Archive for social software

Think Topically – Work Topically

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by Lance Strzok

Some very important values and ideas have been simmering for a number of years in the collaborative spaces across the government. The idea of “Thinking Topically – Not Organizationally” is one of the longest standing and has more meaning the longer I work in these collaborative tools. The discussion and approach below is being presented in an effort to avoid the “1000 silos of collaboration” which is slowly beginning to erode the base of a more true and genuine collaborative infrastructure that already exists, and simply needs to be more fully understood and utilized.

This article focuses on implementing a “topic” centric approach that enables better communication and collaboration across the various domains, and between the 16 agencies in our enterprise.

There are three major pieces to understand.

1. People as “Sensors on a network”. On any given topic, there are those that work it directly, and those that work it indirectly. How we find and organize the people that work that issue is described in another article, but as those groups form networks, it helps to think of them as sensors on a network, and links among the networks. All the people involved in these networks are spread across various agencies, academia, and the contracting world.

Three starting ideas

These networks have the technology to organize, and share information on topics that are important to them. By linking and enabling them to work together on issues of common concern up front, we have the potential to provide well rounded thoroughly vetted reports to our customers that highlight differences and agreements on content contained in the reporting. We also could reduce considerable overlap, time and money wasted on individual agency production that creates multiple products on any given topic and leaves it to the customer to find and identify among several reports the information they are looking for and the agreement and disagreement between the various articles. The unfortunate part is that often, the customers don’t have the time or resources to read and interpret the information provided to them. I would also argue that is what we should be doing on the front end. (Taxpayers should read this as “waste and duplication”).

2. A workflow that allows for the reduction in time consumed by each sensor on the network independently discovering, aggregating, sharing, documenting and producing on that information. In this process, each sensor puts their finds on the topic into a bin with all the others, and software within the bin recognizes duplication and removes the additional document, but adds a one up number and username to the suggested file which could be used in helping to determine value to the other team members. Additional software could be run against the data in the storage area looking for relationships, or add some natural language processing (NLP) techniques as well as a way to divide up the articles between members for review, or allow reviewers to rate and comment on the content as well as suggest whether it goes into the trash or needs to be used to update an assessment or start a new one.

3. Work topically by way of Community Of Interest pages. A shining attribute of one of our tools is the concept of a workspace. However, A-space is not available to the entire 16 agency enterprise. But the idea and functionality of a workspace can exist using tools already available at each agency and on all three domains (ICES services). It may not be as elegant, but at this point in our development as fellow collaborating agencies, the concept of a workspace can be achieved using a wiki page, a document management system, social bookmarking, a common publishing environment, a twitter like tool, and other supporting tools already available across the enterprise.

Having now identified the major pieces of the discussion, how is this supposed to work?

Why is this important? (Who has the time and responsibility to do this?) Do the customers have the time or responsibility to discover, read, disambiguate, and deliver best info to their decision makers? Is that their job?

What can we save for us, and our customers?

What can we do right now?

I have discussed this several times in the course I give, but I am looking to improve the model and the approach. All comments or idea would be appreciated. Thanks.