Putting away my 29 Marbles

I think this has been a long time coming, but it is finally time to retire the blog “29 Marbles.”  There are several reasons behind this decision, but the biggest is that I’m tired of writing about autism separately from everything else, as if it is something apart from the rest of my life.  It’s not.

I’ll still be writing about autism, with the same random frequency as I do here, on a new blog I’ve started called Theoria cum Praxi.  Here is the direct link to the autism category.  If you subscribe to the RSS feed and want to continue to receive updates, you don’t have to do anything.  I’ll be updating the feed info at Feedburner within the next couple of days.  Of course, feel free to subscribe to the full feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheoriaCumPraxi.  This new blog will also fill in for the also retired No Straight Lines, so I will be addressing the life/work topics from there as well.

I hope to see you all there.


Are Knowledge Management and Social Media at war?

According to Venkatesh Rao in his Enterprise 2.0 Blog post Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War, KM and SM are indeed at war, albeit an undeclared one.  Kind of.

Following a brief history of events that made him come this conclusion, he provides 5 social and 5 technical dimensions of this war:


  1. Gen X is currently neutral
  2. KM is about ideology, SM is about the fun of building
  3. The Boomers don’t really get or like engineering and organizational complexity
  4. The Millenials don’t really try to understand the world
  5. Boomers speak with words, X’ers with numbers, Millenials with actions


  1. Expertise locators are not social networks
  2. Online Communities are not USENET V3.0
  3. RSS and Mash-ups are Gen-X ideas
  4. SemWeb Isn’t Next-Gen, it is Last-Gen
  5. SOA and SaaS are Gen X; Clouds are Millenial

By the time I got to the end of the piece, what came across to me was not that the ideas of KM and SM are conflicting, but that the Boomers, Gen-X’ers, and Millenials all have different ways of doing things.  (More to the point, the article buys in to, and / or reinforces, the stereotype that Boomers don’t want to learn new ways of doing things.)   And I guess I should have expected that, considering the title of the article.

Still, I think that Rao has some excellent points.  If you leave out the generalizations about age, and simply look at in terms of “KMers” and “SMers”, there is much to consider.  At the risk of reaching too far, it is almost like looking at “conservatives” and “liberals”.   (Which, by the way, I think would make for an interesting study, the relationship between KM vs. SM and Conservative vs. Liberal (in the U.S. political sense of the word).)

So what do you think?  Is there a KM vs. SM war based on the generations?  Or is this more of a philosophical question that knows no age boundary?

The Cynefin framework and the global economic crisis

With all the talk about the ongoing global economic crisis and the desire to find out what caused it and how to “fix” it, I found myself wondering if this is something that we actually can figure out, especially while we are still in the middle of the situation.   I turned to the Cynefin framework to help me try to make sense of what kind of problem this is that we are facing.

Graphical depiction of the Cynefin framework

This is most definitely not a simple problem, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious.

I also don’t believe this is a complicated problem, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis and/or the application of expert knowledge and the approach to solve it is characterized as Sense-Analyze-Respond.  I do, however, think the decision makers early on in this situation treated this as a complicated problem.    The sensing part came from the realization that their was a problem, an analysis (quickly and crudely conducted) showed that the problem was liquidity (they thought), and the response was to funnel nearly a trillion dollars to various people in the hope that this would improve said liquidity (they hoped).

Over the past couple of weeks, the decision makers seem to have gone into a chaotic state, grasping at straws because there is no apparrent  relationship between cause and effect at the “system” level of the economy.  They seem to be using the Act-Sense-Respond approach to trying to solve the problems; they try something to see if it works and then respond with another action so they can see if that works.  Of course, you could just as easily say that they have been acting in a state of disorder, with no clue of what type of causality exists and simply making decisions based on what has always worked for them.

Which leaves complex, where I think this problem actually belongs.  In a complex system, the cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, which is why I wonder if we will be able to figure out the cause while we are still enmeshed in the problem.  However, just because we can’t yet determine how we got to this point doesn’t mean that we can’t find our way out of it.  Using the approach of Probe-Sense-Respond, those making the decisions can get an idea of what’s going on and what effect possible actions would have before taking action to understand the emergent practice(s) that can help us get to the point we need to be.

