The Communication Mystery

Frozen Derwentwater at KettlewellI have to admit that communication is a complete mystery to me. I like to think things through logically,  but I’ve never been able to fathom communication.

I’m constantly amazed by the things that people regard as exciting because they understand it, even if it’s not really very exciting at all. I’m even more amazed by the things people regard as exciting even though they don’t understand it.

I’m sure that the answer is in communication, but that is still a mystery to me.

A little while I started out on a mission to have more meaningful conversations. My aim was to have one every day, well that has proved impractical, but I have still managed a significant number.

What I am starting to conclude is that communication is more of an art than a science. What I mean by this is that communication involves far more emotion and heart than logic. Engage with people’s feelings and they are open to communication, engage with their logic and most people aren’t. Be passionate about something and they will engage, give them the facts and they probably won’t.

Why don’t people engage with emails? Because it’s just communicating facts.

Why do people engage with video conferencing? Because it engages their feelings.

The challenge and the mystery is born out of the subjectivity of any art which means that people engage with it in completely different ways.

How you engage with the picture at the start of this blog depends on so many different things. I was there so I know what it felt like, but how the picture makes you feel depends upon your history, your upbringing, your experiences, your preferences. Each one of these will influence your emotional reaction to it.

I’d like there to be a formula for communication, but there isn’t one, I’ll just have to learn to be a better artist.

Please make me one of these: Universal read count

Crossthwaite ViewsI see information in many streams, email, IM, twitter, RSS reader, etc. Unfortunately my brain isn’t good enough to remember everything that I have already read so I regularly find myself going to the same piece of information more than once.

Within each stream I’m unlikely to go back more than once because I get visual indicators that I have already read it. The main problem is between streams. That’s not to say, though, that people won’t send me the same piece of information more than once in the same stream.

I’d quite like a service that handled the read status for me, across all of the streams.

I should get a visual indicator that a link in twitter points to the same content as the blog post in my RSS reader, and they should both show anything that I have already consumed from a browser. Oh, and while I’m at it, it needs to do that across any one of the devices that I’m likely to use, and it needs to handle shortened urls.

My RSS Reader (FeedDemon) does a reasonably good job of keeping the read count in-synch across devices, but nothing between streams.

What I am looking for is to be able to mark parts of the Internet as “read”.

I’d also like this status consolidation capability to be searchable, especially by date. I am reasonably good at remembering when I read something, but not so great at remembering where I read it.

I’m sure there are a load more functional requirements that I would surface if I had time to think about it, but for now, this will do.

Has anyone done anything like this?

Idea herding

Swans, swans, swansFor a few days now I’ve been thinking about issues of reuse and exploitation.

How do we get people to reuse things?

How do we get people to exploit what is already there and expand upon it?

The phrase that keeps going through my mind is “herding cats”, so I’ve decided to turn my thoughts to “herding ideas”.

When it comes to idea I think that some are like sheep and some are like cats – that’s about as advanced as my thoughts have got so far.

Please make me one of these: Universal profile

Jimmy and Grandad 2.0I have identities all over the Internet, and internally; blog, flickr, linkedin, facebook, etc. each one of them have some form of a personal profile where I get to talk about who I am and what I do.

There are lots of very clever people working on the problem of how I get to these things without having to authenticate everywhere. But I want more than that, I want to be able to have a single place where I have my profile information.

Why should I need to tell each of these systems the same information? If I change my job it should be updated within the relevant systems.

The emerging identity federation model probably has a lot to tell us in this area. People started from the premise that identities should be stored in one place and every other system should trust that one place. This didn’t work, because there wasn’t trust between all of the systems. The same will be true for profiles. I don’t want everyone to see all of the profile, I only want the people to see the parts of my profile that are relevant to the access that they have and the system that they are using.

Technologies like Facebook Connect go someway towards resolving this problem, but I’m not sure that they have really learnt the lessons from the identity people.

I want to be in control of what goes where, but I don’t want to have to maintain the same stuff everywhere.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking that this is a problem, and as the famous quote goes: “"The future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed." – William Gibson. So I’m also sure that I have missed some form of amazing development in this area that has the potential to make my winging sound like the ramblings of an idiot.

Anyone else think that this is a problem we need to get resolved?

Welcome to

Jimmy and Grandad 2.0Hopefully many of you will be seeing this as I’ve moved over the feeds that used to work against my old hosted location.

I’ve decided that it’s time that I stopped hiding behind the funny “oak grove” thing and came out as the real me. I wasn’t really hiding, and wasn’t doing that good of a job of it anyway.

There’s still plenty to do, but all of the old content is here, including Jimmy and Granddad.

Let me know what you thing.

Reflections on a Face-to-Face Technical Conference

Jimmy and Grandad 2.0It’s a long-long-time since I’ve been to a face-to-face open technical presentation. By that I mean the type of thing where people book a conference room and invite people along to see presentations on a technical subject.

I’ve done lots of small presentations with customers, I also watch a lot of online presentations on technical subjects.

One of the challenges with small customer sessions is that the questions aren’t very insightful because the focus is very narrow and with online presentations you often don’t get the questions. There are also advantages to these scenarios; in a small session the focus is just on your challenges (hopefully) and in online presentation you can skip over the bits you aren’t interested in.

Today I decided to give a physical face-to-face half day technical conference a go.

I’m not dealing here with the technical content, I’m talking about the experience.

In many respects I have to say that this was a positive experience.

The venue was The Lowry in Manchester which I love, so that helped (sorry, oops, “in Salford” – people from Salford get very upset with being lumped in with Manchester).

The conference was technical so the audience was the usual mix of male misfits, scruff-bags, business casual and suits. There was also requisite number of women for these things – two.

There didn’t seem to be many young people, we mostly seemed to be IT dinosaurs like myself. Perhaps that was telling of the topic, or perhaps it was more to do with the way that young people learn these days.

I struggled with attention, something I’m starting to become worried about. My tool for the day was my Filofax for note taking; but I also made the mistake of taking my BlackBerry with me. Part way though there was a bit that I wasn’t interested in so let the BlackBerry grab my attention. It took me a little while to come back to the things happening around me. There were plenty of others struggling with the same thing I noticed.

In this instance the questions weren’t of any really value to me, either too technical or too esoteric, but they still brought out points that would have been missed by the presenter. If there had been less presenting and more questioning it might have been different.

The pace of the session was quite good, but there were definitely times that had I been watching online I would have used my fast-forward key and not really missed anything. What these times allowed me to do, though, was to think about how some of the other things would apply to my customer, and also to write down some actions so I didn’t forget them.

Was it worth the 4 hours out of the office? That’s really the $64,000 question.

In this case the jury is out, it’s a slow burn subject for my customers. It did give me some more ideas on how to accelerate the burn, ideas that I wouldn’t have picked up if I hadn’t gone to the session.

I can definitely see why face-to-face sessions are under threat but sometimes there just isn’t anything quite like them. I think that they are going to change over time to being less like “presentations” and more like “workshops” or “Q&A” sessions. Less PowerPoint and more demo and whiteboard. Or perhaps I’m just being a dinosaur?