How I Think, Mostly

evernoteEvernote posted this huge blog post about how to use Evernote to capture, store and use the information and ideas one reads, finds, thinks about, receives, discovered, stumbles upon, has recommended to them, and otherwise crosses paths with in the day-to-day.

I’ve written before about how I keep everything in Evernote. I’ve gotten into the habit of just storing everything there. A while back a friend asked for notes I had on a particular topic and in about 15 minutes I gave her about 10-12 resources that I had collected over time on that topic. I can’t tell how times I’ve wanted to go deeper on a subject and I’ve just search in Evernote and found where I’ve already saved a bunch of articles on the subject.

This blog post entitled, “Evernote and the Brain: Designing Creativity Workflows” completely nails it for me. This is how I think and work. I don’t use the tags feature as much as this article suggests but instead use search. I’ve written about my thinking on search a while back. I use folders in Evernote, but even that is perhaps no longer as useful as what I thought when I began. I’m mostly convinced I could combine all the folders into one (or a small number) and just use search to find what I wanted. I do use a tag called, ‘favs’ for some articles that really connected with me. Rarely, I’ll create a tag or folder for a specific, short-term project but that is not the norm.

A lot of things cross my desk and if something catch my eye then I will likely post a tweet about. If it is particularly good or in an area that I want to keep thinking about, I’ll also send it to Evernote. Related, I save my Kindle highlights into Evernote so I can find some quote or nugget that caught my eye one day, perhaps years earlier.

Over time, this collection of articles and notes, now over 2400 in size becomes a priceless resource to me on things that I find interesting or useful. This is what computers are really all about, helping us connect the dots and helping us see insights that wouldn’t otherwise be as easily reached.




Collaboration Thinking

I’ve recently being doing some work with friends on a personal project and during the course of our work, notes were shared via mailing a ms word file to all the team members asking for input and additional ideas.

I have to say that I can’t work this way anymore. I don’t think this way anymore.

I’ve become used to working collaboratively on the same document at the same time. Mailing around files to share is the past. Sharing a link and jointly and simultaneously working on the same document is the present.

I’ve also noticed that this is hard to explain to someone who has not worked this way. If someone challenges you to work with some of the new tools like Google Apps, you need to give it a try.


Interesting Online Tools

There is a web site and service called ifttt which means if this then that. The service allows you to glue together different online events to cause other things to happen.  Examples are on the site (and templates) which allow one to glue together things to cause other things.  For example:

  • if I favorite a tweet, then it can send that to instapaper
  • if the temp tomorrow is below freezing it can send me an email
  • etc. etc.

I’m wondering how IT might use these services to glue together some corporate IT events. If a certain event happens, then cause something else to happen. Some of the channels would be usable by organizations, not just people fooling around. For example, if a corporate IT service goes out can these services be used to spread the word via several different channels to your team in an automated fashion?

Have you tried anything interesting with this service?

I’ve also been using Buffer a lot lately. I am currently watching 331 blog/sites/feeds and I  like to share the best ones (see the post to the right). I’m using this tool to send favorite ones which are then posted on twitter at predefined times of the day. With this, I can read through a lot of things and highlight ones to share, but then send them in a more orderly fashion instead of sending 10-15 at a time. It is not a big deal, but I like this approach. If you do a lot of tweets, take a look.

PS. After doing this post, WordPress recommended I link to the site below.  If I type a blog about this then show me related ones I guess…   Funny.

Cloud Variations

There have been a number of interesting posts on-line about the recent Apple announcement and how it relates to what Microsoft and Google and others are doing.  Here is one that talks about how Jobs kept making the statement that It Just Works and what that means and there is this one on the same site called Game, Set, iMatch.  These documents talk about documents in the cloud, notifications and how the various mobile platform vendors are getting better and stitching different eco-systems together.  I wrote about some of this earlier on the Windows 7 phones and then Mango was announced a few days later which goes further down that path.  The integration of twitter tighter into the IOS experience is the Apple step in that direction and of course Android has tied the notification system together nicely for a long time.

There is a great quote in that first article about iCloud that bears thinking about:

With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic.

Reminds me of the Clarke quote:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Apple has a great way of making things happen in a transparent, magical fashion. Much like Disney experiences when you visit their parks and everything just works and is cleaned up overnight.  Lots of ‘IT’ happening behind the scene.

The third article, Apple and a web-free cloud, talks about strategy between Amazon, Google and Apple and it too highlights the key differences in how these players are moving forward.

It is interesting to watch all four of these companies move forward with their strategies and it will be interesting to look back in 5 years and see what has happened.

Tie Everything Together

In the last few months, I’ve encountered several different situations where a different and better paradigm is needed for pulling all ones information together into one place on a mobile platform (or a desktop).   Today, the iPhone model is one of separate applications on the screen with the user of the iPhone navigating from one application to another.  A person might check their email in one application, then launch another application (with a different UI) to check Facebook, then repeat for Twitter, etc.

