Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems

Together with Brian Whitworth from Massey University, New Zealand, I am editing a Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems, to be published by IGI Group in 2008. See the call for chapters. It is a massive project, requiring at least 50 quality articles. Our goal is to get researchers and practitioners talking to each other, not only by the publication itself, but also by building an author community. To be continued…

Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop 2007

On June 14, I was at the University of Twente in Enschede to attend the Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop. It was organized by the new inter-facultary Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), part of the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology.

The workshop was very well-attended and lively. The speakers gave a good overview of the main promises and problems surrounding Second Life. The workshop was preceded by an inspiring keynote address by Peter Ludlow, well-known as editor of High Noon on the Electronic Frontier and founder of the Second Life Herald newspaper.

The titles of the presentations give some idea of the kind of issues addressed:

  • Peter Ludlow (Uni Michigan): Emergent Gameplay, Deviant Ageplay, and the Elusive Payday of Business in Second Life
  • Dan Seamans (Open Uni, UK): The Vital SPark: Managing a Dynamic Learning Space in Teen Second Life
  • Patrick Ozer and Albert van Breemen (Philips Research, the Netherlands): Interreality Communication: iCat Meets Second Life
  • Robert Slagter and Wil Jansen (Telematica Instituut, the Netherlands): Real Business in Virtual Worlds
  • David Nieborg (Uni Amsterdam): ‘Don’t Sponsor a Game that is a Playground for Criminals!’ – The Many Media Frames of Second Life

From a research point of view, everything still is wide-open. Tools, but especially governance, workflows, and business processes still are only in their infancy. However, the general consensus seemed to be that Second Life, at least as a stepping stone on the way to a whole class of virtual worlds, holds great potential, waiting to be mined.

Efficient Task Management

Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.

Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.

As to the tools that best support this methodology, I have settled down on the following two, MonkeyGTD and Remember The Milk.

MonkeyGTD

MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.

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