January 31, 2004

Emergent Learning Forum

On Tuesday, January 27th, eLearning Forum became the Emergent Learning Forum.

Is the eLearning Forum abandoning eLearning? Heavens, no. eLearning needs a broader stage. We are trying to push eLearning out of its silo so it can conect with the outside world. We are intent on positioning Emergent Learning as a core business process.

When our group started meeting back in 1999, eLearning was an infant. Then, as now, our enthusiasts, volunteers all, saw themselves as pioneers, not homesteaders. We've always thought of "ourselves as innovators and provocateurs."

Baby has grown up. eLearning has reached adolescence. We elders have to let it get out of the house to make its own friends. The action is moving from eLearning itself to how eLearning relates with others. The excitement is in what comes next. It's evolving now. It's emergent. More on this theme at Emergent Learning Forum.

A personal catalyst for the change was recognizing that so many things that have my attention don't naturally come under the traditional definition of eLearning:

Social network analysis
Expert location
Real-time learning
Rapid production
JIT knowledge management
Learning as business process
Bottom-up processes
Content management
Engaging storytelling
Contextual collaboration
Web services
Open source
Informal learning
RSS, search learning
Smart software
Semantic web
Workflow integration
Appreciative inquiry
Mass personalization
Visual learning
Meeting process
Avatars & agents
Multidisciplinary approaches
Organizational readiness
Business inangibles metrics
Process mapping

If these techniques and technologies help people lead more productive and happy lives, and relate to learning, I don't intend to exclude them from discussion because they don't comfortably fit under the common definitions of eLearning.

This morning I called up the PowerPoint slides I used when announcing the Emergent Learning Forum earlier this week in Mountain View. Using Macromedia Breeze, I narrated the presentation, clicked to upload it to the web, and started to the kitchen for another cup of coffee.

The cord from my headset had caught in my belt. I realized this when my little Sony laptop came crashing down on the floor from it's 4' perch on my drafting table. "Oh, no!" I picked up the computer and various doodads attached to it and gently opened the cover. Low and behold, it's still uploading. I don't want to try this ever again, but it's comforting to know that you can bounce a Sony VAIO off the floor without obliterating it.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Help save Berkeley landmarks

You may know that I love the Berkeley hills and their pathways. Last year I described a beautiful walk up a hill lined with houses designed by our revered, indigenous architect, Bernard Maybeck. A few days ago, a resident of that hill asked my help in getting the local Zoning Board to deny granting a special use permit that would allow someone to build an enormous, view-blocking, 22' by 2-story wall in this neighborhood. I'll do what I can.

To make a difference, you need to register your feelings with the Berkeley Zoning Board by this Thusday. For particulars, email: [email protected] They'll respond quickly and with gratitude!

Take your choice:

a. Unobstructed View

b. Two story, 22' high, industrial box

Click thumbnail for larger images.

The neighbor's letter:

History It's a sad day when the character of the Berkeley Hills is jeopardized by a new, very determined land-owner. The area comprising Buena Vista Way, La Loma and Maybeck Twin Drives, is cited as one of the most significant in the state by architectural historians.

The origins of the neighborhood's special reputation go back to the late 1890s when Maybeck began designing homes in Berkeley that blended into their natural surroundings and projected a simple, healthy lifestyle for their inhabitants.

Maybeck lived on Buena Vista Way and designed a number of significant houses there: the "Sack" House and the Wallen Maybeck House and the Mathewson studio to name a few. All designs reflected his guiding principles of blending in with the environment. In addition to Maybeck's former buildings, others such as The Boynton House ("Temple of the Wings") and the Hume Cloister, add historic interest to the neighborhood. All of these houses have been respectfully developed and many have been designated National or State Historic Landmarks, under a time-consuming process initiated by their owners.

Call it Buena Vista Way, Maybeck's area or more curiously, "Nut Hill," it's a place with a lot of history. And a place that has been preserved by owners and occupants for everyone in all Berkeley and beyond to enjoy. Those who live there delight to see runners, bikers, interested tourists and of course, the Path Wanderers, come up and take a look around, take in the views and peer inside some unique homes. Often times, when they see a walker huffing and puffing toward the top, they offer a glass of juice or an invitation "to come inside and poke around." It's a resource for the whole city, and residents are proud to be its guardians.

It's not always a breeze to live in the area however because the codes around zoning and building are fairly strict. Additions to homes and even permits to build carports are not easy to come by. Thus far, these few special "blocks" have developed organically and their uniqueness remains intact.

The Issue at Hand
Unfortunately, residents living in Maybeck homes and others there, are now faced with a possible decision by the Zoning Adjustments Board to allow a very large, very modern and mostly windowless house to be built in the middle of the historic area. The lot to be developed was part of the site of the home that Maybeck built and lived in until it was destroyed by the major Hills fire in 1923.

If Use Permits are granted, the house as designed will be almost twice as tall as anything else in the area and characterized by a 22-foot long façade that would eliminate the views of the Bay from the street.

Neighbors have written letters, gone to late-night Zoning Board Hearings and as respectfully but solidly as possible opposed these Use Permits being granted. The residents are not against development, in fact, some are contractors and builders.

They are however united against this project that does not respect the history of the area. They have worked to preserve the Hill as a Berkeley resource and find it difficult to believe that its future could soon be forever altered.

Taking a Stand
They would be very appreciative to have Path Wanderers Members write a letter to the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board and/or the Planning Commission or otherwise communicate with the powers that be in the City, to OPPOSE this project.

The final Zoning Board vote is scheduled for FEB 12th. Zoning Board members will review all letters and input received by FEB 5th.

Wes Boyd, MoveOn founder, when he was interviewed by CTNow last August said, "You wish these things would be taken care of by other people." Area residents are hoping the Path Wanderers might be a group that cares enough about the history and preservation of the Hills that they would be inspired to write to the City on this.

The address:

    Zoning Adjustments Board C/o Current Planning Division 2120 Milvia Street Berkeley, CA 94704

    Re: proposed house at 2861 Buena Vista Way
    Attn: Sage

Temple of the Wings

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January 30, 2004

Complex Life

Written January 25, 2004

I've been learning about complexity -- the sort of complexity they dwell on at the Santa Fe Instittue, the realm of John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Murray Gell-Mann, and their pals.

This isn't the first time my mind has rebelled at the Newtonian worldview. No, everything doesn't tick like a giant watch. While I continually fight self-denial about this, my mind is not a digital computer. There's no stored program inside executing if-then-else statements.

Logic alone will never describe the redwood outside my window, the color blue in the poster above my desk, or the pleasure I get from patting my dog Smoky's head in the morning. Lockstep logic? Cue Peggy Lee singing, "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?"

My mind was busy learning from 2:00 am to 8:30 am this morning. Not that I was awake. It was knitting neural connections, making patterns, and simplifying concepts on its own. It was trying to make sense of the big dose of philosophy and cultural criticism carried by M.C. Taylor's The Moment of Complexity, which I finished reading only last night.

Taylor's book has sparked some memories that had been under wraps for some time. It took me back to a college classroom where Professor Walter Kaufman is engaging us in his views of "Hegel, Nietsche, and Existentialism." Professor Kaufman told us about scholars who surmised that humankind had taken a fork in the road of philosophy some time during the Golden Age of Greece. They poured over artefacts like the last remaining fragments of Heraclitus in hopes of seeing what was along the road not travelled.

Complexity is the answer. It's an alternative worldview. It coexists with Newtonian mechanics. It's also a place to put things we don't yet understand.

The mind always tries to take things too far. Neither complexity nor our conventional views are "all that there is." It's a both/and situation. Just as Taylor himself commits the fundamental error of eLearning -- that computers alone can be the teachers -- there's a temptation to postulate that complexity underlies everything. That flies in the face of our cultural tradition and lots of useful stuff that works in stable conditions. Acting as if everything were a complex system would probably land you in a straight-jacket in a padded room. No one else would "get it."

Last night I was criticizing Taylor's "automatic writing" as a cop-out, and here I am doing it myself. I have no outline. This is stream of consciousness, modified only a sentence in advance by my drive to share my findings, entertain you with my quirkiness, and retain some sense of grammar.

My apologies to Taylor for making fun of his book in my blog last night. I was missing the message. It worked for me. Might it work for you? That depends. I doubt that my mind could have wrapped itself around The Moment of Complexity without help from Walter Kaufman, Hazel Henderson, and The User Illusion.

The metaphor of complex adaptive systems helps me assilimilate some of the thoughts that have popped up on my internal radar this last year, among them:

  • Everything is connected to everything else. It's all one interconnected network.
  • Interactions matter; independent actions don't. Knowledge, learning, conversation...are co-creations.
  • Causality is overrated. Shit happens. Often, no amount of looking will ever show you why.
  • The world is speeding up. That's a result of more interconnections. It's easier than ever before for memes to mate.
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No room for LMS big boys

Contracting Office Address

    Office of Personnel Management, Contracting, Facilities and Administrative Services Group, Contracting Division, 1900 E Street, N.W., Room 1342, Washington, DC, 20415-7710


    The Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. will be issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) that will lead to the establishment of multiple Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts for online training, products and services in support of the Government Online Learning Center (GoLearn). GoLearn is responsible for providing the full spectrum of web-based human capital performance (e-HCP) tools and the full range of web-based training content, including academic, technical, executive and organizational development courses to federal employees.... The LMS/LCMS niche will be set aside totally for small business. The NAICS code for this niche is 541511 (Custom Computer Programming Services). For this niche a company is considered small if it has gross average annual sales for the proceeding three years of less than $21 million.
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

Social software + eLearning

Learning and social software

Individual success in business is the result of what you know and who you know. (Yeah, I know it's more complicated than that, but it's late. Bear with me.)

What happens when you integrate aspects of eLearning, informal learning, collaboration, social networking, expertise location, and e-portfolios?

The Emergent Learning Forum (until last Tuesday, the eLearning Forum) is going to take up this topic in late February. If you can lay claim to expertise in both camps, i.e. eLearning and Social Software, please get in touch

Alex Gault and I want to pick your brain.

Learning = content + context
Context = what social software's all about

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Uh-oh, proper perspective

A Daughter's Letter home from College

    Dear Mom and Dad:

    It has been four months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing and am very sorry for my thoughtlessness. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. Don't read any further unless you are sitting down .... OK?

