Berlin Webweek – some after-action notes

BarCamp Berlin 3

Now, back from an intense Berlin Web Week, it’s time for an after-action review. Let’s see, been to the BarCamp Berlin, pl0gbar, Girl Geek Dinner (sic!), Lunch 2.0 at plista and the Web 2.0 Expo Europe.

Mingled with the crowd, had fun at parties and more. Blogged at times, tweeted a lot, tagged stuff with #berlinblase and #w2eb when I deemed it fit.

Overall this was fun and gave me some insights too, like e.g. when sitting together with Tim O’Reilly and his team or when talking shop with the fellow participants, some speakers and exhibitors.

During the Expo, I had the chance to check out some vendors like Jive Software, telligent and Zoho. Yes these were in my portfolio of suitable (and “to watch”) software already, but it’s always nice to talk to the (sales) people directly. Others were around too, but hey, time was scarce these days (and my plan to talk to introduce me to Jeffrey Walker on the last day of the Expo failed for objective reasons).

Image by Luca Sartoni who caught me and my laptop during the blogger roundtable (licensed under CC: some rights reserved)

I blogged some of my thoughts and notes on the events I’ve been here already, as well as notes on the keynotes. Let me pull something to the front once more, because (Tim’s main point) is so important: if you are going to do something, do something that matters. We’ve got lots of problems and opportunities at hand, that might be tackled by cleverly using technology. And organizations (smallish ones, yes, but also big corporations) are mighty levers to change the world for the better.

Therefore I am feeling a bit disappointed after the Expo – I feel that not many CxO type of guys were present (CIOs weren’t there either, but that’s a different story). This is both sad and telling, on a wide scale and in direct relation to intra-company workings. Enterprise 2.0 will effect big changes in the corporate world, and it has great impact on companies’ competititveness. Given that the cover of the October issue of the german language Harvard Business manager is “IT – new technologies are changing business administration” this little response from german CxOs is feeling awkward. And they didn’t go to the Systems 08 either, so my point is clear: “Doesn’t Web 2.0 in the Enterprise matter to them?” and “What to do about that?

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Notes on the Web 2.0 Expo Keynotes …

The cool C1 main conference room ceiling (they did a lightshow with these things …)

Some notes and links for the Wednesday and Thursday keynotes, wasn’t present at all of them, moreover Wifi was a bit flaky so I didn’t tweet as much as usual, i.e. I didn’t do much note taking. But others are covering things nicely (e.g. Adam blogged about Tim’s talk with Martin Varsavsky and Suw Charman-Anderson’s talk on dealing with the productivity problems around e-mail). Moreover the presentations are uploaded to Slideshare mostly by now, so check there as well. Alas, not all of the keynotes employed slides at all, like those by Luis Suarez and Ben Hammersley.

Web meets World by Tim O’Reilly:

“Web2.0 vs. the water cooler – How Web2.0 has changed the way we communicate at work” with JP Rangaswamy (Adam has a good write-up on this, video will be coming I guess – needed as the slides alone won’t take you far. Hey, you need to be in the room with JP to take full advantage, that’s the point of going at conferences):

There Goes Everybody: Focusing the Power of People and Today’s Network on Opportunity by Dion Hinchcliffe:

Dion talked about how these ideas affect what you Enterprises do. I noted some good points on business models, but got alerted much more by his assertion that „enterprise 2.0 is so viral, it’s entering the workplace very naturally“. It’s not longer “trojan mice“alone, it’s the power of the Web as a platform, together with social systems that work two-way and interactive that push this forward. Great opportunities and challenges ahead, like “how much control do we have over our businesses?” and how to cope (err, how to leverage) the great increases in transparency and openness …

I also liked the keynotes by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino from (“In Case of Turbulence: Open Source Hardware’s Next Challenges“). This made me understand Ton’s fascination, he’s also got lots of videos showing what is possible with Fablabs now. Yes, this is much more of a BMID topic, so go there if you want.

Then there were “Let All Things Be Connected” with Rafi Haladjian of Violet (spell Nabaztag, please) and Redesigning An Exercise in Open Source Design with Leisa Reichelt (this one is obvious, having enjoyed her two workshops the first day, see here and here).

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Web 2.0 Expo Europe: Improving Your Site’s Usability – What Users Really Want

These are my notes from the second Expo workshop with Leisa Reichelt, on Improving Your Site’s Usability – What Users Really Want. Here’s the post covering the morning workshop: Collaboration Techniques that really work.

