World of useful information from InfoWorld’s Jon Udell

For some time now I’ve looked forward to Jon Udell‘s columns in InfoWorld as well as his blog posts. My profession involves deeply understanding enterprise content management and Jon often explores managing content in thought-provoking ways. Already this year, Jon has shared with his reading public a significant number of important observations for those considering business value based on technology like RSS. For example, before I began my only weblog, Jon was busy posting the following thoughts and articles:

  • Why titles matter – useful titles in feeds are critical to the efficient flow and effective impact of information. Within RSS Bandit I’ve often wished that I could augment or change a title to align it more with my needs (e.g. flag a thought, mark something visibly for follow-up, etc.). Such functionality would add value to the system where the author is coming from one point of view and being read from any number of people each with potentially different point of views. The original title as written by the author could (should?) be left intact, too, by simply adding metadata to the feed post-publish. Of course, the author may want to rewrite his own titles to optimize information flow.
  • Heads, decks and leads – this cornerstone of journalism can be translated into the optimal allocation and preservation of human attention when applied to information architecture. The challenge will be to enable authors to factor these concerns into their publishing in a manner that is frictionless. Authors want to impact readers, to establish a loyal readership. When the reader’s time is valued, when the reader can find what they need quickly, that reader will return to join the conversation, potentially pass it on to others and cause ideas to brighten or grow directly or indirectly. This post follows up with a specific example in wiki terms for a head, deck and lead.
  • Titles and contexts – here’s the scan mode Jon is asking for in a feed reader: If the [description] is really a short, optional, news-oriented deck, show it along with the title. Or if the [description] is a blog-oriented story, but is a short-form blurb, not a long-form story, then show it along with the title. But if the [description] is a blog-oriented long-form story, then hide it.
  • We are reaching critical mass – How do we balance the needs of the larger network with the needs of the individual nodes (aka people) in the network? [Peter Drayton]
  • Productivity is the end game – I love the optimism and vision in this piece. It’s about people evolving to the point where they publish what they’re doing, and subscribe to what other people are doing, in just the right proportions, so that there’s maximum awareness of shared purpose but minimal demand on the scarce resource of attention. The whole outlining topic–placing posts/content in context–blossomed into several additional posts (i.e. [1], [2] and [3]).
  • This post points to an emerging trend within the blogsphere–semi-private spaces–and the need to accommodate them among public spaces.
  • The scanable blog – “If Edward Tufte has taught me anything at all, it’s that a well-designed information display not only can be dense with data, it should be. Perception is a game of pattern recognition. We scan in order to absorb patterns. But we can’t absorb patterns that we can’t see directly.”
  • In this post on knowledge network commentary, Jon states: “Blogging, both within and across enterprise borders, reconfigures networks to fit social models. In so doing, it spontaneously creates ‘APIs’–access logs, referrer logs–that will greatly amplify the power and utility of the techniques [Valdis] Krebs describes.”
  • I wonder if the macro/microscrope Jon alludes to here can become a function of software to be applied on demand and used to canvas conversations for what might otherwise be perceived as irrelevant but could actually become critical to the success of ideas, projects, etc. If you look through a macroscope, what will you see?
  • I agree with Jon’s comment here that “For the reader, RSS truncation trades immediacy for scannability.” As I referenced before, full-text feeds enable offline scanning, too. When would truncation be of real value and worth the information loss?
  • Tacit knowledge and software usability – As technologists, we hold all sorts of knowledge that is tacit. We ourselves don’t realize that we possess it, and we don’t realize that others (most others) don’t. I’ve had to face this reality throughout my professional career as a software architect. The more I converse on a particular area of expertise, the more I begin to realize what I know and how I can engage others to add to and challenge that knowledge–to take it to new heights or to redirect misplaced energy to a more worthy cause. When we narrate, we externalize what we know. We convert tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. This can help software become more usable for two reasons. First, when technologists narrate what they know, they’re more likely to realize how much tacit knowledge they have and expect in others. Second, when non-technologists narrate what they know, technologists can see more clearly that the expected tacit knowledge is missing.
  • In this post, Jon shares an interesting application of outlining based on web pages and RSS feeds that resonates with me: …gathering sets of web pages when I research new topics. In effect, I build myself a subset web that helps me organize and think about a subject. It’d be sweet to do that collecting and organizing in an outliner, then be able to save the result in a single operation, take it offline as needed, and explore it hypertextually. Imagine being able to mine content within a repository based on context (role, permissions, etc.) to produce a concise outline–constructed from full text and metadata and fully representative of all content relationship (links, hierarchies, etc.). Cool!
  • Managing unstructured data: the virtuous cycle – Quite extraordinary benefits can be realized by paying a bit of attention to the design of two complementary namespaces. One is the set of HTML doctitles in your Web pages. The other is the set of pathnames forming the URLs of those pages. Both are virtual repositories of metadata which can be, and I argue should be, managed with a view toward categorization of search results.
  • The public record – My own weblog is a palimpsest too, a fact which RSS readers plainly reveal when they redisplay edited items. In the case of a substantial update, I’ll mark it as such. If I only correct a typo or misspelling, I won’t — but the infrastructure (RSS, Internet Archive) is increasingly likely to notice and version the change. The public record, as written on the Web, is less ephemeral than it seems. Nothing compels you to contribute to it. Once you do, nothing compels you to maintain your contribution. But even if you don’t, the Web probably will.
  • Blogs, scopes and human routers – …a new kind of skill is becoming relevant: the ability to make effective use of overlapping scopes within a collaborative environment (e.g. workgroup, department, company, world). A powerful maneuver, Jon points out, is to repurpose blog content from semi-private to public in order to attract outside perspectives into the organization.
  • Concerning blogs, The real innovations are cultural. More on why Jon believes blogs are important to InfoWorld here.
  • The periphery to the RSS core as seen by Jon on 6/25/2003: The periphery is vast. It includes commenting, threaded discussions, semantic modeling, authentication and encryption, and an endless amount of other stuff. All that can come in due course. Note: recently the collaborative effort to review the RSS core and delineate its periphery known as Atom was formalized into an IETF Working Group–almost a year after this announcement.
  • Core and periphery – This is one of my favorite articles by Jon Udell. Spot on!
  • Publishing, permanence, and transparency – This post is a good reminder that transparency isn’t free and sometimes the costs can be hidden.
  • Using RSS 2.0 and RDF together – Jon tries to ask and answer two questions concerning placing RDF within RSS (i.e. exploring the idea that RDF can intermix with non-RDF XML vocabularies like RSS 2.0): Is it feasible? What benefits would it confer? A killer app for RSS continues his line of thought, which leads up to an RSS/RDF epiphany. Finally, a plea to all concerned. Let’s stop punishing RSS syndication for its success by asking it to carry the whole burden of XML usage in the semantic Web. By the way and to be clear, this plea is not the epiphany!
  • In this post, Jon observes: I rely less on my own capacity to search for and to absorb raw material, and more on a network of people, the results of whose searching, reading, and analysis are made available to me. The weblog network amplies awareness of relevant material. Relevance is determined more by human routers and human filters than by rules engines and ranking algorithms.
  • Mining message data – My hunch is that as desktop software interacts more often with well-defined services, the context implicit in those interactions will tend to become more available, and will be easier to make explicit. The key is that the context must arise from normal use of software. And as “normal use” comes to mean “participating in a Web of services,” it can.

Around this point, my blog began and on occasion Jo’s posts have been referenced by my own (i.e. here (this), here (this, this, this and this), here (this), here (this) and here (this)).