Friday, 20 November 2015

Registering changes in language and technology

The December issue of Business Information Review should be available to download in a couple of weeks, and hard copies will be posted shortly after. One of the highlights of the journal is Martin White’s Perspectives column, which in the December issue explores the theme of Language, communities and virtual working. This raises a question about how technology changes language, and how that affects business processes and our working lives.

One of the most prolific commentators on technological changes to language is David Crystal. Over a long and distinguished career as a linguist, Crystal has written number of accessibly books about the changes to language that technology brings about. These include Language and the Internet (2001) and Txting: The gr8 Deb8 (2008).  Through these works, Crystal attempt to counter widespread anxieties about the damage to language done by the internet, video games, and mobile phones  typified by Robert Winson’s book Bad Ideas? (2010).  You can get a sense of Crystal’s arguments from this video:

Technology may not be destroying language, but it does change language, and this does have profound consequences for the ways in which we communicate in a business context. Over the past twenty years for example we have seen a massive diversification of contexts within which writing is used – emails, SMS, Twitters, virtual worlds, online gaming, blogs, wikis, and so on – the list is almost endless. Each of these brings with it a series of social conventions about the appropriate form language to use – the appropriate linguistic register. We have also seen writing used in many contexts that would previously have been reserved for the spoken word. How many of the emails we receive every day would have been sorted with a phone call twenty years ago? How much ambiguity arises out of the fact that writing now dominates business and professional communication, and writing lacks the linguistic clues carries by gesture, expression, and tone of voice of the written word?

One of the key skills that employers often state new career entrants lack is writing and communications skills. However, my experience as an educator has been that it is not skills in using language effectively that many young people lack, but skills in understanding and adopting the appropriate linguistic register.  And this is understandable perhaps not only because the conventions of communications have shifted to a more informal register over time, but also because those conventions are more fluid as a consequence of the diversification of communications channels. Everyone knows how to open and sign-off a business letter, but practices in opening and signing-off business emails vary wildly. There is little doubt that business communication has become more informal over time, but that dividing line between the appropriate use of more formal and more informal registers has in many contexts become quite difficult to discern. As channels of communication continue to grow more diverse the conventions will almost certainly become less fixed, and the difficulties of adopting the appropriate register will undoubtedly grow.

Luke Tredinnick

Friday, 6 November 2015

New editorial board members for Business Information Review

We’re very pleased to announce that Lynn Strand and Denise Carter have joined the editorial board of Business Information Review. Both Lynn and Denise strengthen the international dimensions of the editorial board, and we’re tremendously pleased to have them involved. 

Lynn Strand is the Principal of Outside Knowledge in Minneapolis. This market intelligence practice serves clients in the technology, finance, healthcare and consumer goods industries. Lynn provides both in depth research services as well as analysis and insights to her clients. Lynn was previously with FICO, a predictive analytics company and Iconoculture, a consumer behavior insights firm. 

Lynn has been published in several information journals and was featured in SLA's Information Outlook magazine and AIIPS’s Connections newsletter. She is currently the SLA Competitive Intelligence Division's Chair-elect and was the SLA CID 2014 Annual Conference Planner. She also received the Division's Outstanding New Leader Award for 2014. Additionally, Lynn is a contributor and guest editor for FreePint. Additionally, she has served SLA as a Division Chair, as a member of the 2012 Conference Advisory Committee. Lynn holds a BA in Anthropology and a Masters of Library and Information Science and executive education in Marketing. You can follow her on Twitter as @KnowledgeMama

Denise Carter is an experienced and creative information professional. She holds a Masters degree in Information Management; is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (MCILIP); and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP-1).  Enthusiastic for the power great knowledge and information systems can bring to a process, team or organisation, Denise has proven experience in creating and developing knowledge systems to support organizational goals and objectives.

Before setting up DCision Consult in January 2013, Denise worked for 5 years in the Global Business Intelligence department of Merck Serono, a global bio-pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland. She built and led a team: Knowledge Analytics, delivering high-quality competitive landscapes, epidemiology, and other relevant data sets, that supported commercial activities. Prior to that Denise designed and implemented a new global information unit for Serono, creating new services and resources.  She was awarded a Chief Executive Officer Award for customer service in 2006.  Denise began her career at ICI Chemicals & Polymers in the UK as a Librarian, bringing a service back in-house to support 1000 research chemists. Denise has published on different knowledge & information topics and is a speaker at international conferences. 

