The Value of Data Visualization

Love this – it explains a lot in two minutes. There’s so much value sitting locked away in data; finding the core of it and displaying that key message graphically makes it instantly accessible to people.


The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

Posted in Data & Mapping, Working Smarter | Leave a comment

Publishers are Facing Their “Jacob’s Ladder” Moment.

Remember that movie? A vietnam soldier dies after a vicious combat, but he refuses to let go and after a moment of flatlining his vitals resume. Upon returning home he is increasingly freaked out by what appear to be horrible demons chasing him. Finally a friend and mentor tells him that by refusing to die, he cheated Death. As long as he clings to his old life Death will appear to him as demons, tearing him from those he loves. But if he can accept that it’s his time, those demons become angels, leading him toward a loving light of the next life.

Well, the content publishers are living that right now.  Books, movies, music, newspapers, magazines – they’re clinging to old models, which were highly profitable and carried great respect. But death, in the form of new media, self-publishing and streaming access, are tearing that old life apart, destroying it viciously. The longer they hold out and the more they try to fight it off, the uglier and more difficult their business is. Continue reading

Posted in Industry Trends, New Media, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Why I Like Google Plus So Far…

Parkour JumpThe hype rocket has blasted it into the clouds, the early adopters are scrambling to grok it and master it, the critics are picking it apart, and most of the world is too busy on Facebook to pay it any attention.  Can Google+ make it to a sustainable orbit?  Will the early adopters’ attention span move on before enough mainstream folks have a chance to even try it?

It’s way too soon to predict, but it feels like G+ has a fighting chance.  Clearly Google has learned some hard lessons from Buzz and Wave, and done things differently with G+.   It’s not thrust on us like Buzz, nor hiding in GeekTopia like Wave.  There are clear hooks for an ordinary (social) consumer, but also many tricks for the power user.  They’ve thrown a lot of functions into it – a Facebook-like ‘stream’, a group video chat (like skype but much less clunky), group text messaging, location check-ins, photo sharing…  They’ve tried hard to make all that simple and intuitive to use (with mixed success).  It’s got a ton of potential users all lined up (cough*gmail*cough).

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Your Company’s Knowledge Base – The Wiki

Often times, I’ll learn some institutional process, like the proper way to fill out a blank form, or how to route the blank…only to scratch my head over it 6 months later when it comes up again.  “Now what goes in this box again??”

Or perhaps I want to keep track of 6 important account codes, or document instructions for something that I know well, but my coworkers are fuzzy on.  I need to be able to write it up, store it safely, and forget about it.  When it comes up again, I’d need to find it quickly and easily.  Not only that, but maybe I learn the basics, and a coworker gets more details later, or realizes my documentation needs editing.

“What is this magic!” you demand in amazement.  Well, step right up folks, because it’s called the wiki.

“Oh no,” you grimace, “blech.”  Well, ok, when wikipedia made them famous they were ugly as sin, required coding to use, and had a User Interface only an engineer could love.  I’m happy to report they’ve come a long way, baby.

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And Now for Something a Little Different

I’ve been lucky enough in my work to meet a lot of people around the country, doing great work in mission-driven fields.  These tend to be public sector and non-profit organizations, and they’re very smart people with a ton of experience in their field.

I also have a fascination (obsession) with emerging tech trends – especially tools that help me do my job.  Better ways to communicate, gather, analyze and display data, collaborate long-distance and get work done from anywhere.  There’s this world where the future is happening now, and people are moving mountains with a handful of free tools.

But these two sectors…might as well be two different planets.  There are thousands of tools and resources, incredible innovation in getting things done, rapid evolution on spreading your message (marketing)…yet very few people seem to have heard of them outside the tech sector.

I find myself with a foot in both worlds, continually shuttling information and ideas from the tech planet to the ‘organization’ planet.  In countless committees and meetings I’ve raised my hand and suggested, “I think there’s an easier way to do this…”  Colleagues pull me aside at conferences, “Can you tell me more about that thing you mentioned..?” Or asked me to mentor them in learning about and adopting emerging tools.  I’ve volunteered to help some of my favorite organizations through this stuff, but as life gets busier and money becomes scarcer (did I mention I have children? :), it occurs to me that I should probably start putting my passion to work…

So I’ve set up this little hut on the internet, and am stringing rope through my sign so I can hang it out front.  If you’re interested in learning more about tools, services, and best practices that can really elevate your good work, then drop me a line.  You’ll find numerous ways to contact me on the sidebar.  If you enjoy the posts here, please leave a comment or two! I look forward to the conversation.


Posted in History | 2 Comments

Figuring out Google Wave

I find myself in that odd position again, one foot in a world that hasn’t heard a thing about Wave “…you mean gmail??”, and a social media/tech world on fire about this thing.  So this is for the first camp.