    [If you know this old chestnut, jump ahead to the sequel.]

    Good. I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got from jumping out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire, shortly after my arrival, are pretty well healed now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get three headaches a day. Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump were witnessed by an attendant at a nearby gas station, and he was able to call the Fire Department and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital, and since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt-out dorm, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It's really a basement room, but it is kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven't set the exact date yet, but I'm sure it will be before I start to show.

    Yes, Mom and Dad, I am pregnant. I know how much you are looking forward to being grandparents, and I know you will give the baby the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests, and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up, thanks to my daily penicillin injections.

    I know you will welcome him into our family with open arms. He is kind, and although not well educated, he is ambitious.

    I guess that's it. Now that I have brought you up to date, I want you to know... There was no dormitory fire, I did not have a concussion or skull fracture, I was not in the hospital, I am not pregnant, I am not engaged, I do not have syphilis and there is no man in my life. However, I am getting a "D" in History and an "F" in Science, and I wanted you to see these marks in their proper perspective.

    Your loving daughter,



DigitalThink Announces Financial Results for Third Quarter of Fiscal 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- DigitalThink, Inc. (Nasdaq: DTHK), the leader in custom e-learning for Fortune 1000 companies, today announced financial results for its third quarter of fiscal 2004.

. . .

"We are seeing very positive signs in the custom e-learning business and more importantly in our business," said Michael Pope, president and chief executive officer of DigitalThink.

. . .

That said, we do face a significant challenge in our relationship with our customer EDS."

"EDS is our largest customer first signed under a master agreement in July of 2000," continued Pope. "We have a valid and binding contract with EDS that runs through June 2005. Many times over our three-year relationship we have renegotiated the master agreement with EDS by amending and expanding our service offering, in all cases with the best interests of our customer in mind. EDS alleges that DigitalThink is currently in default under the master agreement. We strongly believe there is no basis for these allegations. The dispute is not over quality of courseware or level of service concerns. EDS, however, has indicated it may attempt to terminate the remaining portion of the contract."

"This current discussion does not surprise me, as we have renegotiated many times in the past. We are currently in negotiations with EDS to provide a business resolution to the matter using the process provided for in our contract. If we are unable to reach a mutually-agreeable business resolution regarding this matter we intend to pursue all breach of contract and other claims we have against EDS. Obviously, a business resolution is our preferred outcome."

"Rest assured, we are not standing still at DigitalThink. Customer concentration risk is not new to this company. As such, we have assessed the situation of what DigitalThink looks like without EDS many times in the past. We have a plan that we believe will enable us to serve our clients and fulfill on our mission of providing outstanding customer service and custom e- learning. Our plan would require significant expense reductions, including headcount reductions and lease terminations."

"In summary, you should understand four points: one, we see positive trends in our business conditions; two, there is an issue with EDS that we are taking all possible steps to resolve amicably; three, we believe we have an extremely strong case should we have to resort to a legal resolution; and four, most importantly, we have a plan for DigitalThink's continued execution for our customers and our shareholders should EDS go away as a customer," concluded Pope.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2004

Plug those leaks

A visit from the FBI
By Scott Granneman, SecurityFocus
Posted: 28/01/2004 at 13:02 GMT

A favorite trick is to surreptitiously turn on the Webcam of an owned computer in order to watch the dupe at work, or watch what he's typing on screen. In one, a hacker sent a WinPopup message to a fellow: "Hey, put your shirt back on! And why are you using a computer when there's a girl on your bed!" Sure enough, the camera had captured a guy using his computer, sans shirt, and in the background you could clearly see a young woman stretched out on a bed.


Eastern European hackers, backed by organized crime, such as the Russian mafia. In other words, the professionals. The easiest way to illegally acquire money now is through the use of online tools like Trojans, or through phishing: set up a fake Web site for PayPal or eBay or Amazon, and then convince the naíve to enter their usernames, passwords, and credit card information.

More of these are Posted by Jay Cross at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yin and Yang of home computer maintenance

The Dark Side

When I participate in events at L. A. 's Staples Convention Center, I forego the expensive hotels in favor of staying with Patsy. Not that Patsy and I have a thing going; she runs a delightful bed and breakfast half a mile from the Convention Center.

Half a dozen years ago, graffiti appeared on walls and sidewalks in Patsy's neighborhood with a vengeance. She and others vowed not to buckle under. As soon as a graffito appeared, Patsy's SWAT Team painted over it. Armed with buckets of paint, they prowled the streets at three in the morning. Within six months, the vandals moved on, doubtless to a more complacent, less proud neighborhood.

This morning I could identify with Patsy. My inbox was host to hundreds of virtus-laden email bombs. Made for the quaint old days when viruses came in twos and threes, Norton Anti-Virus couldn't handle the situation. After answering "Yes" forty or fifty times to Norton's repeated questioning about whether I wanted to Quaranteen the offending email, I gave up.

I went to my server and deleted page after page of email with subjects like "Test" and "Hello."

In a more just world, the virus vandals would feel a little pain whenever I delete their garbage. I'd like to experience the hard-won satisfaction of Patsy's group, driving the jerks out of my space.

In the meanwhile, I wish Norton Anti-Virus would let me check a box once and for all time signifying that, "No, I never want to open virus-laden Spam."

Now it's as if the local police were to show up at my door every time they catch a criminal to tell me, "Look at what we did for you." Norton's bargain is, "I'll quaranteen your virus in exchange for my pop-up."

The Light Side

Monday night my blogs began to act strangely. I was unable to post an entry. This morning, after 90 minutes of getting through the email-ffiti, an email from Stephen Downes alerted me that the comment function on my blogs was down.

When I tried to post an entry, I got this in return: "Can't open file: 'mt_trackback.MYI'. (errno: 145)" I turned to the Moveable Type Support Forum, dreading a day of geeking through code in languages I don't understand. Could I run "phpAdmin"? Yes, it turned out I could. Soon, all my raw MySQL files were on the screen. A couple of keystrokes could banish years of entries into the aether. At this level, you work without a net. I put a checkmark next to the offending file and clicked "Repair." Everything works again! This is great. Wonderful. Something works!! On the first time!!! I walked the line and didn't fall. I don't need no stinking net!!!! Huzzah!!!!!


Posted by Jay Cross at 11:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004


Check out ADL's elearnopaedia. Lotsa links.

Initially I was miffed because I couldn't find my site. Then I turned to "Favorites," a select list of nine. Two are ADL's own sites. Another two are Marcia and Wayne's Learnativity in duplicate (and try Ageless Learner if you want to keep up with Marcia, who, not content with just writing a book, has two books coming out). Learning Circuits is a great choice but for some reason they are down today. Thiagi's site is always gamey; I mean about games. TechForum is represented with a lame events calendar which lists only their own (Go to Learning Circuits or eLearning Centre for a complete calendar). The glossary, curiously, is Australian; e-boolabong? e-digeradoo? And that leaves...ta-da...Internet Time Blog.

There's a lot more here than Favorites, so I'll want to poke around before giving the elearnopaedia anything but high marks for effort. A couple of areas for improvement:

  • It would certainly be helpful to have a way for readers to rate the resources. Think of the time you'd save by cherry-picking and reading only the top articles.
  • My site has more than 25 papers and published articles I've written and a dozen presentations, many available with narration. I maintain an extensive link list and special sections on workflow learning, visual learning, ROI, design, etc. Yet most link lists don't do deep linking. My 500 MB of material gets the same signpost as a three-page vendor site of unoriginal material. I don't mean to whine; I get visitors by the boatload but I do find that many link listers do their readers a disservice by not giving a very full picture of what's out there.

    Another example just came to mind. Have you ever visited the archives of Stephen Downes' site? It's awesome. Click one of these links

Another plus for ADL. They at least try to provide descriptions with links. Another reason I like eLearning Centre is that Jane Knight not only provides descriptions, she also tells what's good and what's not.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

Use your head!

Brains and Brawn, One and the Same


Published: January 25, 2004

Researchers in Germany report that the brain is similar to muscles in that if you exercise, it will grow:

In a study conducted by Dr. Arne May and colleagues at the University of Regensburg in Germany, people who spent three months learning to juggle showed enlargement of certain areas in the cerebral cortex, the thin sheet of nerve cells on the brain's surface where most higher thought processes seem to be handled. They were then asked to quit juggling completely, and three months later the enlarged areas of the cortex had started to shrink.


Both studies show how malleable the brain is under training, a finding already hinted at by the brain's own internal representation, or mapping, of body parts. In monkeys trained to use their fingertips for some task, the areas of the brain devoted to mapping the fingertips will enlarge, suggesting that the brain's various maps of the body are "plastic," in the parlance of neurology, not hard-wired.

Since they can't observe what's going on at the cellular level, the scientists don't know if the new weight is due to new cells or new connections. The people the Times spoke with think it's the connections. There are plenty of them:

The brain has about 100 billion neurons, each of which makes on average 1,000 connections with others, for some 100 trillion interconnections in all, none of them color coded. Learning to juggle, or navigate London streets, must involve a horrendous rewiring job. But the brain's electricians seem to know what they are doing, and no doubt it's good to keep them exercised.

Prediction: This finding will appear in Training, T+D, and the other vehicles of the training industry's popular press with the fervor of The National Enquirer reporting Michael Jackson's affair with Liz Taylor.

Does reading garbage, memorizing the ball scores, looking at porn, and watching Harry Potter movies a dozen times make one's brain heavier? Just thinking about that makes it hard for me to hold my head up.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Moment of Chaos: Warning

I just finished reading The Moment of Complexity by Mark C. Taylor. I picked up a few memes and some interesting tidbits. However, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't. Do yourself a favor and read my thoughts before wading into this tome's 275 pages:

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fourth Moment of Complexity

When we left off at our previous moment of complexity, the author finally stopped dropping big names on campus (e.g. Derrida, Hegel, Heidegger, Kant) and got around to defining complex adaptive systems.

evolving complexity

My suspicions were aroused when the author launches into a ten-page review of Gödel, Escher, Bach. (A leftover from another project? A paper from a grad student?) Using the word "ant" as a transition, we're suddenly reading John Holland's observation that the economy, our central nervous systems, ecologies, immune systmes, the development of multicellular organisms, and the processes of evolutionary genetics are all adaptive nonlinear networks at heart. Murray Gell-Mann throws in culture and computer programs.

