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June, 2007:

There’s Contextual, And There’s Exact

I had an interesting experience with Google Gmail usage today. For those who do not know me, I am not one to jump on the privacy issues surrounding Google right now. This isn’t the first time I noticed the contextual nature of their sponsored links but for some reason, this evening it really caught me by surprise. My brother, a recent home owner, had an appliance break in his house. I emailed him this evening about a company I’ve had good experience (ALERT, as of August 1, 2008, I AM NO LONGER HAVING A GOOD EXPERIENCE WITH THEM!, SEE UPDATE BELOW) with, American Home Shield, that has good coverage for those times you incur expensive fixes or replacement on things such as appliances.

Gmail Contextual Ad

As I went to go check my next email, there I see a contextual ad right there in Gmail. See the image above. That is not contextual, that is exact! For the most part, I applaud Google’s algorithm and the manner in which they monetize their service. I guess it is just the fact that I get hit with an exact advertisement SECONDS after I hit the send button on an email that makes me feel a little intruded upon. Is this a violation of privacy? Or is this an added-value service? The line certainly is getting blurry. But I must say, I don’t have to use Google Gmail if I don’t want to. As long as my information isn’t leaving the context of my experience, perhaps I do not have a problem with it. Lots of privacy talk surrounding Google right now as the worry is where could your information go if (as they prove here) they clearly have it at their disposal. Additional Reading: For anyone interested in the topic of privacy and Google, Steven Bradley has a very comprehensive post, Is Google Soft on Privacy, which is full of links to additional reading on the topic. Another great read is by Danny Sullivan which intelligently questions some of the criticism. And it is always interesting to get the perspective of Google’s own, Matt Cutts, who has a post on the topic.

UPDATE, August 6, 2008: American Home Shield just lost huge points in my book. Had my first major appliance problem and they are giving me the classic run-around before paying the claim. Basically giving me every excuse in the book to avoid or delay a payment to get my air conditioner serviced. And as luck would have it, with some further research on message boards, there are many of my AHS brethren having similar problems. Guess I needed to do more research before going with them.

Knowledge is the important word in KM

Are we in the beginning of a shift from holding so strongly to the words ‘knowledge management’? And if not, should it begin immediately? My sense is that ‘knowledge enablement’ is a potentially a much stronger word for what organizations are aiming to achieve.

The opening sentence of the Wikipedia entry for Knowledge Management is:

Knowledge Management comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning.

Reading a couple of posts from the Fast Forward blog, there is some interesting debate regarding knowledge management, its relevancy and whether it is an impediment to fostering enterprise 2.0 value in the workplace.  Paula Thornton wrote Knowledge Doesn’t Want to be Managed, ending with the statement that ‘KM is dead’, later following up with KM Nerves are Raw.

However, my sense is that perhaps we are keying too strongly on the word ‘management’ in the entire equation.  Sure, in the past, organizations tried to manage (aka control) knowledge and information.  Some still do, but many are leveraging the power of their organizations, the new thinking of digital natives and very often the power of 2.0 technologies to strengthen their knowledge strategies.

Knowledge Management doesn’t mean ‘knowledge control’.  In that I do agree with Paula’s early point “The promise of 2.0 is to ‘free’ the knowledge.”  Knowledge does want to be free, free to be disseminated by experts and leveraged by all, particularly the ones that need it.

So perhaps KE should be the term of the new era.  It is about Knowledge Enablement, Knowledge Empowerment, Knowledge Evangelism and Knowledge Everywhere. 

Rumor: Apple Coming Out With Phone!

Apple iPhoneYes, you heard it here. Apple is taking their next step in the mobile arena and they are calling it the Apple iPhone. Seriously the amount of coverage on this device is amazing. My colleague, Glenn Fannick, has a good post covering the coverage. There really isn’t a whole lot new I can say on the topic and the mobile space isn’t something I write about. I will leave that to the mobile and device bloggers.

Nonetheless, I think the iPhone is going to be a tremendous success and deserves all the hype. If there is ever something that is entering the market that looks like a game-changer, this looks like it could be it.

