There is a bit of blog conversation lately on expert locators…similar to a staff directory, but more so based on the yellow pages theme of finding people by interest/skill.
It is no doubt about the enterprise benefits from this tool (especially if it is kept current), but the main point of interest has been how are the skills/interests derived (organisational or social…more).
There are many tools to supplement this type of information rather than being lazy and broadcasting an email…”do you know anyone with this skill for this job”…we don’t need to ask if we already know, or we can simply find it ourselves, this is the idea at hand.
As the Horne Daniels Group states it goes beyond who knows who, or who is good at what, but who has experience with this subject matter in these circumstances, ie, subject expertise in context.
Firstly the more social an enterprise is the more we know who the experts are…like any type of socialising, the more you share and network the more you know about people. If km 2.0 tools are the norm staff will be sharing the type of information not normally teased out.
This will become part of our daily information just like reading the newspaper or company daily news, but now we will absorb daily news generated by all staff members (read internal blogs, social bookmarks, wiki’s…all bottom-up tools)…so besides knowing about the external world, or enterprise news according to managers, we will share and read internal news according to staff. How would you ever know there is a staff member in your “India” office who is a champion in wikis…unless that person had an enterprise soapbox (eg. blog, social bookmarks) we may never know.
As a result of this sharing culture, when it comes to locating an expert we may not even need to consult a directory as our daily staff news has made us aware of who’s good at what (I’m not doing away with the staff directory, I’m just emphasising that even before you get there you may already have a notion of who the experts are).
This is exactly the culture or attitude anecdote suggest:
“We all know that social networks are important for locating expertise. The sense I get, however, from people writing on this topic is that effort in building the connection is only needed at the time when the expertise is sought. This couldn’t be further than the truth. To be good at finding expertise you need to be connected before you need the expertise. If you are not the social butterfly you need to get out your butterfly net and find yourself one (or a whole collection). Join communities, know the connectors (here are some ways to finding connectors) and get good at noticing expertise.”…of course social network analysis is the most obvious tool in this scenario.
Another benefit of a sharing culture in an enterprise is that the perpetual transfer of information in a network results in people using it as knowledge, this is empowering (we always learnt when we were young that sharing was a good thing), more from Luis:
“Notice that I am talking about finding an answer and not giving an answer as I think that the main reason for that happening is because people not only want to get the answer they also want to build a relationship with that expert so that through nurturing and maintaining those relationships they themselves could become experts in those subjects at some point in time.
I feel that is where the whole power of expertise locators reside, not so much on finding the experts but actually on engaging and interacting with them so that you, too, could become one at some point in time and somehow you can free up the experts to deal with more complicated problems.”
I see the future of the staff directory similar to a service like ziki…all the staff members social interactions can be re-syndicated in the one profile space.
eg. all the blogs a staff member publishes or contributes to, social bookmarks and social bookmark groups, wikis they contribute to, etc…
And of course add the essentials like name, email, IM, background, interests/skills (self tags), projects worked on, countries lived in, companies worked for, etc…
NOTE: Another approach to assembling a profile or personal dashboard profile is if that dashboard is the same place you publish the content eg. PeopleAggregator (the blog, social bookmarks, photos are all modules in the one product). Personally I like to use the blog platform of my choice, same with bookmarks, etc…that’s why services like ziki, tagalag, peoplicious, and people feeds are great as you can create and connect up your own dashboard thanks to RSS.
What I do like about services like PeopleAggregator, MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, TagWorld is adapting it to a group feel eg. for communites of practice…and that’s exactly what you get out of complore, GROU.PS, and the killer Zimbio. All this is precicely what KM 2.0 newsmastering is all about, connecting it together…see more on KM 2.0.
Back to it…
In a people finder/social sharing network like Ziki (or the ultimate Ziki) if we are looking for an expert we could browse the aggregate community tag cloud, even limit this tag cloud to feed types such as, posts (blogs), social bookmarks, wikis, Reading Lists, etc…if we still can’t find an expert we can search the index of the whole community, and even limit this to a feed type.
I suppose a quicker way is to search in the skills/interests field which if like the future of ziki or the current fringe contacts prototype, is finding experts by the tags they have used to describe themselves or the tags others have used to describe them.
NOTE: At the moment in Ziki you can only tag yourself.
Another option is to browse/search groups by tag, just as you search individuals by tag.
Thus far there are 3 points covered:
1. a knowledge sharing culture will open you up to experts on a daily basis
(the more daily sharing and socialising you do…the more people have an outlet to share thoughts, discussions, and collect stuff according to interests…the more you will know about them…it’s ingrained in your daily operations).
