Enterprise UI Summit – prework

Elsewhere, I’ve written about SAP’s intranet (called the Corporate Portal), which runs on the SAP NetWeaver platform.  In addition to our intranet, at SAP we have an instance of the Jive Clearspace Suite installed for collaboration both inside and outside the firewall.  I have enjoyed my use of the ‘Collaboration Workspace’ so far, though I do sometimes find it frustrating that it exists independent of the rest of our landscape; it makes it ‘above the flow’ rather than ‘in the flow’, as Michael Idinopulos said.  Nonetheless, my experience with Clearspace has been quite positive so far, so when Jive CMO Sam Lawrence tweeted that he had open seats remaining for the Enterprise UI Summit in Aspen, I jumped at the opportunity!

I am traveling with Kirsten Gay, my User Experience Manager.  We leave for Aspen on Wednesday morning, and I’ll be home very late Friday night.  Sam will be writing about the Summit on his blog Go Big Always, and as part of our pre-work, he asked participants to answer some questions about enterprise user interface.  You can read my responses (and see the responses of other Summit participants) on Sam’s blog.

If these topics are of interest to you, Jive is also hosting a community they’re calling Clearstep:

Clearstep is a site focused on best practices and education around starting, managing and growing online communities and enterprise social networks for employees, partners and customers. … There has been a lot of demand for this type of community from our customers and we are excited to hear what you think, both about the community itself and your company’s use of social software.

You can learn more about Clearstep and request access here.  I hope to Twitter and/or blog while I’m at the Summit in Aspen, so stay tuned!


I enjoy working with all kinds of technology and being online.  I am ‘hyper-connected’ in part because my work demands it – so much of what I do involves a computer and internet technologies (and more recently, social media).  However, when it comes to an online presence, I have always struggled between my high-tech work life and the desire for privacy in my personal life.

When I first started learning how to build pages for the web in 1994, I was using pico (a UNIX-based text editor associated with the mail application pine) or VI to write web pages.  The first graphical browser for the web (Mosiac 1.0, I think it was) had just been released.  There were less than 100,000 pages on the web – unfathomable today!  At the time, I was just not sure about putting myself out there, online, when I wasn’t yet sure where ‘there’ was, and who was looking.  So as part of learning to write HTML, I posted a web page with a picture of my rabbit, Larry.  For many years Larry was my only online presence.  At the time I was working with my friend Solomon, who was even more privacy conscious than I.  He purchased all of his groceries with cash, and he refused to get a discount card because he didn’t want to have all of his purchasing data tracked.  I hadn’t thought that much about privacy at that point.  In retrospect, I think that type of concern (and even the awareness that there are choices to be made) seems generational.  Times have changed as internet technologies have become nearly ubiquitous in the United States.  

During the course of my dissertation research, I went to great lengths to protect the identity of company I was studying.  This was to ensure I could publish my research later.  So when my graduate school posted small web pages with all of the students (including research area, a photo, and brief bio), I panicked.  Fortunately, the department was super-responsive, and I worked with them to reword the page.  That process reminded me of how little we control about what information appears about us online.

With the rise of Google, I have periodically searched on my own name to see what comes up.  I’ve learned that my name is not all that unusual – I think there are at least four other Natalie Hansons out there.  One of them is the wife of singer Taylor Hanson.  That has served to my advantage in terms of hiding out online, because news and photos of her have always appeared first, and any information at all about me was two or three pages down in the Google results.  And that was fine with me!

Recently, however, I am realizing that I would like to have more of a presence online, and that I can take an active role in shaping that.  In fact, I think the work that I’m doing now (in social media) really requires it.  As I built my blog, my Facebook profile, a Twitter account, and so on, I have been forced to think about what I do and don’t want to share, and with whom.  In the past few months, I finally uploaded my web page to my domain, and I’ve reworked my blogs to separate personal and professional.  I have also been doing more publicly online – responding to blog posts, etc.   However, I’ve set up my blog so that it isn’t pushed to the search engines.  That means if people are finding it at present, it is because I’ve either given them the link, or they’ve gotten it from my website.  That, too, is fine with me for the time being.

