Sunday, 15 March 2009

Flickr Groups and Your Teams

As I have rekindled my interest in photography over the past year (since getting a Digital SLR), I've been sharing some of my photos via the Flickr web site (

I find Flickr a really interesting site as it contains a great sense of community, through it's use of groups especially. There are endless groups on there, covering any and every subject you may want to consider for photos - or videos, confusingly - with nothing to prevent anyone from setting up their own group. All very 'Web 2.0' with social networking to the fore. Flickr also benefits from promoting work for shared use according to the 'Creative Commons' licensing scheme.

As well as the use of groups to post and share pictures with a common theme, the site allows you to register your contacts so that you can see what they are posting. This helps to build an extended network of contacts that may even become friends, not just virtual stalkers (although I am sure an element of that exists, for which you can block people from marking you as a contact). With this network approach, plus groups, there is a strong sense of community as people comment on each others work, whether providing criticism (requested or not) or just well-wishing or paying compliments.

I feel that maybe this collaborative approach to sharing information, viewpoints and feedback could do well if it could be mirrored in a business environment. Characteristics would include minimal control being exercised by moderators (or 'management'), notification of new content, subject-based group areas, networks of contacts. exchange of views and 'feelgood factor' that can arise from shared aims and contributions. Now, I've seen many Wiki sites and SharePoint portals that are supposed to provide all of these points - from a technical perspective, anyway.

So if the internal business sites do not get used in the same way, maybe that points to the company culture not being conducive to open comment and shared efforts to reach goals? Is there really a no-blame culture; are people scared to speak up and possibly be proven wrong; does the company want people to work in a more team-friendly way; or is there a lack of trust to be resolved? Plenty of possible reasons why this can happen, and [most of the time] I would think it is not a deliberate company policy, but just an environmental issue.

If you are in an influencing position (which should apply to *anyone* in an organisation), then maybe look at what technical facilities are provided for use in your company, but that which are perhaps not being used in anywhere near their optimum way. If you agree that things could be much better, why not look at the culture and environment to see if you can contribute to improving things, or be sure that staff are empowered to move things forward in such a way.

Or if there is no real intention to make wider use of those portals, discussion boards, Wiki pages and the like, perhaps you should just save the time, effort and money and rip them out. If they aren't being used (by readers or writers of content), make a bold decision and drop them! Better still, take the other, easier, decision and promote these facilities; get them more widely used, make them easier to access and and more frequently updated. Get the value from this investment, whilst perhaps improving the way in which people get to do their work...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Book Meme

"She had been married to man who never bored her and these people bored her very much"

From 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro', in 'The First Forty-Nine Stories', by Ernest Hemingway.

Book Meme:

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

Book Meme spotted on

Friday, 4 July 2008

Retaining Staff

Reading a book by Gordon Ramsay recently, he puts a lot of his success down to the fact that he had a really good team of staff around him in the early days, and has continued with many of those same people as his business(es) have grown over the years.

One particular quote I like is:

Finding great talent, looking after staff and nurturing their talent is what we learned to do well. Losing good people is symptomatic of only one thing: truly crap, appalling and abysmal management.

I have to agree with this comments and principles, even though it is dressed up in the usual blunt Ramsay style of language.

Wherever I have worked, there really does seem to be a difference where some organisations do indeed look after their staff and reward them with a good environment, interesting roles and increasing responsibility. Not forgetting suitable pay awards, of course, which are one of (but definitely not the only) reason to work at your chosen career and company.

Just something to recall if you are ever seriously dissatisfied with your work environment and starting to feel under-valued or no longer appreciated. Maybe you don't deserve it, but it could just be a company culture that might fail it's staff in the long term.

Hopefully you aren't in this position though, and you have a happy workplace and good prospects. If not, think seriously about what you want and how you can benefit your company - or possibly taking those benefits to a more appreciative employer...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Dubious Acronyms - An I.T. Profanisaurus

Obviously should have better things on my mind, but whilst in a hotel room recently I started to ponder the creation and propogation of the various acronyms that we are all familiar - or not so familiar - with in IT.

You know the sort of thing that gets bandied around in design documents and discussions:
GIGO for Garbage In, Garbage Out
ACID for Atomic, Consistent, Isolated, Durable transactions
KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid
SNAFU - Situation Normal, All Fouled Up
FUBAR - Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition

I believe those last two come from the military, but have been widely adopted. Maybe because IT has so many foul-ups?

In a similar vein, I thought I would make a list of further possible acronyms that may be used in IT, but that I would not expect to see promoted in any corporate environment. My hotel notepad ended up with the following:

  • Think It Through
  • Attempt Sensible Solutions
  • Specify Explainable XML
  • Build Usable Models
  • Forget Using Complex Keys
  • Someone Will Always Layer Lots Of Waste
  • Cleverdicks Understand Nothing Tangible
  • Producing Really Intricate Complexity Kills Solutions
  • Test With Acceptable Targets
  • Don't Only Notice Graphics
  • When Alert, Normalise Keys, Eliminate Redundancy

And the last one on my list, which has to win some kind of award for creativity:

  • Totally Rewrite Any Non Strategic Variants Early, Saving Time In The End
OK, none of those are likely to make it into common use, but it gave me a little smile when I put them together. Now, should I add a (c) or (tm) symbol after my favourites in there?


Friday, 28 March 2008

Chartered IT Professional

As a professional member of the BCS (British Computer Society) for some years, I decided late last year to apply for Chartered IT Professional status, as I feel that represents my attitudes and role in the IT industry.

Glad to say, that request was accepted and that I can now use the letters 'CITP' after my name. It means I also need to pay attention to the code of conduct and to make sure I maintain the correct level of professionalism in my engagements and my future career progression.

However, if I had applied earlier in the year, I would have been able to read my name in a BCS feature in the Telegraph last February.

Not that my ego likes to see my name in the press, but it is nice to get recognition from as many different channels as possible. Maybe I can post an addendum next year if they list 2008 members awarded CITP status...