Technology After Culture? Not in a Million Years

August 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Fun, social software | 4 Comments

The Wall St. Journal reported today that technology began 3.4 million years ago, which is one million years older than previously thought (“Researchers Say Fossils Uncovered in Ethiopia Push Back the Beginnings of Technology by Almost One Million Years” ).  I predict they will also soon find the remains of the first technology industry analyst to be 3.39 million years old.  Because as soon as that first, shiny new V-shaped rock showed up for cutting hides, I’m sure someone was there to give the same advice I find myself repeating:

  • Sure, the tool is cool, but think about whether you really need it first
  • Don’t just let everyone start using this tool on their collaboration sites – er, carcasses.  Plan out what it will be used for and guide its usage
  • If your need isn’t urgent, consider waiting until V-shaped rock service pack 1 comes out (there may be bugs in the original rock.  I mean real ones – you could get bitten)
  • And most important of all: The majority of problems with aren’t due to the tool, they are due to people, cultural, and organizational issues that need to be dealt with first

The article sheds some light on the origins of that last bullet – the tendency to think about the technology before culture:

An international research team working in Ethiopia has unearthed what it considers the earliest known traces of the use of stone tools, a discovery that could push back the advent of technology by nearly a million years to a time before the evolution of the human family. (emphasis added)

So basic technology evolved before the basic social construct – the family?  No wonder I still encounter people spending all their time optimizing technology only to find that organizational structure and culture sink their projects.  Well, give it another 500,000 years and I’m sure we’ll catch up.


Texting and Driving Starts Early in My Household

August 6, 2010 at 11:12 am | Posted in Attention Management, Fun | 3 Comments

Texting and driving has become one of the perils of our time.  But this is too much:


Yes, that’s my son, not even two years old.  He decided that driving his push truck wasn’t stimulating enough, so he took my aunt’s smart phone and began typing away while pushing himself around the basement.  I guess it starts early.

Interesting side note: at 21 months, his fingers are actually the perfect size for those little keys!

Update to Governance Guidance for Portals, SharePoint, and Intranets

June 4, 2010 at 8:03 am | Posted in Governance, Intranet, Microsoft SharePoint, portals | Leave a comment

I’m happy to announce that my “Website Governance: Guidance for Portals, SharePoint, and Intranets” has just been published.  It’s an update to my Methodologies and Best Practices document on governance which is the most popular document that I’ve written for Burton Group (out of 17), even though only came out in March of 2009 and therefore has had less time to accumulate document views than others I’ve written.

I updated the document based on some new ideas and clarifications that have been needed since its original publication.  The main updates to the doc since publication are as follows:

    • Clarified the alignment with IT governance and service management
    • More detailed diagram of the document hierarchy
    • Added option to define roles and assignments separately
    • Added “cultural tenets” methodology

For more on what I’ve changed and why, click here.

Information Overload in Two Acts

June 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

I’d like to draw your attention to two attention management-related posts I put up on the Gartner Blogging Network:

First is Please Stop Blaming Everything on Information Overload.  It describes how I’m getting tired of the word “overload” being applied to everything in IT, such as this example from Thomas Claburn in the InformationWeek Google blog: “Expect to see more App Stores because aggregation is a necessary defense against information overload.”  I try to assist organizations address attention management, and “information overload” abuse does not help.

Second is EAM Meets Social Software.  Information overload coverage is predominantly about e-mail. That’s understandable – it’s where the message pipe into information workers’ brains tends to be at fire hose levels, threatening to fill their heads like balloons. But I’ve started to get questions on how social software will add to the overload and gave my thoughts and some ways to mitigate the risks in the posting.

Rebuttal to “Filter Failure” Argument

May 24, 2010 at 9:29 am | Posted in Attention Management | 1 Comment

I posted previously on Clay Shirkey’s assertion that there is no information overload, just filter failure. I pointed out that filtering is only half of the attention management picture (pulling information forward is the other part).

But Nathan Zeldes did a much more detailed rebuttal – and more insightful I’d say.  It’s called Yes it IS Information Overload, Clay Shirky, not only Filter Failure:

The Black Death was caused by flea-carrying rats; yet no one would say “It wasn’t a terrible plague, it was a pest-control failure”. It was a very real plague caused by failure to kill the rats; and Information Overload is a very real problem caused (in part) by Filter Failure.

It is not that there’s a lot of information; it is that there’s a lot more information that we are expected to read than we have time to read it in … And this is why Email Overload is a problem and RSS feed overload is much less so: there is an expectation (express or implied) that you must go through all the mail in your Inbox; there is no such expectation for an RSS reader.

Google Docs Unleashes New Features and Version Release Methodology

May 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Google | Leave a comment

Did you notice that Google added twitch-level sync co-authoring, a drawing tool, rulers, and other features to Google Docs?  Along with new functionality, they also unleashed a strange new process for rolling out versions.  For more, see my blog entry at:

Google Docs Introduces Parallel Computing (Not What You Think)

Follow Me to Gartner Blog Network

May 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Analyst biz | 2 Comments

Yeah, this blog has looked a bit empty lately. I know you’re thinking “Doesn’t Craig still have thoughts on attention management, collaboration, content management, information work, SharePoint, and portals?” (yes, I just read that from my category cloud).