I searched my name again a couple of weeks ago, not too long after the Michael Krigman podcast was posted.  Suddenly, my website has shot up to second in the list of results (click here to see a screen shot).  That really just blew me away. I am now really even more curious about how the search algorithms work, and what I can do to control what appears in that list.  Or (if I want) to ensure that I remain high in the rankings.

I am going to try an experiment at some point soon, and that will be to enable this WordPress blog to be searchable.  I am very curious to monitor what happens to the Google search results, how quickly, and to see if I can figure out why.  In the meantime, there is a new search engine called Cuil that has just been released this week – it’s been all over the press.  I have been told it’s pronounced like ‘cool’, but it is also the French word for cull, interestingly enough.  When I search for myself on that one, I don’t come up at all on the first few pages.  I stopped looking after that, but I am also going to monitor it as I experiment with getting myself out there online.

We’ve moved!

Hello family & friends,

As it turns out, I have come to enjoy blogging – so much so that I decided to start a professional blog, too! I am hoping that it will help me get back on track with my anthropology writing.

I thought it was best to keep this domain for my work stuff, and move the family news to a new location.  So if you want to see the latest on Auden (including him walking for the first time!), check out the new family blog. Drop me an email if you need the address.

You’re welcome to stay tuned here, too, though you may find the ravings of a corporate anthropologist are less interesting than life at the Zehansons. 🙂

See ya!

Michael Krigsman podcast

This week I had the opportunity to speak with ZDNet blogger Michael Krigsman.  About 30% of all IT projects fail, and his blog is focused on why that is the case, and what can be done about it.   Michael runs his own consulting business that is part of the SAP ecosystem.  He has become interested in how ethnographic methods might complement some of the other methods that he uses in his consulting work today.

We spent about an hour on the phone, and then he asked if I would be interested in recording a podcast with him on the topic.  The blog and podcast (only 6 minutes long) were posted this morning.  Here is the link if you’re interested – http://blogs.zdnet.com/projectfailures/?p=906.

Exploring social media

Before my maternity leave (early summer last year), I met with one of the guys in SAP’s Emerging Solutions development organization.  He told me that they had spoken with some young students and received some use cases for different technologies.  One of the uses cases for email?  Sending a thank-you to parents of a friend.  Note to self: email is for old people!

I created and have been managing a listserv called anthrodesign for a number of years.  I really enjoy the dialogue and the community that has been formed, and I don’t really mind the administration because I spend so much time in front of a computer anyways.  But partly as a result of this use case, and partly because of the changes at work, I am realizing the the listserv is SO old timey.  I have been asked by one of the members for an RSS feed, but I have been reticent because the listserv has been restricted for so long.  I have always been concerned about spammers, and particularly because I use my personal email account to manage the list.  Anthrodesign is not publicly listed on Yahoo!, so most people find it by word of mouth.  Somehow I fear a feed will unravel that.  Even with organic growth, it’s grown to nearly 1400 members who exchange well over 100 posts a month.

Someone sent me a YouTube video about how (and how much!) students are using Facebook today (you can see the video here).  At the same time, I was feeling the limits of what anthrodesign is / can be because I am the hub of the network, and I am at capacity.  For example, I used to send a personalized note to people who joined, but it’s been ages and ages since I did that.  At one point I had about 250 messages in draft and I finally let it go, and realized it wasn’t going to happen. think that some of the power of the list has been lost as a result of my inattention, and I would like to correct that.   Through a series of posts to the list and discussion with listmembers, I outlined the high level requirements:

  1. facilitate social networking,
  2. provide better access to the knowledge generated by the community, and
  3. enable the community to build on & extend that knowledge if they’re interested.
Right around the time, I also read an article by Jakob Neilsen called Facebook and Metcalfe’s Law:

We are getting close to the bursting of Bubble 2.0, so it’s a good idea to review some of the precursors of Bubble 1.0.  In 1999, I wrote an article “Metcalfe’s Law in Reverse” about the problems of so-called walled gardens, where a service cuts itself off from the Internet and tries to add value by being closed.  Facebook and the current generation of social networks are trying to replicate the walled garden strategy that failed ten years ago. It’ll fail again.”

All these things have really gotten me thinking about what the next steps should be for anthrodesign.  How much social media do we want to introduce into something that works well (however old-fashioned it is)?  Can I retain the integrity of the list through these experiments, and especially if the experiments fail?