The instability of complex systems makes you consider them over time. Stuart Kauffman critiques Darwin, noting that organisms resemble Rube Goldberg machines. Kauffman's hot; without self-organization, he notes, evolution would not be possible. If you thought Holland covered a lot of territory, be aware that Kauffman's vision covers not only science but also society, politics, metaphysics, and religion. Kauffman is convinced that the emergence of order is spontaneous but not accidental. We're inevitably headed for a single, global culture wherein people, tech, economics, and knowledge all blend together all over the planet.

screening information

What does it mean if the electricity in our heads conforms to the rules of complex adaptive systems? The author doesn't ask that directly. Instead, he writes several pages worthy of Castaneda's brujo after a double-dose of peyote:

I, Mark C. Taylor, am not writing this book. Yet the book is being written. It is as if I were the screen through which the words of others flow and on which they are displayed. Words, thoughts, ideas are never precisely my own; they are always borrowed rather than possessed. I am, as it were, their vehicle. Though seeming to use language, symbols, and images, they use me to promote their circulation and extend their lives. The flux of information rushing through my mind as well as my body (I am not sure where one ends and the other begins) existed before me and will continue on flowing long after I am gone. "My" thougths--indeed "my" self--appears to be a transient eddy in a river whose banks are difficult to discern.

Wow. That's one hell of a paragraph. I read it three times. Web without a weaver. Nothing new under the sun. Reproducing, not producing. Nobody will re-engineer this one. Unless they look at it as denial of responsibility. Or taking on a new religion which submerges the individual. Or Mark smoking something.

As boundaries become permeable, it is impossible to know when or where this book began or when and where it will end. Since origins as well as conclusions forever recede, beginnings are inevitably arbitrary and endings repeatedly deferred. One of the few things that is clear even if not obvious is that all writing is ghostwriting. This work, like all others, is haunted by countless specters. The silent noise of ghosts clamoring for attention transforms me into a "colony of writers."

Gotta love this one:

Writing, it seems, is the obsession of the possessed. For the possessed, writing is a search for je ne sais quoi.

Oh, God. Kill me before I write again!

All of this takes time; thinking has rhythms of its own--it must simmer and cannot be rushed. It is impossible to know just how much time is required for thought to gel because I am not in control of this process--nor is anyone else. Thought thinks through me in ways I can never fathom. Much--perhaps most--of what is important in the dynamics of thinking eludes consciousness.

The title of Kevin Kelly's great bio book springs to mind: Out of Control.

Gell-Mann writes of cultural DNA, "borrowing a term from Hazel Henderson." Plate-o-shrimp. I'd never heard of Hazel Henderson until June of last year. She said that the economists who control the political side nationally pay attention to only four factors — unemployment, deficits, inflation, and interest rates. But the world is more complex than that. The economists are linear and therefore can’t grok complex systems. A “Post-Cartesian Scientific Worldview” sees interconnectedness, redistribution (recycling), heterarchy (webs), complimentarity (both/and), etc. Bingo! Later in the day I thanked Hazel for cluing me in to why I'd always thought economics was a crock.

Daniel Dennett takes memes seriously. He figures they can reprogram with operating system of the brain. Memes and genes are in a coevolutionary, coadaptive relationship. Ray Kurtzweil goes further: our human software will replace our bodily hardware.

the currency of education

Uh-oh. In this chapter, the author hops on the dot-com era eLearning bandwagon. He says "education is a commodity that is distributable through telematic technologies." He repeats lines from Merrill Lynch's gushy The Book of Knowledge.

No one has been quicker to realize what the new economy means for education than Michael Milken.

The founder of Knowledge Universe was telling academic institutions "We are going to eat your lunch." (A couple of years after this, Milken had bailed, closing the doors of almost all of his educational acquisitions except Leap Frog, which has become such a big winner it has more than covered Milken's losses in the rest of his Universe.)

Bankrolled by investment banker Herbert Allen, the author founds Global Educaiton Network. His faculty critics just aren't seeing the big picture. "The most important legacy we can leave the next generation is the hope that creative change is still possible."


This final chapter has next to nothing to do with what comes before. It's as if Mark needed another forty pages to fulfilll his book contract, so he excised parts of his business plan for GEN and his diary from that time, and just slapped them onto the end of the manuscript.

Now the "book without an author" theme which I found capivating the first time through seems an apologia, a rationalization for starting a book but not finishing it.

Mark C. Taylor's webiste at WIlliams

The website of the Global Education Network has a screenshot, an 800 number, and the words "Our website is undergoing maintenance.
We apologize for the inconvenience."

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2004

Personal or professional?

Where does one draw the line between personal interests and professional interests?

The line between personal and professional gets blurry, particularly if you have a home office and if you live what Bill Gates used to call "the web lifestyle." My email inbox contains project updates, appeals for help, ads for credit counseling and penis enlargement, invitations to speak at conferences, and a note from Mom. I take photos of new products and of my dogs.

Perhaps a better question is "Where should one draw the line between personal and professional?" My time used to be something like this:

I didn't confuse hobbies and vacation with managing a software start-up or selling training programs to large banks.

Yesterday I finished assembling a website for capturing and sharing the history and romance of Berkeley's paths for the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association. A hobby, right? Until I used the same skillset to put together a blog for the Workflow Institute.

If I kept a timecard (perish the thought), I'd have to give most of my waking minutes multiple codes:

It's Saturday morning and I'm preparing a presentation for Tuesday's meeting of the eLearning Forum. That's personal and professional.

I don't have an answer yet. I'll toss it to my subconscious neurons to work on. My high degree of personal and professional activites works for me. I get to do what I like in either realm. This feels right, so long as one sphere doesn't limit the scope of the other:

Do others think this way? Is there a problem?

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

A Third Moment of Complexity

critical emergence

The "critics" that are critical here are structuralists, deconstructionists, and worse. They argue over meaning but always make the same point, namely that, "systems and structures inevitably totalize by excluding difference and repressing otherness."

Uber-structuralist Lévi-Strauss looks at language as if phonemes and morphemes are like protons and neutrons, enabling one to construct a periodic table of the language. "I have always aimed at drawing up an inventory of mental patterns, to reduce apparently arbitary data to some kind of order." So...the world is simple, we just have yet to discover the code.

Along comes Foucault. (I'm glad I graduated from college before this crew began to publish.) Structure? Patterns? Thinking? All of this is context-specfic. Do the cultural archeology and you find that language, perception, and practice are all constructed.

Derrida, Kirkegaard, Hegel, Freud, Baudrillard. Regarding "The End of Production," Baudrillard wrote, "The first shockwave of this transition from produtction to pure and simple reproduction took place in May '68. They struck the universities first, and the faculty of human sciences first of all, becuase that was where it became most evident (even without a clear "political" consciousness) that we were no longer productive, only reprductive (and that lecturers, science and culture were themselves only relays in the general reproduction of the system.)"

Yawn. May '68. Productivity on campus. Hmmm. The month before, I started attending the eight-week Army Office Basic Course at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. My roommate and I drank beer and watched reruns of "Combat" for homework. (We'd swagger into class the next day, mouthing the World War II solider talk Vic Morrow used in the foxhole.) Then we'd play 'Nam Arty' for gunnery practice. You played Nam Arty by lying on your back behind the sofa with a handful of darts. You'd lob the darts over the side, trying to hit the target pinned to the back of the closet door across the room. The other player, your spotter, gave feedback with which to correct your aim. My roommate and I both graduated with Top Honors and Expert Marksman status. Who cares about non-production on campus? We were preparting to fight a war. Ha, ha, ha, ha.

strange loops

René Magritte, Derrida, Isaac Newton, Schiller, Hegel, and Heidegger. Remember the story about the guy who visits prison. One prisoner says "35," and the cell block rocks with laughter. Another con says "84," again followed by gales of laughter. Puzzled, the newcomer asks what's up. He is told that since everyone's heard all the jokes, they numbered them to save time. The visitor shouts "23." Total silence. Nothing. Why happened? he asked. Why aren't they laughing? "It's all in how you tell it," he was told. To which I reply "Descartes!" "Kant!" "Humberto Maturana!" I'm not laughing over this chapter.

"Descartes set in motion developments that eventually led to 'the will to master,' which has resulted in twentieth-century techno-science. Just as sociolcultural constructivism leads to a form of subjective idealism that negates objectivity by consuming the natural world, so the will to mastery issues in a 'subjective egoism,' which is ultimately destructive. " Ho, ho, ho. Those professors can really tell 'em, can't they?

noise in formation

You must understand the relationship of information to complexity and vice-versa in order to appreciate the importance of the emerging network culture. If you'd read Claude Shannon, you can skip this chapter.

emerging complexity

The task of making meaning out of randomness is what self-organization is all about, wrote Henri Atlan in his inexplicably untranslated L'organisation biologique et la thé de l'information (1972).

Defining complexity is complex. Besiders, humanity always lusts for simplicity. Newton was more metaphysician than physicist. He wrote more religious treatises than science works. One God, one way things happen.

Herbert Simon said complexity came from a large number of parts that interact in a nonsimple way.

Complex systems are different from complicated systems. A snowflake is complicated but it comes from simple rules. It doesn't change form until it melts. Nor is a complex system chaotic; chaos is the lack of all order, because the internal parts are not connected.

The characteristics are complex systems are:

  1. Many parts, connected in multiple ways
  2. Diverse components interacting both serially and in parallel
  3. Spontaneously self-organizing
  4. Can't be reverse-engineered
  5. Interaction of parts changes the whole
  6. Open, adaptive, evolving
  7. Emergence occurs far from equilibrium, on the edge of chaos

Large systems with many components evolve to a critical state way out of equilibrium. One more snowflake may precipitate the avalanche.

"32!" Oh wait, I meant to quote the author, saying, "A few lines later, he concludes the novel with a 'Chorous Logico-Philosophicus' which parodies Wittgenstein while suggesting the point of the tale the authors have spun:

Emergent complexity
Bear us aloft!

Don't you love it when professors talk dirty?

Complex behavior comes from the interplay of organisms, not from the action of any single organism.

