Monday, October 22, 2001

K-logs in organizations - technical and organizational challenges

John Robb at userland.com has started discussing the intersection between knowledge management and weblogs. Near as I can tell he begins this discussion in his weblog back on October 2. It's worth following this developing line of thought. Robb has also started a yahoo discussion group on the same topic.

Conceptually, this is a powerful set of insights about how to make knowledge management work, at least in knowledge work environments that skew toward the knowledge creation end of the spectrum. I suspect that the largest challenges to making this approach succeed will come from two issues. The easier one is that the Userland tools (Frontier, Manila, Radio)will be perceived as outside the mainstream of software choices.

More difficultly, the K-log idea depends on making it easier to publish to your weblog than to do anything else. Technically, this is trivial with the Userland tools. I have been doing something very much along the lines that Robb described on my local machine for the last two years. Getting the organizational power structure and the IT organization to simultaneously permit this, however, will be exceedingly difficult. This is not idle speculation, by the way. I owned this problem in my previous incarnation in the private sector, yet was never able to get a fundamentally similar solution to take root.

While it's certainly possible that this reflects the limits of my managerial competence, I think there are two deeper organizational issues that need to be tackled to make this concept succeed. First, you have to sell the concept against much of the prevailing wisdom about KM. Second, you have to address a fundamental mis-perception about the KM problem. The underlying strength of the Robb's k-log formulation is that it places KM responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the individual knowledge worker. While this is emminently reasonable, if you look at most other discussions of KM and recommendations about it, the problem is always someone else's. Real progress in KM will depend both on good tools like K-logs and locating responsibility where it belongs with individual knowledge workers

9:58:05 PM •  • comment  
Technology Review on the semantic web

MIT Technology Review: A Smarter Web. Many feel it can't be done. Even though things are heating up in research labs, the Semantic Web as envisioned by Berners-Lee is hampered by social and technical challenges that some critics say may never be solved. But that's not stopping the W3C and other organizations from trying. [Tomalak's Realm]

Let's assume for a second that the problem can't be solved. That's certainly never been a barrier to a research project.

Herbert Simon and Marvin Minsky were confidently predicting the success of AI back in the 60s. Although they've yet to succeed, the research efforts have paid off in many other ways, although we did have to endure the hype around AI and expert systems in the 80s.

I suspect the key, from a practical point of view, will be to focus on an 80/20 analysis. A little bit more smarts in the web could go a long way. Whether we manage to do everything that gets claimed in press releases probably isn't all that important and may be a distraction from getting some real benefit

7:30:18 PM •  • comment  
Technology Review on digital preservation

MIT Technology Review: Digital Preservation. Increasingly, the record of our civilization is becoming digital, from census data to family photos. The Library of Congress alone has 35 terabytes of files. Yet rapid changes in computers and software could render this data unreadable. Congress recently allocated the library $100 million to look for a way to preserve its files... [Tomalak's Realm]

I also was recently sent a copy of Dark Ages II: When the Digital Data Die on this same topic. Not sure what's prompting this sudden attention to the problem of preserving data in digital formats. It's certainly not a new problem. NASA, for example, has terabytes of telemetry data on magnetic tapes that pretty much can't be read by any current machines. XML probably helps in getting to a format that is both human and machine readable, but still doesn't address the problem of changing media or digital formats that are less than permanent.

7:02:20 PM •  • comment