Integrate PeopleMap With Office

I work to integrate systems. So, when I learn about things, I guess my mind drifts into how would we use it. And then into how would tie together this with other things we have to make them better.

Used with permission from atmasphere

Last week news dropped about Microsoft (MSFT) buying LinkedIn (LNKD). The big deal people seem to be making of it is the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) potential for Microsoft. Imagine in Outlook having a guide about whomever you are emailing. LinkedIn potentially could supply the data.

So Friday I also took a PeopleMap System communication training. (Leader-Task) The idea is that people have innate preferences for how they process information. Understanding their preferences and tailoring your communication to key off them will make one more effective working with them.

I guess the MSFT-LNKD deal was still on my brain because it seemed like what we really needed was a PeopleMap plug-in to Outlook which would remind us the type of the individuals we are emailing. My vision was since everyone was providing management with our types, that information would be populated into the directory service. Then a plug-in would use the email address of the recipient(s) to display that person’s type and perhaps advice on how to communicate with that type. No more wracking one’s brain for what is their type and how to deal with them.

Of course, I used Google to look to see if this already existed. It pointed me to PeopleMaps which is a service for exploring one’s social network to find connections to sales targets and get an introduction and avoid cold calls. Microsoft’s Social Connector would pull photos from Facebook for contacts.

TED Talk: I Share Therefore I Am

Human relationships are rich and they are messy and they are demanding and we clean them up with technology.
— Sherry Tuckle

Technology is the great deceiver. We can use it to craft how we present ourselves to others.

Unfortunately, we lose the connections. As a university campus webmaster, I most preferred meeting in person. Phone was second best. Email only was least. At the time, I thought it a James Borg thing that 93% of communication is non-verbal (words). Email only interactions usually suffered from misunderstandings. People with whom I had single meeting were more understanding and less problematic.

Now days, I think oxytocin generating trust is responsible. Email is just text and misunderstandings happen when the reader has assumptions to mistrust the writer. That meeting in person creates the necessary trust.

Technology does enhance our relationships when used to augment in person interactions not replace them.

If the above video does not work, then try Connected, but alone?

Solving Internal Communications With Blogs

I'm blogging this.
I'm blogging this.

Through the grapevine, a coworker heard in another organization a top administrator wants the rank and file to start blogging. My coworker was opposed. I thought it could be a cool way of internally communicating. Though the conditions to make it work very much depend on the organizational culture:

    1. Encouragement not forced. Managers are asked to pay attention to the things about which the rank and file are proud or excited. Encouraging employees to post about how they created or solved things provides an outlet to express good pride. Something arbitrary like everyone must post something every week will become forced and a drain on morale.
    2. No rules or judgement from on high. The more rules there are around what employees should say or how will stifle them offering real ideas. Instead, only regurgitated ideas from managers would be offered. An echo chamber of everyone imitating each other becomes boring really quick.
    3. Peer judgment is not discouraged. Knowing my peers throughout my organization read this blog cause me to delete about 30% of the potentially work-related posts I start. I value what they think. When I realize what I wrote is not good enough, I am willing to dump it in favor of a complete rewrite or more time to think more to maintain my reputation. Self-editing to make sure I present only my best work requires me to understand myself.

Writing is a good skill to have. Writing for a blog is different than writing an email, a web page, a report, or a presentation. Like presenting, blogging is a useful way for an employee to grow in interesting ways. The hard part is the readiness people have and growing into becoming bloggers. One especially does not want them to become discouraged early. Because then you end up with a morale problem.

At work, we have a blog built into Sharepoint. While the CIO uses it, I am not sure it is the place for me. The audience there is internal to work. My audience is both internal and external.

There is also the idea getting the rank and file to blog is some kind of weird study in improving internal organization communication. Walking around to find out what everyone is doing takes too much time. Regular reports become, “I am working on exactly what I think you want me to be working on,” regurgitation. Blogging is an interesting and difficult to pull off right idea.

Cheating

In yesterday’s Underground Back Channel post, I wrote:

Because students are engaging in forbidden activity these conversations are underground. Well, the smart ones. Some are having these conversations on Twitter where one party of the conversation is not private and anyone (like a nosy DBA like myself) can see it. If they are used to quasi-cheating, does real cheating become easier? That might explain much of what I see.

I decided to write more about this.

Back in July, I ran across posts on Twitter where a student claimed another named (Twitter account) classmate provided the answers to a test. The moral was: “Students who cheat together will not repeat together.” A few days later the student bragged this activity happened the previous term as well. Then the student asked the classmate whether the next test was taken, presumably so they could cheat again. We handed the information over to the institution. I have not heard whether disciplinary action was taken against the students.