Both Lynn and Denise bring outstanding professional expertise to our editorial board and we’re looking forward to working with them over the coming months and years. They join our other board members who collectively have an unrivaled breadth and depth of commercial information and knowledge management practice, providing a pool of expertise on which the journal draws liberally. Our full editorial board can be found here: 

The first editorial board under our editorship was held in London earlier this week with members of the editorial board joining in person and via video conferencing. It was great to get some open discussions and feedback on progress so far. There were very interesting discussions around the future scope and focus on the journal which hopefully will begin to appear next year.  Updates via this blog, @BIRJournal, and our LinkedIn group.  

Friday, 30 October 2015

Back to Basics?

Another of the issues we look into in December’s BIR is the challenges around the effective implementation of policy, why it is so important and what the solutions may look like.  On reviewing the subject I discovered that poor implementation of policy was not specific to any one sector, the same challenges faced everyone.  Of particular interest was an Oracle sponsored Economist Intelligence Unit report – Enabling Efficient Policy Implementation (2010).  The research investigated both the challenges and opportunities faced by organisations today and discovered that poor implementation of policy could be catastrophic for organisations leading to law suits, prosecution or fines, however these consequences did not affect greatly how policy was created, communicated and implemented. 

We have seen the consequences of poor information security policy implementation first hand with most weeks having a new incident reported in the news.  The latest story to hit the headlines being the security breach at British Gas but perhaps the biggest story was that of TalkTalk.   This illustrates the close link between IT security policy and information security policy but also the lack of clear standards on what levels of security are needed for different types of information held ( ).

There is a definite need to be proactive in policy implementation, from first stage communications to effective monitoring, all of which needs to be properly resourced, a challenge indeed in many of todays leaner organisations.  Challenge, yes, but highly important as nicely stated in the EIU report, “policy cannot enact itself”!

But then if resourcing is important so is the need for effective ways to ensure those affected by the policy see the importance of it and adhere to it.  Well yes of course but this seems to be easier said than done.

At the start of our exploration of this area two of our articles look at policy this time, considering the need for information security management and the importance for information asset management.  Read more in December's issue and follow us on this subject throughout 2016.

Friday, 23 October 2015

On the brink of a digital doomsday?

A couple of weeks ago the Daily Telegraph reported the threat of an emerging information dark age ( According to Professor David Garner, former president of the Royal Society for Chemistry, technological obsolescence endangers the future of digital information, and underlines the necessity of paper back-ups. Professor Garner cited the BBC’s Digital Domesday project from 1986 as an example of digital obsolescence.
On the brink of a digital domesday

You could be forgiven for experiencing a vague sense of deja vu on reading the above. It is an article that could have been published any time since over the past twenty years. Indeed, the specific example of the BBC Digital Domesday has almost become a cliché of such concerns. While I don’t want to suggest that no challenges remain, the Digital Domesday happens to be a really bad example of the problem of digital preservation, and bad in precisely the right way to highlight why the problem isn’t quite as catastrophic as it may appear.

The attraction of the example derives from the contrast between the vellum of the surviving copies of the original Domesday book, and the laser disk of the 1980s equivalent. But this association with an important historical artifact confers a spurious significance on the digital Domesday. In fact the BBC project has no great historical value and is somewhat of a cultural curiosity.

More importantly, the BBC Digital Domesday is a bad example of the issues associated with digital Domesday because many of the reasons for its rapid obsolescence to do not apply to much digital information today. It was obsolete almost before it was complete because of a unfortunate technological framework -– the laser video disk which was already virtually obsolete outside of educational contexts, and the unsuccessful BBC Master Computer. This tied the data to both its storage medium, and to its proprietary computing environment. The 1980s witnessed a clash of competing proprietary systems and standards in the micro computer marketplace, but this is a situation which has now all but disappeared. In place we have a suite of agreed and open standards and data formats which not only function in principle, but underpin contemporary digital architecture in a real and largely profitable way. And despite the anxieties of Zittrain (The Future of the Internet, 2008) about tethered devices, open systems and standard and generative computing devices are winning the battle.

Finally it is a bad example of an emerging dark age because the digital Domesday project has not been lost. It never really was. You can access it right now at: If anything it is a very good example of how robust digital data really is. 

