RSS, personalization and visualization : solutions to the information overload

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: English, Knowledge Management, Outils, web2.0 | Tags: , , |

Reading from RWW today, I came across a very interesting post by Marshall Kirkpatrick. Here is the comment I made, summarizing the key points of the exchanges that took place in the first 75 comments :

Thank you very much Marshall for starting this conversation about RSS and information overload. This is a perfect example of why I love blogs 🙂

I have been through all comments and would like to offer a quick synthesis of the key ones I have picked up before suggesting anything 😉

As Rick first put it, of course we are not talking about RSS adoption per se, but rather tools / solutions that make use of it as readers inside companies : portals / dashboards / or so-called RSS readers, as web or desktop clients.

As Eric puts it, this adoption poses a challenge : incorporating in a new tool or in an existing one (eg MS Outlook or Mac OS X Mail), especially when individual users are mostly prohibited from doing so (Nigel)

Then Brad was the first to talk about ‘information overload’, which is – along with the proper UI for each need category and personalization / filtering potential of XML – the key challenge here.

There is of course the cost issue (Jon) that will probably decrease (Oliver) and recent / future developments (Brad Feld) of those RSS readers.

I see RSS (I believe you’ve already seen Common Craft’s video RSS in plain English) as one of the cornerstones of “enterprise social software” (see the business cases offered by Christoph and his “Social Stack” – one of a few interesting ones I’ve seen with Miguel Membrado’s – or Michael’s), enabling improved management of information and therefore reduce the overload, but not replacing email (which will remain more like the fax : an ubiquitous, reliable way of communication).


In addition to what Thomas said (including the security or internal vs external issue), or Bjorn’s comment I believe some of the key differentiators between all those communication means are =

1) timing, in a continuum from asynchronous to synchronous (it reminds me the funny Twitter curve). The global trend is more and more communication canals adding up as business accelerates. Research on those emerging behaviors will tell us more about which one to use for what info,

Twitter curve

2) personalization (recommendation, filtering, …), AideRSS and the PostRank algorithm beeing a nice attempt for better RSS management that needs to be expanded / opened to suit more diverse needs that only popularity. I believe social filtering is another avenue that needs to be explored, as it mimicks our usage : the good old url sent to me via email – in a push mode (or the for: feature of Delicious), but also in a pull mode (the ‘follow’ on Twitter). A data driven solution, it is enabled by permanent tracking of web actions and interoperability between services.

3) and interface, as I believe visualization is a key element of the solution, current ui having shown their limits. See my blog post http://www.uswim.net/2007/08/21/traceability-and-visualization-collective-social-solutions-to-the-information-volume-increase/ and Moritz Stephaner’s thesis Visual Tools for the Socio-Semantic web.


Note : a few of the tools mentioned in the comments that serve as solutions / substitutes / or parts of the solution for information syndication / filtering (in addition to the 3 objects of this post) are :
iGoogle, MyYahoo, Netvibes, Google Reader, SharpReader, Feedghost, RSSpopper, Bloglines, Confluence, PostRank / AideRSS, Yahoo! Pipes, Yammer, Lotus Connections, MS Sharepoint, and I will add Tarpipe.

Note 2 : Some of the interesting outgoing links from RWW’s blog post :

G. Oliver Young (Forrester) : http://blog.strategicheading.com/2008/12/17/2008-web-20-prediction-recap-pt-3-rss-demand-will-grow-substantially/

Brad Feld (investor at NewsGator) : http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2009/01/enterprise-rss-at-newsgator-is-alive-and-well.html

Samuel Driessen  : http://info-architecture.blogspot.com/2008/12/missing-security-features-in-enterprise.html

Lee Bryant : http://www.headshift.com/blog/2007/10/social-tools-for-internal-comm.php and one of his business case at Allen and Overy

Scott Nielsen (Attensa) : http://www.attensa.com/blogs/attensa/2008/06/enterprise_20_mashup_business.php

A resource place for RSS in enterprises : http://enterpriserssdayofaction.wikispaces.com/

James Dellow : http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2008/12/where-next-for-enterprise-rss-in-2009.html


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Carto2.0 : meet the French Visual Thinkers !