Of course I do! But I’m posting those thoughts elsewhere. As you may know, Burton Group was acquired by Gartner and they want us blogging on the Gartner Blog Network. Now my brilliant insights (and the other 99% of my postings!) will be showing up there exclusively.

I’ll keep this blog open to share broader thoughts on non-IT issues such as collaboration or governance in general, gaming, and book reviews. I’ve enjoyed my interactions with you all and look forward to continuing them on GBN! You can get to them by pointing your bookmarks or RSS reader settings to:

SharePoint Management at Tech 2010

March 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Governance, Microsoft SharePoint | Leave a comment

Planning to be in L.A. in April? I’ll be speaking at the TEC 2010 conference in Los Angeles on April 26, 2010. Originally I was going to speak on SharePoint governance, as I’ve been doing since 2003. It’s still a topic that audiences want and need to hear about. But lots of organizations have made their first attempts at governance. So I’ve shifted to a presentation on SharePoint management instead to provide the next step.

There is lots of techie information on planning SharePoint management and operations, but I haven’t seen much conversation about a higher level framework for it. Here’s the description of the presentation:

What’s After Governance?  SharePoint as a Service
Craig Roth

Governance is an important first step in any SharePoint planning, but what happens after people, policy, and governance processes are determined?  That’s when the second pillar of SharePoint planning comes into play: management.  Craig Roth, author of a frequently cited definition of SharePoint governance, will describe what needs to happen after governance.  SharePoint as a service is an approach, based on ITIL, that recasts SharePoint as a catalog of business-focused services. In this presentation, Mr. Roth will discuss why treating SharePoint as a service is better (yields more value) and fundamentally different than simply providing a set of capabilities.

Technical Difficulties

March 19, 2010 at 7:48 am | Posted in Fun | Leave a comment

I haven’t posted here in a while, although it’s not for lack of desire or something to say.  For some reason, Windows Live Writer has decided to crash out immediately on launch and I can’t get it to come up.  I hope to get some time to reinstall it soon.

Google Buys DocVerse: Maybe This Collaborative Authoring Thing Finally Has Legs?

March 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Content Management, Office, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

This morning, Google announced it is buying a little company in San Francisco that enables real-time and asynchronous (offline) collaborative authoring of Microsoft Office docs called DocVerse.  The founders of DocVerse are actually ex-Microsoft product folks.

As I wrote back in September 2008, I believe collaborative authoring is one of the top five trends for next generation authoring.  The increase in technological solutions to the challenges of dealing with multiple authors has continued since then, with many approaches to different aspects of the problem.

First, we’ve seen responses from the big guys.

  • Microsoft: Office 2010 provides a slew of simultaneous editing features (i.e., multiple cursors typing in different positions of the same document), some in conjunction with SharePoint 2010.  Simultaneous editing was already in OneNote, but since that product is mostly relegated to simple note-taking status by all but a few aficionados, having it in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel is hitting the big time.
  • Google: Google Docs allows multiple users to edit the same document in their own format, although in January they added the ability to share any file type (not with simultaneous editing).

To figure out who has the best answer requires knowing the problem you’re trying to solve.  The term “co-authoring” is vague and doesn’t specify what aspects of multiple authors are being addressed.  Is it:

  • Check-in, check-out, and versioning:  The most basic functionality required by multiple asynchronous authors is the ability to tag a document as “checked out” and file it back in later.  Document management systems, collaborative workspaces, and source code control systems have provided this functionality for a long time.  Let’s skip right past this category.
  • Review and Commenting: Often there is one document owner who writes most of the content and has primary responsibility for the finished product, but many reviewers whose input needs to be managed.  Microsoft has promised to allow multiple reviewers to comment up a “single version of truth” document, which would solve many hassles involved with emailing documents around and merging changes.  Other vendors such as TextFlow and Backboard have taken stabs at managing the review process.  Managing the process (verifying reviewers have been heard from, that all comments have been addressed, etc.) is still not directly addressed and provides a more difficult procedural and cultural hurdle than technically figuring out how to merge comments.
  • Simultaneous authoring: Students in classes that want to contribute to a single document of notes during a class have used SubEthaEdit, a basic text editor that has been around for quite a while and allows co-authoring with multiple cursors in documents. Zoho allows this too.
  • Componentized authoring and content reuse: Except for shared note taking and intensive review sessions, simultaneous authoring is not very useful.  What is more common is divvying up pieces of a deliverable to multiple authors for final assembly by a chief editor.  This may involve assigning sections of a presentation deck to a series of authors or dividing a Word document into sections or chapters for members of a team to work on.  High end document creators use XML authoring software such as Altova XMLSpy, Arbortext Editor, BroadVision QuickSilver, JustSystems XMetaL, PTC Arbortext and, Stylus Studio. But a large swath of non-professional authors need easier, less-expensive tools.  One example is Vasont which manages content components as collections, particularly for translation projects.  This problem requires fundamentally different tooling than the set provided by Office 2010 or Google/DocVerse.  It’s less whiz-bang than seeing a demo with multiple people typing away with different colored cursors and arrows to their locations in a document, but I think attention on componentized authoring would yield higher productivity for organizations than simultaneous authoring.

As far as I’m concerned, this purchase is not a big deal yet until it yields some fruit in the unknown future.  And I’d rather see an emphasis on helping authors to componentize and reuse content rather than worry about how to handle about them typing over each other’s cursors.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

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