At the time, I attributed the students writing about the cheating similar to hubris in the Congressman Weiner scandal. It may also point to a lack of understanding about privacy online. Hard to know what was running through their heads at the time other than what they are willing to say or write which will be biased.

The NYU Prof Vows Never to Probe Cheating Again story hit the week after the initial detection. Pursuing the cheaters hurt his evaluations. The advice of plagiarism detection tools is to use them for teaching students what is correct behavior not as punitive evidence.

But then I ran across Classroom Ethics 101. The student experiment points to students being very willing to take an early look at test questions and answers (69%) even when given a notice it might be cheating (41%). Ariely does not think the actual cheating was very much as on the final exam few made 90% scores. The experiment is similar to the UCF cheating scandal where 1/3 of the 600 students were thought to have cheated.

Occasionally we, those running the LMS, get a request to look at the Mail tool messages or Chat conversations between students in a class to see who are trying to share answers. So far none have. The professors fear the students are using private communication tools to cheat. Maybe they are smart enough to use Facebook where we do not have the data.

Cheating is happening. The activity is underground except where students make a mistake. Professors have plenty of tools to help them detect it. Maybe as analytics become more widespread, they will be used to identify more cheating, though perhaps it should come from deans or academic affairs or student judiciary not the professor.

Communication

A while ago, there was some kind of difficulty understanding why we (the DBAs) and another group were unable to read the same words yet not draw the same conclusion. The words in bold are what I wrote on my white board explaining why there was a difficulty.

Communication

  • Vocabulary
    • Standards: Words have agreed upon meanings which we refer to as the definition. However, the same word can have different meanings depending on context. Therefore we need…
    • Experience: Past usage by self and others determine which definition is appropriate during any specific event.
      • Mental Filters: We cannot handle everything which happens to us at once, so our brains cheat. Filters drop everything except the expected. Which filters are in use to expect certain things can be as easy as beginning a conversation with certain keywords.
      • Recall: Getting past the filters gets to memory retrieval.

A lack of common experience means we get primed for different mental filters. Therefore to have a good conversation, everyone needs to draw on common experiences, a process called framing.

This is pretty much as far as we got, I think.

Common experiences could be physically shared. An example could be: “Do you remember the meeting 7 months ago when discussed changing the sourcedid.source for those four schools?” The mental filters for concepts discussed in that meeting are primed.

Common experiences could be metaphorical. Anything someone else should have lots of experience using makes a useful way to convey information without having to go very far. Unfortunately, it is hard to know in advance how much someone actually knows.

Organization Relationships

A friend of mine who I used to work with once remarked (2007-ish) the University System of Georgia does not really work like a system so much as a loose confederation fighting over money. Given I have no access to budgets, I would not know. GeorgiaVIEW works remarkably well given there are only a few people running the system and hoards of people administrating it for their campus. There is a mostly correct mix of grassroots and top down pressure.

The Board of Regents Information Technology Services have fostered a culture of “help requests must go through the tickets”. Tickets allow the team to better triage issues. Tickets show leaders we are helpful. The unintended consequence is weakening the relationships we have. Tickets indicate we are too busy to be helpful. Relationships are accountable so an individual shows vulnerability to me by admitting not understanding, breaking, or other problems. My part of the relationship is to console, advise, or fix the problems. Tickets make all this harder because they are less personal.

When I talk with my coworkers, we covet the connections we hold across the system for they are the true value. How do we develop these relationships inside the formality of processes which fail to incentivise them?

We have email lists, instant messages, weekly Wimba sessions, etc., but there is obviously  a problem when the same people who have these things only tell me about things when they see me in person. I’m reminded of the ITS CIO spending time going to campuses to talk to them about their needs. Maybe that should something we do throughout the organization especially at my level? Also, when I was at Valdosta State, my best information about the needs of faculty members and students came from visiting them not the technology I developed to encourage reporting issues.

Technology is not magic. It does make those who are not communicating start. It just shifts the form and potentially makes it more difficult. Ideally the difficulty will be so slight no one will notice. One can make communication easier by going from a more difficult technology to a more easy form. Still… It is not as good as being there with the person.

USG Annual Computing Conference

Some of you may have noticed me posting on Twitter using the #usgre10 hashtag. This was the recommended tag to use when posting about the conference.

In talking to a director at a university in the University System of Georgia, he said something interesting which had been said to my CIO, “More good for the USG will be accomplished here at Rock Eagle in these two days then the rest of the year.” (This sounds like When Ideas Have Sex or Where Good Ideas Come From.) This conference had been canceled due to lack of funding from both internal and corporate sponsorship. Due to demand from many universities, the conference was restored.

