Archive for the ‘web2.0’ category

Archives 2.0

How do you turn an organisation that has, since its inception, focused on the preservation of print records, into a leading advocate for the government’s digital agenda?

This is the question currently facing Archives NZ. I’ve been working recently on an Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) for this agency. As a part of this their CIO asked me to write a paper on the way the organisation might use Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to assist in this transition.

They’ve kindly let me publish the paper on my site. Here’s an excerpt:

In order to use Web 2.0 technologies externally it may be necessary to affect culture change internally. It is not uncommon for people who have spent much of their professional careers using traditional methods of taxonomy, records keeping and information management, to be cautious of, or resistant to approaches which are inherently messier and less ordered.

Embracing Web 2.0 methods, and harnessing the power of community contribution means being willing to give up some control. The Archives NZ culture must support this if these kinds of initiatives are to succeed. Peter Van Garderen in a post on his archivematica blog says:

archival institutions are going to have to accept the rise of grassroots archivists. Not as barbarians at the city gates but as value-adding partners that share the goal of preserving historical memories and experiences. In his excellent webcast presentation, Are the Archives Doomed?, Rick Prelinger discusses the emergence of what he calls ‘archives groupies’ and the wonderful, often unexpected results that occur when users are invited to participate in the organization and use of archival collections.”

In exploring the use of Web 2.0 approaches it is very difficult to predict what will work, and what won’t. The best method in this context is to try many things and keep those that are successful. This requires a culture that is tolerant of failure. It must be acceptable for initiatives not to work, as long as people learn from them and adapt as a result.

Download the paper to read more.

Universal control

Netvibes has upgraded and added some new social networking features. Hmm, I thought, just what I need. Yet another social networking service, friendship links to create and maintain, and content to post. Little did I know how good it was going to be. In going through the upgrade process I was confronted with this message:


Microblogging and the mitigation of Facebook schizophrenia

I’ve finally relented and signed up for Twitter. I’m seeing it as a temporary stay of my schizophrenia issues with Facebook. The feature I like best in Facebook is the status update. Twitter is a whole service just dedicated to this feature. In the Facebook status update I was loathed to make work related status updates that my personal friends wouldn’t understand. Twitter though is only being used by my work related friends, so there’s no audience confusion there yet.

So that I’d be able to see tweets as they came through I installed a Twitter widget into my Netvibes page. The first thing that struck me is how much it looks like an instant messaging (IM) client. Some peoples’ tweets are just interesting to read, but some I’d quite like to reply to. There’s of course then the potential for replies it to become threaded conversations like in IM. Unlike IM though all my tweets will be seen by everyone following me. Some of them won’t be following the person I’m having a discussion with. What will these one sided conversations look like to others? Will they annoy people? Will it make people stop following me on Twitter? I’ve seen a similar phenomenon on Bebo when people use public comments as a discussion, and you can only see the side of the person you’re connected to, not their friend.

Microblogging is certainly a powerful and useful new medium. It adds to email, email groups, blogging, social networks, txt messaging, and IM as another tool for communication and presence awareness, and provides something slightly different and complementary. The way it will impact on this growing ecosystem of tools and services remains to be seen. I’ll watch with interest as the way the crossover between microblogging and IM unfolds.


Yesterday I gave a talk on web2.0 and social networking systems to a group of scientists at a Crown Research Institute. There were about forty people in the room, and another six or so videoconferencing in from other sites. I asked for a show of hands on questions like “who’s heard of web2.0″ (about half), “who thinks they could attempt an explanation of what web2.0 is” (one person), “who reads blogs” (two thirds), “who has a blog” (none), “who has used a wiki” (five or so), and who has an account on Facebook (none). During my talk they asked a lot of very sensible questions about privacy, digital identity, using Web 2.0 and SNS tools in the enterprise, and their utility in distributed research collaborations.

Today I got a request from a colleague to join a new SNS/feed aggregator called FriendFeed. I almost screamed. Another web2.0 technology to learn, another user account to create, another set of social relationships to map, another thing to keep up to date? That’s the last thing I need!!!!! Given that I really trust the opinion of the person who recommended it, and that I have a professional interest in this area I went ahead anyway and created an account.

It made me think that there should be a word for being overwhelmed by all of the rapidly emerging new ways to collaborate and keep in touch with people. ‘Feedtigue’ seems like an appropriate term to me. It also made me think that if I’m feeling this, and I’m a passionate early adopter of such things, what must it be like for the scientists, and other non-IT people?