Instead, a different paradigm would be to bring the related content together into one place.   There was a post on line a few months ago that caught my eye about an Android application called Aro that pulled together different sources into a single pane or view.  I’ve also noticed on the current Windows 7 phones steps in this direction where the people view ties together information from the phone address book with information from Facebook in a very well done and slick fashion.

The need is there to bring everything together into one place instead of having separate islands. In the corporate world, this one place is usually (always?) email because that is the one common place that all applications can work with in a consistent manner.  Online approvals in corporate applications can almost always send an email with a URL  to approve something. As a result, email is the common place in the workplace. But putting things in a person’s inbox is not the same as integrating the data together.

In the mobile world where the integration can be much tighter and where applications are being built now instead of perhaps 10 years ago for corporate IT systems there is a real opportunity to pull these connections or conversations or information nuggets together into a common place. I’d love to see all pieces of information related to a person brought together into a single view.

I look forward to where Windows 7, Android and the Iphone go in the coming year.  There is much opportunity.

Changes Coming in the Workplace

I’ve written several times about changes that are affecting IT, hard problems and the rise of collaboration thinking.   Gartner Group a while ago published an interesting list called, Gartner Says the World of Work Will Witness 10 Changes During the Next 10 Years which is most interesting.  The ideas in this post are very similar to the idea we see in the Enterprise 2.0 writings such as the ideas around weak links, work swarms, being hyper-connected and working with the collective.   All these are clear collaboration related ideas.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit several places recently where I’ve seen teams working in this fashion. Real offices and teams where the people work well together, move fast, can complete one another’s sentences and genuinely have fun every day.   It is really a joy to see a group of people working together in a fast paced, fun, highly connected fashion.  The trick in the corporate world is to get this kind of environment to scale up and across a geographically distributed workforce.   It is a real challenge.

Technology can and must play a role in helping things scale up.   Collaborative tools like Google Docs, Sharepoint and Confluence can make a huge difference in the workplace where teams can have ways to work together that simply did not exist 10 years ago.   Improved search plays a role in helping connect people to each other and to answers quickly.  Improved mobile platforms from phones to slates together with connectivity back to the enterprise for email through BI can transform how a team gets things done.   Remember the dramatic impact your first Blackberry had on your connectedness and productivity?   We in IT must keep delivering those breakthrough services to our business partners, suppliers and customers.

However, all of this requires change in thinking too.   Individuals and teams have to learn to work together differently in this new world.  Collaboratively editing a document online together feels really different.   Your document that you are presenting next Tuesday might be edited simultaneously by 2-3-23 people over the course of a few days to make it perfect.  You won’t control the document because the group is working on it!  This is a lot different than someone making a draft and emailing it around for comments.   Online collaboration is different.   You have to get used to it.    You also have to learn to trust the cloud and trust that the network will be there.    IT has to make it reliable and you have to learn to trust that it will be there.

So, Gartner Groups article above is true.   All those points might not be true, but change is upon us.

(I wrote this months ago and forgot to publish it!)

Everybody is in Love with Big Data and Analytics

Last week I had the great opportunity to attend a vendor CIO conference in San Francisco. Without doubt the number one topic was the rise of Big Data and the need for more and better and deeper and easier analytical tools to enable the business to leverage that Big Data. Certainly organizations are saving more data than ever and they are attempting to mine that data for insights into their own products, their business state and their customers and suppliers.

Speaking as someone in the storage business, I think this is great. The more data the better and I say save it forever because you never know when you might need it. Last year I had a meeting with some junior CIOs of a large banking outfit on another continent and they indicated that the laws in their country had been changed to mandate keeping banking records forever! Very funny that such could be codified into the law and I guess everyone just winks and nods and salutes and says ok.  Perhaps they can build pyramids and chisel the records into the walls.

On the point of analytics, there are some key requirements that are still very open. First, there is definitely a need for easier tools for the non-IT business user who is trying to answer whatever question of the day. Most of today’s tools, even the ones that are for casual users, aren’t quite casual enough yet.  One person at the conference indicated that only about 20% of the possible users are actually using today’s tools and there are many corners in the business world that are using nothing.

Second, there is significant growth in unstructured data throughout an organization in places like wikis and in external social tools like Twitter and Facebook. Imagine if one could tap these sources as well as your internal call center data as well as other data sources to build a more complete picture of the state of your products/services and customers in near real time. As I saw on some post somewhere nobody needs to be trained to use Facebook or Twitter and the next generation of analytical tools need to be that easy to use.

Third, mobility via smart-phones and tablets will keep going and users are going to want to answer their questions on the go.

This is going to be interesting area to watch over the next few years. In the mean time, save all that data because you never know what question you might want to answer later.