Skills for the 21st Century

From 2011, but good. The four drivers of change:

  1. Longevity, in terms of the age of the workforce and customers – Retiring Later
  2. Smart machines, to augment and extend human abilities – Workplace Automation
  3. A computational world, as computer networks connect – Internet of Everything
  4. New media, that pervade every aspect of life – Online Privacy
  5. Superstructed organizations, that scale below or beyond what was previously possible – AirBNB
  6. A globally connected world, with a multitude of local cultures and competition from all directions- Geek NationFrom http://jarche.com/2014/07/four-basic-skills-for-2020/

Matched by the 10 core skills:

  1. Sense making –  Ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  2. Social intelligence –  Ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking –  Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  4. Cross cultural competency –  Ability to operate in different cultural settings
  5. Computational thinking–  Ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data based reasoning
  6. New Media Literacy – Ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  7. Transdisciplinary –  Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  8. Design Mindset –  Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  9. Cognitive load management –  Ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functions
  10. Virtual collaboration – Ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual teamFrom http://www.top10onlinecolleges.org/work-skills-2020/

All started with the Institute for the Future document.

Personal Wikis and Link Autosuggestion

I absolutely love wikis and have used them personally and professionally for years.

I was not surprised to learn recently that the US intelligence community uses them extensively 1. As does the UK’s GCHQ 2.

I think I started out with Wikidpad as my personal wiki before it was even open sourced. It was (and is) a phenomenal wiki. Windows native, but Python based so with some effort you can get it running on Linux and OS X too.

When I started using OS X both at work and personally, I moved my Wikidpad notes to nvAlt, another stupendous personal information manager that combined near instantaneous search with the ability to create a note right out of your search and super easy note linking with link autocompletion.

Confluence nvalt

A killer feature for me is the ability to get link suggestions/autocompletions as you type. Just Type [[ and start typing a name and if it exists you get a list of matching linked notes you can select and link to. Confluence, Wikipad, naval and SahrePoint Wiki all have this natively. You can get it in MediaWiki with plugins like LinkSuggest, but it only starts to suggest after the first three letters. This feature is missing from OneNote, although linking via [[ is supported.

Whilst I loved nvAlt for my personal wiki / notebook, I also wanted a public notebook or wiki.

I tended to find myself using one of two wikis for pubic wikis: MediaWiki or Confluence .

I had been using MediaWiki for several projects (e.g. the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club wiki) and found it a phenomenally powerful platform, especially when you extend it with plugins like Semantic MediaWiki. I also greatly enjoyed Confluence. I used it for many years in a former company, where it was an indispensable tool for us. We used to for all our internal documentation, but also for external facing user documentation.

Confluence is hard to beat on features, especially the much loved link autocompletion feature.  It is a full on Enterprise wiki, but it comes at a price. Unlike MediaWiki, you need a dedicated VM / computer to run it. It is Java based and needs loads of memory to be performant. The license is dirt cheap for individuals and small teams ($10 for 10 users) but as soon as you exceed this you are paying big bucks for the software. You also need to be fairly technically proficient to operate a Confluence instance, but it is very well supported too.

These days I am mostly using OneNote for my notes and personal wiki. It is an absolutely superb piece of software that “just works” on every platform I uses (Windows, OSX, iOS, Windows Phone). I have filed a feature request (internally) with the OneNote team for them  to support link autocompletion. If you like the idea, please vote for it on  the OneNote team’s Uservoice.

I have been tempted to OneNote as a public wiki too. It is trivially easy to share a notebook with the public. The only problem is that the URLs are ugly and the notebook cannot be styled to look unique to you.

If I can find a way to easily shuttle my OneNotes to Confluence, I may have a winner. I can do all my composing in OneNote, then just publish to Confluence 3.

I am already considering doing this for blogging now that OneNote for Windows has a blogging feature now.

If you are looking for some resources to get started with your own wiki, here you go….