We’re in a space where the technology is developing so fast, it’s enabling a myriad of changes to the way we interact with people, the size of our social networks, the frequency of our communications. We can’t predict what will work, and what won’t. To me, the web2.0 boom is an evolutionary process. Many things will be tried and will fail. Some things will work and will stick. A lot of the “try everything and keep what works” has to be done by the early adopters, so the majority don’t have to expend the effort, and can wait until the really useful things stablise.

Once I had a look at FriendFeed I was quite impressed. Its main purpose seems to be to aggregate feeds from blogs, Flickr,, twitter, and to distribute them to your social network. It’s not so much another thing to keep up to date, but a way of gathering the existing things together to reduce the effort and friction. It’s a bit like Sxipper (a tool to manage identity and logins across many web sites), and Netvibes (a personal portal) in that it’s infrastructure that helps people glue a whole range of web.20 services together and make them easier to use. I’m hoping we’ll see more of this sort of thing in the future.

Digital Future Summit

Some quotes from the Digital Future Summit:
(in quotes rather when they’re direct quotes, otherwise just notes)

Pamela Minett

Five years ago for teenagers, sitting in your room would be considered antisocial. For teenagers now, not being at your computer, not responding to Facebook messages is antisocial. ‘Facebook time’ rather than face time.

‘Word of mouse’ rather than word of mouth. Connecting to competencies rather than just having them is what counts.

Areti Metuamate

Enabling young people to participate is great, but did the decision makers actually hear and act?

Pete Hodgson

Economic transformation as the heart of our thinking. Necessary for us to achieve the things we wanted to do in education, health and the environment.

“No matter where we’ve gotten to now, it ain’t yet good enough by any means”

Now see ICT as a prerequisite for economic transformation.

Urging you to think of ways that we as NZ Inc can further accelerate the uptake of digital technologies. Let us please now demonstrate that.

Paul Reynolds said that fast broadband is necessary, essential. Finding ways to work together at the infrastructure layer.Rod Drury – “building billion dollar businesses from the beach”

Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired and author “The Long Tail”

The long tail of beer – Beer used to be very bad in the US, because to appeal to mass audiences it had to be very bland. Microbreweries are now enabling good beer in the US, even a gluten free beer. More is different. Zapos sells 750,000 different kinds of shoes. You can now get vegetarian shoes.

Is the world spiky? In terms of concentrations/critical mass of money, culture and opportunity. The long tail however, the Internet is the great leveller. It enables talent to be discovered, it’s easy to find talent in a global market.

Sam Morgan – Trade Me

“People send money to people they have never met for goods they have never seen”. This requires inherent trust within citizens in a country, something we have in NZ, but doesn’t exist in a lot of countries.

“Securing digital trade routes”

Andy Lark

“How do we build a better x to be digital by design?”

Power supply is going to be a big issue. Green IT is essential for success for NZ. We have to find a way to make computing green, otherwise we’ll come up against enormous issues of power consumption.

We’re not training engineers and scientists fast enough to hit our ICT economic transformation goals.

4 rules for exponential enterprises:

  1. Start upstairs – it’s s 3lb problem (your brain)
  2. Timeshift (and placeshift) – it’s a 24/7 business world
  3. Focus – If digital trade routes are the future, SEO automates navigation
  4. Converse – figure out how to engage in conversations online. Figure out how to give people a way to talk about you.

Darryn Melrose, CEO Aim Proximity

“Wake up or die” how the age of connectedness is altering the way business markets, promotes and sells

Lawrence Millar

Narrow casting – niche information at zero marginal cost.

Police Act Review – ran a public consultation process, interacted with 1,200 people. They used a wiki over 8 days and had 5,000 people involved.

Next step is igovt – secure, authenticated, identity management

“There’ll be no transformation without authentication”

Greg Carlyon, Horizons District Council – The Green Rig

The real truth – NZ 45% pure…

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not” in the news

The NZ Herald has just published an article about GroupServer, a GPL open-source system for email based group collaboration. I’ve used the system for several years now (along with a number of others) and it’s been fascinating watching it mature.

The things I really like about it are the ability to send posts through the web interface, the centralised user management across multiple groups, and the way it strips email attachments and puts them in a file repository and provides a link to the file.

The way the system is implemented also encourages you, when you set up a group, to think carefully about group membership, what sort of behavior is acceptable/encouraged, and how much facilitation/moderation you’ll need to do. Most of the groups I run are private groups (invite only, the rest of the world can’t see them), because they’re for various committees I’m on etc. I’ve found that doing this thinking up front, and agreeing on expectations, has really paid off in terms of the way the group functions online.

