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It has been a while now, since the dotcom days in my career, that I’ve been dreaming of having an organized, aggregated way of looking at relevant conversations on the internet organized around topics of debate.  A Fred Wilson recommended service such as Engag.io, however, seems to be in a good position to meet this need on a platform scale whilst primarily intending to provide the utility of “seeing all of your commenting activity in one place,” as their declared first premise.

As most conversations in comment systems tend to also be debates, I sent a comment to Engag.io’s post just thinking aloud, wondering or hoping they could eventually solve the challenge I’ve been thinking about:

IMHO there is no one crowdsource-friendly/non-partisan aggregating mechanism in the internet for people to be supported in arriving with a position or opinion based on a balanced and informed view and discussion of relevant information, facts and opinions with regards to a topic of debate.

Almost there?
Intense debate
tries to do a good job at structuring debates and integrating themselves into content management systems as Disqus also does, while GrokLaw is more effective at the moderation and intelligence in collecting relevant factual information (like Techmeme to an extent) and facilitating discussions based on the same within a topic of interest.  In the meantime, Slashdot is known for its engaged community and effective reputation mechanisms that make for not just informative, but enlightening or even delightfully humorous discussions or debates.  Could it, perhaps, be just a matter of  combining the essential capabilities of these services?

Ripe for change
Search has matured and people increasingly search for information online, the intelligent aggregation or collaborative filtering technology’s there or can be made to work so that it can be, there’s lots of content, well-thought out opinions or conversations available with the reputation mechanisms and processes to moderate it, there’s an abundance of news articles and facts in text or media that can be aggregated, and which can eventually even be double checked for truth through plugins/mechanisms that aim to do so. Additionally, perhaps the debate can also be presented as a mindmap.

In summary, people, process, technologies and information seem to be ripe enough to be able to empower people to be more informed and have constructive, productive debate–whether to strengthen democracies, enlighten and expand knowledge, or encourage deeper understanding of concepts, situations, or things in general.

Hopefully Engag.io or some other service, can help.  For now, I continue to dream and think aloud, or wait until I force myself to finish learning to or actually write code myself and work with others and crowdfund it. (o:

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Just sharing a strategic information systems (SIS) plan I’ve prepared for Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha (AMPS) as part of the requirements for completing a strategic information systems course at UPOU last October.  Any non-profit organization with a similar purpose of teaching, promoting ideologies and philosophies, values, wellness-related, or personal life skills may be able to benefit from the study, especially if looking to get some information on the drivers, benefits to an SIS, as well as short and long term actions that can already be done to maximize the use of information technology to support organizational objectives.

Summaries:

Research Focus
The SISP explores how AMPS as a socio-civic non-profit organization can further utilize technology in a strategic way in order to advance its organizational objectives. (AMPS is a global organization present in over 80 countries but the scope of this SISP is targeted within the Manila sector (consisting of Southeast Asian countries)). The organizational area of investigation and exploration was the challenge of supporting Pracar (spiritual teaching) functions of the organization given the following key qualities/models adopted: volunteer-based, no-profit, no loss resourcing model, decentralized setup, and where no formal IT function is yet established.

Research Methods
Research methods such as desk research, interviews, and surveys were mostly conducted remotely in cooperation with organizational representatives. As a member of the organization since childhood and as an IT professional and consultant for over 11 years, prior knowledge and experience has also played a role in the research.

Results or Findings
Due to the limited amount of time, limited resources esp. without an IT function and the unplanned nature of the request, only high level information on the Pracar functions’ strategic objectives have been recommended. Key findings, in any case, are as follows.

While mission and vision statements have been defined for the Pracar function, more specific strategic objectives had yet to be defined. Whilst AMPS conducts quarterly organizational
planning functions such as Review, Defect, Solution (RDS) and Inspection, Review, Solution, Structure &  Solidarity (IRSS) conferences, strategic planning for IS has yet to find its way to being conducted regularly as well.

