The cloud unclouded: 11 learning points!

Please let me introduce myself once again: I’m Merel van Dijke, member of DAMA UK. Last Wednesday (2nd of April) I had the pleasure to go to my first DAMA conference ever, about a subject I desperately wanted to know more about: Data Management in the Cloud. Waking up at 5AM was no treat, but luckily the bus, train and car ride to Essex all went smoothly, and in good company J. It was great meeting so many professionals in our field, and to get out of the box called the university. Seeing how the theory actually works in practice was eye opening and really informative! Therefore I want to share my 11 biggest learning points of the day with you!

#1 IT is becoming like water: Only pay when you use (Nigel Turner)
Nigel opened the day with a quick overview of the cloud. Computing becomes more and more like a service, enabling us to share our resources over a network. Clouds are as customizable as can be, allowing for public, private and even hybrid form. After IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and more, it’s now all about XaaS. Which basically means: everything you could possibly want in a cloud.

#2 Clouds are not just awesome. There are cons. (Nigel Turner)
Although clouds allow for greater speed, adoption, standardisation, performance, security and flexibility, don’t say Hallelujah just yet. They also have parts that aren’t that great. After all, you’re trusting your data with someone else, not knowing where it exactly is (and under which law they fall). And in this immature market, the chances of getting stuck with your vendor are high, while clouds are hard to integrate!

#3 Governance is becoming even more important (Nigel Turner)
The cloud is a paradigm shift, since basically everything is getting outsourced. The only thing you really can’t outsource though, is data governance. The data architecture and quality have to be maintained at all times. There lies the future for data professionals.

#4 Don’t  put everything in the cloud (Kawser Hamid)
Always keep the Data Protection Act in mind when you’re putting your data in the cloud. Since something is done with personal data (held/processed), it is not without risk. Who are the controllers and processors are of your data? And is it handled under EU or US law? Is the data being held safely? All important questions to keep in mind!

#5 It should not be managed by only 1 department (Kawser Hamid)
The cloud is super cooperative and should therefore not be managed by IT alone. HR, for example, has an equally important role in the process.

#6 Laws are changing. Keep an eye on them! (Scott Sammons)
National, as well as European and international laws are constantly changing, along with definitions of concepts as privacy and transparency. The next big thing will/might be one rule for all countries in Europe, which may seem more simple, but actually makes things complex. Also, clouds make it harder to detect breaches. At the moment, breaches have to be found in 72 hours, but with clouds that’s just impossible.

#7 The right to be forgotten is weird (Interp of Scott Sammons)
You have the right to be forgotten, but that also means that the company will forget that you don’t want to be contacted anymore. Since that is forgotten. So you can never really get rid of companies – they either contact you or store some of your personal data so they don’t contact you in the future. Weird stuff.

#8 Good decisions require good data. (Chris Hubbard)
Master Data Management (MDM) can also be done in the cloud. When did who do what with my data? Questions that need answering to keep the consistency, quality, permissions and rules surrounding that data in an optimal state.

#9 The IT Paradox (Chris Hubbard)
While CPU, memory and storage costs go down, regulations, competition, innovation and IT costs go up! Staying ahead of the competition can be done by putting MDM in a cloud for lower costs and time, but higher innovation. On the plus side, you can build stronger ROI cases and reduce ownership costs. But at the same time you should always consider whether clouds can hold for example big data, and if the data is sensitive.

#10 The Cloud is not new, but has a major impact (Neil Harvey)
The Cloud is basically a ‘new’ kind of outsourcing that has been around for quite some years (think of Gmail). It impacts both the profession of data management as a whole, but also the professional him/herself. IT departments will become smaller, while more softer skills are needed.

#11 Bad data can be just as helpful as good data (Neil Harvey)
Bad data are a sign of broken processes. Fixing these processes will not only improve the data but also the entire company as a whole.

As you can see: A very interesting day with some great speakers to learn from. I left the room feeling enlightened, and with a more holistic view of the subject than I had before. The day also taught me one last thing: the skills I learn in my MSc Knowledge and Information Systems Management is becoming more and more important in the future. Linking technology to the business, while focusing on governance, multicultural collaboration, social media and integration are the key points we constantly get taught about in lectures. Seeing that it is actually important makes me feel even more happy with my degree.