Now let’s see:

  • It ain’t really funny, but yes, in usability no two experts have got the same understanding. Usability is a field full of theories, many good books out there, and some good blogs too I guess.
  • To achieve something that works for the user (hey, this is important for behind the firewall Enterprise 2.0 stuff too) we need both rules and testing, i.e. design guidelines and rules, common conventions and all are not enough to ensure success. Some rules have lost their relevance by now (e.g. three clicks to rule it all …)
  • In the field of usability we’re dealing with human brains – these are good at a lot of things, but can be fooled easily (they have finite storage capacity, like when short term memory struggles to store more than about nine things, trying to deal with this e.g. by chunking up things together only works a bit. When attention is a limited commodity we tend to do one decision at a time and stick to habits and learned procedures (yes, these are useful at times, as they require no attention). Our long term memory stores only what we can’t easily deduce (via mental shortcuts and “lifehacks”).
  • What else? Interruptions burden our short term memory, switching between tasks takes effort, in modern life unexpected things happen all the time (can you spell Twitter?) making it hard to form habits, yet computers and software expects us to remember how to do things. Here, Leisa talked about the Principle of Commensurate Effort, i.e. people will spend a considerable amount of effort on things that is in proportion to the value they perceive (reminds me both of Bruno Figueiredo’s talk and the notion of “early adopters will use anything” and the Twitter failwhale). Well, yes, even when people are putting up with it, it’s no excuse for bad usability design – and there are good reasons to this too (adoption rests on the motivation of your early adopters, treat them well).
  • Leisa talked about Alan Cooper and “polite computing” (14 Principles of Polite Apps, pdf), i.e. software that is interested in me, perceptive, forthcoming, self-confident and responsive. Great rules and lifehacks: make the easy easy, and the difficult possible (yes, wikis make that sound natural), make it quick to scan & digest, avoid clutter and text-only (well, tagclouds are a different beast in my book), users read when needed and avoid it when not needed …
  • More user adoption lifehacks: speak the right language (avoid marketese, legalese, technese), lay information scents, i.e. use keywords to guide people in the right direction, people will sniff it out, much like the way they will when you try to foul them (yes, well put, seeing these effects e.g. in wiki portal site usage, when people are avoiding the nicely done navigation and go directly into search mode, and when they rely on the breadcrumb navigation).
  • Leverage seducible moments (Jared Spool, see e.g. The Search for Seducible Moments). i.e. “there are specific moments where designers are most likely to influence a shopper to investigate a promotion or special offer. Most of the time, these moments come after the shopper has satisfied their original mission on the site. If we identify the key seducible moment for a specific offer, we can often see over 10 times as many requests”. I wonder how this can be used for intranet application design, got some ideas but need to rework them …
  • Support users in a rush, as the paradox of the active user is dreadful (I haste to get rapid results, ergo I make mistakes, making me slower, …), give feedback (“you’re doing great!”). Hmmm, sites should give lots, probably that’s behind one of the great things about wikis – they provide instant gratification.
  • don’t under-estimate “tunnel vision“, people are able to ignore a lot, i.e. banner blindness, don’t underestimate the task focus of users – they ignore most stuff. Yes, you need to know what they want to do and get them there, and you need to have an experience strategy.
  • User Centered Design as such is interested in both strategic and tactical elements. Whereas Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think” is on a strategic level, Luke Wroblewski’s  “Web Form Design” is on a tactical level.
  • Why do UCD (in Enterprise 2.0)? Four key benefits are increased revenue, reduced project risk, reduced customer support costs and more customer retention (yikes, yes, internal users of our systems are customers too ;). All too often project teams don’t understand genuine user requirements (easy, users don’t understand their own requirements themselves at times) – at the same time making late changes is slow and expensive.
  • Some ideas: Don Norman and The Design of Everyday Things (“we tend to project our own rationalisations and beliefs onto the actions and beliefs of others”), Jakob Nielsen “to design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say“, user research helps you uncover, understand and design for REAL user requirements.

Now, check out the slides:

Blogger roundtable with Tim O’Reilly at Web 2.0 Expo

As part of the Blogger Program for the Web 2.0 Expo Europe, 25 bloggers from all over Europe were invited to sit down with Tim O’Reilly, Jennifer Pahlka and Brady Forrest. Lucky guy that I am I was part of this small group, enjoying an intense discussion, alas it was only about 50 minutes. I put down some notes, tweeted a lot more but up to now have got no time to put these into a blogpost. Well, until yet!