For hundreds of years, we've been praying in Newton's church. Complexity is a new system of beliefs. It's impossible to build faith in complexity by singing from the Newtonian hymnal. Hence, to become polytheistic and embrace both new and old, the complexity liturgy must be repeated until it penetrates our resistances. So, one more time:

Emerging self-organizing systems are complex adaptive systems. For complex systems to maintain themselves, they must remain open to their environment and change when conditions require it. Complex adaptive systems, therefore, inevitably evolve, or, more accurately, coevolve. As the dynamics of evolving complexity are clarified, it not only becomes apparent that complex adptive systems evolve, but it also appears that the process of evolution is actually a complex adaptive system.

Jay's Ruminations

Today Bob Horn told me he's being awarded a lifetime achievement award from ISPI. He described some of his current work on "messy problems" for the likes of NASA. Since I was in the midst of my complexity readings, I said that the ISPI I had known treated every situation as a closed system. Bob's acceptance speech may address instructional design solutions to messy problems. This I'd love to see.

Reading through page after page of philosophical horsefeathers, I ask "Am I getting anything out of this?" Enough to make it worthwhile continuing, I guess. I've got about a hundred pages to go. Several evenings of speed reading and page-turning with a yellow marker in hand. That's bedtime stuff.

Earlier today I started reading Dave Snowden's papers on JIT KM. He draws heavily on complexity but makes it useful rather than a vocabulary and postmodern Euro-vocabulary test. My take on Snowden's work will pop up in other posts here.

You might compare the definition of complexity here with the one in It's Alive.

Bear with me through this trying journey. My gut tells me the complexity paradigm is vital to our understanding of the world. It also suggests immediate practical applications. Don't let my thinking out loud drive you away! This is a short journey through the abyss of academia.

"Maxwell's equations, Schrödinger's equation, and Hamiltonian mechanics can each be expressed in a few lines. The ideas that form the foundation of our worldview are also very simple indeed: The world is lawful, and the same basic laws hold everywhere. Everything is simple, neat, and expressible in terms of everyday mathematics, either partial or ordinary differential equations. Everything is simple and neat, except, of course, the world. Every place we look outside the physics classroom we see a world of amazing complexity. The world contains many examples of complex ecologies at all levels: huge mountain ranges, the delicate ridge on the surface of a sand dune, the salt spray coming off a wave, the interdependencies of financial markets, and the true ecologies formed by living things. Each situation is highly organized and distinctive, with biological systems forming a limiting case of exceptional complexity. So why, if the laws are so simple, is the world so complicated?"

Simple Lessons from Complexity written by Nigel Goldenfeld and Leo P. Kadanoff in Science (vol. 284, 2 April 1999:

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eLearning Forum & 2014

Another reason to come to eLearning Forum this Tuesday:

Door prizes!

You must register by this evening!

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January 22, 2004

RSS Winterfest 2

Jay's takeaway: Criticizing blogging by looking at individual blogs is akin to denying the importance of books after looking at individual pages. Pages may inform but the power is in their aggregation into books. Individual blogs inform but a sea of blogs may change our lives and work. The sum is greater than the parts.

Back to realtime notes. I'm tuning in late and wandering in and out of the room. Chad Dierson and Bob Scoble are going to talk about enterprise apps. Chad is the CTO of InfoWorld. He's going to dicuss how InfoWorld uses RSS internallly.

RSS is so simple that it saves days of phone deliberations. Negotiating with other content providers is a snap, e.g. how to mark up a headline. (The slides are out of sync. Joking about how these slides are clunkier than RSS.) InfoWorld uses blogs to share information internally. Chad shows a page -- but notes that this is the first time he's really looked at the raw blog because he gets all this through RSS.

RSS as PR http://www.idc.com/en_US/st/rss/idcpressreleasees.xml
PR newswire http://rss.prnewswire.com

See www.newsgator.com/casestudies/triplepoint.aspx for more on using RSS in the enterprise.

RSS? RDF? Atom? InfoWorld chose RSS 1.0 because they need to exchange RSS with their sister companies. The public feeds are RSS 2.0. Chad uses Moveable Type (used to use Radio) because he wanted to be able to post from anywhere he was; Radio generally runs from one machine. No single system meets all needs.

IT choices are often top down, but with RSS, things can be bottom-up. ("We're bottom-up at InfoWorld. The desktops here are virtually uncontrollable.") We tell people to install whatever tool they want.

Scoble: Things won't take off (in business) until there's pressure to post. There's no cross-team collaboration until you can see who's posting and find them. You can import and export RSS feeds via SharePoint. We're constantly trying to evangelize RSS internally at Microsoft.

    Rumor has it that Disney is using RSS internally.

    Via .NET, you're going to be able to see live news notices in the sidebar of your browser. Put a few feeds right there.

    We gave up on Groove because it wasn't apparent when someone added something new.

    Some people mistakenly think that blogs are just diaries for teenagers' journals. They don't appreciate that this is a great way for people to collaborate.

    NewsGator is a way to introduce things because "everyone at Microsoft lives in Outlook."

    Scoble gets through to his own execs by writing things in his public blog. He posted something about SharePoint needing to incorporate RSS and heard back from the general manager within minutes.

    Microsoft is trying to become more transparent. It's not fast enough for the revolutionaries.

At InfoWorld, a weekly column takes a week of leadtime -- for fact-checking, edit, etc. But when a reporter posts to his weblog, it's out there immediately.

InfoWorld uses Technorati and Feedster for market intelligence.

Robert Scoble, who is fighting the good fight to clue in Microsoft and make the company take the Cluetrain pill, kept pushing his mantra, "I read 1200 blogs a day in an hour." Then he threw in "plus 200 internal Microsoft blogs." As the day wore on, this morphed into 1,200 blogs in an hour or two.

Scobelizer magic

    One hour = 3600 seconds.
    1,200 blogs/hour = 3 seconds/blog
    but.... Stop to read, say, 30 blogs. 10 take a minute to read, 10 take three minutes to read and contemplate. 5 take two minutes to read, comment, and pass along to someone else, and 3 require five minutes to read, interpret, reflect upon, and respond to the author.
    So subtract (10 x 1) + (10 x 3) + (5 x 2) + (3 x 5) = 60 minutes.
    That leaves 0 minutes to read the feeds in the first place.

Something here is overevangelistic.

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January 21, 2004

Copernic Summarizer & ROI

At Winterfest RSS this morning, Bob Scoble talked of blowing people's minds by showing how he can keep up with 1,200 blogs in an hour a day. (RSS lets you read the headlines and drill down only when an item is of interest.) I'm applying similar logic to reading from dead trees (AKA paper).

I have a dozen white papers I'd like to read in the next couple of days. Well, "read" isn't quite the rigth word. I want to extract and retain any new information from them that ties into my current quests.

  1. First I would like to assess which papers are worthwhile putting some time into and which are not.
  2. Some chunks of the remaining papers will be more worthwhile than others. I'd like to be able to focus on the high-return sections and breeze through the rest rapidly.
  3. My days are full. When I'm not reading for pleasure, I want to read as quickly as I can while still retaining the message.

Copernic Summarizer is going to enable me to do all that and more.

As they say on the Copernic website,

Make the most of your reading time This easy-to-use summarizing software dramatically increases your productivity and efficiency by creating concise summaries of any document or Web page so you spend considerably less time reading without missing any important information.

I turned Copernic loose on Workflow Leaning, 285 pages (124,000 words) of technical matter and explanations. Minutes later I had a 1000-word summary. Click of a button and I had a 250-word summary. Click, a 100-word summary.

Each summary is a selection of representative sentences. Reading the summary tells you what you want to take the time to read the old-fashioned way. There's some sort of artificial intelligence doing a good job behind the scenes here; the summaries make for great reading.

It's hard to believe technology like this is available, especially with a price tag of only $60. You can try a full-featured 30-day demo for free.

Seeing is believing, so up ahead, I'll show you a few summaries of my eBook, Metrics. Who knows but what you'll see enough to make you want to order the full version of Metrics. For the price of Copernic, you could buy two copies and have enough left over for a cup of coffee and an hour of online wireless time at Starbuck's.

Here is Metrics in 100 words:

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

Here is Metrics in 250 words:

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    "Investment" is what you pay to achieve the return.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

    If you're growing into a new area of capability, you may spend half your time learning.

    "People engaged in learning and creating the future together can move beyond the old structure, strategy, and systems philosophy of running the business.

    International Data Corporation studied the buying behavior of corporate and IT training managers and concluded that, "ROI will no longer be measured in 'savings' or 'reduced cost of training.'" Instead, attention will be directed to "measurable changes to business metrics resulting from training investments.

    Until you know what an individual manager is trying to accomplish, you can't talk to them about potential results.

    This eLearning infrastructure would give Charlie a platform for broadcasting and reinforcing his message about transforming our organization.

    A Fortune 50 company used eLearning, knowledge management, and collaboration to bring new-hire sales people up to speed in six months instead of fifteen.

Finally, here is Metrics in 1,000 words:

    Few others were pointing out the absurdity of traditional accounting measures and the famous "four levels."

    In either case, you need to convert the return to profit, or profit contribution.

    Applying reasonable rules of thumb, the 15% increase in customer satisfaction could become $1.5 million in profit.

    When you talk with an executive, you need to talk about execution.

    At a breakout session at TechLearn several years ago, I could hardly sit still while a researcher told four dozen training managers how to use ROI to sell their programs.

    You want to build a set of shared assumptions and a logic train that translates training activities to business results.

    The vice president of operations and technology training told us how she drummed up management support of eLearning.

    The CIO of the bank and other top managers have dubbed her "e-Laura" and use chance encounters for updates on the bank's eLearning progress.

    For example, if Chevron-Texaco's accountants uncover a $32,000 error in the sales department's expense budget, they don't make Chevron-Texaco note the error in its annual report.

    A very conservative businessperson values these as "soft" benefits and doesn't factor them into ROI calculations.

    In sum, following accounting conventions to the letter can lead to making the wrong decision.

    "Investment" is what you pay to achieve the return.

    When you add up the cost of development, salaries of people out of the field for training, and implementation cost, your "all-in" cost for the project, soup-to-nuts, is $1 million.