Thank you DAMA UK for opening my eyes and showing me all the pros and cons of cloud computing. I can’t wait for the next meeting in June!


Catalyst Challenge (5/3/2014)

Beware! This will be a long blogpost 😉 To help you out, I’ve provided some headings in between. Sorry for the length, but there is just so much to tell and I didn’t want to compromise!


 Put together in a team with strangers, working on a problem you’ve never thought of and to top it all off: have a business plan ready in 3 hours to pitch to a team of experts! Yikes!

Yesterday I had one of the most exciting  experiences I’ve had since  arriving in Southampton: The Catalyst Challenge. After being selected with 23 others out of 60 applicants, our day started off with meeting all other contestants, having a really quick coffee and a coach ride to the University of Southampton Science Park. Before this challenge, I never even knew the University of Southampton had a Science Park, so I already learned something new at the beginning of the day: It thus all started off brilliantly!

After arriving at the Catalyst Centre, we were given a badge with name and team name, so for the first time we would be able to find our fellow team members! I had the luck to be in a really cool group with people with different backgrounds: Daniel (management and business), Rahul (engineering) and Rachel (Geography). I immediately became excited: these were people that would probably have completely different views on problems than I had! So, not learning that day would be out the question! Next, we  were lured into a room with cookies and coffee (<3), where we were welcomed by Peter Birkett (CEO USSP), who gave us a quick introduction about the science park and the layout for the day.

Layla Stacey (React Marketing)
After Peter, Layla Stacey from React Marketing, treated us with an inspiring talk about the highs and lows of when she first started her business. Starting up a business, had been her biggest learning curve ever, especially when she came to the stage of charging and hiring people. She handed us some valuable lessons, that I’m sure will be useful for the rest of my career:

–       Work hard.
–       Stay with your vision.
–       Go with your gut feeling.
–       Let go AKA Life is uncontrollable. Ride it.
–       Know your limits.
–       Don’t take all advice.

Phil Sharpe
After Layla’s inspiring talk, Phil Sharpe took the stage and gave us insights in the business canvas that we’d be using during the day. He too, gave some valuable lessons that will be very useful for me in my career:

–       You’re always part of a value chain.
–       Your value proposition should not be longer than 20 seconds long. If you can’t explain it to THAT important person in the elevator, you’re chance will be gone.
–       Only your customer can decide what is valuable. So you can only listen.
–       Always have a degree of uniqueness, but never be completely unique.
–       Be BETTER, NOVEL and CUSTOM.

The Challenges
After taking in all these inspiring words, the challenges were laid out: it was either going to be a business model concerning a website for combining recipes and food shopping, or something completely different: supplying internet to off-grid communities in rural Africa. Everyone in my team (Team A), thought it would be logical that we would have Challenge A, but of course, after Robin Chave (USSP) had told us the logistics of the day and had directed us to our little office, we found out that we got Challenge B allocated.
So, bringing internet to Africa it was. Oh my god. Where to start? I remembered from my problem structuring modules in my MSc, that it would be a good idea to use post-its to brain storm and to come up with ideas. Within a few minutes, we filled the entire wall. But still the focus was not there.  Next phase: Google-ing! How could we possibly get this technically feasible? After half an hour to an hour had gone by, we were stuck. Would we do WIFI balloons, or even drones or something else?! Then we decided: We were on the wrong track. This was a business proposal, not a purely technical one. So our focus shifted quickly to the business aspects: If every village had a box that would somehow connect to the Internet, how could we make money with that? And how could we bring them the boxes?