Andrea asked if O’Reilly are thinking of changing the name of the conference, shudder, is web 2.0 dead? Well, Tim sait that 2.0 is not a version name or number (“Everyone took it to be a version number. It wasn’t”). Web 2.0 is about the shift to the network as a platform, the network is penetrating our lifes, one reason why e.g. Google & Android ventured into the spectrum market and go “mobile”.

We’re in the business of building applictions for collective intelligence, we’re seeing a new class of applications (well, much like back then PC applications were a new category). Now were seeing applications that can only exist on a network platform, and that get better the more people use it.

Tim noted that they’re watching what alpha-geeks and hackers do much. Now they’re playing with sensors, hardware hacking, i.e. earthquake sensors that work with laptop motion sensors. Watching hackers and geeks provides kind of foresense of what is coming. What else is cool? Hackers are tinkering with 3D-Modelling, e.g. with Autodesk, starting with pictures then modelling.

On Enterprise 2.0 and corporate adoption, Jennifer said that 3/4 of participants are “Big Co.”, the Expo is devised as an event to deepen the connections between them and freelancers, startups, … This mix got to work together to see how these things can be used in the real world.

Tim noted that in light of the financial crisis, Enterprise 2.0 will gain importance. Let’s hope so, I guess he’s got a point here: lightweight social software can do a lot for efficiency and innovativeness, and thus remake old businesses (become more responsive, more agile, more flexible). Did I ever mention that it’s business model innovations we should be going after much more? He noted Walmart, that’s really infused with IT and is basically an IT organization (well, purchase triggers a lot in terms of related back-office processes). And there’s companies like Threadless, leveraging mass customization and wisdom of crowds. Jennifer added that it’s again how you define web 2.0, but it’s good for enterprise 2.0 anyway. Well, yes – tight money leads them the wiki et al. way. Smart companies will figure out the things that do work – like e.g. self-serviced communities, …

Lloyd Davis asked how we can enrich our offline relationships with the web, and the other way round. Brady answered that aka-aki is probably one example, giving you more interactions with people you know (and as Tim added also with people that you don’t know yet). In the beginning this may be accompanied with a loss of control, but later on we will learn on how to control access and connections of a diverse nature. Great experiences will likely follow …

Then someone had a question on the book publishing business, Tim said that it’s less central now, but there’s still potential to alert people to new things and to set trends, i.e. it’s about guiding things a little bit. But it’s no longer like the 90’s where „the web was built upon O’Reilly books“.

Now here’s the racy part, Nancy Williams asked about internet heretics and Tim was very outspoken, like „Andrew keen is a self-serving idiot. There is no substance in his book and he is flat out wrong.“ Yes, we’re having a community of experts that are having the debate, where some experts are more convincing and eloquent than others, but still the web is great for communities (of experts, too).

On how to convince “conservative companies” and corresponding CxOs. Here, Tim noted that history repeats itself: as with the PC, Linux, Twitter – this will happen again and again, but in the end it’s pretty much standard. Moreover he said that already a lot of smart CEOs are basically community managers, while he suspects that most PR firms never read the Cluetrain, and never got that it’s a conversation.

On the differences between the New York Expo and the Europe Expo – Tim said that they reflect and customize each event, i.e. NY is like that because there’s agencies and a lot of revenue focus, and thus not so much technology focus.

Berlinblase did some liveblogging here (as did Adam Tinworth who did the photo above, Lloyd Davis, and others I will link in time)

Collaboration Techniques that really work – Lisa Reichelt @ Web 2.0 Expo Europe

Some notes on the first session at the Tuesday workshop session at Web 2.0 Expo Europe: “Collaboration Techniques that really work” with Leisa Reichelt. I really enjoyed the workshop, it was both easy going and immensely interesting. I went there to learn about new working patterns and methods, and learn about how to adopt these to my consulting practice.

We started off with all participants presenting themselves, at a minimum three tags were said. I got the impression of a pretty mixed crowd, i.e. there were developers, journalists, designer, start-uppers, business developers – and even one or two big Co guys too – mainly with an european background.