See also:

Transclusion – the inclusion of the content of a document into another document by reference. In Confluence, for example, you can mark up some text in one page and call that text into another page with a placeholder variable. This is super useful for avoiding duplication of content.

  1. “Structured analytic techniques for intelligence analysis by by Richards J. Heuer, Jr., and Randolph H. Pherson (2011)
  2. One of Edward Snowden’s leaks was a copy of the “Internal Wikipedia” used by GCHQ
  3. Plugin writers, I beseech you!

Information Graphics by Jeff McNeill

This is another presentation from Jeff McNeill (who brought you the Drucker and Goldratt Concept map).

This one is an introduction to Information Graphics, a topic I that has fascinated me ever since coming across Edward Tufte and recently stimulated by Dan Roam’s superb Back of the Napkin series of books on Visual Thinking.

Drucker and Goldratt Concept Map

This is a concept map showing the key ideas and relationships between Peter Drucker’s Effective Executive and the Theory of Constraints by Eliyahu Goldratt (The Goal, It’s Not Luck).

It was created by Jeff McNeill using IHMC Cmap Lite. Another concept mapping tool is Sciral’s excellent Flying Logic visual planning application.

The map is well worth downloading and reviewing at full size.

Summing a table in MS Word

Its obvious in retrospect, but for years I have always manually added up figures in columns I was working on in Microsoft Word (e.g. a payment schedule in a contract).

This week I was getting sick of recalculating figures every time I made a change, and googled the problem.

Word Tips has just what I needed: Summing a Table Column .

  1. Click the table cell you want the formula in
  2. Click the Layout tab on the ribbon.
  3. Click the Formula tab in the Data group. Word displays the Formula dialog box.
  4. Insert your formula , default is “=SUM(ABOVE)” which sums all the cells above.
  5. Click on OK.

How wiki’s can foster an “Opt-in Culture”

In an recent article for Future Changes, Bill Arconati – Confluence Product Marketing Manager at Atlassian – argues that Enterprise Wikis are much better than contemporary e-mail culture , creating what he calls an opt-in culture:

“In an opt-in culture, employees contribute to conversations where they gain the most satisfaction and have the largest impact. They look beyond their tiny fiefdoms and seek out situations where they can add value and offer their expertise.” – Wikis, “Opt-in Culture” Contribute to a Healthy Organization

Her contrast opt-in culture with its opposite – the opt-out e-mail culture – that completely dominates the business world:

Perhaps the best way to understand and appreciate an opt-in culture is by contrasting it to an opt-OUT culture like email. Have you ever left work at the end of the day and thought to yourself, “All I did today was respond to emails?” In email-based companies you frequently spend your days knocking down emails like a bad game of Whac-A-Mole.

The main problem with email is that you have little control over what lands in your inbox. Most emails are either (i) people asking you to do something or (ii) conversations between two or three people (frequently executives) with a dozen innocent bystanders in the cc line. The only way to shut out the noise in an email culture is to opt-out and say “Take me off this thread!”

Even if you successfully filter out mail you don’t want, there’s little you can do about the email you’re NOT receiving. Important management decisions are made every day on your corporate email server without the input of your company’s most interested and qualified employees. For example, I’m in marketing but I’ve worked in product development and corporate finance in past roles. I’d like to think I have something to offer to conversations about product development and financial analysis even though they’re technically outside of my designated role. But in an email culture, I wouldn’t be cc’d on those emails and hence not part of the conversation simply because I’m a marketing guy. Much of the knowledge and experience that I bring to the organization would be completely wasted in an email-based culture.

He is right, there is terrible waste in the fire-and-forget e-mail culture, with massive numbers of hours lost to simply cheking that mails can be safely discarded.