· AMPS has yet to fully recognize or take action on the need for and extent of possible benefits of the proactive management of technology for strategic purposes.
· There is no IT/IS function secretary and there is no IT-related coordination within the Manila sector IT administrators for the proactive management and sharing of IT resources.
· Various information systems are currently used by local offices for website publishing or ecommerce which indicates a recognition of IT’s utility to the organization, however, its maintenance continues to be a challenge.
· Based on the assessment of customer and external requirements, three Pracar processes have been identified as opportunity areas for IS/IT enhancement or innovation. (1) Yoga classes, online community and social engagement, (2) Training & knowledge management, and (3) IT asset management.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The complex, dynamic and fast pace of change of technologies and customer behaviour will increasingly require AMPS to conduct more rigorous planning, coordination and change management practices if it is to maximise opportunities and manage threats that external environmental changes may present. Some specific action items are recommended:

1. Recognize the need for an IT/IS function and develop an IS/IT secretary and/or committee which will include business-technology consultants or advisors to

a. investigate and explore possibilities to increase effectiveness, efficiency and generate savings beginning with developing an inventory of organizational and IT asset resources.
b. serve as SMEs for the organizational ‘business’ Pracar committee
c. facilitate pilot tests for the implementation of applications supporting the 3 opportunity areas identified within the Pracar function.

2. Agree on the criticality of and commit to conducting regular strategic IS planning. Obtain a strategic plan as the output of the organizational planning functions Review, Defect, Solution (RDS) and Inspection, Review, Solution, Structure & Solidarity (IRSS) conferences from which the IT/IS committee can work off from to support and enhance.

3. Take advantage of and generate quick and easy wins already by maximizing the use of online services for
(a) obtaining funding e.g. web services such as kiva.org, setting up online or electronic payment methods to accept donations from such as Paypal, GCash, or via sharing of bank account number information,
(b) getting volunteers for initiatives onsite or remotely e.g. sparked.com, volunteermatch.org

Appendices:
SISP_Frameworks-2011_by_GSFernando.xls
Appendix_C-ObjectDataModel
Appendix_D-Use CasesMindMap

I’m going ahead to proceed to revive this blog without further ado to post papers submitted as part of  my requirements in my studies at the UPOU.

This article presents a case study of the state of the ICT of the Philippines in relation to the recently released Philippine Digital Strategy 2011-2016.

Summary

  • the PDS needs to illustrate a better level of mastery of:
    a. an understanding of the situation and what we’re dealing with–technology, its nature, stages etc., or
    b. having more diligence in understanding ourselves, our capabilities, strengths and weaknesses or previous performance in various aspects of inquiry.  This includes continuity in research that has found the country to be in a vicious cycle of technological dependence.
    c. developing a stronger vision of what we want and where we’re going–more than just being a hub.
    d. the methods, mechanisms upon which we can establish sustainability in ICT or S&T progress and development in general.

Recommendation

  • Work towards social transformation to uproot the Philippine society out of the vicious cycle of technology dependence. Develop a psycho-spiritual media campaign towards rebuilding strength of tradition, culture and a redefinition/affirmation of Filipino identity.
  • Explore, develop or adopt a new socio-economic model.
  • Promote economic decentralization and self-sufficiency.
  • Explore creating a new or alternative currency for the community that can be earned with labor provided by the more socio-economically challenged or the unemployed.

Table of Contents:
1. The Approach

2. Science & Technology as a Driver of Progress in Society

3. Internal Environment Perspective
3.1. Observations on Philippine ICT Vision: The Philippine Digital Strategy
3.2. Understanding what we’re dealing with: Technology
3.3. Understanding our internal and external environment and challenges
3.4. Understanding ourselves, our capabilities, strengths and weaknesses
3.5. Understanding what we want and where we’re going
3.5.1. We can become more than (be) an “IT-enabled service hub”.
3.6. On understanding how we’re going to get there

4. External Environment Perspective
4.1. Political / Legal View
4.2. Economic View
4.2.1. Economics and Technology Transfer
4.3. Socio-Cultural View

5. Taking it All Constructively

 

III. Collective maps and helping the search & discovery of information

Harnessed collective intelligence creates collective value, built in the form of subject/concept mind maps. These will be generated as a byproduct of the aggregated filtering, annotation and organization of information by users through the maps they made, from which other users shall benefit from—a setup similar to Kaboodle, where users typically search for a given item on Google, save the information on Kaboodle, check if other users actually have performed a similar research to benefit from it, to eventually zero in on the best choice.

