Managing Knowledge is like Herding Cats – part 2

I’m still at the IBM Knowledge Management Conference. The weather is better. I am doing a live demo, which is always dangerous, so I’ll stop now.

More later.

99-44/100% Good News!

I’ve been trying to get in touch with my doctor for the results of my
MRI for nearly a week; I left voicemail for his assistant, but
my phone never rang. I was getting frustrated, and growing more and
more anxious — the MRI people had said that they’d almost certainly
have the
results back to him on Thursday, and here it was almost a week later.

So today, after it was late enough on the West Coast for the office to
be open and functioning, I called again, and this time, rather than
leave voicemail, I punched through to the receptionist, who’s actually
in a different building than my doctor. But she was willing to listen
and to help; a few minutes later, my phone rang.

It wasn’t the doctor — or even his assistant — in fact, it was the
receptionist again. But she had news for me: my MRI report was on the
doctor’s desk. She couldn’t tell me what it said, of course; only the
doctor could do that. But I was able to emphasize (in tone as well as
words) that I was anxious to hear the results, and she promised to let
him know.

A couple of hours later, just after lunchtime in California, my phone
rang again, and this time, it was my doctor. So I pulled off the road
(there are phone calls that I’m willing to take or make while driving,
but not ones with potentially significant emotional impact), and he told
me that the radiologist did find a small anomaly on the scan. The
radiologist is almost certain that it was just a little bit of secondary
bleeding from the concussion — the location was right — but they
want to do another MRI in a few weeks to verify that it goes away. So
I’ll go back into the tube in mid-August — and this time, I’ll be at
home for the results instead of trying to get them long distance.

Know-It-Alls Rule!

When the doctor called, I was en route to the Casperkill Country Club
(formerly the IBM Country Club when IBM had such things) for the
Knowledge Management conference dinner. We’d been warned that there
would be a group exercise right after dinner, and everyone’s badge had
been marked with a colored dot as part of the planning for the exercise.

But dinner was still a few hours away — before that, we had
refreshments (Saranac Black and Tan beer in bottles is better than Sam
Adams in a keg, in my opinion, even if it is brewed by the same people
who commit Utica Club) and Birds of a Feather sessions. I held a BOF on
Weblogs, which got some interest (though, frankly, most people were more
interested in enjoying the weather and the refreshments).
I am working on getting a
Manila server up and running inside IBM in the near future so that
IBMers can share <strike>secret</strike> business-related information
through Weblogs as well as in other ways; it’ll be an interesting
experiment to see if it’s used. It’s certainly not the answer for
everyone’s need, but I think it’ll be a useful tool to have available.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any connectivity (or, for that matter, a
computer), so I couldn’t show any Weblogs, and talking about them is not
very satisfying. I did give people a pointer to this page, so if you’re
visiting as a result of the BOF, “hi!”

After dinner, we had the team exercise — a game of Team Trivia. We
divided ourselves into tables of seven or eight, with a mix of colored
dots at each table — amazingly, we accomplished this task in under ten
minutes. Then each team had to name itself; most teams picked names
such as “Rainbow Coalition” or
“Surfers”. We modestly named
ourselves the
“Know-It-Alls”.

Team Trivia consists of two rounds, each with twelve questions. The MC
reads the questions, and the team huddles and writes down an answer.
The tables are close enough that teams can hear one another, so
discussions leading to false answers are fair game.

At the end of the first round, we were tied for the lead with two other
teams, each with ten points. The questions covered many areas of
popular culture; for example, we were asked what female artist sold the
most records, tapes, and CDs during the 1980s (we had the right answer
at first, but changed it in later discussions. Oh, well). Another
question asked for the name of the movie in which Groucho Marx was the
leader of a country (that one, we got right).

In the second round, the questions were worth two points each; since
only four points separated the first- and last-place teams, the game was
still wide open. The first three questions were easy for us; the fourth
one threw us for a loop, though: In Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs
, which two dwarfs’ names don’t end in “y”? We got one of
the two right away, but never did get the second one. But then we got
back on track. The last question was a “groaner” — a question where
the answer is a movie title with a word changed to create an awful pun.
The question was: What is the Mel Brooks movie in which a boy ends up
in a glass of beer?

In the end, our team won, and we were each given
a dangerous prize, an Amazon.com gift certificate.
I don’t know if this was a useful team-building exercise, but I enjoyed
it — it was certainly better than sitting in the auditorium on a
beautiful afternoon!

Computers Never Make Mistakes…People Do

I consider myself to be a properly paranoid traveller. I always
double-check to be sure that I have my tickets and confirmation numbers,
and I verify flight times a couple of days before travelling. So I
thought it was time to check the details of my trip home on Friday; I
went to the travel agency site, entered my locator, and discovered that
all that was in my record was the IBM boilerplate — no flights.

This did not make me happy; I decided to call American Airlines and see
what was going on. So I did, and after listening to more music-on-hold
than I wanted to hear, was told that my reservations had been cancelled
because I hadn’t taken my outbound flights. This was news to me, since
I’d been on both planes and had the boarding passes to prove it. The
agent vanished again and got my return trip reinstated, but my confirmed
and paid-for-with-miles upgrade on the long leg was no longer available.
This also did not make me happy; I realized that the agent couldn’t help
me further and asked for the customer service address. I am composing
an irate but polite letter, which will end with a restatement of what
they always tell me at the end of every flight: “…you have a choice
in air travel.” I expect them, at the least, to restore the miles to my
account; I hope they’ll do more than that. Anyone with tips on writing
an effective letter, please feel free to share them!

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