Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Knowledge workers and productivity tools

Surrounded by new opportunities.

Ray Ozzie on ZDNet : Surrounded by new opportunities

Even though our current use of PCs, productivity tools, e-mail and the Web seems quite sophisticated, we've only just begun to understand how to apply them and effectively realize their benefits. The next 10 years will find us moving decidedly from an era of personal productivity to one of joint productivity and social software. That will involve a move from tightly coupled systems to more loosely coupled interconnections. It will be an era of highly interdependent systems and relationships, with technology continuing to reshape the nature of organizations, economy, society and personal lives.

[Jeroen Bekkers' Groove Weblog]

Ray Ozzie is busy thinking about the kinds of problems we'll want computers to help with five to ten years from now. Groove, or something like it, may well be part of that answer. Certainly, the focus on collaboration and social software will be a major element of what's next.  That's certainly what I expect someone like Ozzie to be thinking about.

At the same time, I think it's an overstatement to claim that many of us are realizing the personal productivity promise of today's technology. While I might not go as far as Alan Kay's claim that the computer revolution hasn't happened yet, I do think that both individual knowledge workers and organizations could be doing a lot more to take advantage of the tools we have.

In the mid-1980s, the Harvard Business School was one of the first MBA programs to require incoming students to buy PCs. One of the things I got to participate in as a doctoral student at the time was to help deliver the training to incoming MBAs. We spent three days teaching them the basics of the IBM PC and how to use Lotus 123.

How much training does the average organization offer new hires about the technology environment? An hour? Thirty minutes? Some of that is a testament to the overall improvements in usability and in general knowledge of technology. But I can't think of anyplace that invests any time in how to use the tools effectively. One interesting item (by way of Sebastien Paquet) is a white paper by Tommaso Toffoli at Boston University titled "A Knowledge Home: Personal knowledge structuring in a computer world." (pdf version)

The fundamental challenge, and opportunity, is that we've been content to focus on increasing the power and flexibility of our technology tools while assuming that knowledge workers will figure out how to take advantage fo that power. As knowledge workers it's our responsibility to do more of that figuring out. We need to stop counting on the marketing promises of technology vendors and start learning how to use the tools we've already got.

9:56:43 PM •  • comment  
Alan Kay and Emerging Technology

I've been a fan of Alan Kay's for a long time. It's nice to see that he's starting to develop some recent visibility in the blog world. The first thing that popped up in my aggregator a while back was this comment:
Clueful markets yield good products.

Here's an "aha" quote from this interview with computing pioneer Alan Kay:

After complaining about the current state of software targeting children, I ask Kay how we encourage the production of better educational software for kids. He answers, "don't buy bad stuff."

As simple as that sounds, he points out that "the market needs to reject what is bad. The stuff that got put out wasn't rejected. It's a certain kind of laziness. [...] On the other hand, you have to make sure people are aware of their alternatives. A popular fast food restaurant might be across the street. Meanwhile, a mile a way is a better restaurant where a good meal costs just a little more than at the place across the street. We need to help get the word out for the alternative. [Seb's Open Research ]

Then he shows up as a keynote at etech which was heavily blogged. Lisa Rein provides a wonderfully rich collection of audio and video clips plus links to major resources. Cory Doctorow provides detailed notes from Alan's talk including follow up corrections and elaborations from Alan. So do Phil Windley and Jon Lebkowsky.

If you're so inclined I would definitely recommend you spend some time with Squeak and Croquet. Unfortunately, between other time demands and the lingering effects of first learning to program using Fortran and Cobol, I've only made the slowest progress. Alan tells me that the problem is that I just have more to unlearn.

8:07:14 PM •  • comment  
Dan Bricklin on online piracy

Online piracy is not like shoplifting [SATN]

Pirating works online is really more like kids watching a baseball game through a hole in the outfield wall, or listening to a concert just outside the gate. There is no out-of-pocket expense for that particular copy, just a possible loss of potential revenue. If your costs are low enough and you have some sales, you can tolerate lost sales that have no expense and still actually make a profit. (It's like some summer concerts where the patrons pay a lot to sit in seats up front while thousands of others sit on the field outside listening for free.)

More insightful comentary from Dan Bricklin. ONe of the reasons that I enjoy reading blogs is the chance to see reasoning in progress when I see so little of it elsewhere. I think what I need is a Jolly Roger flag to stick on my laptop. The RIAA and others are using the piracy meme to obscure issues rather than clarify. But with Bricklin's perspective I conjure images of Captain Hook and Peter Pan rather than Bluebeard.

5:23:02 PM •  • comment  
The crucial elearing question

Learn More. E-Learning's Unique Capability by Will Thalheimer answers a great question: What can you do with eLearning that you can't... [Internet Time Blog]

Always important to ask the crucial questions.

3:31:43 PM •  • comment