Concept/subject maps could be the evolution of an About.com or Wikipedia site with a web 2.0 and mind mapping twist.

Wish #3: Implement backend processes that can:

  1. Combine the same if not similar maps to form a collective map that grows in real time as users simultaneously add notes and branches
    measure similarity of maps the del.icio.us way – from collaborative filtering and/or building a thesaurus database common to everyone so that similar and related terms may be specified or tagged together.
  2. Recommendations. Generate recommended links supported by and aggregated from the bookmarks of the larger social group through measures of popularity and relationship strength in the form of (among others) commonalities between the same
  3. Presentation/Navigation. Collapse only parts of maps most relevant to search terms, collective data allows for specificity in search
  4. Presentation/Navigation. Mouseovers or clicks to final links/leaves will display page as preview DHTML – web2.0 firefox plugin
  5. Presentation. Option to display user notes and annotations according to most popular (voted/rated, viewed, recommended) users or in groups
  6. Tracking relevance of suggested results:
    1. measure amount of time spent per search result by measuring the time between search result links recent and a preceding result; most relevant results could be the longest time among clicked items in comparison to others clicked as well. This approach, however, may not be relevant to users that click on assessed relevant results in separate tabs first before studying all of them and returning to the search results page again to open more links.
    2. adding personal comments to annotations and notes of others, similar to Amazon’s ‘was this helpful to you’ section
  7. Syndication. Support public or social network (1st, 2nd degree, artificial) data standards such as FOAF (see also Q & A support) to filter common concept maps


II. Organization, Personalization, Modification and Output stage

Filtering becomes aggregation and more personal value is built as the users’ collection of related information is fed.

On to the human brain side, our brain processes information in distinct ways: the right or the left-brained way – via organization by context or through efficient classification among others. This distinction supports the reason why both tagging and searching works.

Tagging supports orienteering (.pdf) (organizing by context and generalities), which is a more right brained approach, while searching supports systematic classification and specific search terms to use is a more left-brained approach.

A mind mapping approach to organize information, accommodates both right and left brain approaches, links them, as well as supports and sustains the strengths of each.

With the objective of personal aggregation, a mind mapping approach will be an effective tool since it supports natural mental processes for cognition.

Wish #2:
A client application such as Google Desktop (or a browser plug-in) founded on the mind mapping approach to aid users in organizing information. Besides its existing features,

  • allow users to drag/drop highlighted word/s as branch or leaf to either outline form of classified folders or to a visual mind map using (DHTML?) that will hover over a page and enlarge on one click or expand automatically when information is about to be dragged to a section and filed to it.
  • making a right click and following outline form of existing map structures to file and organize or in selecting desired command/function (e.g. file here, set as new leaf/branch/cloud)
  • auto create map with main cloud blank and to be furnished, using tagged words as categories/branches and succeeding underlined words/phrases in proximity of main tag as leaf
  • search from within bookmarked pages or annotations
  • encourage common branches/tags as others
  • set privacy of maps, trees, branches to private, public, groups or selected people
  • integrate facility for Q&A (Yahoo/Google Answers or Favorville)
    • ask questions: display possibly via a box to ask questions to the community and which are linked to the concept map
    • answer questions: answer questions related randomly displayed at the desktop software from a currently viewed mindmap

related examples: Google Desktop, Mayomi, Cnet News.com, Freemind


I. Annotation and Bookmarking tool

It is at this stage that users will, through their annotations as starting point, automatically contribute or create collective value by becoming filterers and provide ease in information discovery for others.

