Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

As a way to enable conversations about wicked problemsIBIS (Issue-Based Information Systems) software seems to have evolved over the past few years.  While the academic support of IBIS software has carried an open source license, part of the community has become independent of the university.

For those unfamiliar with how an IBIS might work, Jeff Conklin (at the Cognexus Institute) had done a lot of work on Issues-Based Information Systems (IBIS) based on Rittel and Webber‘s “wicked problems”. The open source software supporting this is Compendium.   See the “Limits of Conversational Structure” | Jeff Conklin | April 10, 2008 at .

Simon Buckingham Shum, from the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University UK, mapped the first UK election Tv debate in 2010 (or at least the few first minutes before his connection was interrupted).  “Dialogue Mapping election debate video” | Simon Buckingham Shum | April 23, 2010 at

Paul Culmsee, an issue and dialogue mapper in Australia, shares some of his experience in facilitation based in three videos.

March 6th, 2014

Posted In: design, systems, web tools

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As much as I read content from the web — either through a feed reader (I’m currently favouring RssOwl) or a browser (I read with Firefox, and post comments with Flock and Cocomment) — there are times when I want my eyes and hands to be free.  I maintain a queue of MP3 audio recordings on a Creative Zen V for listening when walking or driving, and subsequently report on lectures and interview worth noting on the Media Input Queue blog.

The content on this Coevolving Innovations blog is text intensive — people who prefer photos are better to follow the Distractions, Reflections blog — so I have sympathies for readers who find the length tedious.

I was following through on some dialogue on mentoring from Sacha Chua (@sachac) to a blog post by Brian O’Donovan on social software (@bodonovan).  I noticed he had a “Listen” button on the entry, so I pressed it … triggering an automated reading of the content in a woman’s voice. This experiment gave me a close-to-perfect reproduction of the text content (and I could guess the meaning of the mispronunciations).

Following through the links, I discovered ReadSpeaker webReader, which originated as a service for the visually impaired.  For personal web sites, webSpeaker Free is an ad-supported service (with pre and/or post audio, and banners in the player).  It took me less than ten minutes to install on this WordPress blog (as one of the benefits of self-hosting on my own domain).

I noticed that Brian preferred a female voice with a British accent.  I’ve tried that, and the American male voice, and somehow find the American female voice the easiest to my ear.

The structure of WordPress plugins makes adding and removing ReadSpeaker webReader easy, so the added function will be another natural experiment over time.

January 8th, 2010

Posted In: blogging, web tools

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Digital cameras have become so common that they’re often now a feature in mobile phones and audio players.  Pressing a button to capture a snapshot of time is so easy.  The workflow of storing, printing and sharing those images is complicated.  Many would like to return to the days when we would just take the film cartridge out of the camera, and drop it to a photo lab for processing (often in about an hour).

People take more photographs digitally than they did with film cameras.  In a six-month study in 2000, when digital cameras were relatively uncommon, subjects (aged 24 to 38) took 200 to 1000 (with an average about 500) photographs, compared to their prior non-digital accumulated collection of 300 to 3000 (with an average of about 1000) pictures (Rodden & Wood 2003).  This means that when digital cameras were relatively expensive — and camera phones didn’t yet exist — people were averaging about 1 to 5 photos per day!

People presumably use cameras because they want to be able to retrieve the images later.  In a study of 18 parents, the value of long-retrieval of family pictures was high (i.e. around 4.7 on a scale of 5).  On experiments of 71 retrieval tasks — finding birthdays, family trips, first pictures of a child, etc. — 61% were successful, taking about 2.5 minutes each.  On the 39% of unsuccessful retrievals, subjects gave up after about 4 minutes  (Whittaker et al. 2010).  This effectively means that, on average, nearly 40% of the digital photos taken last year are lost, and considerable persistence is needed for them to be refound.

I. What activities, platforms and artifacts are involved with managing digital photos?

Digitalization in photography has replaced trips to the photo lab with the copying of electronic files.  Industry standards have stabilized so that image files can be readily copied from cameras to personal computing devices, and onto web servers.  Here’s a diagram of some of the activities, platforms and artifacts in digital photography.


Based on this diagram, let me (a) pose some questions for reflection on the choices we implicitly make about managing photos, (b) outline some popular alternatives, and (c) describe the way I do it, myself.

II. What type of photographer am I?

December 22nd, 2009

Posted In: practices, web tools

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While some of my activity on the Internet is recreational, I continue to play with web tools to learn about the ever-evolving technology.  While the average person has become comfortable with e-mail, web feeds are still pretty much a mystery to many.  The RSS and Atom specifications first used by newswires has become the principal form of web syndication for blogs and social media.

I’ve recently rearranged my pattern of web use (again).  To encourage readers to think about how they use the Internet, let me pose four questions.

  • 1. Which principles on web content do I have in mind?
  • 2. How do I post content, and flow it?
  • 3. Why have I recently changed my use?
  • 4. What consideration should web users have for their content?

