Haha – Life before Google

This cartoon made me laugh…


Trad ECM is so out-of-touch


Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs.

So starts paragraph two of Alfresco’s whitepaper “Next-Generation ECM”. This, and a recent post by Laurence Hart in which he says “Records Management as we know it is dead and it has dragged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) down with it.”, piqued my interest.

Preceding all this was a promotional email from Alfresco’s Melissa Meinhart: “4 reasons why Traditional ECM is dead“. Her reasons were:

  1. Users are demanding support for their new tablet and mobile devices, new remote working styles and new cloud apps. You aren’t going to change the users. You must change your approach to ECM.
  2. It’s not just users who are different today: the enterprise is different, too. A new, more expansive view of the enterprise requires a new approach to ECM… an approach that recognizes that modern enterprises are not bound by the firewall.
  3. Social content is now also enterprise content. Today’s enterprise content is driven by mobile devices and the fact that photos, videos and comment threads help companies get real work done faster. The context of the content — who posted it, at what time, in what circumstances and their opinion of the content — is now central to that content’s value.
  4. Traditional ECM vendors are failing at addressing the new realities of the IT infrastructure. ECM technology built for the new enterprise needs to span from traditional on-premise deployments, to virtualized private cloud deployments to full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments — and everything in between. And it needs to keep everything, and everyone, secure and in sync — no matter where users or content resides.

This got me thinking… My current role has me working with clients to help them create intranets that are “social”. Ones that foster richer collaboration, and interaction.

Customers are focusing more on this “visible” part of the social collaborative experience, along with the “content management” part that goes with it. In this case, I am talking about the content that is surfaced on the Intranet pages.

Those areas that come under the heading of “Information Management”, such as Records Management, or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), are “roadmap” items. Things that the customer knows are important, but that they also realise, needs more extensive analysis, and planning.

This awareness, by companies, that a well-thought out ECM system is a necessity, is truly excellent. But Alfresco’s white paper raises some good points…users are, more and more, disconnected from the Enterprise. They work anywhere, at any time, on any device. And there are still concerns (rightly, or wrongly) about content “in the cloud”.

Another excellent point that the white paper makes is something that I have had many long discussions on, at my current place of employment (and which is worthy of a separate blog post). This is with regards to the social content, and conversations, that are now trying to be fostered (see the above paragraphs). These often contain valuable tacit knowledge, or are artefacts that companies don’t want to lose.

Traditional ECM is not sufficiently capable of accommodating this new user behaviour, the extended enterprise, or social content. And even Microsoft’s SharePoint, now considered one of the latest members of the “ECM club”, is lacking.

Naturally, Alfresco’s white paper is a pitch for its own product. I do not have a problem with that. They raise some valid points, and their solution looks like it could have potential. I do want to look into it further though, and assess whether their solution is the “one”.

If you want to read about their offering that they claim meets the challenges of the new ways of working, as well as some other great insight to this area by, refer to the links below.

Information Foraging, or the confessions of an "Informavore"

foragingThe following has been taken,unashamedly, from Wikipedia… I openly admit it. I just love their article on Information foraging

Information foraging

Information foraging is a theory that applies the ideas from optimal foraging theory to understand how human users search for information. The theory is based on the assumption that, when searching for information, humans use “built-in” foraging mechanisms that evolved to help our animal ancestors find food. Importantly, better understanding of human search behaviour can improve the usability of websites or any other user interface.

History of the theory

In the 1970s optimal foraging theory was developed by anthropologists and ecologists to explain how animals hunt for food. It suggested that the eating habits of animals revolve around maximizing energy intake over a given amount of time. For every predator, certain prey are worth pursuing, while others would result in a net loss of energy.

In the early 1990s, Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card from PARC noticed the similarities between users’ information searching patterns and animal food foraging strategies. Working together with psychologists to analyse users’ actions and the information landscape that they navigated (links, descriptions, and other data), they showed that information seekers use the same strategies as food foragers.

In the late 1990s, Ed H. Chi worked with Pirolli, Card and others at PARC further developed information scent ideas and algorithm to actually use these concepts in real interactive systems, including the modeling of web user browsing behavior, the inference of information needs from web visit log files, and the use of information scent concepts in reading and browsing interfaces.

Details of the theory

Informavores” constantly make decisions on what kind of information to look for, whether to stay at the current site to try to find additional information or whether they should move on to another site, which path or link to follow to the next information site, and when to finally stop the search. Although human cognition is not a result of evolutionary pressure to improve Web use, survival-related traits to respond quickly on partial information and reduce energy expenditures force them to optimise their searching behaviour and, simultaneously, to minimize the thinking required.

Information scent

The most important concept in the information foraging theory is information scent.[1] As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding prey in current area and guide them to other promising patches, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to get similar answers. Human users estimate how much useful information they are likely to get on a given path, and after seeking information compare the actual outcome with their predictions. When the information scent stops getting stronger (i.e., when users no longer expect to find useful additional information), the users move to a different information source.

Information snacking

Some tendencies in the behaviour of web users are easily understood from the information foraging theory standpoint. On the Web, each site is a patch and information is the prey. Leaving a site is easy, but finding good sites has not always been as easy. Advanced search engines have changed this fact by reliably providing relevant links, altering the foraging strategies of the users. When users expect that sites with lots of information are easy to find, they have less incentive to stay in one place. The growing availability of broadband connections may have a similar effect: always-on connections encourage “information snacking”, short online visits to get specific answers.

Models of information foraging

Attempts have been made to develop computational cognitive models to characterize information foraging behavior on the Web.These models assume that users perceive relevance of information based on some measures of information scent, which are usually derived based on statistical techniques that extract semantic relatedness of words from large text databases. Recently these information foraging models have been extended to explain social information behavior.

  • A hunter-gatherer in the stacks (backupminds.wordpress.com)
  • Information Foraging (wikipedia)

Social Media and Profile Photos


There’s a lot of research about the way our brains process faces and how they have a unique way of making us happy. A smiling face, even in the form of a small profile picture, tells us someone else is there. The web is a social environment, and at the heart of it all is people.”

The above snippet comes from Box’s “Introducing Box Notes” page…

The three sentences, highlighted above, say a lot. The web is a social environment.

And it doesn’t just apply to the “web”. Social is being adopted by companies, inside the facelessfirewall, also and having people’s photos available make a big difference. I have often heard from clients that they “want to get to know who their fellow staff members are”. And having a photo turns a person from a faceless work colleague (often in a separate building/town/country), into a real person.  

What about people outside the enterprise?

Something that I have been using for a few months now is Microsoft’s Social Connector for Outlook 2010. This allows Outlook to display the profile photo, and info, from one of the social networks that that person is a member of.  In my case, I have set up the connector so that it connects to LinkedIn. What difference does this make? A lot! When I get emails from clients I know, having their photo on display, makes it more personal, and for people I haven’t yet met, it makes that first face-to-face meeting so much more enjoyable.

So, here’s a push to stop hiding. Come out into the open. Let us see who you are. (Naturally, there are limits…)

  • 10 useful tips for better use of social networks (part 1) (fieldoo.com)
  • Office 2013 Tips: Outlook Social Connector – LinkedIn
  • Add a Facebook or LinkedIn Connection to Outlook 2013
  • Announcing the Outlook Social Connector
  • Outlook Social Connector and Providers 
  • The Outlook Social Connector – a hidden jewel