Our Idea
After much sparring, discussing, brainstorming and writing, we finally came up with our final idea: We would use existing communication channels (charities and voluntary workers) to get to the villages near the big cities first, so that it could spread like a snowball later on. It would be unethical to ask money from the villagers, so we decided to go freemium: the basic internet would be free, but if they wanted faster internet later on, they would have to pay for it (since in the end, we don’t want Africa to stay poor). Being a social business, our revenues would have to come from different sources at the beginning, from crowd funding, to charities, from governments to donations, we would get everything possible. But we had one more trick on our sleeves: we would not only give them Internet, but also a portal/landing page to access the internet. We anticipated that the average African farmer would not (initially) have the critical assessment to grasp the entire width and breadth of the Internet, let alone assessing whether something would be true or not! So we proposed to make a simple portal (think buttons with ‘health’, ‘water’, ‘weather’ etc.), that would be top of mind when they thought of the Internet. Basically, we could be the new Google. I mean, how much more awesome can it get? The last 30 minutes were hectic, with Rahul and Daniel writing down the presentation on a flipover, while me and Rachel were writing on our business canvas in pretty colours.  But, with one minute to spare, we were done right in time!

The Pitches!
With our hands almost falling off from all the writing, it was time for the presentations. Again we were tricked in thinking that we would be first (Team A… I mean, that would make sense?!), but instead we were…. Last. LAST! Oh the agony of sitting in your chair and having to wait. Luckily we were treated to some awesome presentations of the other teams! Everyone had taken a different route with their proposals, and none of them were the same. Ideas were proposed for the Recipe Websites, ranging from asking fees from users, to getting a percentage from the supermarkets, from copy pasting own recipes to using different websites. The sky was the limit! Really cool to hear what the others had been doing all this time. And then, it was the turn of our challenge. The other 2 teams went before us, luckily not having the same idea as us (pfiew!!!). However, some lines we were planning on using (give someone a fish.. rod.. that kind of thing), were used (DAMNED! :p ). So we had to quickly come up with some new one-liners. Much time we didn’t get for that. Because there it was.

Our Pitch!
The moment supreme. Pffff. Daniel and Rahul started off with the presentation, looking the judges right in the eye. Some of them were nodding, others’ heads were shaking and some of them you just couldn’t read. Rachel and I had to wait for Daniel and Rahul to finish, because we would do the questions. Nerve wrecking! But there it was… Our turn! We got some tough questions, asking how we would compete with Google and Facebook, how we would monetise things and more (– but with all the adrenaline I can’t remember now ha ha! ) Rachel and I stood our ground and had an answer on every single question! We were pumped! The idea popped into our minds: We might even win this thing!

Even more cool presentations!
While the judges retired to assess our presentations, we were treated to even more cool presentations! This time from two guys who were actually running the businesses we had proposed for! Nobody expected this… It was so awesome! First up was Mike Santer who, with his company BluPoint, aims to bring internet to offgrid communities. It was great to hear all the cool stuff he’s doing, and even more fun that we was doing it in quite a similar way as we proposed! After him, Danyal Bilgil took the stage, talking about his start-up combining recipes with food shopping. He gave us some good lessons as well:
–       100% that give up, fail.
–       Work hard and believe in what you’re doing.

The day ended with a reception in the Foyer, where we had the chance to talk and network with the people that had been around us all day. It was a great opportunity to talk to people who were actually in the field, but also with our fellow contestants, people from career destinations, USSP, etc. etc. Until we were all drawn to the stairs: the winner was going to be announced! Every group got great feedback and some important learning points for the future. Really valuable! For us, the judges particularly liked how we answered the questions, but also our proposed portal and using the already existing communication channels. We could have given more attention to the financial bit in the future…………. The suspense kept us on the edge of our seats. Sandra Sassow (SEaB Energy), gave us another inspiring talk about the challenges of setting up our own business, until Peter Birkitt said the relieving words: The winners of the Catalyst Challenge: Team A!!!! YES YES YES YES YES! We were pumped!

Thank you!
We won! And I’m still pumped about it! I want to end this blog post with thanking all the people that have organised this amazing day. I learned SO much about myself, starting my own business, team work, problem structuring and pitching. And I absolutely loved every second of it. Also, I’ve met some amazing people that I really hope to stay in touch with. So, if you are thinking about entering the Catalyst Challenge next year: Do it! It was an amazing experience and I would certainly do it again!

I’m a softie.

