Snapchat, the problem with Google Books and the rise of the Curator (Unicorn)

Indulge me a little. Earlier last week while prepping for a forthcoming trip to Asia I read a post The problem with snapchat from a US student Allie Link who described why she’d abandoned it. This phrase stood out:

Snapchat was not meant to take the place of picking up the phone and calling somebody when you want to have a deep conversation.

My research was prompted by a comment from a friend who following lunch with her grandchildren observed:

Facebook was invented by college students for college students, but today’s students don’t use FB.

She could have said, instead they use Instagram, Snapchat & WhatsApp. I would have added (as a result of experiences studying / researching in a University library) that they also have lost much of the art of human interaction of the sort needed for conversation.

I fear we are creating a Soundbite Society, one that is attracted by the headline but unwilling to read the article beneath. We take things at face value rather than ask the awkward supplementary question. Everything is reduced to concise phrases (or 140 characters in the case of Twitter), where celebrity is acquired from social media activity not earned thru expertise or deed.

the lure of technology

Which brings me to my core theme here: are we being seduced by the lure of technology to act as the guardian of our organisational knowledge and as a result oblivious to what’s happening behind the firewall?

I see the workforce struggling to keep pace with the array of gadgets and apps being thrown at them as we rush to provide a fully integrated Digital Workplace. Tags and taxonomies have never been sexy but are still vital to find ‘stuff’. Too often people are asking:

where did I have that conversation?

and unable to locate what was said.

From conversations I’ve had recently with Darron Chapman, David Gurteen and Martin White I am increasingly coming to the view that the shift to ape applications used in a social environment in the office is not going to meet the high expectation levels being set. While organisations try to give their workers access to organisational knowledge and information, ‘anytime, any place, any device’, I am still to be convinced that conversations captured on the likes of Workplace, Yammer, Slack, WhatsApp will end up assembled in a navigable and useful manner.

If organisations, with a policy of filling vacancies from within, have the talent they need in house and are able to find it via intelligent expertise systems then why retain external placement organisations? That they do suggests reality does not reflect the hype.

the challenge of asking the right question right!

Another area where the cracks are appearing is through the widespread use of the Virtual Assistant (VA). We are at a crossroads: to be really effective the VA needs to be able to interpret the question being asked (often not in the native language of the enquirer). But the enquirer does not know how to ask the question in a way that helps the machine to learn.

I see this when I use Google Translate (which with an improved algorithm in place is very good). It does not yet recognise the style I use when asking a question which I want translated into another language.

Here’s what I mean. Earlier this month I was in Lisbon. My Mother in Law offered to cook me dinner but as I was out for the evening with clients and left very early that morning I wrote her a note (imperfect as it turned out). I typed in “I am out for the day. No dinner tonight thank you.” The translation ended up as ‘sem jantar a noite obrigada” which in fact was interpreted as the reverse so a sumptuous meal of Carne de porco a alentejana was served. Imagine my shock at turning up at 11.15 to find a table of food and guests!

the problem with Google Books and CRM ‘lite’ operations

Back in Q1 I ran a survey and awarded prizes (of my co-authored book when available) to 3 lucky winners. One asked if I might send it electronically which I was happy to do.  So in July I bought a copy on Google Play Books. The recipient’s email was a Google one so a redemption code was sent to him.

Unfortunately after 3 attempts (in different countries)  he was unable to redeem the code and access the book. I use the chat facility and discover after an hour that an electronic book can only be downloaded in the country in which it was bought and moreover the purchaser cannot download it themselves. Here’s the issue: I had to go back and forth and each time I had to explain the situation again; the information I was originally given proved wrong.  If the most sophisticated search organisation can’t get it right with it’s CRM system what hope for the rest?

the rise of the organisational Curator in fragmented workplaces

Which leads me onto one of the disciplines I believe will grown in importance.

In a previous post I referred to the deluge of “Fake News” we are all subjected to in personal and professional situations. It’s not about the volume it’s more about the veracity of what people see that’s the issue now.

People in organisations want trusted content on their desk top. At issue is whether that can be provided automatically devoid of human intervention. I continue to argue that the curation of critical knowledge is an art form requiring an understanding of the DNA and way of working / rituals of an organisation. These are the nuances that I’ve yet to see any technology master.

So if my assumptions are right then far from becoming defunct the Knowledge & Information Professional’s role will become more important. To recap this is what I suggested #7 Curate of the 8 ‘ates would be:

Curate: So much of what passes for Knowledge Management is about creating and storing content and making it available for reuse. It’s more than the role formerly undertaken by Information Professionals and Librarians, here we are talking about being a custodian of organisational knowledge and organisational knowledge bases.

Am I right? I met Darron Chapman who runs a successful placement and recruitment business that focuses on this market. I asked him, “what skills and talents clients are looking for?” “Clients want Unicorns” he said. “They are increasingly looking to place them in global locations close to operational units. He cited places as diverse as Hong Kong, Lisbon, Madrid and Warsaw.  The skills have to be both technological as well as soft and there are very few people who meet those critieria. And if you want more on this it is a topic I will be discussing in much more detail during my trip to Asia next month and Martin White will be focusing on the challenges of expertise systems in Aarhus at Janus Boye’s event.

and finally

3 cities; 3 Masterclasses; 3 presentations and a closing facilitation session at KM Asia to look forward to from November 13th to 24th..

I’ve been experimenting with an interesting technology Biteable which proved really effective in creating a brief 1 minute video to advertise the 3 Masterclasses. Check out the results and let me know what you think.  Its a case of recognising that pictures with few words seem to get the interest of people overwhelmed by a deluge of offers.