    If you're growing into a new area of capability, you may spend half your time learning.

    "People engaged in learning and creating the future together can move beyond the old structure, strategy, and systems philosophy of running the business.

    Training has earned a bad reputation in executive management.

    Join me for a fresh look at ROI in the information age.

    International Data Corporation studied the buying behavior of corporate and IT training managers and concluded that, "ROI will no longer be measured in 'savings' or 'reduced cost of training.'" Instead, attention will be directed to "measurable changes to business metrics resulting from training investments.

    Until you know what an individual manager is trying to accomplish, you can't talk to them about potential results.

    When you're working with the right client, measuring results is not difficult.

    Accounting conventions play a major role in ruining numbers' reputation.

    "Good Heavens, this effort is going to cost us $8 million and change.

    This eLearning infrastructure would give Charlie a platform for broadcasting and reinforcing his message about transforming our organization.

    A Fortune 50 company used eLearning, knowledge management, and collaboration to bring new-hire sales people up to speed in six months instead of fifteen.

    Throughout most of 2000, SmartForce was among my marketing clients.

    SmartForce ran off the rails -- It's a complicated story -- but accelerating employee time-to-performance remains one of the biggest paybacks of any investment in corporate learning.

    Accelerate the development of the direct sales force.

    HP VARs who participate in eLearning build better customer relationships and make more sales.

    Schwab and others provide user-friendly, high-quality, and effective learning tools on their Web sites, thereby creating more knowledgeable investors and increasing the likelihood that they will become long-term customers.

    The cost of implementing eLearning throughout an organization the size of Widgetware (not just for the sales force) would be approximately $1 million.

    Dell didn't get to be the number one computer company in the United States by ignoring customers' needs.

    "Why would a world-class company offer anything but world-class learning opportunities to help its customers get the most out of their computers?"

    IC Growth has developed models and formulas that link intellectual capital management to economic profit.

    Business looks and feels radically different from in your father's day, and it's changing so fast you will hardly recognize it a decade hence.

    Accounting -- a system of assumptions and conventions for identifying, measuring, recording, and communicating economic information.

    Unlike the cost of an asset, the cost of an expense does not provide a future benefit to the business.

    In this case, the roi du soleil.

    In Fall 2000, a panel of ROI gurus joined in conversation about the state of ROI calculations today, what needs to be measured, and the ROI of eLearning.

    Welcome to today's roundtable on return on investment, part of our series on Making eLearning Work for You.

    If people want to know more about what we're discussing today, they should read Ed's Running Training Like a Business and Jack's Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs.

    I spent most of my career on the customer side of the equation, so I come at this from the point of view of having been a customer of training providers for many, many years.

    All the business people I know want to take the time to understand the return on the investments they're making.

    To make a credible ROI argument, you have to start before any intervention takes place.

    Because otherwise it's like the cartoon where Charlie Brown shoots an arrow and then goes and draws the target around it.

    Personalization, where learning is tailored to my style, what I need to know, and where I can test out of things I already know, saves time and makes it interesting.

    Most business and university executives know better than to base strategic decisions on a two-decimal-point difference in ROI figures.

    But they insist on ROI and other metrics as a form of business discipline to get myopic unit managers to consider the mission of the overall organization, not just the operations of their own department.

    This is bound to be a challenging transition because many training professionals need additional skills to assume the new role, upper level executives need see learning as a strategic asset, and there need to be examples that demonstrate this new role and its benefits.

    Where infrastructure investment is concerned, as is the case of many of the initial costs associated with eLearning (including training a first generation of trainers and administrators), this should be obvious.

Copernic, where were you when I was in college?

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RSS Winterfest

I'm plugged into RSS WInterfest, an online conference and roundtable about the future of syndication. Currently there's an online discussion among Dan Gilmour, his brother Steve, Bob Scoble, Chris Pirillo, and Jon Udell. The wiki is here.

    "Civilians don't understand ."

    "People get syndication when they see it. If they know Google and email, they say, sure, I see how to use that."

    "The power-user audience is the key to the rapid acceleration of the RSS environment."

    Jon: says "A lot of the action has been around the writers. They tend toward being geeks. The big action will happen as readers come on board. They will gravitate toward their own groups, e.g. doctors, lawyers, etc." Steve Gilmour thinks we're further along.

    Scoble has been evangelizing RSS at Microsoft. It's amazing how few people have heard of RSS or know how to use it. When they see Bob reading through 1200 blogs in an hour, they get it. All of the presidential campaigns have RSS feeds which shows that RSS is crossing the chasm.

    Chris Pirillo woke up when he noticed that half his traffic was coming through RSS. It's not a replacement; it's augmentation. Lockergnome gives equal billing to RSS and email delivery. Rolling Stone, Virgin UK, and Warner Bros. have RSS feeds. Advertising within the feed may help bring things on.

    "Once you find one blog in your area of interest, you can springboard to people with similar internests. Technorati is looking at assembling groups by interest."

    Dan Gilmour brings up the notion of RSS news delivery. Hand-RSS works on a Treo. This can be big. His brother concurs that the multiplatform aspects are important. Steve foresees RSS morphing into a rich client, an information router, in the middle of the corporate desktop.

    Folks who experience this as reading only have one particular experience; it's awareness transmission. When you also begin to publish, it becomes collaborative.

    Directories? Check out 2rsss.com. DMOZ has syndic8.com.

As a learning experience, it's great to listen in on a conversation among experts. For me, note-taking cements things in my memory. The downside of taking part in this sort of event is the general problem of distractions when learning on the desktop. Several phone calls broke my concentration. One of these kicked off a new business relationship, so I was happy for the interruption.

My take on RSS and parallel efforts: This is technology in the making. It's very important. It's how individual blog-islands will bridge together.

The mainstream press seems oblivious to the power of the hive in this. The New York Times writes as if blogs were little but teenie-boppers' online diaries. John C. Dvorak suggests that blogs are a failing channel for geeks. Pundits discount the importance of hundreds of thousands of individual voices because most blogs never go anywhere; they miss the point that this occurs because the barriers to entry (no cost and intuitive set-up) are so low. If five hundred thousand people were to take up any other new pursuit, e.g. frizzbie golf or roller-blading, that alone would be news. We wouldn't see news stories that "Roller blading may not last because five million people thought about doing it but only one in ten actually took it up."

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January 20, 2004

The future of eLearning -- this Tuesday

Today I met with Jonathan Star at Global Business Network to refine our presentation at this Tuesday's session of the eLearning Forum. Our theme is the Edinburgh Scenarios, the ten-year scenario learning exercise being funded by Scottish Enterprise.

For information on our public session at Microsoft's Silicon Valley Conference Center in Mountain View, see the eLearning Forum website.

To participate from afar, sign up to attend over the 'net, courtesy of Interwise.

As I was printing a few pages about the Edinburgh Scenarios, I got a new warning message, words that tell me we already live in "The Age of the Smart Machiine."

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January 19, 2004

TechKnowledge Travel Plans

I just booked my flight and room for ASTD TechKnowledge in Anaheim the second week in February. This will be about my umpteenth time working across Katella Boulevard from the Kingdom of the Mouse.

You don't need to stay at the Convention hotels. I have never stayed at the Hilton or the Marriott on the Convention Center grounds. Too rich for my blood. Five years ago I stayed at a cheapo motel on Harbor for $40/night; it's since been torn down.

This time around, I'll be at the Anabella. It's on Katella, a five-minute walk from the Conference Center. Clean. Friendly. Laid back. I had a good experience there two years ago.

A deluxe room goes for $64/night ($55 before tax) from hotel.net.

My flight from Oakland to Orange County is costing more than I'd planned on: $111 roundtrip (Alaska Air, orbitz.com) because I didn't reserve far enough in advance to qualify for Southwest's $60 ticket.

I wouldn't dream of paying to go to DisneyLand. (I did it long ago; my son has outgrown it; I consider Disney almost fascist). However, you can get the Disney aura by walking through Downtown Disney, a Disneyesque shopping mall with restaurants. It's walking distance from the hotels.

Drop me an email if you'd like to meet while I'm in Southern California.

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January 17, 2004

Books Update


The first printing of Lance Dublin's and my book, Implementing eLearning, has sold out.

Don't worry. It's at the printer now. New stock will be ready in ten days.

Lance and I are still offering a free Implementation Action Planning Template to anyone who requests it.

I just updated my Books page. It's dangerous work. (I simply must get a copy of this one. )

You're more likely to find what I'm reading now here.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A second Moment of Complexity

from grid to network

Enormous changes are afoot.

Falling between order and chaos, the moment of complexity is the point at which self-organizing systems emerge to create new patterns of coherence and structures of relation.. Having grown out of investigations in the biological sciences, the insights of complexity theory can be used to illuminate social and culture dynamics.

The grid = modernism. Purity of form. Le Corbusier.

Up the hill from my house, there's a Lutheran seminary. The chapel is a knockoff of Le Corbusier's church at Roncesville. The chapel is atop a hill overlooking the great valley of Tilden Park -- but the orientation of the chapel is such that you can't take in the beautiful view. At first I thought this really stupid. Having read a bit of Cobusier in this book, it was probably on purpose. Corbu though geometry was heaven-sent. He wrote, "Modern art and thought -- after a century of analysis -- are now seeking beyond what is merely accidental; geometry leads them in mathematical forms, a more and more generalized attitude."

Straight lines may not appear in nature but they prevent us from becoming distracted. Right angles are precise; the outside world is messy. Corbu was a champion of reason over feelin and of mind over body. The grid is what defines machines and order; the grid is where philosophy, art, life, and architecture converge.

Le Corbusier goes so far as to suggest that "We must build on a clear site." Chop down those trees and bulldoze the irregularities. Start sterile and end up clean.

Last year our family vacationed in Toronto. One day we walked ten blocks in the underground tunnel system and emerged in a complex of absolutely beautiful buildings by Mies van der Rohe. Four towers, each a black rectangle on stilts sheathing a major bank, surrounded a quadrangle where some musicians were tuning up for a lunchtime concert. The aesthetic was palpable. The drama of this complex outshown all the other buildings we saw in town -- and in Toronto, that's saying something.

