factors stand heavily in the way of Web2.0.

In comment: I have been toying with this thesis for a while. But I have been reluctant to post it up because I plan to address it in my business proposal and did not want to give away my ideas. I then realised that I was proving my very own point.


Sharepoint Wiki
October 8, 2009, 1:14 pm
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

As previously posted, my team in our organisation has begun experimenting with some of the more free form tools within sharepoint. Being an a small IT department (12 or so employees) we have always had full control over editing and shaping our site, but our activity has always been pretty limited to mimiking windows directories in document libraries and creating lists.

My team, the service delivery team ( responsible for servers, application, desktops and all the network infrastructure), has begun playing with a wiki as a way of capturing knowledge. Sharepoint is not well known for its out of the box wiki functionality. This, I understand, is part of MOSS, not a feature in their free sharepoint services. It is widely considered not a good example of fully featured wiki tool. Indeed some of its features are utterly frustrating, I’ll list these in a moment. But first up I’d like to discuss how we are using the wiki within our small team.

The Wiki has become a work log. We all have dual screens and as I look around the room I can see all three of us have the site open on one screen and are browsing or creating content. Every change, every problem and solution is being noted down on the site. At the moment, for example, I am working on researching an upcoming installation of Microsoft Communicator within our organisation; everything I am learning and applies to our organisation is being stored in articles. Last week I migrated a proxy service off a domain controller and onto a dedicated virtual machine. All the deviations of this server, from fresh OS installation, are now listed. Registry tweeks, packages installed, decisions and justifications are all noted down and linked together. As you are easily able to update it on the fly, the wiki is quickly capturing a comprehensive picture of our network.

It is early days, but the result appears to be a very natural and easy capture of knowledge. Previously the bare minimum may have been put into a word document after the event, and filed away to collect electronic dust. Smaller facts, knowledge and decisions would simply be stored mentally, probably to be forgotten within the week. The Wiki is complimenting our existing and very effective communication very well.

Its highly obvious, but it is very exciting to see the process in action.

Pros and Cons with Sharepoint Wiki. (Not an exhaustive list, just some personal observations)

+ Sharepoint rich text editor is extremely easy to use.
+ You can imbed web-parts into your wiki pages.
+ The wiki is a complete out of the box solution.
+ Its Microsoft, the de-facto standard for the corporate environment, and they are moving a lot of their services towards the sharepoint platform.

– The rich text editor butchers formatting. when copying in from other sources I have to use notepad to strip formatting.
– Adding media, especially images is a complete hassle
– Dot points and tabbing is completely borked.

Nestle: highlighting some organisational risks
October 8, 2009, 12:43 pm
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

Mummy bloggers spit the dummy over nestles spoilt milk

The Sydney Morning Herald seem pretty switched on when it comes to ‘new media’ and tapping quickly into events rising from the blog-sphere. I picked up this story, 8 days after the fact, from their technology news stream.

Nestle have attracted scorn for about 40 years as one of the least ethical global companies. Recently they have attempted to utilise Web 2.0 and Blogger sphere identities to turn the tide on some of the negative consumer sentiment to their organisation. It appears to have not possibly gone any worse. Instead of successfully bribing some of america’s most followed parenting bloggers, their attempts to milk the Social-Media event have tapped a well of anger a little like the Sidoarjo Mud Flow. They reportedly vastly improved the awareness of the many Anti-Nestle Organisations.

It appears that in the twitter storm no-one won. The blogging identities that participated in the event were attacked and had their credibility damaged by accusations of being corporation sluts, and the Nestle itself were trashed in a runaway train of dissatisfaction.

So, what did went so terribly wrong. Nestle freely admitted that although they have an interest and believe in the power of social media and web2.0, they do not have expertise in the field nor have they really had much to do with it. They appeared to have wandered into this new and uncontrollable area, taking a large first step oblivious to what could happen. They had set-up a twitter channel #Nestlefamily, specifically for their invited bloggers to generate discussion and publicity, but they did not actively monitor or respond on this channel until the whole thing was totally derailed and out of control.

I applaud their attempt at openness and a hands off approach to the event, and for that I am sorry to see them and the bloggers involved burnt. But it is interesting that the organisation made such a large first web2.0 leap without first understanding what could have been lurking beneath the waters for them. Its a little like cliff diving into what turns out to be a shallow pond. By engaging and wooing some of the top US bloggers the reach of the event became massive, it was naive to believe that it would not attract the interest of the many Nestle-Boycott organisations and their followers.

Some Links

View of an Attendee: http://www.realmendriveminivans.com/dad-in-the-middle-of-a-twitstorm/
Pro-Nesltle Attendee: http://mommysnacks.net/2009/09/nestle-family-happy-healthy-gathering/
Some lessons learnt: http://crunchydomesticgoddess.com/2009/09/30/did-we-learn-anything-from-the-nestle-family-twitter-storm/
Boycotter perspective: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/09/nestle-family-twitters.html

Hitler on Web2.0
September 4, 2009, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just stumbled upon the following re subtitles of a WWII film.
The internet phenomenon of re-subing this scene is about a year old, so water under the bridge now. But in the context of a Web2.0 discussion it is quite humorous so I can’t help but share.