I would like to give thanks to the following people who made the Asian “Adventure” happen:

Les Hales, President HKKMS

Zabeda Abdul Hamid, Asst. Prof. Deputy Director Graduate School of Management IIUM-CRESCENT International Islamic University Malaysia

Patrick Lambe, Author & Founder, Straits Knowledge, Singapore

Murni Shariff, Head Corporate Services, Malaysian Gas Association

Chung Yin Min, Knowledge Management Consultant, Innovation and Service Excellence PETRONAS, Malaysia

Janice Record, Head of International Knowledge & Insight DLA Piper, Hong Kong



5 thoughts on “Snapchat, the problem with Google Books and the rise of the Curator (Unicorn)

  1. Hi Paul, thanks a lot for putting together this great (and rather thought-provoking) blog post! Very interesting read altogether! Much appreciated as well all of the different Mentions on Twitter although I thought, for the sake of the irony embedded in it all, to drop by over here instead and comment here further along rather than on Twitter

    For a good while now, I have refused to call any of these ‘media tools’ any kind of knowledge sharing tool, specially, because I don’t know of many KM tools out there where you are tracked, monitored, surveilled, abused and sold to third parties without you having much of a say in it. I’m really sorry, but the immediate consequence of ‘you are the product’ can never be an effective knowledge management tool. These tools are just plain media. And media where people snack around vs. have full meals, no matter how much people insist on it, and the immediate result, just like with snacking around, is to fill your immediate needs forgetting about the long term ones, which is where KM kicks in.

    All of these tools where we are the product can never be an effective knowledge management system, more than anything else because we surrender our own privacy to convenience, where we keep feeding systems and we no longer have control of our own knowledge sharing needs. No organisation with a sane KM strategy could vouch for that kind of mantra in terms of how they would want to handle their critical knowledge.

    And when you mentioned the role of ‘curators’ that’s where you can nicely inject as well that need for knowledge brokers of content, interactions and knowledge shared across and, as we all know, it’s almost impossible to do that effectively in these media tools. However, I have been a huge fan of Harold’s Jarche #PKMastery model (See which fits in quite nicely in that description you mentioned about the critical role of curators, but, again, I don’t think we could say we would need them where people snack around in media tools, but in more sophisticated knowledge repositories through traditional KM tools and social software.

    End-result? Less snacking around and more in-depth knowledge capturing and knowledge sharing happening across the boards. Unfortunately, the infatuation of snacking around is distracting us all because we keep focusing on the immediate dose of dopamine vs. the knowledge environments we should be creating instead. We do have the tools, the processes and the people in place, we just need the mindset and a shift in our behaviours, and I’m afraid it’s going to take us all a whole lot more than some fancy, shiny media tools that thrive on ephemeral info exchanges hoping for the best, i.e. attention.

    We can, and should do!, so much better than that!

    • Luis as always your response amplifies rather than contradicts. I know and like Harold and his work so concur with your comment on his model. For me this is so much about skills and nomenclature – equipping people for the future. I wish you could join the debate in Asia in the next couple of weeks. I will enjoy trying to capture it and replay it.

      • I guess you are Paul, right? If that’s the case you are most welcome, Paul! Thanks much for opening up this rather important topic and I’m pretty sure you will have a great time in Asia talking about these topics.

        I wholeheartedly agree with you that we all ought to start thinking about these skills beyond just technology related and more into question who we are, as knowledge (Web) workers and the work we would want to do.

        I find it rather surprising that while everyone seems to be asking younger generations to learn how to code, there is very little talk on helping those same generations about how important certain skills around humanities and the arts may well be to complement and balance the needed tech skills. We need to strike for that balance sooner or later and really glad to see more and more of us are starting to ask such questions, so we can continue to push orgs. to help enable and facilitate the acquisition of such skills through lifelong learning initiatives to help transform themselves into learning orgs. vs. just transactional ones.

        The race is ON!, and I will surely look forward to your insights and live tweets from your Asian Tour! Enjoy it! 😀

        PS. Oh, yeah, I’m a ‘little’ jealous 😉 as well heh

        • Luis interestingly I was with an organisation on Wednesday who manages youth volunteering in hospitals. We talked a lot about the “what’s in it for me?” for the Millenial, the Volunteer Manager and perhaps most importantly, the Patient.
          What struck me when we went thru the question for each was that “lack of self esteem’ is one of the biggest challenges they see in the young exacerbated by the lack of f2f contact and the need for social reassurance / celebrity.

          • I am not surprised, Paul, by that answer, more than anything else, because that’s essentially what we have ingrained into our youth from a really young age. I seem to remember a piece of research done in multiple countries where they were asking a bunch of young kids what they wanted to be when they would grow up and the largest %s were around ‘football player’ and ‘pop music / film star’ and I just went

            As a society we have got some serious problems to solve, from a very early stage in our lives, is that what young kids aspire to be when they grow up! So that lack of self esteem, reassurance and celebrity is not surprising at all! Our sickening so-called ‘Cult of the Narcissist’ is what it has and what’s delivering time and time again.

            It’s a systemic problem that needs a different solution than trying to figure out which tools to retain and share your knowledge. And then one has got to wonder about the constant narrative by everyone about machines taking our jobs away. No, not really, ‘we’ are the ones taking our jobs away based on the education systems we have all over the place.

            Like I said, we need to do better, so much better, to address these issues and, if anything, what I’m really excited about is how these very same social / digital tools are helping us all question our very own humanity and the role we would want to play in this world for what’s left of this incipient century… Will be up for the challenge? I surely hope so, but that’s essentially the question I think we ought to keep asking ourselves vs. fearing whether A.I. is going to kill us. No, it won’t. Other people making effective use of it might

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