Posted on May 30, 2008. Filed under: BI, conference, English, maps, network_map, Outils, Search, Tagcloud |

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Compte-rendu de la conférence VizThink à San Francisco

Posted on February 14, 2008. Filed under: conference, Francais, MindMap, Outils, photography, PowerPoint, Tagcloud |


Pour tous les “visual thinkers”, les “information designers” et les designers des connaissances ça se passait à San Francisco les 27, 28 et 29 janvier dernier … et j’y étais 🙂
J’ai rédigé un compte-rendu (pour une fois en français) qui est disponible sur ce blog : http://blog.fabernovel.com/goingout/
Bonne lecture … et à bientôt pour un post sur les labels, les sceaux et autres marques de confiance.

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Traceability and Visualization : collective-social solutions to the information volume increase

Posted on August 21, 2007. Filed under: BI, English, MindMap, Outils, PowerPoint, Tagcloud |

This is the end of August and the agendas are filled with "summer universities" like the French Entrepreneur's Federation MEDEF (see their live / cross blogging initiative I have been invited to take part on the blog Jouer le Jeu, aka Play the Game), and some companies like Capgemini Consulting for which I will host a workshop on some topics I am sharing with you today, going over some of my past year discoveries and learnings.

We live in an information world and the pure volume of information available is increasing exponentially (IDC/EMC 2007 and Berkeley 2003 studies). At the same time the number of interactions (as one-way or two-way ponctual information exchanges) between persons and/or computers is multiplying rapidly, thanks to the internet revolution and the globalization of our economy. Those « connections » (permanent associations or punctual contacts) are creating a number of opportunities to solve the everyday issues we are facing with.

Thanks to new tools (creation) and economical opportunities (incentives) the distinction between information producers and consumers is not static anymore, this is what has been called the revolution of social media (user generated content, folksonomics, wisdom of crowds, …) :

  • Brands need to rethink their communication with their consumers, engage in a conversation with them, build and sustain communities of users ;
  • Knowledge (long thought to be limited to encyclopedias, academic books, …) does not consist in « one-off », elitist and formal products anymore since Wikipedia democratized it’s creation and sharing ;
  • Managers need to take more and more decisions within a shorter time frame, often with too much data to analyze, or too much « noise » and not enough pertinent information ;
  • Major undertakings do not necessarily require major investments from one individual organization as « crowd sourcing » or distributed computing solutions have allowed to search for lost individuals or to analyze large quantities of data ;

This is an overview of experimental solutions to this issue, that I have separated in 2 aspects (some products are doing both, but this a minority) :

VisiblePath social network mapping 

On the definition and etymology of innovation and creativity, the differences between information types : click here

A gallery of the largest collection of visualization techniques and use examples : VisualComplexity

For fun : a nice application that links song lyrics to images randomly extracted from Flickr, and another analyzing
breakups (called The Dumpster) between people from blog comments.

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Many Eyes d’IBM, le web 2.0 et la représentation visuelle des connaissances:

Posted on July 26, 2007. Filed under: Francais, Outils |

Les 2 nouvelles dimensions portées par le web 2.0 à savoir les dimensions visuelles et sociales, sont à l'honneur dans l'application du Watson Research Center d'IBM : http://domino.watson.ibm.com/cambridge/research.nsf/pages/cue.html?Open

Démocratriser la visualisation des connaissances IBM nous dit oeuvrer pour la démocratisation de la visualisation des connaissances. Qu'on se le dise ! Et que l'on en tire les conclusions requises ! La fructification et la valorisation des connaissances sont bien au coeur des enjeux économiques actuels.