One of the reasons I think it is taking a while – and will take a bit longer – for people to accept this as a complex problem is that, from a political perspective, it does not present a quick fix.  It doesn’t even present the illusion of a quick fix.  Even worse, those in a position to fix this have to admit (gasp!) that they don’t know how we got to this point.

Government 2.0

Stories earlier this week about President-elect Barack Obama and his Blackberry got me thinking about how our elected leaders and their staffs are (or not) using the potential of  “stuff 2.0” (“stuff” = “web”, “enterprise”, “KM”, etc) in the execution of their duties.

For example:  It used  to make sense for Senators and Congressmen to basically live in Washington, DC and go back to their home districts on occasion; after all, they have to be present in order to vote.  But does that still make sense?

With the technology available for collaboration, and the security of PKI and other technologies to support digital voting, why not flip that around?  Set up your main base in your home state / district and travel to Washington, DC for special occassions.

Balance is BS? It all depends on how you define “balance”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi has a section entitled “Balance is BS”.  The “balance” he is referring to is the work/life balance that so many people talk about.  If you hadn’t read the rest of the book, or if you don’t know anything about Keith, you will likely be thinking, “This guy must be some kind of crazy workaholic.”

But once you understand how he looks at balance, you realize that he may be a “workaholic”, but he’s far from crazy.  Consider this quote on the subject from his blog last summer:

But you’ve also probably heard or read me say that balance is BS – that if you’re living a life driven by genuine relationships, where you are constantly being yourself, it’s a lot harder to separate personal and professional into their own tidy boxes. This idea of “balance” we read about in newspapers – usually followed by a statistic about grueling American hours and a thumbs-up to the French 35-hr work week – also seems to be driven by the idea that work is inevitably bad and unpleasant. Happy at … work!?! Incroyable!

Seems to me that Keith has discovered one of the secrets of the Art of Living.

Network effects of KM blogs

I, along with several others, was interviewed last summer by Lilia Efimova concerning my experiences as a Knowledge Management blogger using the blog as a networking tool.  (The interview came about from my blog No Straight Lines, which started out as a KM blog).  You can see a summary of my interview here.

The short of it is that I didn’t start blogging with the purpose of networking with others in KM, but it was a (very) nice side effect.  I’ve met many people through blogging, KM and otherwise, that I never would have had the opportunity to get to know.


If you watch the news or read the papers/magazines, you have undoubtedly heard about autism.  Unfortunately, much of what you have heard is likely of the “doom-and-gloom” variety, telling you what a “terrible” and “devastating” thing it is to live with autism, how parents and educators have to “deal with” autistic children.

As the parent of a now 17 year old autistic son, first diagnosed when he was just over 2 years old, I can tell you that there are unique challenges to raising an autistic child.  There is no denying that.  But when it comes down to it, if you ask me, these challenges are different only in context, not in scope.  Every child presents challenges of one sort or another to their parents.

We all have a tendency to want our kids to be like us, a reflection of us.   And it is indeed possible to try to “make” your kid more like you through “early intervention.”   Consider the geek born to the jock, or the jock born to the geek.  Your kid likes to be outside playing sports – you make him come inside and read and study.  Your kid is a book-worm – drag him outside and make him learn how to shoot hoops whether he likes it or not.

The other option, of course, is to figure out what it is your child enjoys, what they are passionate about, and indulge that passion.  There is no doubt that for a parent that is not autistic him- or her-self this is a more daunting challenge than the geek-jock dilemma I mentioned.  But it is daunting only in that it is a challenge that fewer people have experience with, that there is not as large a knowledge base to refer to when trying to find your way.

As I’ve written about before, the key thing for a parent of an autistic child to remember is that parenting is parenting.

If you don’t already know someone with autism, you will eventually.   Chances are very good that you have a family member with autism, know someone who has an autistic family member, or that you know someone with autism themselves.  You may even be autistic .   How did you react when you found out?  How do you treat those people?  How do you think you would react if you discovered that your child has autism?

It is all too easy to treat people, especially kids, with autism as “autistic”.   The challenge is to remember to treat autistic people simply as people.  Their autism is just one aspect of who they are.

(For another autism dad’s thoughts on the subject – from the perspective of a conservative philosophy – check out Big White Hat’s post Neuroconservatism?)