Arranging Ideas Grab Bag

Here are a few items related to the theme of arranging ideas (content management, knowledge management, information gathering, cognitive science, creativity, etc.) that have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Blink, a new book by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) is due out in January 2005 – and I can’t wait to read it. Blink is about rapid cognition – the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye.

Gladwell explains, “You could also say that it’s a book about intuition, except that I don’t like that word. In fact it never appears in Blink. Intuition strikes me as a concept we use to describe emotional reactions, gut feelings – thoughts and impressions that don’t’ seem entirely rational. But I think that what goes on in that first two seconds is perfectly rational. It’s thinking – its just thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than the kind of deliberate, conscious decision-making that we usually associate with ‘thinking.’”

I agree that rapid cognition and intuition are two different aspects of how the mind works, but I think Gladwell sells intuition waaaaaaayyyyy short. I’ll blog more on that later, after I’ve read Blink.

Also, Gladwell is the subject of the January 2005 Fast Company cover story, The Accidental Guru.

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E-Learning Grab Bag

Here are some items related to e-learning that have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Keyser Soze and Organizational Learning. One of Maish Nichani’s favorite films (and mine) is The Usual Suspects. In this article, Nichani describes the key scene where the incognito mafia kingpin Keyser Soze (Kevin Spacey) uses random bits of information in a police interrogation room to spin a bizarre but believeable story which throws the cops off track.

Building on that insight, Nichani writes, “A rich experience base is what distinguishes an expert from a novice. One way to build an experience base is to wait for experiences to come to you. This is the natural way. The other way is to create an environment where experiences can be accelerated. This is the realm of training. But how much of our training is based on accelerating experiences? How many training outcomes are based on interpretation and sensemaking capabilities?”

An excellent question. Nichani explores it briefly, but I’d love to see other e-learning creators and participants discuss this further.

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Tools Grab Bag

Here are some notes about tools and resources that have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Bloglines trouble alert. Not everyone is thrilled with Bloglines, the popular, free web-based feed reader service. Apparently Bloglines sometimes inexplicably stops showing updates to some webfeeds, giving the appearance that those blogs have stopped publishing.

Michael Feldstein of E-Literate is particularly unhappy about this, since it happened to his blog. (I let him know about the problem.) See his Dec. 25 article, Don’t Use Bloglines. I can understand how he feels.

That said, I look at this Bloglines flaw in this way: Bloglines is free of charge, and it works reasonably well most of the time. It’s a very simple first step for newcomers to the world of webfeeds. I value it for that reason, and I continue to recommend it to webfeed newbies. But I do warn users that Bloglines has its flaws, so don’t expect perfection. With any free service, you get what you pay for.

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Net and Society Grab Bag

Here are some items that show how the internet is affecting society (or vice versa) which have caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: US E-government progress? Depends on what you mean by “progress.” A new report on e-government from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) is striking for what it doesn’t address. It’s an extensive laundry list of actions and programs the US federal government has taken to improve citizens’ online access to government information, programs, and services.

Unfortunately, GAO says almost nothing about whether those efforts are making any difference to citizens – that is, whether they’re actually succeeding. Quite a suspicious absence.

…Hey, Wired News? CNet? Are you listening? We need some real journalism here! Even Information Week didn’t seem inclined in doing more than a rehashed press release on this. However, the Washington Times offered some interesting context. They reported that this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) showed a slight improvement in user approval of US e-government. Very slight: 1.3% over last year. Hmmmmm…

Meanwhile, over at Designing for Civil Society, David Wilcox considers what ideal e-government might look like.

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Southeast Asia Tsunami/Earthquake Community Blog

I was completely floored to learn of the massive earthquake and tsunami which so far has killed more than 100,000 (updated Dec. 30) in the coastal regions of southeast Asia. Disasters like that make everything else look like small potatoes.

A group of bloggers from India and elsewhere have set up a community weblog with news and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts. If you’re looking for a way to offer assistance, this would be a good place to check. (Thanks to Dina Mehta for this link.)

NOTE Dec. 30: See this related essay, The Context of Being Human

Media & Journalism Grab Bag, Dec. 24

Here are some more items about news, media, and journalism that have caught my interest recently.

TOP OF THIS LIST: BBC bamboozled by spoof site: On Dec. 3, the venerable TV news show BBC World broadcast an interview with Jude Finisterra, who claimed to be a spokesperson for Dow Chemical. The topic was the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. (Several years ago Dow acquired Union Carbide, the company whose plant in Bhopal, India killed thousands and injured more than 100,000 in the world’s worst industrial disaster.) In the interview, Finisterra offered a $12 billion (US) settlement to the 120,000 surviving victims of the Bhopal disaster. Trouble is, Finisterra is a hoaxster – one of the notorious Yes Men. See BBC reputation hit by Bhopal interview hoax, The Guardian, Dec. 4.

How did this happen? According to the Guardian, “…A producer on BBC World had been asked to book a representative from Dow for the 20th anniversary of the disaster. He went to the Dow website, and was directed to the media relations section. Email correspondence and phone calls followed, which resulted in yesterday’s interview with Mr Finisterra from the corporation’s Paris office. It appears that part of the Dow website had been hijacked in a detailed and carefully planned operation.”

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Bizarre Grab Bag

Just for fun, here is some miscellaneous cool weird stuff that’s caught my interest lately…

TOP OF THIS LIST: Letters from Bad Santa. Do you know someone who deserves coal this year? There’s still time! Getting a bad Santa letter sent to your personal nemesis costs $2.95, but you can read the letter templates for free – and they’re hilarious! Check it out today. (Thanks to Chris White for this link.)

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