Thursday, April 22, 2004

Knowledge and communication channeling

Seb’s topic sharing infrastructure has many common points with my knowledge networks concept for knowledge management. Interested by the subject? Why don’t you join Seb’s new wiki about Self-organizing directory development?

Quote: "The skill of writing is to provide a context in which other people can think"

From Edwin Schlossberg via Tim O'Reilly

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Human flow

This morning I gave a look at a little river that flows nearby my home. I couldn’t help but to think about analogies between this river and human networking. Water behaves chaotically (especially during spring in Canada). Its particles actually go in every possible direction. Nonetheless, the global direction of water, its stream, is very well oriented. According to me, efforts undertaken under the names e-learning, knowledge management and blogging seek to allow humans to act as independent water particles in a human stream.

This analogy may seem a bit simplistic but it helps me structure my thoughts on the motivation that lead us to try to communicate and learn collaboratively. I wouldn’t want to become too esoteric but it seems to me that we are trying to build the early structure of a concrete collective soul. George Pór would probably like it. Stephen’s statement in Stephen's web (at the very bottom) seems to go in that direction too.

What’s great with wild rivers is that even though they follow their beds, they also participate in its shaping by erosion. They even sometimes completely change direction and are in that respect a model of adaptability. Individual empowerment, adaptability, collective coherence… It’s worth giving some more thoughts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

The more you play the more you lose

A completely different subject today...

It always amazed me to see how many people are fascinated by casinos and gambling. I went to a casino only once in my life, for a big 5 minutes… I felt sick. People were stressed and aggressive, the place was noisy and cheesy. A nice wrap-up of what gambling is all about http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/WinnipegSun/News/2004/04/14/420252.html

Gambling business models are based on a very simple rule: the average profit probability is negative. That means that if you bet 1$ the average return will be less than that. Knowing that, your best chance to make money is in your first bet. After that it constantly decreases.

An example: If you play a game where you get 0.25$ back for every 1$ played, you have, on average, 1 chance out of 4 to recover your money. Simple enough. If you play 1$ twice, you get 1 chance out of 16 ((1/4)EXP2) to recover. So when you keep playing, your chances to recover all the money invested decrease constantly following an exponential function. Even with a game with a better probability like ¾, the more you play the more you lose.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

When do we « know » someone?

I got out of my office 15 minutes ago and instead of hurrying where I wanted to go as I usually do, I stopped and looked around me. Most people were facing their computer screens working on something (or pretending to do so?). Today’s white collars spend almost all of their time in front of a computer. Of course, people do talk to each other from time to time, sometimes for work but often for personal conversations.

Humans are social creatures. We need to belong to something bigger than ourselves, a community. The most cited critic about distance work is that people miss this community feeling, this acquaintance.

When someone asks me if I know someone else, my answer will never be “yes” if I haven’t met the person face to face. Why is that? Do I need to recognize one’s face? I don’t think. I interact with a lot of people that I’ve seen only on pictures but that I never met and I don’t pretend to know them. Is it smell? Touch? Maybe it has nothing to do with the 5 senses.

Do I know my work colleagues? Yes? Not really. Do I know my wife and kids? I hope. My opinion: Knowing someone is about building a community with this person, about sharing interests and beliefs, and most of all about recognizing ourselves in the other. I just don't know why it seems it can't be done online as effectively as meeting someone face to face. Even videoconferencing doesn't seem to be a good substitute.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Is IT a mean or an end?

Business Process Reengineering theories tell us to consider technology as a tool that enables an organizational change and not as a goal to reach. The rationale behind this is quite simple: if technology is your goal, your focus stays on technology. If, on the other hand, your goal is to better business processes, your focus stays on business processes. In IT projects, people often forget what are the real goals, which are not related to technology most of the time. That leads many projects to failure.

IT projects are however very effective at identifying what are the non-technical issues to address because they force us to look at the way we do things. Humans have that unique capability to stop thinking about how they operate when they get good enough at it. IT projects disrupt this “comfort zone” and force us to start thinking again, sometimes painfully.

Ismael Peña, quoting Mónica G. Luque, illustrates this phenomenon in education. E-learning is forcing us to think about fundamentals such as: How do we learn? Why? What is knowledge? Who owns it? Should we try to capture it?

In my opinion, this process is very healthy even if cumbersome. We are presently defining the foundation of a new paradigm in education. It is easy to get lost in concepts, words and acronyms these days. That is exactly why we need to keep our “focus” on one fundamental:

We are spending time and money in education in order to help people better their lives through the use and creation of knowledge.

Then, the thinking about improving education has nothing to do with technology. It has to do with people. Technology will however greatly help us realizing the new vision that will be built.

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