Do I want one? Absolutely. Will I get one right now? Absolutely not. This is a product that I plan on waiting to see the early reactions from the first 21 million people who are going to run out and buy it. The biggest question in my mind (and this is not a secret or new) is how it is to interact with the phone without a keyboard. I currently use the Treo 650 and I use the keyboard all the time for email. I’m not sure a screen-based solution will be an adequate substitute, but if any company is going to figure it out it is going to Apple.

Here are some links to some posts that I’ve read recently on the iPhone:

Convergence of Social Networks

I read a post earlier today by Jeremiah Owyang entitled LinkedIn’s Web Strategy. I recently wrote a post about the value of LinkedIn and that was not what Jeremiah was questioning. His inquiry was more with regard to its strategic approach as related to other social networks, particularly Facebook.

LinkedIn sees itself as a social networking tool for business. Facebook is a social network for life, which may include business.

Does or should LinkedIn deploy an API to integrate into Facebook as Facebook positions itself as THE social networking platform? It is definitely an interesting strategy if LinkedIn feels there is a risk that it can be dis intermediated by Facebook if it deployed its own more business-centric offering. As it stands, I think there is still a tremendous amount of differentiation between the two sites, aside from the baseline (and annoyance) of having to manage networks and relationships in two places.

This begs a further point. We are sure to see a lot of convergence in the social networking space. There are simply too many players where maintaining your own personal information and your network of relationships. In order to survive, a social networking site is going to have a key differentiating value proposition to me as a user or a critical competitive advantage. Right now, I think Facebook and LinkedIn both have one, critical mass versus targeted business solution respectively. But there are a number of players out there as well such as the obvious MySpace, Friendster, even Plaxo and now Xing to name a few.

Of further interest is predict what the social networking landscape looks like and how we interact with it if these networks begin to converge either through consolidation or web service tie-in. Where does one stop and the other begin? How do we merge our networks as some of our network members only live in one or the other? And what capabilities do the networks give us as we try to segment out family from friends, friends from colleagues and colleagues from acquaintances.

Other good related reads:

Fragmented Complete Inattention – “Flow” paradox

There are interesting conversations brewing on the topic “continuous partial attention” and “flow”. I picked it up in Eric Norlin’s Paying attention to flow post over at Defrag. It seems the term “flow” is being used in several different ways and it can really turn your perspective upside-down if you aren’t in the “flow” which has caused me to entitle this post completely the opposite.

But as I listen and read more on the topic, it strikes me that “flow” is not something that is new. We may be experiencing flow at a different rate and in the web medium with all of the interactive, social network tools that are emerging around us. But it is fundamentally no different. Look at a trader who uses a Bloomberg terminal while simultaneously processing orders, talking on the phone and listening to CNBC in the background. If that isn’t managing flow at a high clock speed, I don’t know what is. That has been happening for decades.

Stowe Boyd, posted a video and pdf of his presentation in a recent post; it is worth it if you have 30 minutes to listen to it and not pay total attention while you are doing nine other things.

His premise of connectivity being more important than productivity is an interesting one, the fact that the productivity of your collective network is more critical than one’s individual productivity. That is a fundamental shift. My personal belief is the most successful individuals are those that can be a huge catalyst for network propulsion but also attain personal goals and meet individual objectives. I would posit that Stowe himself is that latter, personally successful but a powerful network contributor.

We live in a society where you are judged and viewed on what you personally accomplish (even as a member of a team). Without being able to separate yourself individually, it is impossible to differentiate your contributions to the network than any other member of the network. That is something that we must not lose sight of.

“Flow” and managing one’s attention are clearly topic du jour; they are right up there with “information overload”. The technologies are enabling us to process an inordinate amount of information fractionally and in short chunks of time. And it does give us a lot to think about regarding our own productivity and focus, and the productivity and focus of our networks.

So does the new emerging world of “flow” cause many to be hyper-productive and gain an individual competitive advantage? Or are we so into the bits and bytes of communication, connections and interaction that we’ve become so fragmented that we are completely not paying attention to anything? I do and will continue to the former but will certainly keep an eye of on the latter.