OK, here we go:

  • Collaboration = working together, especially with the enemy 😉
  • Collaboration ain’t inviting a bunch of people to a meeting at the beginning of a project
  • Collaboration ain’t working separately on the same project, yes, it’s all about the „actually working together“, not just contributing bits to a pot

Well, we all agreed that good collaboration is rare, it’s percveived as somehow fluffy, even when the benefits are so obvious. Some reasons:

  • good for team building & morale
  • good for communication
  • support and build up cross disciplinary skills and insight
  • more heads, eyes, perspectives enrich our work
  • we build up team & shareholder buy in
  • it’s fun too, yes, fully acknowledge this – people are social animals, we like it to be together with people we like, and with people that have energy and commitment (for the project)

If we do it right we can

  • turn stakeholders or customers into collaborative partners
  • build collaboration into project methodology – i.e. collaborate regularly with your project team
  • collaborate with your peers & invite other expert perspectives – Leisa offered us this good idea of inviting “wildcard collaborators” from the outside, they help us to think tangentially and integrate new perspectives

Ok, then, when to collaborate?

  • at the beginning of a project, but not JUST at the beginning
  • when you’re stuck, i.e. for trouble shooting and problem solving (this is collaborating with a narrow focus)
  • when you’re looking for inspiration (yes, wide focus)
  • regularly, well, it must be trained …

What kind of tools make sense?

  • people (the right ones!), i.e. people that like to collaborate
  • sticky notes & pens, whiteboards/ flip charts
  • fun stuff as stimuli
  • sugar in the afternoon (sic!, give them sweets to keep them alert and productive)
  • an objective (well, I know this is not exactly a tool, but close enough in Leisa’s line of arguing, agreed)

Later on we ventured into techniques that make brainstorming work, i.e. right people, preparation, „the rules“, the tools and the environment. Some noteworthy points are the Importance of a good facilitator and the aligning along useful rules, like e.g.

  • what is the problem / question?
  • we need to appoint a facilitator & a scribe
  • listen more than you talk (this can be really hard, it’s easy to dominate the group when you’re outspoken and have a deep interest in the ideas)
  • listen for your own ideas, but also add value to other peoples ideas
  • suspend judgement

One very important rule is “NO QUESTIONS”, good one but nothing new here. I actually liked the second “lifehack”, i.e. demand that any of the contributed  ideas must start with the words: „I wish …“ or „how to …“ as this is helping in going from an idea to a story. Giving you a roundup of our group experience, dealing with ideas for a pizza restaurant is rather hard, so it pass on this one.

Well, second part of the workshop dealt with the KJ method for consensus, i.e.

1. determine the focus question
2. get „opinions“ / „ideas“ onto sticky notes
3. affinity sort into groups (likeness, clustering)
4. name groups
5. vote on group importance (three votes)
6. rank groups (two by two)

Some hints: a) if nobody votes for a group throw it away, you can get there later if you want b) rank them via counts of votes, then put the winner group besides the second group and discuss which is better (well, you basically apply some kind of bubble sort to this, finally you reach a list sorted by perceived importance) and c) in the voting stage it’s basically about discussing these things out, even when in the end it can be necessary to resolve deadlocks by voting again.

In the discussion we shortly talked about whether we can do this online. Well, yes, sort of an issue. But I agree that it’s hard to do this with offshore teams (I guess that is not so much about distance, than about cultural differences), so while technically speaking you can do it, it’s never going to be like the F2F-situation. Moreover, the hassle involved in getting the people together is so much worth it (side benefits like connectedness, understanding, team building, …) and basically making it a lot easier later on to do more on technical platforms and with online tools.

By the way, the room was packed with people I know and dig, let me see: Peter Bihr, Stefan Nitzsche, Jodi Church-Wagner, Christian Heller, Johannes, Hans Dorsch, Jan Tißler, Igor Schwarzmann and Henning Grote. Johannes did some live-blogging, as well as Jodi, but I guess that there will be more write-ups soon. Moreover there’s the Twitter Backchannel with the tag w2eb_ux and w2eb respectively, check out e.g. Twemes. And Leisa said that she’s going to put her slides up on Slideshare, probably in a Web 2.0 Expo group  …

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Wiki Meetup at Web 2.0 Expo Europe?

I am thinking if there might be some interest in meeting fellow Wiki enthusiasts (especially WikiWednesday backers and regulars) at the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin? This might be interesting, sharing success stories and experiences, i.e. how to set-up wiki wednesdays, how to find issues (and sponsors) etc. But we might as well spend our time in wiki geek talk … give me a direct message on Twitter if you’re interested.

I don’t know if it’s still possible to apply for a special room for this get-together, but I guess we can still arrange for this with the nice people from O’Reilly and Techweb …

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008