The Future As Seen By Me In 2010

Well looky here, things one has scanned in eh. (ignore the photo, that's some guy that made some accounting software, not sure what became of him ;) MIKE RIVERSDALE is fuming. The expensive headphones he bought in Sydney three weeks ago have just died. His first reaction is not to randomly spill expletives into his coffee, but to use his iPhone to vent his frustration to his Twitter con- tacts, under the moniker Miramar Mike. "I will also put, 'What should I do?' It's a conversation. I'm reaching out to the people following me." The council predicts hand-held digital devices such as smartphones will rule the world in 2040. They already rule the life of Mr Riversdale, whose company WaveAdept helps businesses adapt - their computing sys- tems to allow staff to work from anywhere - and with anyone. In order of fre- equency, he uses his iPhone to tweet (1136 followers; 8363 tweets since joining), e-mail, make phone calls and use online services, such as checki

3 parts to Good Information - Available, Findable and Usable

As some of you have probably gleaned during my scrawls that I have three attributes ('things about something') about any piece of any information be it online, electronic, in a book or scrawled on walls must have.

They are that information MUST* be:
  1. Available
  2. Findable
  3. Usable
If a piece of information doesn't meet all three then it's probably worthless to the person reading/gathering that information.

Classic examples of getting 2 out 3 (is bad) in the online/electronic world plus how it impacts of the worth of the information to the reader ...

1: Findable + Usable
Using some document management/records management systems access rights (what you can and cannot see) are respected when you click on an item but not incorporated into how search results are shown and/or lists of documents.

For instance, do a search for "upcoming redundancy's" and you might find an entry (findable) which is possibly in the exact format that you want (usable) but you try and click on it and, "Access denied, please contact the owner for permissions to open this file". Not available!

How does it impact the user - they are generally very frustrated by the system

A lot of the work I do with organisations around "Enterprise 2.0" is focussed around this area and overcoming the fears of merely making information available to all that should (even 'could') have a need to access it. The perception, of course, is that information = power, this is not true and I can wax on lyrically for days about both why it's not true and strategies/behaviours to adopt that both guide and educate those with this view; a view that is mostly unseen by those that hold it and is expressed in a language of fear of letting go.

2: Available + Usable
This is the area that Google (and I'm sure others, *ahem*) works in ... it's making usable and available information findable. Search has come a long way to rectify this ... in the real world. Search within organisation walls isn't always the best and a lot of information is just hidden away.

I also believe that a lot of information is hidden away due to 'old world views' on how information should be stored. Hierarchical Documents management Systems do not necessarily allow the flexibility people need to put things into areas that make sense to those trying to find it. The use of anachronistic records management labels don't always help either. Again, technology can actually help here (tagging and tag clouds, for instance).

Being findable can be more complex that merely, here it is - surfacing up information that is relevant can also improve the 'findablitiy' of information. But that's for the master class, let's stick with getting the basics right first.

How does it impact the reader - they never see it and for all that anyone cares the information doesn't exist; wheels are reinvented, assumptions are made and resources are wasted.

3: Available + Findable
Oooh hell, this is probably 80% of the information in the electronic world including the Web - information is just not usable.

Many a time I find someone's contact details (available + findable) and then I have to do an extra manual step to use that information such as cut-n-paste into my contacts so I can email them in the future.

Or you're in an organisation that has a classic intranet - you want to apply for leave, you quickly find the information in a "How to apply for leave" ... it describes in easy terms using screenshots a plenty what needs to be filled in using which IT systems ... but they never let you actually go and do it there and then!

It's most frustrating when it's the simple things such references to web pages at online newspapers that aren't clickable - I'm talking about you!

How does it impact the reader - they are stuck being just that, a reader. You are left with a sense of a job half done, almost there and not quite finished.

What YOU can do

There are two keys parts to making information usable:

a) Think of the reader
What do they want? What would be most useful to them?
This is very rarely the same as what you want to say ... the skill is weaving in your message into what is actually useful. Oh, and dump the jargon and use Plain English (or your language equivalent).

Also think of the reader as the owner of the information as you are asking them to pay for it. And I you just went, "Huh?" remember that you have paid for this article with:
  • your time
  • your attention
  • your thinking
  • your "not being able to do other stuff"

b) Think about the next step
Ok, you've got them so far ... what next? There is always a next step in everything, have you given it thought and if so are you doing all you can to help the reader ('consumer') move towards being an active 'user' of the information?

Again, more on that at a later date.

I hope that has triggered some thoughts, given you a framework any IM work you may be attempting and perhaps prompted you to revisit your own information base and make some changes.

Always remember to ask:

Is this information available, findable and usable?

As a teaser I also hold that communication has three attributes:
  1. Available
  2. Timely
  3. Relevant
And you can see how information is related to communication and fits into the 3 pillars of collaboration :-)

* MUST - nothing else will do!


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