Bill ends by explaining how to use wiki’s to develop an opt-in culture:

  1. Communities of interest – deploy a wiki that lets you create a separate space for every area of interest.
  2. Comments and Discussions – deploy a wiki where conversations can naturally evolve out of content.
  3. Subscriptions – deploy a wiki where users can opt-in to conversations happening in the wiki either by subscribing via email or via RSS. With email and RSS notifications, users can actually monitor and participate in conversations happening all across the company.
  4. Openness – Consider a wiki where openness is the default.

Read on: http://www.ikiw.org/2009/03/04/wikis-opt-in-culture-contribute-to-a-healthy-organization/

JavaRa

Java is  super useful technology, but it has a dreadful habit of leaving multiple vesions of itself (all at 100Mb or so) lying around your hard-drive.

JavaRa is a simple tool that does a simple job: it removes old and redundant versions of the Java Runtime Environment JRE. Simply select “Check for Updates” or “Remove Older Version” to begin. JavaRa is free under the GNU GPL version two.

Get it here: RaProducts – Products

Fight bullsh*t with Bullfighter

I was recently reminded of a great little program called Bullfighter (MS Office – Windows only).

“Bullfighter is the epoch-defining software that works with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to help you find and eliminate jargon in your documents. It may look like a little toolbar with three buttons, but it’s actually much more. Bullfighter includes a jargon database and an exclusive Bull Composite Index calculator that will allow you to see — in an actual window, on your PC display, live — just how bad a document can be.”

Running your documents through it can be quite revealing. You may never open the kimono on low hanging fruit again.

Clouds are still vapour, Grids are real

My fellow blogger and Communications Director at DNS Europe, Steve Hurford,  has put together a great position statement on the future of Cloud Computing and its relationship to Grids. Here is an excerpt:

Grids are the building blocks of future clouds

Without knowing today exactly what the future of cloud computing will look like, customers are faced with the decision of what choices to make that give real commercial benefits today and greatest flexibility for tomorrow. As we see it, future clouds will be formed from and accessible by those customers which adopt grid hosting infrastructures, develop multi-tennant applications and offer services that are not tethered by specific location, operating system, physical resources or other geographical constraints. Not only will they be able to integrate with future clouds but they will be best placed to take advantage of other cloud-enabled services and to offer their own services to other cloud contributors.

Clouds should not and will not be “owned”

The term cloud computing is today being used by many providers who, in fact, are actually offering Grid Hosting. Taking Google and Amazon as examples, they have opened up their own infrastructure for customers to deploy their own applications on their “clouds” and use their compute resources for a measured service fee. More correctly, these infrastructures should be called “grids” and the services called “Utility Computing”. Where these offerings substantially differ from our believe of what Cloud Computing will become is in their attempt to own the cloud. Ultimately we believe that this is a futile effort due to the pace of change of market requirements and their restricted service platform development capabilities. Provided that they eventually adopt the principles of open platform integration, they will however become very serious components of the future of cloud computing.

From grids to clouds

Under perhaps the simplest model for differentiating grids and clouds, grids are essentially building blocks, or discrete physical resources that will one day make up, or enable, clouds. One of the key drivers for businesses must therefore be to invest in a technology which facilitates the easiest transition from one to the other. A technology which will enable real cost savings today with open opportunities for tomorrow. A technology which provides a birthing ground for new application and service architectures which will one day fly the nest and reach full maturity in “the cloud”.

From: http://www.dnseurope.net/cloud_computing.html

We are always keen to hear from anyone that has some ideas about all this, so please feel free to contact Steve with your feedback via the contact form here or on the DNS Europe website.

Bootstrapping your Startup

I recently came across Reuven Cohen’s (CEO of Enomaly) “8 Rules for Bootstrapping your Startup“. It is a good list and there is no doubt that Enomaly is the rising star in the Cloud Computing startup field, earning themselves backing from Intel and the superb PR that such backing affords.

In many ways Enomaly and my company are similar (Consulting companies that have transformed into Cloud Computing start-ups).

I will be keeping an eye on these guys.