** This post is a reflection on myself to get my thoughts straight. **


 People who know me might be a bit put off by the title of this post. Despite my likeable huge cheeks, I consider myself not someone to be messed with. A control freak? Definitely. Someone who likes to take the lead? Very often! But a softie is not something people and myself associate ‘me’ with.

I’m a softie. I learn about communication. I learn about social media. I learn about information systems and knowledge systems. I learn about the impacts of all of these on strategy, on the organisation and on the world as a whole. And I find it all incredibly interesting. But, one should never forget to look at the even bigger whole: I’m a softie. Despite me knowing loads of stuff about my interest fields, I do not know how to code or how to build a database. I am not a computer scientist and I don’t want to be one either.

The only thing I cannot stand, however, is to stay as soft as I am. I don’t want to be a softie. I don’t want to be just a ‘communication girl’. I want to harden myself. I have taken my first step in this by joining the MSc Knowledge and Information Systems Management at the University of Southampton in September, where I’m learning way more about the technical and managerial side of businesses and communication. The more lectures I attend, the more assignments I do, the less I feel like just a communicator. I’m starting to feel more of an IS analyst. But I don’t want and will not stop there. I use the power of MOOCs to broaden my knowledge even further, to learn myself how to code. I’ve started to take my first steps into the world of Python, Hadoop, Javascript, SAS and PHP, and I’m loving every second of it. (I think) I will never be a developer, but I do want to understand as much as there is to know about the systems. I want to combine my hard and soft side together, becoming… Sard? Hoft? In any case a combination of both.

So, I might have been a softie. But you just wait for me to harden up!


It’s like riding a bike: The ‘failure’ of Knowledge Management.


One day it all becomes clear: You want to ride a bike. You have never ridden on a bike before, but everyone is doing it, so you want it too. You go to the shop and buy the best bike your money can buy. With the bike next to you everything is set. D-Day. The Day of Days. The Day YOU are going to ride a bike. You get on, place your bottom at the saddle, squeeze the handlebars tight, take a deep breath and you go! And fall.

You fell, and quite badly I must add. One of those falls of which you think: That must’ve hurt. So… Why did you fall? Whose fault was it? Was it the bike? Could be. The manufacturer might have made a mistake, causing the bike not to function properly. But, since your friends are able to ride on your bike, and the bike was brand new and properly tested, that’s probably not it. Let’s face it. It was not the bike. It was you. You: The one that didn’t know how to ride a bike.

Maybe you are just not able to ride a bike at all. Maybe you are morbidly obese that makes you just incapable (no mean things intended). Maybe riding a bike is just not your thing. And that’s okay.

Last week in class, our lecturer mentioned that “Knowledge Management Systems (KMSs) have failed to fulfill their promises”. At home, typing Knowledge Management Failure into Google gave me 29,700,000 results. I found numerous articles online about failing knowledge management initiatives, because of countless reasons. And yes. This annoys me.

It might be a very Dutch way of seeing it, but knowledge management is like riding a bike. Some people ride, and some people don’t. If you have a company with an organization culture that is closed, secretive and not-focused on teams, knowledge management might just not be for you. If your employees are not willing to share their knowledge, all KMS attempt will be fruitless. In the end, the system is just a tool to enhance the knowledge sharing in an organization. Enhance, not create. For a KMS to work, it has to be implemented in a company with the right mindset and values. If this is not present yet, KMSs are not your first step to take. An attempt to change your culture is.

If you really want to ride that bike, you might want to lose some weight first. Or just look for other ways of transportation.

From paper to digital (Jan 30th: Bryan Glick, Computer Weekly)

cw com4colnew

Last Thursday (30th of January) I had the pleasure to attend a lunch seminar talk at the University of Southampton by Bryan Glick, editor in chief of Computer Weekly. During this hour session he shared some valuable insights in the world of journalism and digital magazines to us: a crowd filled with Webscience students, Digichamps, KISM students and many more. In this blog post I light out 5 of his insights and my corresponding views. If you have any additions or comments, please contact me: I’d love to spar!

#1 Paper is not dead.

