How effective are you at multi-tasking?

We all do it, and some say that women can do it better than men. Yes, multi-tasking. There has doubtless been some empirical research on this topic, but if you’d prefer a more engaging way of discovering the truth or otherwise of who’s best at multitasking, as opposed to reading a dry academic paper, then check out this neat interactive Infographic from the folk over at OpenSite. They describe the test as follows:

If you’re like most people, you probably find yourself doing two things at once pretty regularly—talking on the phone while reading an email, skyping relatives as you cook dinner, munching on toast as you commute to work; the multitasking in your life can seem both unavoidable and necessary if you want to get everything done. However, even though everyone multitasks, very few people seem to realize that, in fact, your brain isn’t as efficient in multitasking as it seems. The reality is, everyone’s brain slows down considerably when trying to juggle multiple tasks—and some people’s brains slow down much more than others. If you really think your multitasking skills are a cut above the rest, the only way to know for sure is to see how your brain’s speed compares to that of other multitaskers. When people talk about “multitasking,” what’s really being referred to is one’s ability to switch between different activities, as well as juggling multiple actions at one time. So how can these things be efficiently measured? With a multitask test of course. Test your tasking abilities and see how they stack up against others: Check out the following interactive multitasking exercise, and see how well your brain performs when it juggles multiple tasks—your results could surprise you!

Try it out and see your test results while contributing to the overall data. Probably best to do this whilst sober so not to bring the averages down!

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Social Media Revolution 2013

I’ve been following Erik Qualman’s Social Media Revolution series since the first one I saw back in 2010. The numbers just keep getting bigger!

Previous versions:


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Twitter under the microscope


An interesting study by Bernardo A. Huberman, Daniel M. Romero and Fang Wu over at HP on the social interactions within Twitter. To quote from the preamble:

Scholars, advertisers and political activists see massive online social networks as a representation of social interactions that can be used to study the propagation of ideas, social bond dynamics and viral marketing, among others. But the linked structures of social networks do not reveal actual interactions among people. Scarcity of attention and the daily rhythms of life and work makes people default to interacting with those few that matter and that reciprocate their attention. A study of social interactions within Twitter reveals that the driver of usage is a sparse and hidden network of connections underlying the “declared” set of friends and followers.

Key points from the report:

  1. A ‘friend’ is loosley defined as anyone the user has directed at least two posts (tweets) to.
  2. They conjecture that users who receive attention from many people will post more often than users who receive little attention.
  3. Users with more followers and friends will be more active than those with a small number of followers and friends.
  4. There are two different networks: a dense one made up followers and followees, and a sparser and simpler network of friends.
  5. The number of friends is the actual driver of the user’s activity and not the number of followers.
  6. Users with many followers post updates less frequently than those with few followers.

The full report is available at the HP website link above, or can be downloaded here.

Twitter under the microscope
Twitter under the microscope
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Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software

Gartner logo

Gartner has just published its latest ‘Magic Quadrant’ report for Social Software. If nothing else, it gives you a list of all the key vendors in this space, though you may personally disagree with where they are placed in the various quadrants. For example, Microsoft is considered to have more completeness of vision and greater ability to execute than Google. Maybe Gartner analysts haven’t been speaking to anyone struggling to implement MOSS 2007!

The definition of the market they are covering in this reports is:

Market Definition/Description

We view this market as consisting of products that focus on team collaboration, communities and social interaction. The buyers in this market are looking for persistent virtual environments, in which participants can create, organize and share information, as well as interact with each other. They are deployed internally among employees or contractors as well as externally for partners, customers, prospects or other stakeholders. The business uses of these products vary in terms of degree of formality and openness — from team information sharing and project coordination among a small, homogeneous group within an enterprise; to sharing best practices within a business unit; to encouraging socialization and knowledge transfer among employees or even external participants in a partner or customer network.

In general terms, products that compete in this market, help users to:

  • Find out about each other.
  • Form teams, communities or informal groups.
  • Work together on the same work objects.
  • Discuss and comment on their work.
  • Organize work from their perspective.
  • Identify relevant work.
  • Discover other people with common interests.
  • Learn from others’ expertise.

Some specific uses of products in this market include:

  • Sharing team information and coordinating project-related activities by adding permanence and structure to ad hoc communications.
  • Empowering communities of experts and interested parties (bonding people by specific interests, capturing best practices, disseminating lead-user innovation and providing an informal support network).
  • Facilitating social interaction by helping people to establish and strengthen personal relationships, develop trust and, in the end, to reduce friction and accelerate the business processes that people are engaged in.
  • Accessing relevant knowledge and expertise that can be used to formulate a plan of action when decisions need to be made.

We adjusted the name of this market from “Team Collaboration and Social Software” to just “Social Software” (see “Magic Quadrant for Team Collaboration and Social Software, 2007”) in order to:

  • Simplify it, as social interaction support implies team collaboration support.
  • To recognize the provision of social interaction support as one of the most important sources of differentiation among the products from established and new vendors.
  • To take into account the addition of blogs and wikis in the minimum functionality for inclusion (see below).

The products available in this market are generally deployed internally and managed by IT departments or service partners, although an increasing number of vendors make their products available via SaaS and, in some cases, as managed appliances.

I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions from the report, but for me, it doesn’t look like a completely unbiassed and objective assessment of the social computing environment.

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Utilising Web 2.0 in Local Government

Web 2.0 is opening up new opportunities for local and central government to provide more citizen-centric services using cost effective technologies. Innovation in the private sector is making Web 2.0 tools easier to use and cheaper to deploy. Social networking and use of social media tools is fast becoming ubiquitous; the question that most councils now face is when rather than if to embrace Web 2.0 facilities. How and why should local authorities be planning to exploit the collaborative features of Web 2.0 technologies? Feature for IT Adviser Magazine.

Communities of Service
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Generation V and four levels of virtual engagement

I’m not really into this relentless trend to categorise people and their behaviours into socio-economic-demographic groups since very rarely does anyone neatly fit within one of these categories. However, I follow the trend if for no other reason I can speak the same language as my peers. So, having got to grips with the various attributes and behaviours symbolised as ‘Generation X‘ and ‘Generation Y‘ , it seems we need to recognise another category – ‘Generation V’. (Since we seem to be going through the alphabet in reverse order, I can only assume I’ve somehow missed who ‘Generation W’ is or was!)

A recent Gartner report categorises ‘ Generation Virtual’ (Generation V) as a new online group that is not defined by age, gender, social class or geography. Instead, it is based on achievement, accomplishments and an increasing preference for the use of digital media channels to discover information, build knowledge and share insights.

Within the Generation V community, Gartner defines four levels of engagement – creators, contributors, opportunists, and lurkers – related to the extent to which customers engage with other customers and the level of engagement that businesses and other organizations must have to enable them. This graphic pulled from the report explains:

Levels of virtual engagement
Levels of virtual engagement

Creator: “I want to own this.”

  • Establish a community
  • Create blog / podcast
  • Upload video content

Contributor: “I want to be part of this.”

  • Review a product
  • Answer a question
  • Contribute to the community

Opportunist: “Since I’m here…”

  • Provide purchase feedback
  • Vote
  • Ask a question
  • Forward to others

Lurker: “I’ll reap the rewards.”

  • Click, transact
  • Read product reviews
  • Read blog / message boards

I shouldn’t be over-critical of the Gartner report or the conclusions they reach, since it’s certainly useful to recognise there are different levels of engagement in any social network or virtual community. However, I have two points to make:

  1. The ‘Creator’ falls tantalisingly into the seemingly well-established ‘1 % rule‘. In my experience, this is only true for social networks or unmentored/unfacilitated Communities of Practice (CoPs), where members or  users are entirely self-directed. Based on the evidence I’ve seen in the IDeA CoP platform (550 communities), facilitated communities can have as much as 40% Creators (i.e. creating original content).
  2. I hate the term ‘Lurkers’ and refuse to use it in any dialogue I’m having about social networking or communities of practice. It seems to infer some sort of socially unacceptable behaviour and misses the point that these people are getting some value from the network or community. So – Gartner and anyone else who wishes to continue categorising behaviour, can we drop the term ‘Lurkers’ and call these people ‘Spectators’, which is a more socially accepted term, and infers these people are gaining something from the experience.

Anyway, and on reflection, as a 50-something year old, I guess I might prefer being categorised as Generation V as opposed a Baby Boomer!

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Value benchmarking of networks and communities of practice

Weighing scales
Weighing scales

As part of my work at IDeA in developing their comminities of practice (CoP) strategy, we’re engaging with Warwick Business School and their Knowledge and Innovation Network affiliate in research project for ‘value’ benchmarking CoPs in public and private sectors. A launch event for this project took place on 18th September, with speakers including Larry Prusak and Dr Richard McDermott.  The output from this event, including presentations and audio/MP3 files can be found on the WBS website.

Anyone interested in registering for Phase 2 of the project can register here.

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