"Less is more," wrote Mies, knocking some of the ornamentation off Corbu. Think of the Seagram Building. A simple box on stilts on an unadornted, expansive plaza. None of the gimcrack ornamentation that's pasted on the facades of classical, baroque, or Victorian buildings. Just pure form. Corbu's straight lines. The grid.

In 1972, Robert Venturi and his colleagues Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour ushered in the postmodern era with their book Learning from Las Vegas. Amazon's review notes, "Learning from Las Vegas created a healthy controversy on its appearance in 1972, calling for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of "common" people and less immodest in their erections of "heroic," self-aggrandizing monuments."

Venturi's take on Vegas was that its complexity showed through in its jumble of signs, facades, local oddities, casinos, and fast-food joints.

...the emerging order of the Strip is a complex order. It is not the easy, rigid order of the urban renewal project or the fashionalbe "total design" of the megastructure. It is, on the contrary, a manifestation of an opposite direction in architectural theory... Chaos is very near; its nearness, but avoidance, gives ... force.

Amid simplicity and order rationalism is born, but rationalism proves inadequate in any period of upheaval. Then equilibrium must be created out of opposites. Such inner peace as men gain must represent a tension among contradictions."

To Venturi, grid-thinking is over-simplification. There's nothing natural at all in Mies van der Rohe's boxes. To Venturi, "Less is a bore." However, he can't always pull it off. His firm has the most garish website I have visited in some time.

On a road trip a dozen years ago, I was appalled to find the same formula shopping malls in each of half a dozen cities across the U.S. Was I in Cleveland? Or Columbus? Or Dallas? Every two-tiered "galleria" mall had its Banana Republic, Limited, Victoria's Secret, Waldenbooks, Brookstone, Nature Company, Radio Shack, Tie Rack, Gap, Foot Locker, Old Navy, Sunglass Hut, Gymboree, Crabtree & Evelyn, The Body Shop, Lenscrafters, Talbots, and a food court with McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC, and Sbarro's. No surprises.

Upon my return to Berkeley, a city with no shopping mall, I dreamed I was walking along a row of shops in an iffy neighborhood in Philadelphia. Junk stores, mostly, these were owner-operated. The range of things on the shelves was staggering. I was having a wonderful time because there were so many different things to look at. I didn't know what I'd find. Shopping was exciting, like wandering through the Paris Flea Market or an Eastern bazaar. Complexity erases certainty.

I remember going to the first Gap, the first Banana Republic and the first Nature Company. They were funky. They reflected San Francisco, Marin County, and Berkeley, respectively. On the way to franchising, rough edges were sanded off and local color removed. These one-time innovators were homogenized into standard mall tenants. The first Gap, which ironically sold only Levis, closed long ago. Gap, Inc., bought Banana Republic, but store #1 is gone. The original Nature Company closed, the company was purchased, the new owners foundered, and the Nature Company is no more.


Architect number three is Frank Gehry, the postmodernist's postmodernist. The Bilbao Guggenheim was built for the post-grid age. Gehry always leaves things unfinished, allowing their complexity to ooze out. Gehry doesn't obliterate the grid; he uses the computer to twist and bend it. The Bilbao museum echoes its surroundings. Form itself becomes complex.

"Every architect who's any good, no matter what they say, is trying to make some kind of personal mud pie." -- Frank Gehry

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

The Beatles Strike Again

A number of years ago some politico was horrified to discover that the song he'd been praising, "With a Little Bit of Help From My Friends," was about drugs.

I'll be speaking at WebEx's premier User Conference in San Francisco. My invitation just arrived.

We have chosen "Come Together" for our first conference theme as we know our WebEx customers, experts and partners will want to come together to experience this important event!

You figure it out.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004


Ed Hatton is a very cool guy I met in Dublin when he was managing an advanced eLearning studio for SmartForce. At the time, Ed maintained a personal search site he dubbed EdSearch. I've linked to it for years.

Ed has since professionalized EdSearch into one of the handiest one-page search tools I know of. I especially like Ed's eLearning page but the Books & Comics page is also a gem.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mispelling? Us? We help people decide on degree programs.

Press Release Source: eLearners.com Inc.

eLlearners.com(SM) Launches Free Online Assessment Tool to Determine if Online Education Is Right for You
Wednesday January 14, 7:30 am ET


HOBOKEN, N.J., Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- eLearners.com Inc., creator of the leading website for connecting learners to online education, announced the launch of eLearners Advisor, a new tool designed to assist prospective students in determining their readiness for online education. The free seven-minute assessment tool asks 42 targeted questions designed to evaluate the user's preparedness. eLearners Advisor then provides comprehensive feedback and information that students can use to help them decide if an online degree program is appropriate for their needs.

Press Release Source: eLearners.com Inc.

Correction -- eLearners.com Inc.
Wednesday January 14, 8:54 am ET

In the news release, eLearners.com(SM) Launches Free Online Assessment Tool to Determine if Online Education Is Right for You, issued earlier today over PR Newswire by eLearners.com Inc., the company name was misspelled in the headline. It should have read "eLearners.com" rather than "eLlearners.com" as incorrectly transmitted by PR Newswire.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Generic Corp's Implementation Advice

Now that Generic Corp has a mission, they need to tell customers how to implement their products.

"People have become smarter about how to communicate and conduct business globally and we see that with the explosion of the Web. Today's workforce is realizing the significant benefits that virtual tools provide in saving time and money, allowing them to be more productive."

Tips for getting the most out of _________________

• Find a champion. Select someone to motivate and inspire a team or organization to use the new tool. He or she can be anyone or anywhere in the organization, as long as they know the technology. The champion must also have insight about the challenges that people in a virtual environment face.

• Set clear expectations. The champion must set clear expectations for how the technology is to be used to improve teamwork. Print them on a reference card for everyone to post on their computer monitor and view.

• Train people only on methods and essential features they will use now. Give people only as much as they can apply right now, today. Then stop. Let people digest what they have learned, practice it in their real work and get comfortable with it. Then introduce new features.

• Teach new skills over time. To create true teamwork, the best practices and skills have to keep evolving. Therefore, people need more learning and support, one step at a time.

"If people don't find value in a tool, they'll stop using it. The key is to embrace collaborative technology and introduce it in new ways that drive high-performance teamwork."

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

The Moment of Complexity

Yesterday I stopped by Avenue Books in the Elmwood, another independent bookseller unable to withstand the Borders/Barnes beast, and found a book I hadn't heard of, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture by Mark C. Taylor. Wow!

I'm only up to page 28, but my head is already swimming. Taylor is a master synthesizer. He grabbed my attention from word one:

We are living in a moment of unprecedented complexity, when things are changing faster than our ability to comprehend them. This is a time of transition betwixt and between a period that seemed more stable and secure and a time when, many people hope, equilibrium will be restored. Awash in a sea of information that seems to have no meaning and bombarded by images and sounds transmitted by new media, many people have lost a sense of direction and purpose and long for security and stability. Stability, secruity, and equilibrium, however, can be deceptive, for they are but momentary eddies in an endlessly complex and turbulent flux. In the world that is emerging, the condition of complexity is as irreducible as it is inescapable. Whle the moment of complexity inevitably generates confusion and uncertainty, today's social, economic, political, and cultural transformations are also creating possibilites for apprehending ourselves in new ways. To understand our time, we must comprehend complexity, and to comprehend complexity, we must understand what makes this moment different from every other.

What distringuises the moment of complexity is not change as such but rather the acceleration of the rate of change. Everything moves faster and faster until speed becomes an end in itself.

Taylor's introduction rapidly brings up Derrida, Duchamp, Warhol, Mies van der Rohe, Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Foucault, Kant, Hegel, Claude Shannon, Norbert Weiner, John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Murray Gell-Mann, Chuck CLose, Stephen Jay Gould, and Daniel Dennett. It's going to be quite a trick to meld these characters into a coherent story.

A back-of-the-book blurb by William Mitchell, Dean of MIT's School of Architecture and author of the delightful City of Bits, says "Somewhere inside Mark Taylor's head, worlds collide; Kant and Hegel run smack-bank into cyberspace. The result is an incandescent asteroid show of ideas."

Has anyone else here read this tome? Please leave a comment telling me what you think.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Presentation: trends in collaboration

Here is the presentation that kicked off the Collaborative Learning 04 conference. It's 25 minutes but you can pick and choose what you want to see. This is recorded in Macromedia Breeze; the live recording didn't turn out that well.

After listening, please leave a comment below. Thanks.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Culture swings


Cycles. To everything there is a season.

The focus of our culture seems to swing from technology to people and back. From institutions to individuals. From central authority to decentralization. From top-down control to bottom-up.

Extreme swings toward technology and institutions were Taylor's Scientific Management, robber barons, Business Process Reengineering, and narrowly-defined eLearning (removing all the people to make it work.) The pensulum had swung far in the opposite direction when we had flower children, itinerant hippies, anti-war protests, and, more recently, the Open Source movement and the proliferation of blogs.

I recognize the main current crashes into a lot of rocks. Eddies go the opposite direction. We can have guards with machine guns rooting through everyone's suitcases at the airport at the same time the power of the 'net gives a louder and louder voice to the people.

In yesterday's presentation for Collaborative Learning 04, we asked "In business culture, where's the pendulum this year?"

And the group replied:

Emphasis on institutions 0

In the middle 60%

Emphasis on individuals 40%

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogs? RSS? Huh?

Yesterday I gave the opening presentation to fifty or sixty people online for Collaborative Learning 04. When I came to trends in social software, I conducted a poll:

Do you have your own blog?

  1. Yes, I have a blog
  2. No blog, but I read RSS
  3. No blog, no RSS
  4. Don't know what a blog is

Want to guess what the results were? Mind you, these are people who are into collaboration.

  1. Yes, I have a blog -- 40%
  2. No blog, no RSS -- 20%
  3. Don't know what a blog is -- 40%

Blogophiles, we still have work to do. I may assemble another "what's it all about" tutorial this afternoon.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Mission of Generic Corp

Some day I plan to write a generic proposal for a generic product sold by Generic Corporation. In preparation, I collect content-free business puffery I find on the net. This is what you get when you click "Mission" on one corporation's home page:

We intend to hold a strong position in our industry by offering quality service to our customers, hiring the brightest and best people available, by nurturing a family type culture that extends to our partners and customers, and by focusing on efficient practices. We will seek to keep overhead low, while continually offering a strong value proposition to maximize revenue, thus leading to a profitable enterprise.