Going digital means that you “bring together all your channels for content in a coherent way that engages your audience”. Where first there was only paper, now there is a wide range of media available. Lots of people are saying that paper is dead, but that’s not true. It’s just not as dominant a medium as before. Just like other media types, it has been remediated in others. Analog goes digital, the iPod goes iPhone, and paper journals goes digital. The old form still exists (think vinyl), but won’t be the primary medium. That’s the world nowadays: deal with it.

#2 You’re more likely to die in a plane crash than to click on a web ad.

When going from paper to an online magazine, one has to rethink its entire business model. Since readers are very unlikely to click on web advertisements, one should rethink: are advertisements the only way to make money next to subscriptions? The answer, according to Computer Weekly, is no. They have moved from being only a computer magazine to being a computer magazine with a business analytics part. Data is sold to IT companies in order to create sustainable revenue. So: “Go digital, don’t just digitize”. And, most of all, “Traffic + members = money”.

#3 From one-way communication to interaction.

In the good ‘ol days, journalism was a one-way communication job. One would write an article, subscribers would read it and that was that. You might have one cheeky reader sending in a letter to the magazine with some comments, but this was more exception than rule. Now this has, obviously, completely changed. Journalists are now expected to interact with their readers. For them to do this, they need more from their employer: autonomy, responsibility, freedom and trust.

#4 From Information gatekeeper to explainer.

News has become a commodity. Everyone has access to ‘all’ information since the birth of the Internet. This means that the job for the journalist has fundamentally changed. Where he/she first was a gatekeeper of information, deciding which news their readers would read, he/she now transitioned into an explainer, a sharer, advisor and community manager. The fundamentals haven’t changed, but this does mean that journalists need to understand their business and target audience even better than before. They now have the opportunity to go more in-depth and to free themselves from the tyranny of quantity. “You’re not selling news, you’re selling a paper”.

#5 You’ll never make as much money as before.

With the dawn of the Internet, the barriers of entry into journalism have been incredibly reduced. One can start a blog at any time they wish and have a wide range of resources available from every corner of the web. This means that (online) magazines will never make as much money as before. The demand for content and the total pot of money is still growing, but the share one gets is much smaller. The power has shifted from the publisher to the consumer. It’s their choice how, when and what they want to read, and how they are going to search for it. This also gives a new challenge for journalism in finding the balance between good content and SEO.

So, going from paper to digital does not only simply mean reading a journal from a computer instead of from a paper page. It goes along with a fundamental shift in power, money, business strategy and job characteristics. I want to thank Bryan Glick for making this clear again in his very informative and engaging talk. Obviously, I’ve bookmarked Computer Weekly now 🙂

Coursera MOOCs: One step forward, Two steps back


Sorry! It has been a while since I last blogged, but I’ve been crazily busy. ‘Blame’ the exam period, but now I’m back and stronger than ever! Just as I was starting on writing a blog post about the next big step in MOOCs, I was devastated by a blog post by Coursera itself, shared to me yesterday by my Iranian friend Saleh. Worst news I’ve heard all week, but first things first: The step forward.

The Step forward

Anyone that knows me a little knows that I love MOOCs. My passion in life is lifelong learning and MOOCs are the perfect (FREE!) tool for that. On LinkedIn (about a week ago), a post appeared about someone who had ‘completed an MBA’ with MOOCs. Only problem: MOOCs aren’t the same as a real MBA. That’s mostly got to do, in my eyes, with the marking of the coursework and exams. Coursework is all reviewed with peer reviews, making the marks highly subjective to the knowledge and expertise of other course mates (that should be at the same level as you). If a lower level student marks you, you will probably get a higher grade and vice versa. Next to that, the exams on a MOOC are all (as far as I have seen) multiple-choice and thus never go really in-depth at the material. The tools don’t reach so far that they can automatically grade an essay question and schools don’t have the resources to grade every exam of 16.000 MOOCers individually. Until now! I am really excited that Coursera has included the option of “Specializations”: sequences of separate MOOCs about one single topic that end with a step-stone project combining all skills a participant has gained together. The value of this is not in the sequence of MOOCs, that is something that one could do already, but in the final project. I have not been able to figures out how these are going to be graded. Assuming that these projects will be graded by academics and that they are challenging enough, this will overcome the grading flaw of MOOCs today. This would really add a lot to the value of MOOCs and may pave the path of acceptance of the certificates by the professional world. If, however, the projects are again going to be graded by peers, the impact will be much less. It will be really interesting how this is going to proceed in the future.