Many eyes offre la possibilité, à partir de données et informations:

  1. De choisir son modèle de représentation ( carte, graphique, diagramme en réseau, treemap, tag cload, etc.),
  2. De réaliser son schéma,
  3. De partager sa réalisation et/ou de commenter celles d'autrui.

Tout ce que l'on attend depuis de nombreuses années du logiciel Power Point de Microsoft, dont la pauvreté des modèles de visualisation n'a cessé d'en désespérer plus d'un. Voir à ce sujet le post d'Amaury. A retenir de Many Eyes: Les objectifs et les avantages de chaque type de représentation. De quoi opter pour le modèle susceptible de communiquer au mieux les données ou informations que l'on veut communiquer

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Visual tools for the knowledge worker : PowerPoint and MindMap

Posted on July 17, 2007. Filed under: English, MindMap, Outils, PowerPoint, rules |

As industries get more and more productive (as measured by the increase of EBITDA/employee), we see the emergence of the knowledge worker (see Peter Drucker 1959's paper). This emergence can be measured by the growing importance of tacit interactions between workers, and as a result more and more intellectual capital (employee knowledge and abilities, in the form of information) is exchanged in a non-structured way. Tools like email, instant messenging, collaborative workspaces, allow synchronous and asynchronous exchanges of information and knowledge over a wide area (across different sites and organizational departments). But when the stakes get higher such tools are not enough. This takes place in several cases :

  • the information is complex and need to be synthesized / clarified
  • the targets (individuals, departments or businesss units) lack a common culture and do not share a common vocabulary
  • the communication is massive and/or urgent and/or critical
  • a common future vision (a new organization, market, product) existing as concept must be formalized, shared and people adhere to it

In such cases visualization has proven to be a useful approach, and the most widely used tool by managers is PowerPoint, but more recently another one has started to get traction : MindMap, named after Tony Buzan's early 90's work

Both tools have got their fans and their detractors, so let's look at the opposing parties arguments :

  1. PowerPoint
  • Detractors : the most famous vocal critic is certainly Edward Tufte, a recognized guru in information visualization, and his "PowerPoint is Evil" phrase is widely quoted. His thinking is developed in his book "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" and mainly states that the tool is misused, that information is buried in tons of slides, that the bullet point approach is terrible, … Other critics include the French entrepreneur Rafi Haladjian in his famous 2004 essay "Become beautiful rich and intelligent with PowerPoint", full of irony.
  • Pros : Donald Norman, a famous designer who has been the head of Apple Advanced Technology Group, teaches at various universities and co-founded the Nielsen Norman Group, has a strong stance against him (see Cliff Atkinson's interview and D. Norman's own defense piece). Another strong user is entrepreneur turned VC Guy Kawasaki with his 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint
  • Tools & resources : for software there is Microsoft PowerPoint of course, but also Apple's KeyNote, Google's recent acquisition of Tonic, a web-based presentation tool, and open source Impress from the OpenOffice suite. For good references and tips in addition to the ones listed above, see Cliff Atkinson's book "Beyond Bullet Points" and more on my Delicious bookmarks, updated regularly
  1. MindMap
  • Detractors : some recent research limit its scope and power, such as a 1998 study on college students and metacognition that indicates focusing too much attention to the tool limits content learning
  • Pros : of course Tony Buzan's, a British psychologist who started working in the 70's on cognitive abilities such as creativity and memorisation and is often referred to the "inventor" of mind maps (see his 1991 book "Use both sides of your brain:New Mind-Mapping Techniques") but also in France the French Heuristic School (see the scholl website and the Petillant portal, a key node of the mind mapping community in France)
  • Tools & resources : commercial softwares include the very good MindManager from Mindjet or Inspiration (more for the teaching/education environment), open source FreeMind and web-based Bubbl.us. Reference books and websites include the good portal Mind-Mapping.org, the book " " and my Delicious bookmarks, plus the following video from Tony Buzan "himself"

This post has only been a brief introduction to those tools … more in a future one !

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