Butterfly, Clipmarks, Diigo, and Mystickies among others, already understand that the internet is about reading and writing hypertext more than just browsing. While Butterfly and Diigo displays annotations as overlays over a page, Clipmarks’s approach is to allow users to clip and add notes eventually presented much like blog entries.

Suggest the following features that current tools may not already have:

*Annotation

  • a. underline, highlight or encircle text using different colors.
  • b. create/define categories and sub categories or attributes and sub-attributes from identified text or create entirely new ones to file bookmarks and notes to
  • c. set sticky notes to visually stay on top, be seen or hidden (to expand only on mouse over)
  • d. draw lines to connect annotations and insert notes
  • e. insert a marker containing link to another other item e.g. media, link, action/command –such as (create new) as tag,

*Publishing

  • f. option to display/ hide all annotations (overlay)
  • g. OR display bookmarked pages with annotations in blog form, -screenshot (page as image – visual bookmarking blogmarks or hotlinks) left hand, -notes – snippets of highlighted text and inserted personal notes on the right

*Others

  • -interface a Toolbar plug-in if not a DHTML menu that expands out on mouse over could be useful.

Would think that a hybrid solution of annotation and clipping are the best approaches for filtering instead of the use of an intermediary page to enter notable data.

The former approach more easily facilitates the flow of thoughts, the ladder of inference (figure 2), or the cycle of data transformation (figure 1) in two ways.

  • 1) Identifying text that automatically resonates with the reader and supporting the natural flow of thought instead of the interruption of waiting for a new page to enter tags on and requiring more energy to remember what tags to create.
  • 2) More often than not, tags intended to be used are already among the clipped or highlighted text.

While the approaches do solve problems in the acceptance and filtering stage, it does not fully take advantage the capabilities of hypertext until it is reused or used at all through the entire data/information transformation cycle. The rest of the solution suggestion will explore this.

There has been much hullabaloo around web 2.0 and the growth of applications have been apparent in the form of new ones or mash-ups that fulfill user needs (initial WSJ list here, more comprehensive list from Ventureblog here).

Through the many approaches and applications and with some being exactly the same as the rest, here's to unsolicited feedback–a suggested vision and initial specification blueprint that integrates web 2.0 solutions.

The solution focuses on a way to harness collective intelligence for the improvement of search and providing ease in the discovery of information, all while encouraging the maximum utilization of resources from the user to the service provider.

The approach will be based on 2 processes at work in the use of the web as an information source and collaborative tool:

Data/Information Transformation Cycle
Data is information when it becomes useful to a user.

Discovery and creation stage
Data generated or information is discovered

Acceptance and filtering
Data becomes useful to the user. Information that supports one’s own mental maps or biases is organized. Information collected here helps form the basis of conclusions and assumptions that lead to beliefs and actions (see also ladder of inference).

Modification and output/publishing
Information is modified, bringing into it pieces of other information absorbed or integrated consciously or unconsciously and shared.

DataInfoTransformationCycleDiagram

Figure 1 – Data/Information Transformation Cycle

The solution will be sustained by utility levers through the data/information transformation cycle as well as supported by the Ladder of Inference, an interpretation of the way in which we make sense of data, information and experiences.

The Ladder of Inference
Devised by Chris Argyris and presented in Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization," the diagram below illustrates how most individuals will have been accustomed to the formation of inferences or often misguided beliefs from the tacit and selective acceptance of data in lieu of our mental models.

Ladder of Inference

Figure 2a – Ladder of Inference (http://www.actiondesign.com/)

Ladder of Inference

Figure 2b – Ladder of Inference (http://www.systems-thinking.org)

Using both models or diagrams, the following tools comprise that possible solution:

An annotation tool at the discovery and creation stage, a client desktop tool at the acceptance & filtering stage, and finally, backend functions and processes at the modification, personalization and output stage that support the integrative vision and allow it to really manifest.

 

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