Musing about lifestreaming and learning

I saw this today:

The Feltron Report. Nick Felton’s report on his activities during 2008.

Absolutely fascinating. As the cost of such data acquisition drops, and as the cost of storing such data drops as well, the possibilities are tremendous.

From an enterprise perspective, what the report represents is a part of the future of two things: CVs and appraisals. Nick’s work reminds us that you can now tell a story about what you did in ways you could never have done before. As with anything else, there are opportunities to game the “system”, but that is not what I want to concentrate on. I want to look at the positive benefits of having such facilities, my world is littered with half-full glasses and half-open doors.

Why am I excited about this?

Firstly, because of the importance of feedback loops. Because feedback loops of this sort are valuable as learning tools. As I learn more about what I really did with my time, I learn more about what I would like to change in that context; the feedback loop of “actuals” helps me do that. As I learn more about what I liked and what I disliked, I learn more about how I can keep doing the things I like doing; collaborative filtering helps me do that. As I learn more about what others perceive as things I did well and did badly, I learn more about how I can improve my strengths as well as my weaknesses; the feedback loop of “reviews” helps me do that.

Secondly, because of the value of “independent” low-cost data collection in this context. Writing down every song I listen to, and writing down all the time I spend listening to music, is painful. But rating songs as I listen to them, and having something like last.fm do the aggregation of my listenstream, it takes that pain away. Now if activities at work could be aggregated in this way, people would think differently about time sheets. Today too much of what goes into a time sheet is a lie.

Thirdly, because of the ability to share the information so gained. In the past, whether it was a CV or a “performance review” or an “appraisal”, what went into the report was very subjective, very biased. As a result people didn’t like sharing the information with others. When the data is collected independently and objectively, this unwillingness to share goes away.

Finally, because of the value we can unlock in teaching. Take the enterprise context of “induction”. You know what I mean, that strange process when you try and explain what you do to someone completely new. When you can give someone a “Felton Report” for a particular role, there is so much rich information there. The report could be an exemplar’s actual report, it could be a synthetic report made up of a number of exemplars averaged out.

We can learn so much. About differences in locations and geographies and cultures.

I’ve kept my comments to the enterprise context, but actually they apply everywhere. Everywhere where people want to learn. Felton Reports will become valuable in the context of education everywhere.

Which is why I am not surprised that I learnt about their existence from glassbeed. [You’re a good man, Clarence Fisher.] I follow Clarence Fisher because he’s that rare breed, a teacher who really means to make use of modern technology in the classroom to the benefit of the people he teaches.

6 thoughts on “Musing about lifestreaming and learning”

  1. Your point on feedback loops is profound, and fascinating.

    As a child I would think about how interesting it would be to see ALL the data about myself – a map of all the places I’d ever been and when; all the meals I’d ever eaten; or the people I’d ever met…

    It seemed like an unimaginable amount of information, the stuff of daydreams and fantasy… the sort of data God might have available, I suppose? Whatever’s used to judge the worth of our lives, perhaps.

    But now that there’s a realistic prospect of data of that magnitude being available, we need to start thinking about how to manage it, and use it to guide our choices.

    For example, all of the advice about getting out of debt (a subject close to my heart!) tells me to start tracking spending NOW, and monitor and categorise ALL of my incomings and outgoings. Creating a feedback loop. Iterating.

    Financial data, of course, is relatively easy, it’s just numbers… but imagine being able to do that with other, more intangible things!

    What we eat.

    Where we are.

    Who we talk to.

    All the text we’ve ever written.

    God’s data…

  2. Havent seen that before – this is the kind of wonderful discovery one occaisionally comes across on blogs / twitter that one would never find via google.

    Your point about feedback is well made – coaching is specifically focused on providing ways of capturing timely feedback and using it to adapt or improve, the way we learn naturally. You do something, observe the result, change it and see what happens.

    So much of our “feedback” in organisations is qualitative or instructional not observational facts and all too often too infrequent to be be acted on. Tapping into the sources of data we can track from our daily activity, perhaps mashed with rypple.com style micro-feedback is a fascinating way of thinking about your day to day work.

    Thanks for making me think, and inspiring me to go see what my trackable activities can yield. Emails, tasks completed, minutes in meetings, days holiday, conferences spoken at vs attended the possibilities are endless

  3. There are a number of lifestream-collecting tools coming through now, lowering the cost of collecting such data. As you guessed, Rhys, I am enamoured of the possibilities this represents in work, allowing us to be less subjective, more data driven in our analysis from many different standpoints

Let me know what you think