You should learn about this thing.  Oh, sure, it has many detractors, but the core intent behind it is revolutionary; what would happen if we reinvented email, to incorporate the new technologies we have today?  What would email+IM+shared documents+wikis look like?

If your response is “…huh?” check out this brilliant little explanation:


Ohhhhh, right.  Good, now you get it.  Group conversations that actually work. A collaborative working environment, in your inbox.

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Posted in Tools, Using Social Media | 8 Comments

“Meaningful Use” Recommendations Harm Rural Hospitals

This is a guest post by Louis Wenzlow, Director of Health Information Technology at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC). The RWHC is a cooperative of 35 rural hospitals (including 28 Critical Access Hospitals) that promotes regional collaboration for health and health care services on behalf of rural communities.  The post below is commentary on the preliminary definition of “Meaningful Use” as presented to the HIT Policy Committee on June 16, 2009. The title was added by the blog editor, John Eich.

As an organization with significant experience in rural electronic health record (EHR) implementation, we believe that the meaningful use definition, as drafted, will make it impossible for the average small rural hospital, including critical access hospitals (CAHs), to meet the meaningful use standard.

The result will be that the vast majority of an entire sector of providers will be excluded from receiving ARRA HIT incentive funds and, consequently, will lack the tools required to engage the challenges of healthcare reform.

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Posted in Healthcare IT | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Getting Started with Twitter

Oh, finally! Thanks to a great post, I discovered this four-minute video, “How to use Twitter in 10 easy steps.”

Now you can stop scratching your head and check out Twitter!

A few notes I’d add for those getting started:

- The group of people you choose to follow completely defines your experience: if you follow people who post where they’re eating lunch, you’ll find Twitter to be bland and shallow. If you follow people who love to share great articles they’ve read, interesting pictures or videos and insights into current events, then you’ll be amazed at Twitter’s depth and interest.

- If spammers follow you, don’t freak out. Unlike email, they can’t fill your inbox. As long as you don’t follow them back, you only see messages from those fascinating people you chose to follow. It’s like you’re rubber and they’re glue! [third grade reference] If they “creep you out” sitting there, as a friend of mine put it, you can always “block” them on your followers list. Buh-bye, spammy.

- To find interesting people to follow, ‘search’ is your friend: search twitter on key topics that interest you, browse those who talk about it, click their profile to see what they tweet, and if you like them, give ‘em a try. If they start talking about lunch…well, un-follow – no message to them, no dividing up your cd collection, just a quiet sigh of relief.

- Or check out whom your favorite ‘tweeples’ follow – birds of a feather, as they say…

Well, that’s enough for now. Enjoy!

Posted in Using Social Media | 2 Comments

Rural Medicine – serving more, with less, over huge distances

Just saw this stunning statistic in an article in the Nebraska Journal Star:

…rural America—where just 9 percent of the nation’s doctors serve 17 percent of its citizens scattered across 80 percent of its geography—is not an ideal place to find medical care.

I’m not sure if anything captures the current situation better than that snapshot.  Sadly, with impending retirements of significant percentages of existing physicians, steadily decreasing enrollments in primary care residencies, and an upcoming workforce that places more value on quality of non-work life than in the past – we’re looking at this statistic getting much worse.

Perhaps we should rewrite a verse from the Bob Dylan song . . . “Where have all the doctors gone – long time passing..?”

Posted in WI-ORH, Workforce | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Figuring out why you’re using social media

Just saw a great quote on the distinction between “Social Media” and “Social Networking”:

Social Media are tools for sharing and discussing information. Social Networking is the use of communities of interest to connect to others. You can use Social Media to facilitate Social Networking. Or, your can network by leveraging Social Media.

But why, you ask, is this distinction important?

Because to use these new tools effectively, you have to know why you’re using them.  Are you an individual looking to connect with others outside your everyday circle?  Then you’re looking for social networking, and now you can start wading through the dozens of tools that offer it to find the right tool for your speed, your need, and your feed (people/info you want to follow).

Are you an organization that is seeking to get your message out?  Then you’re looking at the media tools, and again, to pick the right one(s), look at where your target audience is online, and start joining them there.  Are they younger and informal?  Create a Facebook page.  Are they over 30 and information-sharers?  Find them on Twitter.  Purely professional crowd? LinkedIn is your arena.

It gets tricky because Social Media is by nature conversational, so “getting your message out” is often about building relationships, which is Social Networking’s core territory.  Welcome to the blurry overlap.

But, if you had to choose, which of these factors is your core goal – messaging, or networking? Pick one, lean towards tools that do that best, and expect a lot of overlap.  Because in this new media world, messaging without connecting is doomed.  Picking the core goal just helps you decide where to allocate your time most effectively in a universe of options.

Posted in Using Social Media | Tagged , , | 1 Comment