Two big steps back

MOOCs have thus taken a big step forward for most of the Coursera population. ‘Most’, because since today there has been a restriction on the MOOC community. The value and of MOOCs is that they allow lifelong learning, for everyone at any place at any time. This is what separates MOOCs from universities (with high fees, physical locations and entrance tests) and gives it its unique character. Until today.

Restricted by US regulations, inhabitants of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, will no longer be able to get on the Coursera platform ( This is outrageous. People are being denied the possibilities that all other people in the world do have: expanding of knowledge, personal growth and invaluable relationships with other MOOC participants, only to name a few. A similar thing happened in my home country, The Netherlands, in 2008 where Iranian students were prohibited on studying nuclear power. But this MOOC restriction goes even further. Not only are Cubans, Iranians, Sudanese and Syrians prohibited from learning about ‘possible threatening’ areas such as nuclear power, but they are restricted from every single Coursera MOOC. What possible harm could it do for a Cuban to learn about Gamification, Sports and Society, or even Early Renaissance Architecture in Italy?! This really gets me mad. In my opinion, in the current digital age, all people should be able to learn about the things they find interesting and valuable. But now, this awesome possibility has been shattered by the US government. Thanks, for intervening in our lives again and shattering this beautiful opportunity for gaining knowledge and learning about each other’s lives, cultures and experiences. It’s such a shame that a great step forward is getting overshadowed by such a big step back.

The Internet of Sound Circles



Lately I have the feeling that I am constantly exploring the ever expanding boundaries of the Internet. Not only am I getting more educated on how ‘the thing’ actually works by taking this MOOC, but am also attending more and more internet-related events. One of the first events I went to was in October: A lunch seminar of Ben Mawson named “Walk inside a piece of music via the 3D Binaural Audio Rendering Engine”. Calling the 3DBARE  a exercise in “digital liveness”, lured me in and… boy… Was I not disappointed!

A cool story about the actual walking in a piece of music, as if you were walking through an orchestra, constantly experiencing a different piece of the music play. I had never realized before the static way we are actually listening to music when we’re sitting at a concert or listening to our earphones. My eyes were opened. I had to see this thing or something similar in action!

When my Digichamp work brought me to the Creative Digifest 2013 (#SXSC3), I encountered Ben’s work again. He won the Dragon’s Den styled competition with his 3DBARE! While thanking the crowd and the panel for his prize, he mentioned that he was planning on doing a practical master class about a GPS-enabled software for Android called NoTours, on the 10th of December 2013. Obviously, I was hyped. I knew I had to go!

And so, I went! With a small group of people from very different backgrounds (from music to archeology!) we got a class from Ben about NoTours;  a software Ben discovered while researching using listener tracking to make the experience of audio changeable . With the open-source tool NoTours everyone is able to, with a bit of practice, build their own maps of sounds. It uses the Google Maps API to annotate landscape with interactive audio. In short: You create circles on Google Maps (in this case a field in Southampton’s Common), give each circle a specific sound, upload these circles and sounds on an android phone, put the phone’s GPS on and go to the actual field! The result was in one word, AWESOME! Walking on the field allowed me to switch between the sounds I had put in, literally walking through the composition of sounds I had made. Some loud, some quiet, some overlapping and some alone. The physical activity of walking changed the things I heard. One word: Awesome! Just image what kind of cool stuff you can do… Walking through an entire Beatles album, creating games for children where they have to find that one music piece on a field, creating audio tours without annoying and disruptive clicks in the middle. Oh man… So many options! (We even made an evil plan of creating secret circles on the sea, applying ‘Jaws’ tunes to unaware swimmers. Hihihi).

So thanks again Ben, for the awesome tour in the world of NoTours. I can’t wait to see where it and your 3DBARE are going!

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