Everything we do, everyday, underscores our collective dedication to this credo. Our objective is to earn the right to become our stakeholders’ vendor-of-choice, employer-of-choice, partner-of-choice, or investment-of-choice.

I am not making this up.

It takes a special view of the world to write such a buzzword-laden, self-centered, meaningless piece of tripe. Wow. I am in awe.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Collaborative Learning 04

Collaborative Learning 04 starts Tuesday. Tomorrow. Three days. On line. $199.

The on-screen brochure says my opening presentation on The Future of eLearning will discuss,

    What are the key trends and developments in online learning? How will e-learning change over the next few years? Jay Cross has been credited with coining the now-popular term "e-learning". Join Jay for a live web conference to hear his predictions for the future and to obtain answers to your most pressing questions about the direction of the field.

That's not really what I intend to talk about. This is a Collaborative Learning event. I've decided to talk about collaboration. In fact, here's my agenda.

We'll dwell wherever you want. Join in. (I receive no compensation for this, no commission, nothing beyond your adulation and payback to an area I really believe in.)

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Universal Principles of Design

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler

I finished this in a mere two months, reading several of its one hundred design principles each evening before drifting off to sleep. Each lefthand page describes a principle or idea; the corresponding righthand page gives an illustration. The illustrations are clean and attractive. Ironically, the text on the left is a size too small for my eye, especially since it's printed in light gray.

My general take on knowledge is that you might as well have never learned what you've completely forgotten. Likewise, bringing something back into consciousness after it had disappeared is as valuable as learning it the first time. So I enjoyed the book, even though I'd internalized most of its content before. Some of the history and examples were new to me, enough to keep me plowing through to the last page. And it is pleasing to riff through a set of design rules just to make sure they're at your beck and call.

What does it cover? Such things as affordances, archetypes, baby-face bias, chunking, cognitive dissonance, consistency, convergence, entry point, face-ism ratio,the fibonacci sequence, and the figure-ground relationship, Fitt's Law, and the golden ratio.

Face-ism? If all you see is a person's face, you judge them to be more thoughful and intellectual than if you see their body as well. Which of these two look more brainy?

Feminists, please note: When college students are asked to draw pictures of males and females, they draw men with prominent, detailed faces and women with full bodies and minimally detailed faces.

Figure-ground is what's going on when you see the vase...or the faces...and back.

The Golden Ratio is an amazing number (1.61803398874989484820458634...). Objects conforming to these proportions appear beautiful to the human eye. It sneaks in unexpectedly in many realms.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Kafka lives in Washington

Time again to pay tribute to the Feds to fund illegal wars, insider fat-cats, and tax cuts for the coupon-cutting rich. See the postscript.

I need to send out a few 1099s. So I go to the IRS web site and request information on Form 1099. Hundreds of entries pop up. I choose 2003 Instruction Form 1099 ALL and wade through 92 pages. Nope, no blank forms there. I go to the Form Finder. Advanced Search. WTF? I can choose by the date material was posted to the site; I wonder if anyone has ever used that feature.

I choose to search for documents containing the word "1099-MISC." The result? "1444 results found, top 500 sorted by relevance." Oh joy. Then I notice that the first of the 1444 results is titled, "2003 Form 1099MISC." Cool. Then I read the description: "Attention: This form is provided for informational purposes and should not be reproduced on personal computer printers by individual taxpayers for filing."

Ah ha! I'm getting wise to their game. I return to the search page and enter "2003 Form 1099MISC." Damn. Again I get the form I'm not allowed to use. I open it anyway. Now I see the problem. "Caution: Because the IRS processes paper forms by machine (optical character recognition equipment), you cannot file with the IRS Forms 1096, 1098, 1099, or 5498 that you print from the IRS Web Site."

Oh. Now I see. I'm supposed to go down to the library to pick up a supply of Forms 1099. And then fill them our by hand so that a machine will be able to read them.

This whole procedure, only the first thirty minutes of what will end up being days of bureaucracy and blind alleys, is bizarre. My $99 scanner has no problems reading output from my printer. How is the IRS not able to do the same? For that matter, why doesn't the IRS simply use the same scanners they use to process 1040s and all the other forms you are allowed to print for yourself?

Beyond that, hasn't anyone at the IRS considered the 80/20 rule? Why do the instruction books have to cover every eventuallity? Shouldn't they have one path for the majority of users and another for people with arcane or oddball situations? Why are the instructions locked in Adobe Acrobat rather than in HTML, which would let you click through to what you want to look at?

In a couple of months, we'll be reading stories in the papers about how one in four answers the IRS gives to call-in questions are dead wrong. (But you'll be penalized if you follow their bad advice because they assume no responsibility for the accuracy of what they tell you.)

I bitch and moan about gaffes in eLearning. The IRS is in a different league. Super-SNAFU.

As a taxpayer, permit me to offer a one-word suggestion:


Well, that was a fun rant, but now I have to take it back. (And no, that's not a revenooer behind me holding a gun to my head.)

Having found no paper 1099 forms at the local library, I went back to irs.gov and took a different path. They have an 80/20 path just like I was asking for. I'll report back if it gets me to any forms.

Most post offices have tax forms. Not the main Berkeley Post Office, I found out. So I drove to Oakland, parked at City Center, and walked into the Ronald Dellums Federal Building. The IRS has a rack with tax forms just inside the door; it did not contain 1099s. Okay, I thought, I know their regional office is right inside. Oh silly me, I forgot that we're on alert. I was eighth in line to go through the metal detector. Five minutes later I showed my picture-ID and demonstrated that my cell phone could display 1-2-3. I walked through the metal detector without incident. My satchel passed through the xray machine.

The guard came to the other side of the conveyor belt and asked me if I were carrying knives or scissors. No, I said. I unzipped the bag. He said he was not allowed to reach inside. Could I dump everything out into a plastic box? Did I not have a knife in the side pocket of my bag?

Do you mean this? I asked.

Federal marshal: "We can't let you in here with that."
Me: "Can you hold it for me until I come back?"
Federal marshal: "No, you'll have to take it back to your car."
Me: "But my car is not close by."
Federal marshal: "You have no choice."

I turn to leave.
Federal marshal: "You can't go out that way. You have to use the exit."

In the lobby, I approach a couple of guys handing out literature for the University of Phoenix.
Me: "Would you guys mind holding my weapon while I pick up some tax forms?"
Phoenix: "No problem. A few minutes ago we helped a guy who tried to sneak in with a life-threatening nail-file. "

I re-entered through security and walked into the IRS office. Three large double-sided cases of forms. I find the slot marked 1099-MISC. It is empty. A note says to pick up Form 1099 at the front desk. I wait in line. I approach the desk. The clerk looks off in the direction of my left shoulder. She is blind. I telll her I need four 1099s. She knows right where they are. Whew!

I'm glad that escapade is behind me.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2004

Personal World Clock

From Norway comes this great -- and useful -- example of personalization. I just selected the cities/time zones I'm working in most frequenty. timeanddate.com configured a Personal World Clock for me on the web. Instead of everyone's time zones, I immediately see the time zones that matter most to me.

Time zones & the current time in each.

Monthly Calendar

The service is free.
Related info: Jay's Time Page

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

Wayne & me

Wayne Hodgins and I chatted for 2 1/2 hours today. Wayne lives in the future and thinks waaaaaaaaaay out of the box. Friends have told me they can't understand a word he says. Some of us find him a visionary and inspiration.

With apologies to Steve Martin, Wayne suggests, "Let's get small." Granular. So small that we can glue the grains together to construct anything we can dream up. Like configuring personalized lessons for everyone in the world.

Metaphor #1. Dell Computer. You build your own computer. They get it to you fast because they maintain an inventory of standard components. Dell doesn't have factories that make things; it has warehouses that assemble things. Question: Is Dell selling products or services? Can we do a Dell on learning?

Metaphor #2. Planeload of soldiers flying to the battlefield. As they take off, they don't know where they're going or what role they'll be expected to play. They must be ready to handle the unexpected. How can the military make sure the troops have right competencies? Or can learn them on the way? Competency is more important than content because the objective is to accomplish the mission.

Metaphor #3. Personalized lessons for each of the 6.3 billion people on earth. ("What if the impossible isn't?" Wayne is underwhelmed by our expectations.) Modular assemblies, open architecture, Web services/interoperability, and learning grains as small as possible but no smaller, are all parts of the solution. But how can we avoid the manual tweaking and closed-system mentality that held back Performance Support?

We count on emergence -- organization and structure that are already there but not yet visible. That's what underpins the automated collection of metadata, expert locators, pattern recognition, smart graphics... self-organization.

Metaphor #4. Parameterized design, AKA emergent design. Feed the parameters of the desired output into CAD and have it instruct the computer to create a 3D prototype. Or design a boat hull on the screen and the computer-controlled mold shapes itself to the pattern. One-off's become as economical as mass-producted. (This gets me thinking that Business Process Modeling will evolve into parameterized workflow. It's all in your head. Or on your hard disk.)

How small can we get? What do the atoms look like? Wayne considers Bob Horn's information blocks the minimum. They're as small as you can go with and still have them stand alone. Any atom has four distinct elements. Each atom, or grain, is composed of four basic pieces: "pure" content, presentation, sequencing, and meta-data.

You want to play with these things, you need IMOTO,

  • Identifiers
  • Meta-data
  • Objects
  • Taxonomies
  • Ontologies

Wayne's and my thinking overlap in numerous areas. (And, having written that, I realize it's akin to saying that I agree with Hawking about string theory and Gell-Mann about quarks.)

  • recognition that competence outweighs content
  • the challenge is to be ready for the unexpected
  • we've only just begun the exponential ride
  • many things arrive in the wrong size packages (e.g. gimme the slide I want, not a full PowerPoint presentation)
  • serving the customer is the ultimate value proposition

Turning hurredly to the Edinburgh Scenarios, Wayne suggests we consider our linear dimensions as if they were loops:

I'm still puzzling over that one. Mobius strips?

