Learning week

This past week I've been racing to learn new things: Salesforce's Chatter, Chaos theory, Google docs, sharing Dropbox folders, my new Livescribe pen, our move from Sametime to Webex, and how to follow the author guidelines including the Harvard referencing system for my new book.

So is this an unusual number of new things to learn in a week or a normal number for most people? I'm wondering if I've particularly noticed because so many of them are new technologies to me. Salesforce's Chatter is apparently just like Facebook, in fact one of our beta test group (we're trying it out before the rest of the organization gets it) asked if it was on a Facebook platform. It isn't but for those people who use Facebook it will be easy to make sense of Chatter. I'm not a friend of Facebook for various reasons – I'm hoping that Siva Vaidhyanathan author of a book I'm currently reading The Googlization of Everything and why we should worry will tackle Facebook as his next book. He's a professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia so it's a deep and thoughtful approach to a phenomenon that isn't quite what it might seem.

We are testing it to see if Salesforce is a good platform for performance feedback – but find out that it's not really. More interesting is the fact that around 20 people signed up to use it in order to find this out but only 3 or 4 actually did. And this was an enthusiastic – at least on the phone call – group. So how could we encourage people who were less enthusiastic to use it? As I was thinking this over, one of my favorite principles leapt into mind 'never work uphill'. That's taken from a great document by the way: "Rules of Thumb for Change Agents" by Herbert A Shepard. He originally published it in 1975 in Organization Development Practitioner by the Organization Development Network. Hardly a day goes by without one of the rules of thumb coming to my mind.

Chaos theory I'm learning from Steven Strogatz a Cornell Professor. It's on DVD in 24 x 30 minute lectures which I'm watching not quite one a day as planned but have got to lecture 13, 3 of which I took last week. They're tremendously informative and his delivery style is terrific. Why chaos theory? Because people want organizations to be stable and predictable and they're not, but there are intriguing links that Strogatz goes into that could illuminate non-predictability to people.

Google docs is very limited except in its ability to share with others. Gone is the track changes feature that showed who thought what as we changed docs. Also gone are most of the graphics or images in a PowerPoint slide, plus any semblance of organization of the docs. I get a link saying someone has shared something with me – it's not possible to write a message into the sharing bit (or is it) so often I don't quite know why I have got this gift. If I do know and it happens to be the most recent doc it is easy to find but then it gets lost way down in a list and I don't remember exactly what it was called so have to go back and find the email that had the link so I can open it from there, etc. etc. It's tremendously time consuming and frustrating. Sharing Dropbox folders on the other hand is quick and easy and you know what it's for. It's simply for sharing docs.

My LiveScribe pen I think will be useful as I start writing the new book. I unpackaged it on Monday and got it set up. Someone read an article about it in The Atlantic and thought I would be interested. I finally got round to investigating and then buying one. I was spurred on by Troy, the shop assistant, in my local Staples (office suppliers) who was wildly enthusiastic – he'd seen it operated at an exhibition and was longing to get one. Although Staples didn't stock them in store, only on-line he did a great sales job. (Except I got mine on Amazon).

Sametime to Webex isn't such a big deal except the Webex link isn't compatible with Google Chrome and has to be cut and pasted from the email into the browser instead of just clicked on, but oh well. I keep reminding myself that even last year we didn't have this capacity to hold real time virtual presentation with people from across the country/world. The technology is truly amazing albeit irritating at times. (Talking of irritation, I won't speak on the topic gmail at this point).

Other learning events this past week: learning to work with my new boss, learning a couple of new yoga poses, learning how to lock my bike when I've left the lock at home, learning how to program myself to look up things like library opening hours so I don't arrive ten minutes after it's shut. Learning that leaving my living room window open while I'm out and a huge rainstorm happens results in a flood in my condo. Learning where to buy an Islamic swimsuit for my daughter who is in Sudan.

What did you learn last week?