Working in web – A role for a specialist, or a job for everyman?

Mum at work, Mid 1950's

1950’s Typing Pool (attribution & rights – LadyBanana)

From Wikipedia : “A secretarial pool or typing pool is a group of secretaries working at a company available to assist any executive without a permanently assigned secretary. These groups have been reduced or eliminated where executives have been assigned responsibility for writing their own letters and other secretarial work.”

How skilled at manipulating the tools of the day should the average information worker be expected (or seek) to get by with?

Does working with web pages | online content merit a special case?

This is something I’ve seen come back around in discussions as people recognise more and more that managing their place on the web.  The act of Curation = Deliberately and actively placing, storing and sharing information | content on the web (corporate or otherwise). Has become essential to remain “in business” – visibly valuable.  These spaces or pages can be a simple shop front statements or more complex social or workflow enabled pages in a web based content management platform.

So if  this is “important” then why are responses that tend to be heard are…

“I don’t know how to do that!”  or “I haven’t got the time to learn about that!” or “That’s programming, I’m not that technical!” or

“Isn’t that something you did years ago, when you were (technical|in development|scripting)?” [delete as you see appropriate]

Why do we get these negative sentiment…

[this is not my responsibility | it’s not worth the effort | what benefit is this to me?]

type of responses?

Is web working really different from other information worker tools?

Do you see the same sentiment registered when describing working with documents, creating presentations or spread sheets?

I would suggest there is a different angle on the requests…

“Can you help on this?” or “Do you know a way of…?”

The sentiment tends towards a much more positive, and self-motivated set of responses – seeking to obtain knowledge or take personal responsibility on how to educate or develop their skills.

And this all happens in the day, of FAQs, online help in text, picture and video form!

SO do we need to recognise the need for a dedicated pool of web content editors managers?  (i.e. bring back the typing pool)

Or is this just people seeking to hide behind excuses of one form or another?

What could be discouraging their engagement or involvement?

Is the platform or technology to blame?

It could be we are spoilt with the user experience in of more application based tools and the web is still not consistent enough in the presentation and user experience it offers?   That is true as web based services do vary considerably in their ease of use, and they don’t tend to offer much in the way of common standards or approaches to empower or enable users.

Some services try to keep things simple by only providing a limited set of structures and gadgets or widgets to bring content to the pages. They tend to provide great tools for the masses to participate in common collaboration mechanisms, but may restrict how complex content can be structured and linked together.

Other services allow a more under the covers method to develop the content and the structure from the ground up.  These enable more powerful and bespoke structures for content to meet a more custom structures or workflows.

So do these inconsistencies and variety of capabilities, provide sufficient requirements for dedicated content editors – community managers, wiki gardeners etc.?

Yes I think so, perhaps these reasons do justify a specific role or team, but I think this is only a temporary position.

We may presume that the continuing advancement web | application interface development will eventually remove the barriers presented by these current limitations and inconsistencies.  Will that finally level the ability field between web work or applications?  As more than likely all common applications will be fully web served and directly served via a browser.

Perhaps, then this is representative of cultural issue and something we need to be aware of?

Will the ability competently manipulate shared | common content and structures continue to present a skill divide between the information workers of tomorrow?

How much will competent web content editing and management become an absolute necessity as a skill of an information worker? Will the ‘open’ community nature of work present an on-going challenge to how willing or comfortable people feel about sharing or actively contributing  to a shared workspace?

I think this is could still remain an issue, especially if the negative sentiment and attitudes (noted above) persist meaning that the effort of “Collective Curation” needs to remain with a select few.

I believe we need to start:

  • Placing more emphasis or at a minimum parity on working in the web as we do with traditional workstation based applications.
  • Thinking about how to help people adopt an attitude or behaviour of work that encourages and enables them to “narrate their work” or “curate at source”.  Helping them  to decide in process of assessing or developing information what is required to remain in the shared corpus of knowledge and what is trivial and of little or no long term value, and so to store or dispose that information in the correct manner.
  • We need to start using “collective curation” strategies and principles to our knowledge to ensure it remains as value as possible. 

Perhaps in fact the principles or interactions and responsibilities around using “Common Land” could be a useful template to an approach of community content management?

In so much as people recognise a need to share and responsibly manage and steward a common resource, to ensure it remains a sustaining and useful resource for the benefit of all involved for the long term.

So What do you think?  Is this something you’ve noticed too?

Useful references:

List about Collective Curation

Understand collective curation in under 90 seconds

A summary of how we all share and interact with information around us.

We’re becoming information curators

Brian talks about opportunity for all be information curators

Wikipedia : Digital Curation

What is Digital Curation?

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