Checkpoint Charlie
September 3, 2009, 9:46 am
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

This week, ok last week, we are doing a quick self assessment of our course progress.  I’m going to try and answer them. I’ve been holding off writing this in the hope that I will be overcome in a wave of narcissism; without which my capacity to write about myself is very limited. Time has run out and not even doing weights in front of a mirror has induced the perquisite amount of self-loving; therefore the following is written humbly, and not through rose coloured glasses.

  1. Practical ability to leverage off web 2.0 to enhance personal branding.

Not brilliant, I’ll admit. My footprint on the web is very small, and has not really actively pursued expansion at this time. I have started to throw my name out there a little more now and it curious to see the corresponding increase in traffic on my site. It’s blatantly obvious that that is what would happen, really; but rewarding none the less. Also, my blog is very poorly branded. I’m using a vanilla template at this time; I really need to do something about that. Sex it up a bit.

  1. Manner and consistency of participation in weekly workshops activities and your contribution.

I am pretty consistent, I believe. Consistently about once a week and consistently about one week late.  What i really need to do is create content outside of the boundaries of the workshop, something that is fresh and thus generates both traffic and interest.

  1. Ability to appraise Web2.0 strategies and solutions for organisational and personal success.

I believe that I am now pretty well read on Enterprise2.0, I read all the links on the lecture slides and then try to read all the links on those pages; as well as pursuing any topic I stumble across in that process. I have tried to devote 1 day a week to reading and exploring in this subject. So, I think this growing breath of knowledge makes for a pretty good appraisal capacity. I think I probably need to show this a bit more though. Probably the best example to date is my reflections on the unit, both within this blog and on the community wiki.

  1. Ability to engage successfully with the wider community (including people outside of QUT) using Web 2.0 tools and techniques.

I have been participating within the community via contributions to the wiki and commenting on other people’s blogs. I have contributed to the lectures 100 times more than I usually would, but i am usually an incredibly passive student . But not heavily, I would not consider my participation above the bare minimum requirements in this subject.

  1. Leadership via the ability to contribute to the structure and format of the workshop activities, and the smooth running of the online community.

I have not displayed much leadership as such. Not at this point in time.

Enterprise 2.0 at work
August 30, 2009, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

I have been given permission to begin experimenting with Web2.0 within my work.

I have two first moves; I work in a service delivery team, a nicer name for Network Administrators.  Within the team we each have in-depth knowledge of different aspects of the system.  We currently have a SharePoint document library storing information logins, documentation and assorted bundles of facts. While this is very useful, it is very cumbersome and badly used. as a result we each remain experts in our respective areas, but do not share or write down our knowledge. I am going to set out to replace this with a Wiki. Having just learned that MOSS 2007 has an ok wiki webpart; this should be relatively easy.

The next step is one of our fundraising teams (I work for a large charity). This particular team hold regular but geographically separate events across the state. They have been asking for a way to share knowledge, tips and techniques among their very widely distributed event co-ordinators. I think that this team would be very well suited to a blog as a way of sharing and discussing their experiences.

We have only really started to begin playing with SharePoint 2007 recently; the implementation is still in development. While I can make the change on the IT site very easily, I will have to get support from our lead sharepoint developer in setting up a portal for the fundraising team. I had been very stand-off-ish about sharepoint at work. Sharepoint 2003 was a failure as a knowledge management system. Our intranet site is hosted within 2003 and it is a windows directory with a crappy interface. Sharepoint 2007, as i have just discovered, encorporates many Web2.0 components. I am now keen to make myself available to the Sharepoint development and implimentation and push my new found Enterprise 2.0 agenda.

INB(N)346 as a Case Study?
August 27, 2009, 10:08 am
Filed under: Enterprise 2.0

I am going to preface this by saying that I am not a good student. I have a job and I train twice a day at an elite level of rowing. I am not trying to make an excuse, I am comfortable with the way I prioritise; it is a disclaimer that my observation is from the outside of progressive razor edge of this subject and any bias associated with that.

The very curious thing about this subject is the competitive nature that created by completely transparent and persistent communication. I am currently doing a dual degree in business and IT, the final product of an assignment is always either a private interaction with the staff or guarded secret that is not revealed to the wider class until the end of the semester. The race for good marks is a silent one, internalised and most importantly is completely outcome based.

INB(N)346 is an entirely different beast. You can see exactly who is doing the work, who is embracing the subject and more importantly when. You no longer have the capacity to do the work in your own time; if you want to generate conversation it appears that you need to be proactive and fast. Open communication has effectively neutralised the late night last minute warrior. Suddenly we have a situation where the process is Key. I have been in a lot of subjects where this has been the intention of the coordinator, but they have always faced a certain amount of failure in this objective. INB(N)346 is the first subject where, intentionally or not, this has truly been the case.

If you are highly motivated for good marks there appears to be great rewards, through high presence;  getting in early, often and create. In a fashion, this subject has created a competitive environment much more than I understand exists in a creative arts or design degrees (normally considered to be competitive in nature).

As a result, from the back seat, I can see the front edge of the class rushing off; creating content, exploring and sharing ideas. I wonder, in an organisation where the incentives for high collaboration were as strong as a 7, would the rate of development be as impressive and constructive as we can see within this subject.