Thursday, September 27, 2007

More on Brick Walls and Professor Pausch

Jeff Zaslow of Wall Street Journal of Moving On provides a recap of Professor Randy Pausch's Last Lecture and how individuals, media, and Carnegie Mellon University have reacted to his lecture.

Though you will find the 4 minute version inspiring, take the time to listen to his entire lecture. It is well worth your time to let him inspire you.

The 4 Minute video essay:

Be sure and watch the
entire lecture on Google Video (1 hour, 44 minutes).

It is tempting to recap his lecture and to write my thoughts on any number of characteristics or philosophies that he shares. However, I believe that the points that mean the most to you will jump out at you and you don't need me to help guide you to these great philosophies of living, learning, and working. Like grieving and emotions, you will find his points very personal--taking on meanings that you will understand best.

As I back away, not listening to his words and the content of his stories, but observe his actions, his energy, and attitude, I am in awe of his humor and his ability to share his very personal thoughts, to teach us, and to not focus on brick walls.

Professor Randy Pausch has taken advantage, maybe unknowingly, of his tragic situation to give us all opportunities to live our personal and work lives more positively and with more respect and with creativity.

May God bless him, his family, friends and colleagues.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Social news sites: Ranking web content

Have you wondered when or even if you need to consider using social news sites for ranking web pages? Steve Spalding of How To Split An Atom compares Digg, Reddit, Stumble Upon, Shoutwire, Slashdot, and Truemors from the perspective of increasing web traffic.

I found his article, How to use social news sites, helpful in understanding the differences and what types of articles are the focus of readers of these sites.

Popularity of topics center around politics and very unusual stories or pictures. Digg readers hate Bush, love Linux, Apple, and pictures. Submissions have a 24 hour time frame in which to get voted up.

Digg also has implemented a major update this past week that enhances the site to a more social environment. Some of the improves include: increased friend capabilities so individuals with like-interests can communicate, and emphasize content by sending links to friends and discussing topics on message boards.

Popular stories are more “news worthy” than stories in Digg. Reddit users like news, good titles, dislike Bush, Digg, and spam. Politics are big topics.

Stumble Upon
Stumblers like videos, cute pictures, and interesting content that can be presented at a glance. Stumble Upon is review based and is not time based. When submitting an article, think how the article can catch readers' attention in 5 seconds. Also, choose your category wisely.

Very few stories are promoted a day. When a page makes the top list, it will be there a while. The Shoutwire readers are politically outspoken. Readers on this site like social issues, partisan politics, and non-technical articles.

Slashdot is the oldest of social news sites. It gets lots of traffic and has a crowd that includes industry insiders and a insightful community. Slashdot is almost exclusively a “news” portal and the stories are chosen by a combination of users and editors.

Technology related, particularly focusing on security and online rights, and science news articles are rewarded. How-to articles are rare. The new “Firehose” feature has added some social voting features. Slashdot users are the most likely to have insightful comments.

Everything has a chance to be promoted, particularly because the number of submissions is small.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Last Lecture

In more than an academic exercise, Professor Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon University, offers advice during his last lecture. Professor Pausch has cancer and is expected live only a few months.

He talks about his childhood dreams that he achieved, how setbacks invoke creativity, and how people's goodness will surprise you, if you wait long enough.

The lecture was recorded for his young children. The 4 minute video in the Wall Street Journal article is certainly worth watching.

If you knew you would live only a few months, what would you record for your family, friends, colleagues, students, and clientele? What advice would you give? What would you describe as important? Who would you thank?

The entire lecture can be found Randy Pausch's Last Lecture - UPDATE on ETC Global News.

QOTD: New kind of business hero

I was thrilled when two colleagues thought to provide me with this quote from Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Indeed, the quote follows my philosophy exactly. Everything we do is about relationships--the work we do, the education we provide, the life we live, the kids we raise, and the fun we have.

In business, too, it's all about relationships.