This is not to imply that digital information provides no preservation issues. The best format for created archival record is still paper (especially in those legal related contexts where records are required essentially in perpetuity).  But while this is still best practice, it has to be recognized that it is a defensive position relating to best practice for future archival purposes, and does not reflect the probable future survival of most digital information current in existence. We are on the brink of an age of limitless and virtually cost free storage where the default position will be to migrate and retain data precisely because of the potential future commercial and cultural value of that information which can never be precisely estimated in advance.

What remains however is the problem of data migration and intellectual property rights. It is still the case that information systems do not talk to one another as politely as we might like. Or often at all. This is not a problem that can be overcome with standards and agreements, because the semantic structure of data sets is a significant part of their meaning, and can never be entirely standardised. More importantly, intellectual property prevents automatic archiving of materials In February, Vint Cerf raised this issue, and ( suggesting that:

“the rights of preservation might need to be incorporated into our thinking about things like copyright and patents and licensing. We’re talking about preserving them for hundreds to thousands of years."

Cerf also suggested a way to manage data migration issues: “the solution” he suggested “is to take an X-ray snapshot of the content and the application and the operating system together, with a description of the machine that it runs on, and preserve that for long periods of time. And that digital snapshot will recreate the past in the future” ( This is an example of using software emulation techniques in digital preservation, widely discussed.

This all comes to mind as we’re preparing December’s issue of Business Information Review (, with an interesting article on data migration from legacy information systems, and suggestions for proposed ways of managing the issue.

Luke Tredinnick

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Business Information Review has new editors!

We are delighted to announce the appointment of the new editors of Business Information Review.  They are Luke Tredinnick and Claire Laybats.
Luke is a Senior Lecturer in Information Management at London Metropolitan University and Course Leader for the BSc Media & Communications. He has taught in the fields of information and knowledge management, and written numerous books and articles addressing intranet management, information management and digital technologies. Prior to joining the HE sector, he worked as librarian and intranet content manager for a financial services and accounting firm.
Claire is Head of Information and Knowledge consultancy at TFPL.  Claire has worked for TFPL for over ten years in the information and knowledge management field working in recruitment, then heading up training and events before moving into her current role in September 2013.  She has been involved in and led key pieces of research into skills development in the information profession and has worked actively on consulting projects with clients in both the corporate and public sector nationally and internationally.
Claire and Luke will be ‘official editors’ for the September 2015 issue onwards.  However they are already working with us to ensure the handover of the journal is as smooth as possible.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

High risk in the cloud

The latest European Cloud Adoption and Risk Report surveyed approximately 1.6 million cloud users.  It discovered that the average number of cloud services used by the average company has increased by 23% in 2014.

The report found that fewer than 10% of these services meet the ‘most stringent’ security requirements while 74% of clouds services used by European firms do not meet the EU’s Data Protection Directive’s regulations.

A key challenge is that employees are using services without the express knowledge or support of their IT departments.  This trend to ‘Shadow IT’ services poses enormous security risks to businesses. 

In one case highlighted by the report one single employee uploaded over 17GB of sensitive data to 71 high risk cloud services over three months.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Scott Brown joins BIR Editorial Board

We are delighted to announce that Scott Brown has joined our Editorial Board.  He joins Martin Ainsworth, Anthony Capstick, Steve Dale, Ceri Hughes, Penny Leach, Mary Peterson and Gillian Ragsdell. 

Scott Brown is Owner of Social Information Group, an independent information practice focused on the effective use of social tools for sharing and finding information. He has over 20 years of experience across corporate settings, public and academic libraries, as well as consulting and coaching work. He has presented at a multitude of information industry conferences, and has authored books, reports, papers and articles. He is adjunct faculty at San Jose State University in California. He received his library degree from San Jose State University in California in 1999, and holds a Masters in Counseling from Regis University in Colorado.

He is well known to readers of BIR, having written three articles for us since we joined as Editors. 
  • Mobile apps: Which ones really matter to the information professional?, Scott Brown, Business Information Review, December 2012; vol. 29, 4: pp. 231-237.
  • Coping with information obesity: A diet for information professionals, Scott Brown, Business Information Review, September 2012; vol. 29, 3: pp. 168-173.
  • Social media for company research: A few of the best tools, Scott Brown,  Business Information Review, September 2011; vol. 28, 3: pp. 163-174