A thousand points of light

My hometown newspaper, The South China Morning Post (SCMP), recently went live with a reader driven mashup site dedicated to reporting environmental damage. The SCMP calls the site Citizen Map. It looks like it’s gaining traction. The public responded with more than 20 tip-offs in the first few days.

Mashups are nothing new. Typical examples include real estate listing databases married to neighborhood maps and school district information, sites that track epidemic outbreaks around the world and geo-location restaurant guides.

But most mashups are meant to broadcast a single author’s voice, or at least a single group’s message. What the SCMP has done looks a little different. The paper has put together a number of services, some commercial, some open source, that let other people generate the content around a theme. Arguably, user generated content is nothing new either. Think Twitter or Facebook.  But Twitter and Facebook cater to everyone, or at least try to.

I would guess that the SCMP has no idea where this is going to go but the framework is clear: the SCMP has created a point solution (in contrast to an enterprise or utility solution) to aggregate community generated information on environmental damage. Individual postings might lead to follow-up investigations, government responses (one hopes), name and shame reporting or public debate.

Synergy 2011

We just finished our start-of-the-year meetings in Hong Kong, Synergy 2011. Our resellers, who showed up in force, came from all over the world (you can find a list of NetDimensions resellers here).

Our resellers are a powerful, variegated group with clients large and small and up to the minute insights. They had a lot to say. I’ll share a couple of points that impressed me and give you a heads up on what our community is doing today and planning to do for the rest of the year.

In no particular order of importance:

The Internet for the rest of us

20-things-coverThe folks at Google have written a book — well, I’m sure they’ve written a few (and indexed a few more) but this particular batch of Googlies have written a children’s book for grownups that explains how the web works to those of us who are, shall we say, technology challenged, which means most of us if we’re being honest.

You can find the e-book here.

And when I say “technology challenged” I don’t mean to be disparaging. I think even those among us who use the Internet every day may lack a deep understanding of how it actually works. For example, how many people do you know who can actually describe how a car engine works? I mean, how it really works?

The book is charming. Clear, concise, aimed at intelligent adults and beautifully illustrated, it’s a must read for all your learning and development staff who do not muck around with code but who might benefit from understanding more about web architecture issues. There is a bit of Googlie self-promotion in certain chapters but hey, it’s free.

Thank you Google.


In memorium

Jonathan Kayes PortraitJonathan Kayes just died. For most of his career, Jonathan worked with the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). More recently he held the post of Chief Learning Officer at The Masie Center.

My path first crossed Jonathan’s in a funny way.

I was having dinner at Indochine, a French Vietnamese restaurant in Hong Kong, with Elliott Masie of the Masie Center along with his wife Cathy and Graham Higgins, who was then the learning and development manager at Cathay Pacific Airways, when Elliott asked if we knew of any interesting learning or performance support innovations coming out of Asia. I mentioned Chinesepod, which was born during SARS, and was, I thought, a great example of necessity mothering invention.

Elliott liked Chinesepod so much he brought it to the attention of the CIA, where he was a member of the board of advisors. At that point Jonathan picked the idea up and ran with it. Chinesepod has since gone from strength to strength, as have a bunch of other online language learning services, including Livemocha and Smart.fm.

I had the privilege to meet Jonathan several times after that and even to introduce him to one or two officials in other (friendly) governments trying to figure out how to achieve some of the successes he had achieved in his CLO roles.

Jonathan was a serious, good man. We’ll miss him. I’ll miss him.