This new kind of business hero ...must learn to operate without the might of the hierarchy behind them. The crutch of authority must be thrown away and replaced by their own ability to make relationships, use influence, and work with others to achieve results.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn to Dance

Interestingly, when I started to investigate the origins of the quote, I also found that John Kevin Humphrey wrote a review of the book in Journal of Extension in 1992 indicating how the concepts in the book are applicable to Extension.

By establishing strategic alliances (sometimes with past adversaries), building quality teams, and developing synergies, product quality can be enhanced. Shifting from a philosophy of "individual stars" to "groups of stars" also achieves higher levels of quality with less bureaucratic structure. Kanter argues that a move away from bureaucratic structure to a post-entrepreneurial structure will facilitate needed changes and increase corporate effectiveness.

The quote and the concept of building relationships--even if these relationships are at a distance and outside of our organizations--are even more applicable today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

SMS and instant messaging advantages

In writing my last post that described activities that virtual teams can use to help communicate and develop their online communities, I omitted two very important tools, instant messaging and Short Message Service (SMS) or text messaging.

I overlooked these important tools because I use these tools all the time and I simply don't think about not using them. I use them like some people use a phone.

Instant messaging and text messaging are not just for kids.

Instant messaging is a way to:
  • know if your colleagues are in the office.
  • communicate what you are doing (examples, "I'm in a meeting" or "I'm at lunch").
  • start (and end) impromptu discussions.
  • find out answers to quick questions without interrupting ongoing office questions.
We often use instant messaging in our office when we are on support calls with clients and we need supporting information from our colleagues.
  • keep up with your kids.
When they arrive home from school, you can know when they are online and they could IM you.

Text messaging is a way to:
  • communicate in a pinch.
  • communicate when phone use is disruptive.
  • communicate when you don't know how disruptive your communication maybe to the recipient.
  • communicate when asynchronous messages are preferred.
  • communicate when cellphones don't work well (i.e., in emergency situations).
Because the way data messages are sent, text messages have better success in getting through when circuits are overloaded.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Team blogging

Online tools and blogging offer several advantages to advancing the knowledge of individual work teams, particularly for virtual teams.

Though I had prepared a slide set on online communities for a 1 hour presentation to a team of Extension agronomy agents and specialists (last week), we spent most of our time discussing their thoughts on how online tools and blogging can be useful to the members of the team.

This team has worked well exceptionally since its formation in 3 years ago. As teams should operate, each member is respectful of the talent and expertise of each other member. They know who to call for specific crop, variety, or irrigation problems and questions. In the
discussions prior to my portion of the meeting, I often heard

"When I get these kinds questions, I always call (fill in a name of an agent or specialist)."

"Wouldn't it be nice to know what (fill in a name of an agent or specialist in Alabama or surrounding states) is working on".

These comments are indicators that this team is ripe for online collaboration, online community building (aka social networking). During the conversation on online tools, these points were made:

  • Internet use and Internet behavior is changing to a "come to me" use.

  • Communication failures abound, particularly email misuse.

  • The team needs to know what others (members of the Alabama team and other specialists from neighboring states) are thinking.

  • There is a portion of the farmers who do not use the Internet. One approach is to develop for the web 1st and print 2nd -- not leaving those out who do not use the Internet completely out of the knowledge loop.

  • There is a need to help those who are not using the Internet to learn to use and be convinced of what's useful. (This comment is akin to John Dorner's post: "My audience doesn't use the Internet").

  • The team wants to post information on the web faster and easier than they currently do.

  • Using a newsreader, such as Google Reader, is imperative to keeping up with what is new on the Internet. Instructions to use Google Reader can be found:
  • RSS in Plain English

  • We covered a lot of ground in 1 hour. However, there were several online tools that I simply did not have time to discuss.

    This group of individuals, working as a team, sees the need for using these online community tools. Now is the time to support them in their adoption of whichever tools they decide to use.