Thursday, June 28, 2007

Semantic AND intentional honesty

This article I Think You're Fat - Esquire describes the interesting insight of living with fewer intellectual filters. IMHO it's not just about being honest with 'others', but as Aristotle says, "We are what we repeatedly do". Like the author, I'm not 100% comfortable with this solution, but can see that it must be an all or nothing approach. As soon as a little bit of filtering creeps in, we find the whole house of cards reverting to the way we used to communicate. Lets face it, if you find a situation is uncomfortable, its usually because you have to adapt and change in some way to cope.

I wonder if the intellectual filters we eliminate by this approach are then replaced by a deepening emotional intelligence. Our intentions in communicating can be more clearly conveyed because there are less internal conflicts getting in the way, while our conviction/passion is more evident. Hmm...

Ontologies and folksonomies

I'm concluding a special topic course for my computing degree, in which I submitted a paper contrasting ontologies with folksonomies and their relative merits in building knowledge representation. In particular I suggested that user interfaces such as those designed for digital libraries and other repository access might benefit more from collaborative folksonomies.

A interesting example of this approach is being trialled at the Bibsonomy web site where instead of the system spending expensive processing power attempting to generate the best semantic ontology for collaborators to employ, users define the site semantics as the site grows, and language restrictions are reduced through the opportunity to use made-up words or conjoint words etc. They have used a highly structured model for the tags that maps nicely to relational database tables.

This article "Collaboration: a case for ontological commitment" describes some basic approaches used in group settings that I believe are a bit inadequate. It seems the author is generally discussing projects or activities which require time extended participation. She also states that she is not discussing semantic ontology per se, but isn't that what is suggested be developed, or have I missed the point?

By using tools like Bibisonomy, the use of folksonomies provide an opportunity for group semantics to emerge during online project/group exercise life cycles rather than needing to be explicitly established beforehand.

The following two references I found extremely relevant. I have included links which are current to the best of my knowledge.

Hotho, A., Jaschke, R., Schmitz, C., and Stumme, G. (2006), BibSonomy: A social bookmark and publication sharing system, In de Moor, A., Polovina, S., Delugach, H. ed, Proceedings of the first Conceptual Structures Tool Interoperability Workshop of the 14th International Conference on Conceptual Structures, pp 87-102, Aalborg University, Denmark from the publication home or the Bibsonomy website.

Longva, T. (2004), Sharing knowledge using rich representations, Retrieved on 19 June 2007 from here

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sense and leadership in organisations

This is a comment to a blog post on Cognitive Edge. It is a really concise, interesting summation of an approach to leadership that I have been considering more recently, and that demonstrates some of the most powerful elements represented in emergent and collaborative knowledge management.

Perhaps one of the problems here arises from thinking of leadership communication solely in terms of ‘getting the message across’ – whether or not story is used as the way of pursuing this. Organizations comprise people talking, acting, interacting and transacting with each other continuously through the medium of conversation. As people get together, both formally and informally, they make things up. That is, they perceive, interpret, evaluate and share their views of what’s going on and decide how, in the light of that, they should act. Through these everyday interactions, ‘stories’ are jointly crafted which, in turn, tend to channel ongoing conversations down familiar, ‘cultural’ pathways.

Outcomes, in the form of the sense that is made and the use that this is put to, are co-created by those in the conversation. These can’t be handed down by leaders – or by anyone else for that matter. From this perspective, a leader’s task is to actively engage in the joint sensemaking process – both directly and indirectly – to build active coalitions of support around themes that are organizationally beneficial. Others who participate in the process will do so from their own perspective and with their own agendas in mind - coalescing informally around particular themes, either to advance a particular cause or to frustrate it.

From this “informal coalitions” view of organizations, the future is being perpetually constructed in the present, through this dynamic network of self-organizing conversations. Sometimes these conversations serve to reinforce the existing patterns, ‘deepening the channels of meaning’ (in the form of openly articulated stories and taken-for-granted assumptions) that are currently influencing the nature and outcome of everyday conversations. At other times, the conversations shift the patterns in new ways, creating new ‘channels’ that begin to divert sensemaking in new directions. As the pattern of conversations change, so do the stories that are told. And so does the organization.

Update: I cam across this really cool post with another take on the difference between knowledge management and social/organisational interaction.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Stuff recently published an article about the international Mens Health Week. In an interview with the Australian branch of Mensline, they discussed how mens counselling is often quite different in nature from womens counselling, a fact that can often be overlooked. They went on to say that "Men are also more comfortable with the anonymity of telephone counselling, ... There's still a lot of shame associated with face to face counselling, and men have difficulty acknowledging that they're not coping." Having been in an emotionally trying time myself, its good to know that I'm not the only one who has difficulty expressing and confronting such issues. Problem solving is not always the best way to deal.

While I havn't availed myself of their service as yet, its nice to know that they are there as a kind of backstop if we need it

GPL v3 and Free Software Foundation vs GPL v2 and Linus Torvalds

In reponse to a discussion of this kerneltrap thread on the New Zealand linux users group mailing list, I wrote the following. More updates as the thread matures...

Indeed FSF (Free software Foundation) seem to argue the main point of difference is that situations such as Tivoisation should not happen, and that in order to gain the influence they need for v3, want the linux kernel to come under the v3 umbrella. Linus on the other hand disagrees somewhat violently with this ethic and protests that software and hardware should not necessarily be tied by the same licencing agreement, indeed this severely restricts some of the key advantages companies see in contributing to the linux kernel.

To me, the issue of hardware and IP is increasingly important when we see so many companies starting to litigate just to stay afloat. The patent laws were never designed to be a complete protection for even the smallest ideas. By using open standards some companies are finding their licensing burden to be significantly reduced. But in order for such open standards to exist and continue to exist, we need a new approach to sharing ideas. I suggest that social bookmarking/publication sites[1] might be the beginning of a sharing/knowledge environment that encourages such an approach.

What this might mean for the v3 licence is that if companies [have] opened their hardware technology to competitors, then the remaining place they can make money is in service offerings, by enforcing some kind of lock in (private keys etc) for the sake of consistency between their hardware and the software that runs on it.

So I generally think that while the software should be modifiable and 'free' to everyone, preventing the possibility of commercial gain is a bad idea. With retail margins for common devices so small, my feeling is that the services are where most companies are making their crust now. If the kernel adopted v3 then where would that leave businesses wanting to use linux?

[1] is one experimental example I've come across.

Update 20th June: Linus had this eloquent statement to represent his point clearly

Update 21st June: We are reminded that Linus recently performed a quick pole of 30 primary maintainers of kernel code and for varying reasons, few dissimilar to Linus's own standpoint, all said that they would not support the adoption of the v3 license.

Update 30th June: GPL version 3 has been officially released!