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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Not blogging...because of too much blogging!

I hate myself for being such a super-procrastinator. I feel like blogging and I make drafts, but I never allowed myself the time for finishing them in the last three weeks.

Because I have pressing deadlines, some of them connected with blogging, I almost imposed myself not to blog... while still blogging.

Let me explain this:
I'm running a course on ... blogging. My university back home is part of a EU project trying to adapt the Portfolio Evaluation Method to IT courses taught to adults. The topic I chose for my online course was, of course, blogging. The learners group selected itself, while I was talking to different people about my plans. They are of different ages, backgrounds and professions. I don't know all of them personally. I was very enthusiastic about this endeavour, and still I am, but:

1. nothing works as planned;
2. it's extremely time consuming.

Except these two "little" drawbacks, the rest is very exciting. Now let's detail a bit:
What was planned - learners picking up a topic for their blog and blogging regularly;
You bet! I had to talk to them via IM, personal emails, discussion list, class blog - encouraging them, promising rewards, even threatening them, because even if charmed by the idea in the beginning, they were actually paralyzed to have to publish anything.

Blogging regularly - we had this talk at BlogWalk2 - blogging is fun, but if somebody would force you to blog every morning, will it still be fun? Or it will be perceived as a burden? In the beginning, I told them nice words like "you don't have to blog if you don't feel like!", "I'm not going to force you to blog", "I am not going to be your teacher, but your coach running side by side and encouraging you, so you can find your own rythm..." etc. Well, I had to abandon my good intentions and to set clear deadlines, otherwise some of them would have never found the courage to start.

The topic: I didn't set any topic- they had to choose one. All I asked for - bearing in mind the project itself- was to write on the blog some of their impressions about blogging and them learning to blog. I am not sure all of them do have now a central topic (even if they declared one in their blog presentation), but I am confident they are on their way and they will eventually find a central topic (or more) that fits them best.

The tone: that was a difficult one - finding their own voices! Some persuasion was necessary to convince them abandon the textbook-like objective tone, or the plain reproduction of stories found elsewhere on the web. I showed them all kind of examples - but it's a matter of personality. One of them used to work for a local radio station - well, he's blogging the same way he was talking on air, mixing allkind of information. There are posts sounding like emails to our group, others ressembling to official press releases. I don't mind! The important thing is to go on, till they'll fin their own voice.

The language: Romanian or English? This was another dilemma. Mixing languages or having separate blogs? We have an English teacher in the group- she naturally switched to English and started to receive foreign visitors, received banner exchange invitations and was co-opted in another more specific blogging course. Browsing the blogosphere, they found blogs of interest for their own topic and added them to the blogroll, which lead to reactions.

Then, a whole debate started moving from one blog to another: what do we consider to belong to the Romanian blogosphere? Blogs written in Romanian by Romanians? Blogs written in English by Romanians? Blogs in any other language about Romania - written by foreigners living both in Romania and abroad? (Troniu built quite a taxonomy in this regard!)
In other words, what is decisive: the blogger's origin, the topic or the language? After coming to a conclusion, I may volunteer to write something for Blogcount , because there are some very interesting developments in the Romanian blogosphere (whatever are we naming with this term!). We had a blog contest, then a blog comment war, and several people build lists of Romanian RSS sources (Timsoft, RSS RO ). As a result, my Romanian Bloggers blogroll grew every day, I met some very interesting people, and they asked me lots of technical questions motivating me to look for solutions to my old unsolved problems.

It's time consuming, because beside the course blog and the current "blogger newbie" group (could we invent a blogbie word? ;-), I am trying to build a repository of information on blogging in Romanian language and also to keep in touch with as many Romanian bloggers as possible.
Even if most of the Romanian blogosphere is made now of people who read and write English (more than half of the Romanian blogs on my blogroll are in English!) and are kind of techies, I keep on hoping that we will succeed to attract some other categories to blog very soon.

And I spend so much time because I keep learning myself in the process: I never felt as a teacher, I feel as one of the learners. We're not in a classroom anymore, we're on the beach sitting on the sand around the fire and thinking of solutions for few of our problems. I never pretended I knew everything - maybe I have some good searching skills and a bit more experience - and I really enjoy this new situation. Barbara Ganley's talk from last year's Blogtalk sound more actual than ever to me. And her concerns are mine too.

Would you like to know what I did this morning ? Went through my Bloglines subscriptions, found Martin's post on rel="nofollow", read through his references and some other, and wrote a post on Prinsea about it. I felt like I should, can't explain why. Maybe because I was not sure it's a good idea from the very beginning. If the news would suddenly decide to stop mentioning thefts, murders and rapes(which would be quite a blessing, in my opinion!) would this prevent criminality?

