Archive for October, 2002


Before you get in the car, you need a driver and a map.

Saturday, October 5th, 2002

Matt Mower comments on my altruism as a cultivated resource comments:

I listened to a Geoffrey Moore webcast recently titled “Provocation Selling: Making quota in a downmarket” (via Rick Klau’s site) and it was very interesting. Basically he says the only way to sell software to large corps today is to fix “leaky pipes.” So knowledge logging must become a wrench.

My current angle is that internal communications and awareness is the “leaky pipe.”

I am trying to develop a line that sells business weblogging as a way to make corporations more responsive to internal changes and data “at the edge.”

The difficuly with providing technology solutions to this particular leaky pipe is that it’s not a technical problem. It’s a problem of an entrenched culture of insecurity that results in hoarding of knowledge and attempts to steer personal and corporate destinies by controlling knowledge flow.

Everyone’s standing around knee-deep in water, leaky pipes all around, but either unwilling to recognize that the excess moisture is what’s bogging their company down, or unwilling to act and possibly become a casualty to the process.

The only lasting solution is to promote a culture of openness and sharing, as Phil Windley is doing, and through hard work and small wins, build a grassroots awakening to the power of altruism. The technology is just the wheels to transport us there – the entire trip has to be mapped out and deftly navigated by enlightened management.

Our problem is that we’re trying to sell sets of fancy wheels to people who don’t know how or why to drive, let alone have a map of where they’re going. They get in, crash into the first obstacle they find, get out and slam the door, muttering about how this damn car can’t drive straight.

We as wheels providers will have to team up with business analysts who have the ear of the executive layer and can teach them how to drive and map a path towards enlightenment. They will have to, like Windley, lead by example, at which point we can ride in their wake and spread knowledge tools and concepts.

I firmly believe that the way out of the mess of corporate untrustworthiness that’s miring this dark economy is for organizations to become visibly approachable and believable in the best Cluetrain fashion.


Be Prepared

Thursday, October 3rd, 2002

My laptop case has always been a bit of a Mary Poppins bag – I can pull all manner of surprising things from its depths to solve problems here and there – I carry an ethernet hub I modified for battery power, for instance, which comes in handy in contracting situations where there are no extra LAN connections. Be prepared, I always say, with enough bits and pieces to glue together what you might need on a whim.

So i’m in downtown Toronto, driving from one appointment to the next, and thinking about a third place to visit, but I don’t know the address – it’s in Outlook on my home PC. Damn. My wife isn’t home to check it for me, so I gotta think of something else.

So I pull into an alley at Queen St. and Spadina where I know I can get a wireless signal, get my laptop out of the trunk, fire it up, insert the 802.11b card, and walk towards the street. Halfway up the alley I get a signal so I squat against this drainpipe where I can still see my car, ssh into my home linux box, start a tunnelled vnc session from my laptop over ssh/wireless/internet/sshd/homenetwork to my Win box at home, run Outlook, get the info. Check my mail and news aggregator for good measure.

People are walking by without a second thought to this guy squatting with his laptop in an alley. All in a day’s work, you know.


altruism as a cultivated resource

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2002

Phil Windley notices my post about sharing and talks about the altruistic “abundance mentality” that is a prerequisite to becoming an effective blogger. That certainly describes me and many other people I know who regularly share knowledge whether or not it’s via blogging.

Of course, it also *doesn’t* describe a much larger lot of people that make up most organizations, and that’s problematic to the introduction of knowledge sharing tools.

With my recent plugging of Open Source collaborative content management tools, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what it takes to make knowledge sharing work in an organization. What it takes is enthusiasm, altruism, optimism. For it all to really sing, you have to attract a critical slice of the target audience who will participate fully and happily.

But you can’t simply decree that everyone in the organization will tomorrow become lucid, concise, insightful writers or will feel enthusiastic about their work. Some people will never have it in them, some just need to get bit by the bug.

Traditional Knowledge Management too often involves a top-down command and control restrictive model. In contrast, Knowledge Sharing is a grassroots bottom-up empowerment model. The effective way to grow it is to introduce it, find evangelists, and let it grow. That can only work in an organization where people feel like they’re part of a living organism working towards a common goal, not in a politics-ridden cube farm.

It’s pretty hard to find that in a large organization, especially in government. I worked for 10 years in the Ontario government in 3 different ministries, and there is absolutely NO way it’s ever gonna happen soon there.

Makes a guy wanna move to Utah. But it’s so much warmer in Toronto. Well, today, anyhow.


Freedom to share

Tuesday, October 1st, 2002

Phil Windley, blogging CIO of the State of Utah, admires Jeremy Zawondny’s sharing. I do too.

I’ve noticed with myself though, that my sharing-ness tends to rise and fall with my sense of security. When I’ve got lots of business and no worries, I’m a veritable sharing phenom, but my willingness to participate and to share has dropped considerably this year since I’ve been more interested in finding enough paying business to get by.

It’s not as though I’m constantly heads down on jobsearching, it’s that philosophically, I’m currently not wanting to give away things that might be used to help me make a living.

I make my living by consulting and programming. I do stuff that most people can’t or don’t do, and figure out stuff that other people need to know. When I’m plenty busy, I’m happy to share my excess knowledge. However, when I’m wondering how to pay the mortgage, I’d like people to consider paying me for information that gives them value, and therefore, I’m much less likely to solve their business problems unless they do.

I’ve taken enough of an interest in the past in Remote Scripting, a DHTML trick to make web pages more interactive, that I’ve become fairly well known as an expert on the subject. It’s my sharing that has brought this “fame”. I regularly receive and answer all sorts of questions from people wanting to learn the concepts involved. I do so happily, because I want to spread knowledge.

Lately, however, I’ve had an increase in the amount of people who are not visiting my site to learn how to do it themselves, but are there looking for solutions to their problems – Microsoft’s RS not working any more due to browser or JVM problems, how to adapt their specific app to remote scripting.

Surprising numbers of people expect me to actually perform the legwork of solving their problems for them, and further, expect me to do it for nothing. When I suggest they can hire me to do the work, some are positively insulted that I would suggest it and blast me as crass and commercialistic. Without fail these are people who are approaching me as employees of a company whose problem needs fixing. I rather doubt they’re working for free, but they expect me to.

I love Open Source. I use it all the time. I believe in its future. But it can’t work unless it’s being practised and subsidised by people who are in a position of security and comfort. That may mean companies like IBM and MySQL and O’Reilly who support Open Source by allocating resources or funding to it, or it may mean employed or independent but secure people who have the time and magnanimity, or it may mean students whose commitments and responsibilities leave enough room for it.

I have no free knowledge to spare. Right now, you gotta either pony up for it or wait till I’m flush again to catch my overflow.