Considering the Individual

I just read Stowe Boyd’s post, Enterprise Software Is Unsexy: Because It’s Not About Individuals, But Groups. Looking at it wearing  my Enterprise Communication Strategy goggles, I see some interesting corollary’s. Stowe is primarily talking about software design and my post is about how organizations choose to express themselves. But in reality we are talking about the same thing, treating people as people and not as their function, role, job, etc. People are inherently social , meaning that the nature of the relationship between individuals is a key criteria to the effectiveness of their interactions.

When software design, or communication plans, do not consider the social aspect and individuality of their intended “audience”, there is little chance that audience will become an engaged community. Now if the design objective is strictly about efficiency, compliance or risk management, maybe this approach is good enough. If the objective has anything to do with learning, engagement, innovation, etc., consideration of the individual as a social entity becomes critical.

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TMI

I hear it a lot when I am waxing poetic about Social Media, Too Much Information. Not direct at me of course, but about the general topic. People look at the Internet, in general, and Social Media, in particular, and all they see is an avalanch of information.

Reading Stowe Boyd’s post this morning, Cult Of Productivity: We Know He’s Lying, But Who Cares?, got me thinking again about the whole idea of how we (humans) process information, and is there really such a thing as TMI?

 I think not.

Go back 10 years, 50 years, 100 years, 500 years. Throughout history we have introduced new ways to gather and distribute information; printing press, telegraph, phone, TV, Internet. At each step people complained about too much information.

Now think about it, before all of that, we as humans had to process our daily environment. Can you recall everything you have seen today? Of course not. Our brains already filter the massive amount of information we already receive from our senses. We “see” what we need to see, we “hear” what we need to hear.

Then why is it that we all of a sudden believe that we have to process every email, and every page of every report that crosses our desk? What it is we need is better ways to filter and notice what is important.

There is never TMI, just the myth that we have to process it all.

As to Stowe’s commentary, I agree, being stupid about how we filter information is no way to go through life.

Personal Organization

Over the last week I have read two posts that have led me to write this. One was Stowe Boyd’s post Remember the Milk, Redux, and the other was Steve Rubel’s post Turn Gmail into a Social Network Hub.

Both of these deal with using web 2.0 tools to make our individual lives better (easier? more productive?). Reading these got me to thinking about tools and other approaches. I have an idea for another variation, that I have played with some, but haven’t perfected yet. Thanks to Steve and Stowe, I think I now see some improvements I can make in my process to make it viable.

Put it in a Wiki

First I will label my bias, I am partial to SocialText, but what I am describing here will probably work in any wiki.

My first attempt at using a wiki for organization was to build a top page index for each topic/project I was dealing with. It was clumsy and quickly became ineffective.

My approach this time is to create a unique page for each “transaction” I have (a phone call, a thought I want to capture, meeting notes, etc.) With the content documented, I can quickly index it with labels. For:

  • a “To Do” that is embedded in the note, I add a “todo” tag
  • a reference to a person I was talking to, I add their name as a tag
  • a project reference, I add the project name as a tag
  • etc.

Now the cool feature in SocialText that I use here is the dynamic ability to create “weblogs” based on tags. If I want to pull out all of my todo’s I just pull up the “ToDo Weblog” and everything is listed in traditional reverse chronological order.

 I have lots more to investigate here, but I see real promise in using wikis as a roll-your-own personal organization engine.

Managing ToDo

Like most everyone in the known universe, I am always looking for the perfect solution for managing my To Do List. I believe that my new friend Stowe Boyd is quite the expert in this eternal quest. He just posted two new solutions he has tried. I am particularly intrigued by ToDoist, which Stowe has figured out how to tie into Google Reader.