It’s also interesting to see how heavily the Canterbury Public Issues forum is being used in the run up to local body elections. I was skeptical about whether this would work at first, but the politicians are all on there, going at the issues in full public view. From what I understand they’re listening to all the non-politicians in the group, and because of the email format, they’re making much more considered, open responses than you get in mainstream media.

More info on the system/service itself is at

Barcamp Wellington eGovt

Today I attended the first barcamp in Wellington. It was quite different to the Christchurch one in that it was focused on e-government, and there were four different streams.

Several of the same people who attended GOVIS attended this barcamp, but the atmosphere was completely different. It was relaxed, collaborative, and people seemed to be willing to share more openly and talk about contentious issues.

It was interesting watching the programme get developed. Topics were written on post-its and they were put by presenters into timeslots on a big schedule sheet. There were three half hour timeslots for each room for each time period (e.g. morning tea to lunch). The session post-its seemed to self organise into related topics in each room/time period, without any overt coordination of this.

There was open access to wifi so there was a fair amount of live blogging on the event. Bloggers are listed on the barcamp site. Here’s my mindmap of the event.

At the end we did 3 word summaries of the day. Here are some of them:

good clean fun; collaboration action next; introductions variety wordprocessors; yay egovt; change starts here; opportunity understanding; unconferences rock severly; creative constructive connections; make stuff happen; let’s move on; make the web fun; you’re all reallysmart; plotting scheming ranting; great ideas guys; do it again; be the difference; let’s fix it; sco is dead; developers, developers, developers; go the allblacks; resourceful thoughtful people; geeks are cool; web services arrghh; open is good; its about people; shift in power

Then I facilitated (I couldn’t help myself) breaking into small groups to discuss “what’s next”. Here’s my quick write up of the feedback.

Organise small barcamps (in real bars if necessary), tack them on to events that are already happening (e.g. web stock, GOVIS), topics likes digital identity, open govt data, creative commons and privacy commons.

barcamp reality tv, nat hats humans, cat/dog/robot barcamp, code goes to barcamp, what they said, run a hackathon with a deliverable at the end of the day, make a wish foundation for frustrated public services, have a geek roadshow

record what happened here, don’t let it be forgotten. public consultation, discussion papers and policy stage, can we get more of those tagged and put into RSS feeds so you can watch them. some sort of wiki tool to explain and track the process of government, e.g. theyworkforyou. who are the key people. accountability for stopping services.

get more govt people here. get to decision makers. find out what the problems are and have another session just to address them. training on validation, just meet in a bar. document the successes. pick your fights, win them and talk about how you won. mashup government.

wiki around barcamp, standards, connect to microformat wiki. There will be one on the govt guidelines apparently. buy in to microformats. moving towards the semantic web. getting government to get more service focused. 7 x 7 format, people just speak for 7 minutes. aligning opensource with NZ national policy. ownership of egovt needs to be widely held. understanding the users. more rapid content creation. better RFPs, a site where vendors rate govt RFPs.

Brightstars and meisterminds

Last week I chaired the Brightstar 7th Annual Strategic Intranets and Enterprise Portals conference. It was a fantastic event, with a really good atmosphere, largely due I think to the community that’s sprung up around the KiwiIntranets online group over the last year, and due to Michael Earley’s engagement with that community in planning the conference.

One of the presenters at the conference, Helen Baxter of Mohawk Media, used a new Web 2.0 mind mapping tool called MindMeister for her talk. It’s similar to Freemind, and Mind Manager, but is web based and allows collaborative authoring. I was so impressed with it I used it for my conference summary.

The key themes of the conference were, for me:

  • Radical trust in users – turning Intranets into read/write collaborative spaces
  • Maturity and pragmatism in Intranet development methodologies
  • A strong culture of learning from each other in the Intranet professionals community
  • Web 2.0 concepts moving into Intranets and creating a more open content authoring paradigm, and social networking
  • Kaizen – applying the japanese philosophy of continual incremental improvement to Intranet development
  • Open source is a real option now
  • Sharepoint is ready

For more details on this, see the conference summary.

Michael Sampson also live blogged the entire event, his prolific effort is here.

My favourite quotes of the conference were:

“invisible rain is captured by Web 2.0 companies and turned into mighty rivers of information. Rivers that can be fished” – (I’m unsure of the source of the quote)

“a blog is an unexploded bomb” – Paul Reynolds

We need to start from the cold blooded premise that almost everyone is a genius - not that almost everyone is worthless.
John Taylor Gatto