With the way that technology continues to evolve, the specific web applications may change … but the pattern should remain the same.

1. Which principles on web content do I have in mind?

My attitude is reflected in two ideas:  (a) open content with attribution, and (b) open platforms with interoperability.

(a) Open content with attribution reflects that I like to share my learning with other people.   Posting the content on the Internet improves access and distribution.  I understand the workings of copyright — there’s a Creative Commons license on this blog — which means that I retain ownership of my words, on the condition that if someone wants to formally cite the work, he or she should cite me as the source.  I’m not an author who makes his living at writing, so simple acknowledgement is normally sufficient.

(b) Open platforms with interoperability means that I don’t want my content inappropriately trapped in places inaccessible to others.  I appreciate instances when content should remain private, respecting the needs of others and/or commercial conditions, but secrecy should be the exception rather than the rule.  The content should flow freely (i.e. free as in liberty), rather than having to stumble through technological obstacles.

2. How do I post content, and flow it?

With these principles in mind, I’m reforming the way that I interact on the web.  Here’s a diagram (linked to another page in an interactive map).


November 26th, 2009

Posted In: blogging, technologies, web tools

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How is reading blogs different from reading e-mail and using search engines?

Most peers at my age — I’m a later era baby boomer, now called Generation Jones — are comfortable receiving e-mail and using search engines. This population hasn’t yet fully embraced social technologies such as blogs. This is changing slowly. Jeremiah Ohyang, in “How Baby Boomers Use Social Media“, describes that:

  • 71% of younger boomers (age 43 to 52) in 2008 were active with social technologies, as compared to 52% in 2007, and
  • 65% of older boomers (age 53 to 63) in 2008 were active with social technologies, as compared to 45% in 2007.

A further breakdown of the social technographic of boomers shows a bimodal (i.e. two-bump) distribution.

  • The largest bump of boomers (67% and 62%) is readers as “spectators” of blogs and forums — probably arriving at the web site via a bookmark or a search engine.
  • Of boomers reading blogs, fewer are “joiners” who maintain a profile on the web, or “collectors” who are receive updates as feeds.
  • Contributing content, boomers show a smaller bump as 35% and 34% as “critics” who leave comments on blogs and forums.
  • Less than half that number are “creators” who upload and publish primary content, which means bloggers under age 43 outnumber bloggers over age 43 in a ratio of 6-to-1.

What are boomers missing? They may not want to become authors (i.e. “creators” or “critics”). As “collectors”, however, they can become more productive readers. Moving into this segment requires (1) embracing the ethos of a blog reader, (2) adopting tools that streamline reading blogs, and (3) establishing a personal style for tracking content.

Boomers are comfortable with e-mail. E-mail is a person-centric way of receiving information. It’s easy to sort out the importance of content by the sender of the information. The widespread alternative on the Internet is content-centric search. Put some search terms into a browser, and locate information sources. It’s worth remembering, though, that the credibility, reliability and usefulness of web sources is better if you know and/or trust the author(s).

[Side note: I first encountered the idea of person-centric from a tweet by Luis Suarez, leading to an interview of Euan Semple by Joshua-Michele Ross, and then a 2007 interview of Euan Semple by David Weinberger. The person-centric approach is also evident in the Cattail project at IBM Research.]

Moving up to the level of a “collector” takes advantage of web feed technologies such as RSS or Atom. Web feeds enable a person-centric way of receiving information from web syndication, i.e. content made available through publishing on the Internet. A reader can subscribe to individuals from whom he or she wants to read more, and bypass the noise from unwanted search results and junk e-mail. Following the ideas of a trusted colleague is more productive than relying on an anonymous source found with a search engine.

The three behaviours of becoming a “collector” are described below.

(1) Blog readers socially engage with blog writers

Blogs are communications direct from a writer. Marshall McLuhan would probably describe blogs as a “hot medium” as compared to other “cooler” web content. In an April 2008 ACM CHI presentation and paper on “Exploring the Role of the Reader in the Activity of Blogging”, Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi and Bill Tomlinson (all at U.C. Irvine) find that blog readers have characteristic common practices:

March 5th, 2009

Posted In: web tools

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Photo retouching — with programs such as Photoshop, or the open source clone Gimpshop version of the GNU Image Manipulation Program — can be used to doctor images (sometimes obviously, and sometimes inobviously). I’m more of a programmer than a graphics artists, so I usually just do a quick cropping, resizing and sharpening of my JPEG photographs using Irfanview. This means that the proportions within the image remain the same.

Download Squad pointed out a “next gen image resizing method”, linking to a prior news item about a 4-1/2 minute Youtube video where Shai Avidan demonstrates “Seam Carving for Content-Aware Image Resizing”, for a recent SIGGRAPH conference. It’s fun to watch the video, because it alters images in a way similar to the way human beings do: it keeps the key content (e.g. people) in natural proportion, while removing out some of the uninteresting (or “dead space”) content (e.g. sky).

September 2nd, 2007

Posted In: web tools

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