First, one-on-one conversations happen which might not otherwise occur. My former boss at Valdosta State asked me about a decision my group had made which his assistant director kept pushing back as unacceptable. He explained what he’d understood. I explained what I understood. Suddenly it made more sense to him. I was then able to explain it to the assistant director so she understood. A huge problem went away from 15 minutes of conversation? That is a huge win-win for everyone.

Second, getting to see sessions on the work being done at other schools in the system I wish I knew was being done. UGA developed a tool called El Cid which accomplishes many of the needs we have with one “institution” with 43 different administrators because multiple schools participate in various programs. The administrators were provided rights I disagree are appropriate because their needs are not available at the level where they do have access. El Cid could allow them to do those things for their areas without having the rights to mess up other areas.

Third, criticism which might not otherwise be expressed. As much as it pains me to hear it, I do need to hear the complaints people have about the products we run, the service we provide, and the planned directions. With the phone calls, tickets, emails, surveys, and other communication we do, it seems like what is being done is okay. However, get those same people into a room and the criticism comes flooding forth. This is the food we need understand so we can make improvements.

UPDATE: 2010-OCT-22 at 17:12

Fourth, the wishlists which might otherwise languish. I suspect people are hesitant to put requests in writing which might be negative. We like tickets because they can be tracked and provide a history. However, we also put requirements on opening a ticket like the section, the users, and the time. These requirements mean people may not open a ticket because they do not have enough information. They also may not open a ticket because these requirements make it sound like the bar is extremely high to warrant of spending the effort. The act of speaking to me eliminates the filter.

Fifth, while we have email, phone, instant messenger, wikis, Twitter, (and soon Sharepoint and Office Communicator,) etc., the reality is none of these methods establish the strong social bonds we get from face-t0-face. A strong community has social bonds as the foundation. These tools work well when the social bonds are already there.

Precision

One of the reasons I prefer to communicate in writing is I often dwell on what I wish to say, refining the words to make the message clear and concise. In spoken words, I definitely lack that precision.

Something that really annoys me is the use of the prefix “bi-“. This illustrates why:

Since bi– can be taken to mean either “twice each” or “every two,” a word like biweekly can be understood as “twice each week” or “every two weeks.” To avoid confusion, it is better to use the prefix semi– to mean “twice each” (semiannual; semimonthly; semiweekly) or the phrase twice a or twice each (twice a month; twice a week; twice each year), and for the other sense to use the phrase every two (every two months; every two weeks; every two years).

Every time someone uses biweekly or bimonthly, we end up in a discussion over whether its “twice a” or “twice each” as people don’t understand it can be either.

Ugh

Blog Crush: Part II

Following up on my blog crush post.

The Internet is a much bigger place than just the blogosphere. My previous comments were solely about blogs and strictly within the definition of “blog crush” provided in the qotd, not any of the many other forms of communication offered by the Internet. I have made lots of companions and even several friends over the Internet. I currenly have more companions and friends from online sources than offline sources (though I am currently working harder to create offline, local relationships).

Its a Straw Man Argument to characterize my lack of enthusiasm about making friends through blogs as because I am not open or trusting.

From the definition of acquaintance:

1. Acquaintance, associate, companion, friend refer to a person with whom one is in contact. An acquaintance is someone recognized by sight or someone known, though not intimately: a casual acquaintance. An associate is a person who is often in one’s company, usually because of some work, enterprise, or pursuit in common: a business associate. A companion is a person who shares one’s activities, fate, or condition: a traveling companion; companion in despair. A friend is a person with whom one is on intimate terms and for whom one feels a warm affection: a trusted friend. 3. familiarity, awareness.

I don’t share the intimate details of my life in blogs. Of course, I don’t share the intimate details of my life with anyone other than a handful of people. From the dozens of personal blogs I’ve read (leaves out the newsies, techies, etc), almost all do the same as I in leaving out the intimate details. Other than George, I don’t think the rest of you care very much for the details of some woman sticking her tongue down my throat, the details of who I find physically attractive, or even for whom I am going to vote. This lack of intimacy on everyone’s part is what prevents the creation of friendships from solely the use of blogs.

So what about warm affection? A good test, I think, would be to suddenly read in the blog post that a friend and family member wrote the blogger died. How would I feel? Would I cry over the loss? Would I want to go to that person’s funeral? With Bernie or George, I would really feel the loss and at least shed a tear. Prema, Porsche, and Briana would get a least some thinking about the great memories for a long time combined with feeling of loss. The others? I would feel a little bad, but I would not be devestated. Sorry, Gina.

Certainly, I have been called a Vulcan or even named Tuvok. My interpretation of what is a friend probably is much stricter than most would use. However, I am very open to making friends online. One can always use another friend.

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