Thursday, May 24, 2007

Technology finds us a house

We are planning to move to the Hague in summer (no, that's not the capital of the Netherlands). I wonder how people searched for a house 10 years ago (probably using newspapers and brokers), but it's amazing how our search is a seamless experience using on-and offline strategies.

We use housing sites like Funda and Jaap and get e-mail alert about new houses meeting our search criteria. Especially the 360 degrees photos are helpful to get a sense of the area when you don't know these places. After finding a few online, we have gone to the areas physically to get an idea of how it looks and feels like. The physical experience is very important. When we had identified houses that could be interesting we rushed back home to look online for the details of the inside of the houses. Together this would give a fairly good picture of where to make an appointment to see the house inside. I'm sure we are making a really well informed choice, knowing what's available. For prices, you request the price of sales in the same areas or street.

For the mortgage advice we had one webcam advice and several face-to-face advices. Though the technology for the online webcam advice didn't work very well (we couldn't hear him, so had to use the phone), the advantage was that he could show the calculations immediately and share them with us. Another advisor who visited us at home created a lot less trust, so the myth that face-to-face creates trust more easily can be dismantled, at least for our case. For trust in this case, it is more important that the responses to your questions make sense, and the speed of giving solid information does a lot to add to trust too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Practical examples of web2.0 in the development sector

I did a presentation during a Euforic training in Maastricht about web2.0 tools, especially blogs wikis and RSS feeds. During the presentation I showed some practical examples of the way people or organisations use these tools for learning, networking, advocacy, fundraising etc. with the aim of stimulating the imagination of the participants who had just learned about the technical part of the tools. I had not uploaded the powerpoint presentation on slideshare, as it is not one of those presentations that make a lot of sense without the actual presentation. But yesterday at work I discovered slideshare is also a very good helping you to access your own powerpoint presentations when you are away from your own computer! I must say there are some great presentations shared, but I'd still feel guilty about using someone else's presentation slides... So I decided to upload it and see whether the embedding works.... (I don't think it does, what mistake do I make?)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

David Weinberger's messy cupboard

Here's a video with David Weinberger talking for roughly an hour about the topic of his book : everything is miscellaneous. I got alerted to the video by the knowledge management for development list.

He is expanding on the idea that digital possibilities are changing the ordering of things which has implications for knowledge creation and decision-making on categories. It kind of democratises categorisation and ordering (my words). I had heard this metaphore before about tagging: books can be stored in just one cupboard, but online you can store a book on as many shelfs as you like (he used the metaphore of branches on a tree).

First order: books on the shelf
Second order: meta data about books on cards (library science)
Third order: all digital data and meta data

Messiness on the internet is hence a virtue rather than a problem, with the miscellaneous drawer of the cupboard getting larger and larger online. He provides the example of a speech delivered by Bush, which attracts 2400 blogposts within a short period of time. This is a new public negotiation of knowledge on a scale that had never before been possible. No one appears to be authoritative, and hence this is a much better reflection of what we're interested in than any controlled source.

I liked the video and I agree with this idea that the negotiation of knowledge is changed by all the recent interaction possibilities on the web, but I find it a little superficial and surprising that everyone's raving about this. I regret that he doesn't go on to analyze how current power relations and cultural assumptions do get reproduced. For instance, it's no coincidence that google posted David Weinberger on the net, rather than for instance Nana Nketsia, a professor at Cape Coast university, who may be an equally important thought leader. But I haven't read his book, so maybe I should do this first.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy end of ramadan!

A friend told me the following story. It is funny but a nice example of intercultural communication (and how easy it is to create misunderstandings) too. Fortunately, she allowed me to blog it:

I work in a large, international development organisation with thousands of staff in various countries all over the world. We have a corporate e-mail system whereby it is possible to send a mail to all employees at once. One day, towards the end of ramadan, a person from a country in West Africa send a message to all to wish every one a happy end of ramadan celebration. Others started replying thank you, etc. The IT persons at the headquarters were panicking because a lot of mail traffic may bring the system down, so he sent a message warning people not to send these kind of messages around. But that aroused very bad sentiments within the West African employees, and they started reacting to his message by challenging their right to wish everyone a happy end of ramadan, as they would wish for Christian holidays. So the whole discussion became even more heated on the issue of muslims versus christians (everyone sending mails to thousands of staff) and the IT department panicking even more.

You see how easily the intentions of the IT department staff get misinterpreted. Probably the West African staff may not be aware of the implications of sending messages all over the globe, both for the system as well as for using the staff time. There is a dimension of people from different backgrounds giving different levels of importance to these kind of messages too (they may think this is not wasting time). I can also imagine there may be more general frustrations about unbalanced attention for Christian holidays over Muslim holidays leading to this interpretation by the West African staff...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why organizations should not blog

I found this Dilbert cartoon via this blogpost by knowledgecafe. The title of the Dutch blogpost is "why most organisations should not blog"

They give 3 arguments why corporate organisations should not blog:
1. Every post need to be checked by legal departments etc. which inhibits authenticity.
2. Organisations are not well prepared for negative comments. Turning off the comments function takes away an important feature of blogs.
3. The purpose of the blog may be to control PR about your brand. But this is an illusion anyhow (the idea that you can control your image/branding).

I think corporate blogging is a very different category from personal blogging. An individual blog takes on the personality of the blogger. My experiences with a group blog is that a group blog is quite different too, as the blog doesn't take on any personality either. I think a group blog can work well with a clear common purpose/theme and long-term interaction within the team. Then the blog can take on the colour of the team. (and probably without colour a blog isn't very interesting to anyone). This process takes time (and probably more interaction than we have currently).

From a US report of last year (the Makovsky state of corporate blogging survey), the fortune 1000 senior executives are slow to react to the credibility of corporate blogs. Only a minority have someone writing a blog related to the company (15%). This figure is much lower than the figure of another study which predicts 70% of corporations will blog by 2007.

Talking about blogging, there is a good blogpost with a powerpoint presentation about 25 styles of blogging by the 360 digital influence blog. When I went through it, it made me think about my prefered blogstyles. Maybe I should try out some new styles.