And now that I started, I think I will keep on blogging here (instead of cleaning my desk!) and procrastinate again my other tasks till tomorrow. After all, it's Sunday, and Steve Pavlina wisely advises us to keep a free-of-work day every week!

|| Gabriela 3:41:00 PM
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Friday, January 21, 2005

What if? wishful thinking...

On Wednesday evening I attended another webinar: Patricia Seybold’s View of Portals and Dashboards, offered by Bowstreet, a prominent provider of enterprise-class software solutions, and featuring Patricia Seybold as invited speaker.

This time, things didn't go so smooth as with the Scott Allen webinar. Even if I arrived home on time, I wasn't able to connect till 6:24, and I had to dial the overseas phone number over and over till I got in. I suppose they were not able to start before 6:20 CET, because I saw an announcement on their web page setting 6:15 as the new start time.

What was in for me? Not much, but because I was involved once in IT Evaluation, I like to keep up-to-date and find out what are the trends on the software market. A lot of customisable views and diagrams that could provide the right data in the right form using the same enterprise-wide database, this time built over portals. Digital Dashboards are the "grand children" of what we used to call Executive Information Systems and later on Scorecards(remember the famous BSC of Kaplan/Norton?) . The new thing about them is the attempt to make them highly customisable, role-based and actionable.

Sounded promising, but I am not the enthusiast I used to be 20 years ago when I started to work in software development anymore. Now I know that the weakpoint is adoption - no matter how reliable, user-friendly, needed and useful a piece of software is, if you can't "sell" it properly to the end user, it's dead. Training and persuasion, together with management support and some enforcement are important factors that have to be taken into account. Actually, Daniel Hartert presentation's at ECITE proved us all how it works at Philips in a very diverse and world wide corporate environment.

In the morning, in the office, I happened to find this authentic gem over at Headshift: Blogs are not the only fruit , where Lee Bryant was painting a wider picture of the current implications and perspectives of Social Software.

In the afternoon, I started to analyse my own thoughts and feelings: why am I so strongly on the Social Software side? Why do I have the tendency of criticising Enterprise Software? Do I find it needless? Can big enterprises make it nowadays without it?

I had to recognise I am still bitter because of my previous industry experience under a communist regime - we were producing State-of-the-Art information systems back in the '80s, companies were paying for it (since the funds were earmarked especially for IT and couldn't be used in any other way) and then abandoning them - sometimes even without a single attempt to implement them. Lots of wasted work!

Rationally thinking, could Social Software be the Silver Bullet we were looking for? Certainly not. But what if we could interweave it with Enterprise Software? Combine "hard" data such as sales, production, with "soft" data coming from the Human Capital side (competencies, lessons learned)? Maybe having an audio recording of the previous manager in that role associated to a specific task, so that the current manager could hear him thinking loud about how to solve it properly. Or having access to his predecessor's blog, or to a related mind map. These are not objective, hard data. However they can spare large amounts of money when it comes to difficult situations... I guess it sounds a bit like utopia, but there must be a way of making Enterprise information systems more human and improving their acceptance and usage, by giving them a human, subjective touch. Collaborative software improved the situation a lot. But there're new steps to take...

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

IRBA- Individualism Romanian Blog Awards

That's great! Now we have Romanian Blogging Awards too! Gabriel Mihalache, whose excellent blog I discovered not so long time ago, decided to organise this competition on his own. Yesterday, reading his blog, I discovered not only that Coniecto was among the nominees for the "Most Professional Blogs"category , but also that our baby, Prinsea, is nominated in the "Most Practical Blogs" category.

We started Prinsea(the name of a children game in Romanian, meaning "catch me!") with the intention of providing technical information (and not only!) for both actual bloggers and to-be-bloggers in Romanian language. We are four authors by now (Gabriel, Troniu, Dragos and myself), but I have signals from others who would like to join us.
The categories set up by Gabriel are: rumors, best of the best, happenings, theory, tricks - this could give you an image about the content!
I'm using Prinsea in combination with Roblogs - the course blog - for teaching blogging to a group of Romanians. It proves to be an interesting experience - even if it's more time consuming than I ever imagined!

I don't think the Romanian blogosphere is mature enough for organising competitions, but I welcome Individualism's initiative as an excellent way to raise the awareness on the blogging phenomenon in Romania, and to help us find each other. I discovered a couple of new blogs - very promising voices! There are a lot of Romanians blogging in English, from Romania or from abroad - but also people who blog in Romanian.

Well, if I succeeded to catch your attention, you can vote here.
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