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 05, 2004

Inevitable Surprises & Scenario Learning

Inevitable Surprises by Peter Schwartz

Hang on tight, for we're all going on a roller coaster ride. Science? Politics? Culture? It's all going to change so much you won't recognize it. The gusher of new information doubles in volume every year. Networks reach out to one another, connecting at an ever more furious rate, to the point of merging disciplines. Biotech, nanotech, and the human cognome are fusing. It's all codes and nodes. Our cycles have higher ups and lower downs, and both are relentlessly coming on faster and faster. Amid this turbulence, lots of us are looking for stable ground.

Peter Schartz, a fellow resident of the People's Republic of Berkeley (we live atop the same earthquake fault), offers an enlightened view of how we ought to think about this.

Surprises are the norm. There will be many more moments to come when the assumptions you’ve lived by sudden fall away—inflicting that same queasy feeling you get when an elevator drops a little too suddenly, when an airplane hits an air pocket, or when a roller coaster moves past the top of the curve and lurches into its descent. There will also be beneficial surprises to come—when impossible, unthinkable opportunities and technologies suddenly become real, for you (or someone else) to cultivate, develop, and use.

Historically, upheaval is not a new condition. To be sure, there have been some relatively surprise-free centuries in human history; life for most people in medieval Europe was much the same as it had been for their parents. But since the scientific discoveries of
the seventeenth century, complexity and turbulence in the world at large have been facts of life, looming larger and larger in people’s concerns until today there is hardly anyone unaffected by them.

At the same time most of us still feel emotionally that things should be stable and certain; that once we’re over the next hump of crisis, life will naturally return to tranquil normalcy. And there are things we don’t want to see strapped into a roller coaster: Our country’s security. Our companies and jobs. Our retirement accounts.

Is there a better way to live with this tension than just to hang on for the roller-coaster ride and react to every new surprise thrust at you? Yes, there is. There are still certainties—still facts and factors that we can rely on and even take for granted. There are many things we can rely on, but three of them are most critical to keep in mind in any turbulent environment.

  • First: There will be more surprises.

  • Second: We will be able to deal with them.

  • Third: We can anticipate many of them. In fact, we can make some pretty good assumptions about how most of them will play out.

We can’t know the consequences in advance, or how they will affect us, but we know many of the surprises to come. Even the most devastating surprises—like terrorist attacks and economic collapses—are often predictable because they have their roots in the driving forces at work today.

In the coming decades we face many more inevitable surprises: major discontinuities in the economic, political, and social spheres of our world, each one changing the “rules of the game” as it is played today. If anything, there will be more, not fewer, surprises in the future, and they will all be interconnected. Together, they will lead us into a world, ten to fifteen years hence, that is fundamentally different from the one we know today. Understanding these inevitable surprises in our future is critical for the decisions we have to make today—whether we are captains of industry, leaders of nations, or simply individuals who care about the future of our families and communities. We may not be able to prevent catastrophe (although sometimes we can), but we can certainly increase our ability to respond, and our ability to see opportunities that we would otherwise miss.

Next, Schwartz echoes Eamonn Kelly, the current CEO of GBN, the firm Schwartz co-founded. This is not the time to stick one's head in the sand. Denial and defensiveness skirt the problem and leave us totally unprepared to deal with the inevitable surprises. As Darwin wrote, it's not the fittest of the species that survives, it's the most adaptable.

Personally, that's why I'm putting energy into nurturing the Edinburgh Scenarios. They may be a little out of alignment, but it's better to ask the question than to act like a know-it-all.

When an inevitable surprise confronts us, there are two different types of natural reactions. Both of them can lead to poor decision making. The first is denial—the refusal to believe that the inevitabilities exist. The second natural reaction to any turbulent crisis is defensiveness. This is a kind of opposite to denial. People take the inevitable surprise so seriously that they freeze; in their minds there is no viable way to act except to find a safe place, hunker down, and wait for it to all blow over.

Unfortunately, this strategy also tends to produce poor results. You are making one of the riskiest moves of all: to do nothing in the face of uncertainty.

How about heading over to the scenario planning exercise on the Learning Circuits blog?

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2004

The Edinburgh Scenarios

Please join the discussion of how eLearning will evolve over the next ten years.

Brief Project Overview

Explanation of the Project

The scenarios:

Join the threaded discussion on the Edinburgh Scenarios

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's Next?

What's Next? is a compendium of thoughts from fifty illustrious members of the Global Business Network. Their thoughts dwell on the world ten years from now, the same timeframe as the Edinburgh Scenarios.

If you're not familiar with GBN, just reading the membership list will be a treat. Where else are you going to find the likes of William Gibson, Laurie Anderson, Jaron Lanier, Eric Drexler, Doug Engelbart, Stewart Brand, Danny Hillis, Bill Joy, Michael Porter, Clay Shirky, and Michael Murphy in one place?

At the heart of scenario thinking is the importance of challenging our own assumptions about the present and the future by seeking out different, provocative, even unorthodox perspectives from “remarkable people.” This term, coined by philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff, described “someone who stands out from those around him by the resourcefulness of his mind and knows how to be restrained in the manifestations which proceed from his nature, at the same time conducting himself justly and tolerantly toward the weakness of others” (Meetings with Remarkable Men).

GBN’s president Eamonn Kelly sets up the interviews by making a convincing argument that complex times call for deeper understanding to underpin our decision-making. "This in turn, is key to gaining adaptive advantage: the ability to anticipate and sense change, and the capacity to respond quickly and coherently."

Everywhere I turn recently, I find myself tripping over complex adaptive systems. Business flows, everything is connected, we don't see the whole picture, surprises are on the way. I'm tempering my view several months back that the "science of complexity" is simply another way of saying "You don't get it." Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah.

The "new terrain" posited by What's Next? is composed of these categories, which also organize the chapters of the book:

    • Cutures & Socities
    • Values & Belief Systems
    • Civilzation & Infrastructure
    • Environment & Sustainability
    • Technology
    • Science
    • Economics & Finance
    • Geopolitics & Governance

Constructed largely of 500-word quotes from GBN members, What's Next? is perfect bathroom reading. Unless I succomb to diarrhea, I won't finish reading it until mid-month.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

The old in-and-out

Surfing around to see where other people are at, I stumbled into the site of Epic and this absolutely wonderful list from Donald Clark. Not only do I heartily agree with his list, I was able to do so in about 15 seconds. Pure essence.

OUT: attendance IN: attainment

OUT: tyranny of time
IN: in your own time

OUT: single dominant form of delivery
IN: blended learning

OUT: collection
IN: connection

OUT: content
IN: context

OUT: duplication
IN: sharing

OUT: digital divide
IN: digital abundance

OUT: behaviorism
IN: motivation

OUT: offline assessment
IN: online assessment

I have yet to meet Donald Clark, but I like a man who speaks his mind:

As the hype gives way to a more sensible form of market growth, several myths have been scotched:

1. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are a necessary condition for success
2. Standards will lead to a 'tipping' point
3. Reusable learning objects will allow 'lego brick' rebuilds of courses

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Scenario Learning (2)

Scottish Enterprise has enlisted a gaggle of gurus, Global Business Network, and various professors and school children to specuate on the shape of eLearning ten years hence. I feel so fortunate. Just as my prognostications for this year are petering out (See below), I've been invited to join this project and present findings at eLearninternational in Edinburgh next month. I plan to spend the coming month living in the future.

Why don't you join me? No, silly, not in Edinburgh. I mean online. There's a discussion starting up on the Learning Circuits Blog. A discussion board just popped up here.

Collaborative Learning: Put Energy into E-Learning Conference takes place January 13-15 on the net. I'm giving the keynote at 8:30 am on Jan. 13th on the topic of (surprise!) The Future of eLearning. The event is great if you're interested in Collaborative Learning. Admission is only $199. However, as a speaker, I get 10 free passes. I'll give passes to the first 10 people who email me, giving their first and last names, and email address. Dont tarry, because I am supposed to turn in the names by January 5.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Scenario Learning

In November 1998, I gave a presentation on Learning in 2004 at TechLearn. At the time, 2004 seemed so far away that far-out predictions went unquestioned. Predictions can go astray, I pointed out, quoting:

    H.L. Menken, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is concise, clear, simple and wrong."

    Decca Records in 1962, "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." (Rejecting the Beatles.)

    Jay Cross in 1986: "I think I'll pass." (To then start-up Cisco Systems.)

I described the Scenario Learning I was doing, and my online vehicle, the "Internet Time Machine." (I couldn't stomach the term Scenario Planning. I wasn't planning anything. I was learning about the future.) Michael Porter had said, "Scenarios aim to stretch thinking about the future and widen the range of alternatives considered." That's more what I was after.

I spent six months talking with people, devouring books, and surfing the web. The future became clear. Training was going to follow the same path as e-commerce -- and for the same reasons.

Web services were an obvious direction we were headed:

Some of my predictions were a bit optimistic. (I've been expecting cheap wall-mountable TV for the last 35 years.)

My "vital questions" from five years ago remain unanswered.

Only one of my possiblities for the web has come to pass, and it's pretty primitive.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whole systems for whole persons

Whole Systems for Whole Persons, The Future of Executive Development Jay Ogilvy, a co-founder of the Global Business Netowrk is a wonderful one-pager on what's wrong with executive development programs and what to do about it.

    Most current programs for executive development are deficient in three respects: First, they fail to see things whole, in systemic, inter-dependent terms. Second, they fail to treat their students as whole persons with minds, bodies, and emotions. Third, they fail to treat their students as if they will have both careers and a life. This article treats each of these deficiencies in turn.

Isn't this the truth?

    Trouble is, when it comes to doing business in the real world, you don’t find the economy located on one block and the politics on another, or markets in one place, logistics in another. In the business world of today and tomorrow, whole systems, rich with interdependencies, confront strategist and marketer alike.

Ogilvy addresses executive education. This enables him to keep down the word-count. After all, most of us are familiar with the structure (and foibles) of MBA programs. Reflecting on it (I've just read Ogilvy's piece three times) makes me wonder if this is not appropriate for all business training:

    All three of these recommendations for the future of executive development—a new emphasis on whole systems, whole persons, and whole lives—are within reach. The tools are available and the need is real. Whether business schools and executive development programs rise to the occasion is largely a question of will and leadership. If we accept the challenge, both our businesses and our lives will be the better for it.
Posted by Jay Cross at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack