Personal process management: the overlooked side of BPM

Being quite involved both in the BPM field and in social networking, personal productivity tools, and Web application design, I’m always appalled when I think about how many findings and practices designed for businesses could benefit our everyday life too.
One specific example of this is about the BPM practices and their potential added value for end users.
With the advent of Web 2.0 and online social interactions, people started sharing thoughts, contents and tasks online. This evolved to cover also socialization of task management, which is currently supported by a plethora of online services directed to the final user (for instance, see: RememberTheMilk or Astrid).
First, I tried to build a list of features they cover, and that’s what I obtained:

As you see, they all provide plenty of features, with some diversification among each other. However, all these tools share a common weakness: they don’t provide any way for structuring the interactions, dependencies or constraints between tasks.

Based on this consideration, I thought about a vision towards the application of BPM techniques and tools to personal task management. The challenge of this is finding the appropriate level of complexity of processes: obviously one cannot expose the full complexity of BP modeling languages to end users. The language for modeling such processes should be complete enough for describing basic processes but also simple enough to let people understand, accept and use them in their everyday life. Therefore, I’m proposing to strip off some of the expressive power of enterprise business processes, so as to accommodate end user needs and acceptance.

I presented a paper at the BPMS2 workshop on Business Process Management and Social Software at the BPM conference on this. The slides are available on slideshare and reported below.
If you are interested, you can read the full paper here (scroll to the bottom of the page and download the PDF).

To my understanding neither the commercial tool nor the academic community (except for some work done by Michael Rosemann, reflected only in a one-year-old short post) is addressing the issue.
Feel free to comment and propose extensions or changes! This is just a first attempt in the direction of personal process management (but already supported by a prototype implementation, see the video attached to the slides or available on youTube!).

A demonstration video of our tool is on YouTube:

To keep updated on my activities you can subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog or follow my twitter account (@MarcoBrambi).

Andrei Broder, Yahoo! VP on computational advertising: Seminar on Targeted Advertising.

Andrei Broder,
Yahoo! Research

Andrei Broder from Yahoo! Research gave two seminars at Politecnico di Milano on introduction to internet monetization (in Como) and on targeted advertising (in Milano) as a branch of computational advertising.
Computational advertising is about finding the best match between a given user in a given context and a suitable advertisement.
The context can be a web search result page, or a content page provided by a portal. The ads should match these contents.
Ads aim at showing the product, provide information, induce direct action (e.g., direct marketing such as expiring coupons, which induce some urgency in the reader) but also build a general and long-lasting image for a brand.
The core motivation of targeting the advertising is that sending the appropriate advertising to more interested users is the best option for everybody: the advertiser (who gets to the users he is really looking for), the advertising company (who gets more clicks on the ads, i.e., a higher click per view rate, and therefore earns more money), and the user himself (who can finally get advertising interesting for him).
Advertisers use targeting in several ways (geotargeting, demographics, adv. channel, and so on).
The problem addressed by this discipline can be summarized in the problem introduced by information overloading. When there is a large availability of information, there is a scarcity of interest of users. In modern time one must put a huge effort for getting users’ attention.
Technically speaking, the goal of targeted advertising is to raise the Accuracy-Reach curve (i.e., precision-recall curve).

Targeted advertising can be achieved through two main approaches:

  • rule based: the advertiser provides a set of rules for targeting the right segments of users (e.g., based on age, geographical info, sex, and so on).
  • model based: the advertisement platform defines a user model that lets it address better the kind of users that might be interested in an ad.

Modern targeting is model-based and it relies on the concept of persona, which is basically a relevant behaviour and profile of user. A persona is a facet of personalities. A single user may cover different personas.
The other crucial aspect is based on interests or topics that people like. These can change in time. To play good targeting you need to draw temporal pictures and consider combination of topics that are relevant at the same time.
Demographic targeting is the classical approach.
One important technique is re-targeting, which is a particular case of behavioral targeting: you do something on a web site and later on, when doing searches or other online activities, you get  advertisements from that web site.
That can be simply achieved through cookies added to your browser when visiting the original site. The question is how much is this acceptable? Do users feel their privacy has been violated?
One basic solution is obviously to delete cookies in the browser. Statistics show that people tend to be more careful in time and delete cookies more often.

Seminar by Andrei Broder at Politecnico di Milano on Targeted Internet Advertising Issues.
Marco Brambilla introducing Andrei Broder at the seminar in Como.
Andrei Broder during the seminar on Internet Monetization in Como.

To keep updated on my activities you can subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog or follow my twitter account (@MarcoBrambi).

ICWE 2008 contributions

I’ve published some of my current work on Web engineering at the ICWE 2008 conference. This year the conference will be held in July 2008 in Yorktown Heights (USA), at the IBM T.J. Watson research center. The paper that will be presented there are:

  • M. Brambilla, C. Tziviskou. “Modeling Ontology-Driven Personalization of Web Contents”
  • M. Brambilla, J.C. Preciado, M. Linaje, and F. Sanchez-Figueroa, “Business Process -based Conceptual Design of Rich Internet Applications”
  • M. Brambilla, A. Origgi. “MVC-Webflow: an AJAX Tool for Online Modeling of MVC-2 Web Applications”, Demo

Proceedings will be available in electronic form by IEEE Press.