Curation in the Small: Personal Event Networks and Getting Things Done


Summary

As enterprises become more social they will necessarily start to give customers access to information that allows them to curate their own interactions with myriad systems and services. Building systems that use and respond to this information will greatly enhance how we interact with service providers. Personal event networks can play a role in making the interoperability and orchestration of these system scalable and affordable.

Neck pain

Over the last few days JP Rangaswami has published a set of three blog posts on curation:

  • In Thinking about curation in the enterprise, JP begins the journey, talking about what curation is, why traditional enterprise organization has led to dysfunctional curation, and why the social enterprise (JP's words) holds the promise of giving us something better.
  • Part 2 gets into the real business of curation. JP says "When a human curates, she does three things. She selects something (or things) from a larger group. She organises those selections cohesively. And she arranges to present those things in such a way that people find it easy to engage with those things."
  • In the third post, Curation in the Enterprise: Actionable information, JP talks about the reason we curate: to get something done. He gives his thoughts about what makes information actionable: Accuracy and veracity, timeliness, comprehensiveness, and comprehensibility.

I have to admit, all the time I'm reading JP, I'm thinking about how personal event networks play in the notion of the social enterprise that he's working on. I got to thinking about curation as a model for activities that we all do every day. And, naturally, about the role of personal event networks in assisting curation.

The general idea is that people want to get certain things done and that gives rise to sets of tasks they have to accomplish. What they want to accomplish gives rise to what they need to do. That process feels like an act of curation.

To see this more clearly, let me point you at a scenario I outlined on my blog almost a year ago, something I call "Project Neck Pain" or PNP. PNP involves a fictional personal named Scott Phillips. Scott has an unexplained pain in his neck and he's had an MRI. A few days later, he receives the report from the radiologist and it's not good. The radiologist recommends that Scott see an orthopedic surgeon and even recommends a few. Besides the obvious fear and potential disabilities that such news brings, Scott also has to manage the frustration and hassle of finding and scheduling a competent surgeon.

There are three large tasks that loom before Scott:

  1. Select a surgeon
  2. Schedule the initial consult
  3. Establish a patient record with the new doctor

Scott wants to get his neck fixed, so he needs to do these things (among others).

When Scott engages in these tasks, he is curating the information by selecting, organizing, and presenting. The end result is an appointment with the right doctor that gets Scott on the path back to health. Without some kind of help, this is a messy and time consuming process.

  • Selecting a doctor involves finding out who is available in the area and determing what their credentials are. This might involve multiple Web searches, talking to friends, consulting with a family doctor, and making phone calls. Systems that present accurate information, when its needed, with the right parameters, and in context would help, but they are largely unavailable. We perform these various tasks in an ad hoc fashion.
  • Scheduling the doctor is a familiar task to any of us. We all schedule things every day. Even with the tools that we take for granted at work like free-busy calendars, this is no easy task. In our personal interactions, we generally don't have systems that can help with the process.
  • Lastly, we're all too familiar with filling out the same form over and over again every time we visit a new doctor to create a patient record. We're all hoping that some magical system will be created by the health industry to solve this problem, but 10 years in, we may want to take matters into our own hands.

So, while we might view this process as an act of curation and even see how the traditional tools of curation in the enterprise, applied to our personal systems might help, we're left to wait for some better future where curating our personal interactions isn't so difficult.

The problem, as I see it, is that while the Web has given us access to all kinds of information and services, we don't have good tools for integrating and orchestrating them. When I hear JP (and others) talk about the "social enterprise." I don't just see value inside the enterprise, but also value that is created when the enterprise and it's products and services interact socially with customers as well.

Why doesn't the CRM system that the radiologist and other health care providers use help me with all these tasks? Why isn't there a good way for me to integrate recommendations from places like Angie's List and my social networks? Why can't I automatically interact with my doctor's calendar? Why isn't there a convenient way for me to transfer my health information to a new provider?

As an aside, don't get caught up in the fact that this is a health care scenario. Think of it more generally as "find and schedule an appointment with a service provider." Whether you're trying to find an orthopedic surgeon to fix your neck or a plumber to fix your water heater, the problems and solutions are largely the same.

We developed a demo using a dozen separate Kynetx apps acting together in a personal event network to provide a loosely coupled solution to Scott's problem. Take a minute and watch this vide to show how it works.

The details of how all this works are available in the original blog post if you're interested.

Note that the video doesn't show a complete automation of the process--that's not desirable. The systems built for the demo simply aid Scott in his curation process, taking out some of the bumps, presenting information in a timely and comprehensible fashion, and orchestrating system interactions.

I believe that the fact that this is possible--that I can build it--means that it's inevitable. Probably not exactly as I've envisioned it, but generally. As companies become more "social" they will necessarily have to start providing us with systems that allow these kinds of systems to be built. Otherwise they'll just be spamming me with ads, and that's not consistent with the vision that JP and others are espousing. I'm ready for it.