2. using social networks to induce and enable sharing provides a whole lot of information about people, this is stuff people are publishing, collecting, discussing, etc…
This information can be browsed by tag or searched to locate experts (we are finding experts via the internal sharing culture network of information).
Similar to this is mining a DMS (Document Management System) or email system and matching document subject values with the owners of the documents.
3. Yellow pages - staff directory by interest/skill…a system where people tag themselves and allow others to tag them creates a deeper perspective.
Staff tagging themselves and each other is an explicit way of registering experts, it is a social version of a traditional staff directory.
As mentioned a bottom-up network of social sharing services will empower people and also allow you to get to know people and come to understand the skills/interest certain people have according to the content in their space…ingrained pre-emptive expertise.
One module of this would be social bookmarks, Cogenz is suggesting that finding experts is easy by browsing for tag names for that skill/interest, thus locating some users.
A system that extracts keywords from the DMS to generate a taxonomy, also extracts the names on those documents, so the names are also organised by topic. From the anecdote paper:
“…then extracting people’s names from the documents and associating them to particular categories. With this information one can find people who know about particular topics.
This information is further enhanced by tracking how people are using the documents so that, for example, as a person reads, forwards via email, bookmarks or creates documents their name is more strongly associated to the topic of the documents they have been dealing with.
The advantage of this approach is that the expertise information is automatically created; it doesn’t require people to update their own expertise information (such as a persona page) and the results reflect what a person actually does rather than what they say they do.”
This can be extended to extracting keywords in social software, or even browsing user tags…similar to tag searching blogs, bookmarks, documents and email (tag your own), then find experts who are using these tags…I guess blogrolls or Reading Lists could also come into this equation.
This same paper also notes the traditional staff directory (fielded search), but the IBM Bluepages (aka Fringe Contacts) provides additional context:
“Upon finding a person one can then view that person’s reporting chain (who they report to and their boss’s boss and so on, all the way up to the CEO), their peers, and the person’s direct reports. This information is important in a large organisation because one regularly receive requests to assist and provide information from unfamiliar people. By understanding what part of the organisation they are from BluePages provides additional context to guide a response.”…here’s a screenshot.
Another way mentioned in the Horne Daniels Group Paper is:
“…to measure the number of hours billed by a particular practitioner on matters categorized by a firm’s subject matter taxonomy.”. Even to combine this with a self ranking system against a selection of topics.
Dave Pollard points to a expert locator product called Illumino…this allows you to create groups, you can then search the PC’s of the people in your group (via desktop search tools). If there is a winning match the requested person will get an automatic IM, they can then choose to send the requestor those files.
It also can search in emails of people in your group, if the subject term matches people names in the email fields or body text then the requested person again will get an automatic IM, and can then introduce the requestor to the expert.
This all sounds like the kind of thing an attention file would be handy for…find experts based on where their attention lies.
This can also extend to social attention…include what other people think of them (people tagging) and people that are similar to them based on SNA, data mining content such as, EDMS, emails and PC’s, and also similar people via searching and browsing social networks.
Qunu is a module that Ziki could add to it’s service…browse the people tag cloud (this is tags people apply to themselves) and it returns a list of experts for the subject matter, then all you do is IM that expert…instant help…see more.
Like most social systems it has ratings, related tags…all the right stuff to help you filter for the person for the job.
I guess a further idea is to document chat logs into a knowledge base, so you can browse for possible answers before asking an expert to chat.
If you think your an expert and have the time, make a button for your blog that will list up to 5 skills.
Also check out FAQQLY, a social network based around Question and Answer.
This service allows people to ask you questions (called FAQ), but it also allows you to ask questions (called Helps)…it also doubles up as a sharing system (called Shares)…ie. stuff I have to share like a book…kind of like a library.
Each user profile has tags describing themselves…you can search for experts by tag, or search for a user name.
For each user you can view their FAQ and perhaps find an answer to a similar question in the archives, you can add a comment to a question, or simply just ask a brand new question…give HELPS allows you to browse questions the user is asking…send a NOTE (you have your own email out/in box)…add a user as a Friend.
What I like about the self applied tags is that not only can people find you by tag, but they can then click that tag and view past answered questions by topic…without these categories/tags you wouldn’t be able to browse with some context (the way this works is that when you answer a question you assign it to a tag/s).
I’d like to see this aggregated…browse a tag and see all questions within this tag across all users.
There are feeds for both answered and unanswered questions, I’d like to see these for each user tag as well…and as I suggested above you could aggregate all questions from all users by tags, then we could follow questions within a tag across all users.
Only thing missing is IM like Qunu, and re-syndicated content like Ziki…I’d love to see a mashup of Ziki, Qunu and FAQQLY.
[ADDED 27/07/06: Using Peoplicious to create an “ad hoc” expert group, FAQQLY Groups]