What Do Twitter Lists Mean to Me and for Business?

Twitter - Home_1259335488251 What do Twitter Lists mean? I think it will take a while to find out. Jeremiah Owyang points to recruiting: When hiring see on how many Lists they are mentioned. Debbie Weil calls Lists "the new measure of cool". Denis Hancock of Wikinomics also relates Lists to popularity, but wonders if popularity relates more to the number of people that follow your lists or the number of lists you're on. And Robert Scoble shares how Lists have changed the way he follows tweets.

I'm happy we have lists. One of the reasons people were using Tweetdeck, Brizzly and the like had to do with the fact that Twitter.com had no functionality to group the people you follow. And what these groups meant to us was clear. They were our own private groups in Tweetdeck and Brizzly.

Of course there were sites that helped people find tweeps related to certain topics. For instance Wefollow. However in Wefollow you could say which list you wanted to belong too. The amount of followers and people you follow made up your number on the list.

But what do Twitter Lists mean? My first idea was to change my groups in Tweetdeck and Brizzly into private Twitter Lists. So I did. But why would I keep them private? To show I don't read all the tweets of the people I follow? To show I read some tweets more closely than others? But everybody does, so why should I be ashamed of that? So, I opened up. All my old groups are now Lists.

But what do these lists mean? Well, I just hinted one meaning. I have three groups (at the moment) with tweeps that I follow closely. Following Luis Suarez's terminology I labeled them 'villages'. In this way I also want to make a statement: I follow these groups closely but there is no difference in importance or closeness between these groups. Maybe there will be in the future.

Lists have another meaning to me as well. How many Lists are you on? What does it do to you when you're on someone's Lists? Well, I feel flattered. And it encourages me. It also gives me a notion of what the List owner thinks of me. It tells me a bit about what expertise they think I have. (The weird thing about my List label 'village' is that I don't send that signal to the people on my list. It just tells them they are close to me and I follow them closely. Maybe this is a reason to change the label term in the future?)

But what do Twitter Lists mean to companies? Should companies build their own lists? And what does it mean for a company to be on a list? It would be interesting to see if the amount of Lists a company is on correlates with revenues or turn-over. Do you think this will correlate? What do you think Lists will mean for enterprises? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Following Tweets

image Finding the right tools to support your daily work is important. To me at least. I'm not a super early adopter, but if I see a tool that fits my needs I'll go ahead and try it.

When this post was in draft I was planning to write about Tweetdeck: why I use it, how I use it and why I love it. However I practically stopped using Tweetdeck. Why? Well, I tweeted about it here and here: I'm loosing too many tweets. More specifically: I simply don't want to miss tweets from some people. That's one of the reasons I started to read tweets from Google Reader (which doesn't really work for me). (I also use Google Reader to backup my tweets. This does work great.) I didn't uninstall Tweetdeck yet, though. I found myself using Tweetdeck again to live tweet a conference...

What I liked about Tweetdeck is what everybody likes about it: It makes tweeting much easier. Retweeting is easy, defining Groups is easy, adding hashtags (automatically) is easy, etc.


Then I bumped into Brizzly! Brizzly is a webclient, a layer over Twitter. It is still in beta. It is far better than the Twitter website. At the time I started using it Twitter Lists and Retweet was not available yet. Brizzly had these features and implements them well. Brizzly called Lists Groups, but changes their Groups to Lists when Twitter launched Lists. There's a bi-directional sync of Lists (making List in Brizzly shows up on the Twitter site and vice versa). Adding people to Lists in much easier in Brizzly (incremental search).

Retweet has been implemented in Brizzly like it is in Tweetdeck. Even though Twitter now also has Retweet functionality, I still like the old way better (and so I agree with Stowe Boyd).

The best part of Brizzly is when you scroll through your tweets, the page is updated automatically. You can scroll down and down through an endless list of tweets.

So, although the Twitter website is moving in this direction, I have enough reasons to stay with Brizzly!

Do you use Brizzly too? Tell me about your experiences. And what tools do you use to follow tweets?

UPDATE Nov. 21, 2009: I forgot to mention some other features I like about Brizzly. Brizzly clearly shows the tweets you haven't read yet. So, you know where you left off last time you were reading tweets. I also like the fact that Brizzly expands url's automatically for you, so you can see the url and make a better decision to click on it or not.

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What is Knowledge Management?

bulb Oof! I've been wanting to write about this for some time... There's always been debate on how to define 'knowledge management'. Dave Snowden is one of the big thinkers in this area. He has always been critical of the old-skool knowledge management approaches and definitions. Interestingly the social Internet is showing he has been pretty right all along.

Snowden came up with a definition not too long ago. (I'm not sure it's his first attempt, as Luis Suarez says. At least Snowden implicitly defined what KM is here, for instance.) Here's his definition:

The purpose of knowledge management is to provide support for improved decision making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring programmes.

The following guiding principles will be applied

  • All projects will be clearly linked to operational and strategic goals
  • As far as possible the approach adopted will be to stimulate local activity rather than impose central solutions
  • Co-ordination and distribution of learning will focus on allowing adaptation of good practice to the local context
  • Management of the KM function will be based on a small centralized core, with a wider distributed network

Some comments:

  • KM provides support for "improved decision making and innovation". I agree, but I've been thinking: Is this all it supports? Couldn't it support the product creation process for instance? If so, maybe this can be solved by adding 'process' after 'decision making and innovation'.
  • I miss the word 'learning' in this definition. It's in training and mentoring. Maybe these words could be replaced by 'learning'
  • I love the principles. The nice thing about principles is that we almost don't need a definition when we comply to the principles. Small comment on the first principle: I agree with that principle, but can't we go a little deeper there by saying 'All info generated in projects will be clearly linked etc.'?

Mary Abraham has a nice post about this definition as well. After commenting on the principles she says: "In this context, a global KM Czar is going to be superfluous and unwelcome."

I wish this would be true. However I think we will always need someone to coordinate KM because it's human to forget to share, for instance (- "because I'm too busy to share").

To round up this post I'd also like to point to Snowden's presentation for KMIndia about 'Social computing'. It's mostly about the way he works (personal KM!) and uses social tools to share and learn. He restates this 7 principles of KM. He opens the presentation with a great quote:

What's new about the new economy is that work is conversation. (Alan Webber).

It has always been, we just forgot about it for a while. (Dave Snowden)

Very true!

So, what do you think of this definition? Does it describe KM well? What do you miss? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Finding Experts in Your Organization

reef_knot Some very interesting posts about Enterprise 2.0 tools and Expertise Location have been published recently. Let's start with the last one I read first.

Prof. Andrew McAfee has a great post about where he finds enterprise 2.0 tools are of most use. In short he says these tools are be used to reach out and connect to people we have weak ties with, potential ties or no ties at all. He's not saying they can't be used to support strong ties. They simply do and can. But when asked what gap e2.0 tools fill, it's firstly not the support of those strong ties.

This is very interesting. And I agree with his conclusion. We're seeing this in practice too in the company I work for. The surprise it gives people when they connect to people inside or outside the organization they've never met before!

McAfee's conclusions also relates to work done knowledge mapping and expertise location. And to a book I read some time ago: Cross & Parker, 'The hidden power of social networks'. It would be interesting to see if we could extend Dunbar's number. Then Dunbar relates to the number of strong ties we can maintain, <fill in name of number> number relates to the number of weak ties, etc. I'll get back to Dunbar below in this post.

Then the Wall Street Journal had an interesting post titled 'Who knows what?' It also addressed how companies can improve expert finding. The authors of the article point solely to social computing tools to help employees find experts in the organization in a quicker, more effective way.

This is definitely a way to go. But it also requires employees to use social computing tools and make their knowledge explicit. We know how hard this is, and it's sometimes not feasible at all. I blogged about this topic and the different strategies to expert finding several times in the past. Ross Dawson points to the WSJ post as well, and has written quite a bit about this topic.

Now back to Dunbar. Seth Godin had a nice (short - as always!) post about Dunbar's number. Stowe Boyd replied back that Godin doesn't get Dunbar's number. Godin says: Dunbar's number is the law. Our social networks are limited to around 150 people. We can only know about 150 people very well and maintain strong ties with them. This was the fact before the Internet and it still is. Boyd says: Not true. This is not what Dunbar meant and the Internet is proving that Dunbar's number needs to be updated. Mike Speiser over at GigaOM also thinks along this line.

I'm not really sure if the difference between Godin and Boyd is that big. Godin is not saying we can't have 'weak' or 'possible' ties. But the limitation to 'strong ties' is around 150. I agree with Godin this is something we need to keep in mind when we work for large companies, but also when we populate our social tools with way more than 150 friends. Keeping ties strong with more than 150 people is hard. Some can do it, but most can't.

I'd love to hear what you thing about expert finding in organizations. And do you think Dunbar's number needs to be updated or is not applicable to the Internet?

Presentation #kmnl by Bozena van Trigt

And here's the last presentation of the KM 'Made in Holland' meeting. Bozena van Trigt of Triam Float kindly emailed me a link to her presentation. I had to leave early, so I had to miss her presentation regrettably and don't have notes going along with this presentation... But I will, as requested by Bozena, share her presentation here for completeness sake!

The topic of her presentation is very interesting: knowledge management in a process operator environment.

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Presentation #kmnl by Rienke Schutte

Title of presentation: Wikipolicy: institutional policy & social software by Rienke Schutte, Hogeschool Zuyd, Knowledge community Knowledge Organizations and Knowledge Management. Related article about the Wikipolicy.
In 2008, the 'Hogeschool' (English: college) initiated a project entitled “Policy Workshop 2013”. The result of this project would be a policy framework for their organization. The new policy should bring together insights, opinions and wishes of students, staff and stakeholders. A wiki was one of the instruments to achieve that goal.
Objectives of the project:
  • powerful, stakeholder oriented vision strategic direction
  • shift towards a co-creative organization
Plan of action (in 2008):
  • wiki with 4 main topics (platform: Wikispaces)
  • conferences for managers, teams, external experts (educational/non-educational)
  • work meetings
  • flyers
  • weekly blog members of the board
  • CafĂ© 2020 (SURF - foundation scenario's)
  • formal conclusions by management
Evaluation of the project:
  • enthusiastic discussion in work- and staff meetings
  • lots of corridor chat
  • representative Advisory Body were involved
  • limited participation students and external stakeholders in the wiki
Limited active participation in the wiki was due to:
  • involvement with the topic (what's in it for me?)
  • unstructured nature of the process and open medium
  • initial text not seen as an incentive
  • pressure of work
Conclusions of the project:
  • main issues strategic direction taken for granted
  • commitment of the Board insufficient to raise participation
  • future: implementation of horizontal dialogue (Organization 2.0) on limited amount of subjects and related to the concrete work of stakeholders
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Presentation #kmnl by Ton Zijlsta

Title of presentation: Autonomous (self-steered) learning in groups.

In 2007 the HR department of the Hogeschool Rotterdam heard of presentation by Wim Veen ("Homo zappiens") about Gen Y, etc. They wanted to undestand this deeply and act on it.
Goal of their HR department was to change the education style and learning methods.
Ton tells about how the project to achieve the goals was set up. I love the way this project was organized without fixed gates. They explicitly took a more chaotic approach. Progress of the project was measured based on quality measures. This gave educators lots of opportunities to try, experiment, fail, learn, etc. without time pressure. Examples: blogging, make screencasts, education and video's.
Also points to the Social Media Classroom.
Yammer was also set up to keep the community together after the project ended.
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Presentation #kmnl by Christiaan Stam

Christiaan Stam, associate lector, knowledge community Intellectual Capital, Hogeschool INHolland.

Title: Learning from elderly people.

Look at ageing from knowledge management perspective.

This work was triggered by a thesis in his PhD thesis: "In the near future the success of companies depends on the will to invest in the development of older employees."

Provides numbers on demographics and ageing.

The image of older workers is based on prejudices, myths. They are false, but self-fulfilling.

How can we retain knowledge from older workers? (brain drain) Lots is being done (successfully) by companies, such as Thales and Shell, in this area.

Christiaan would like to address this question scientifically, using CIMO-logic (Context, Intervention, Mechanism, Outcome).

Gives 6 intervention for knowledge retention:

  • file transfer conversation
  • leaving expert interviews
  • expert-apprentice relation
  • individual gap analysis
  • knowledge recall

Based on the analysis of the above-mentioned interventions with the CIMO-logic, Christiaan derives statements, such as:

To increase the productivity of employees (O), etc.

Interesting preliminary conclusions are:

  • the different methods have comparable outcomes.
  • the effects of the methods are mostly implicit
  • codification strategy also has effect on personal productivity
  • most of the learning is applying the method itself, not in the knowledge is delivers.

Presentation #kmnl 2009 by Rene Jansen

Rene Jansen gave the second presentation at KM Made in Holland. Here's his presentation (in Dutch):

Some personal notes:

Winkwaves (gestart in 2005) is Rene's company. Their fascination is how people live together and collaborate in knowledge intensive organizations.

And how "untapped potential of technology can contribute when organization have more than one coffee machine".

Tells about Winkwave's Knowledge Cafés.

The different roles in social media: Tippers, Storytellers, self-advertisers, Archivers, Promotors, Reactors, Connectors, lurkers, one day flies.

They use persona research: segmentation based on goals, attitude and behavior.

Points to the Soft systems methodology (Peter Checkland): start with looking at the way people really work/live.

Social media can only do the following: make content visible and support many-to-many conversations. Sheet 15 is very interesting in this context!

Gives explanation of what they did for the intranet site of D66 (Dutch political party). Button 'Thank you/Like' most used feature of knowledge café.

Also tells about how they see dynamic profiling and expert finding. Based on what they see how people interact.

Presentation #kmnl by Jose Kooken, Henny Leemkuil & Wilco Bonestroo

This presentation gives an overview of the APOSDLE project (Advanced Process-oriented self-directed learning environment). Title of the presentation is "Learning in the workplace: supporting it by the APOSDLE system".

This project runs from March 2006 to February 2010 and has 12 partners.

Goal of this project is to design a domain independent system for knowledge workers using exciting sources in the company.


  1. People mostly learn at work in a self-steered way. > True, learning at a computerized workspace is seen.
  2. Self-steered learning during work is mostly initiated by the actual work people do. > True, a work task is the most important trigger for learning.
  3. During self-steered learning at work bottlenecks occur that should be overcome. > True, in general learning is successful (72%), but there are several issues. (non existing info, lots of info instead of precise info, experts not willing to share, etc.)
  4. Inter-personal communication is important when in self-steered office work. > True, practical applications and written material are checked, but inter-personal communication is essential.

This was used as requirements for the APOSDLE system. Henny tells what type of questions need to be answered by and the theoretical underpinnings of the learning system.

Wilco demo's the APOSDLE prototype. Looks like a huge expert system. I like the interactive part in the system: adding comments, highlights, etc. Also leads to expert finding tool implicitly.

The documents used in the system have to be added to the system manually and annotated manually. The original idea was to add documents automatically, and have system learn from the document. This is still an open issue.

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Presentation #kmnl by Samuel Driessen

This is my presentation for the KM Made in Holland meeting about 'enterprise wiki's @ Océ:

Got some interesting questions:

  1. about culture and wiki's and getting people to collaborate in wiki's
  2. how are disagreements about content in the wiki handled?
  3. what would happen if the wiki platform was taken away? Will work come to a grinding halt?
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At KM "Made in Holland" 2009 meeting

I'm at the second Knowledge Management "Made in Holland" meeting. The first one was held two years ago. I'll be blogging about most of the presentations. And some are also tweeting about this meeting. You can follow the tweets by searching for this tag: #kmnl.

Focus of this year's meeting is: "Knowledge Management and learning at work".

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