Category Archives: Knowledge Management

Unexpectedly Delicious

Ok, I’m feeling naive now, because  I hadn’t realised what a great portal Delicious is and how easily it helps you tap into the NetGeist.  I am annoyed with myself about this, because I’ve used Delicious for over a year now.

So – what is Delicious?  It’s a site that makes it easy to manage your bookmarks and favourites so you are never more than a couple of clicks from any link that you might want to go back to.  Suddenly moving from PC to PC doesn’t matter because your bookmarks are always there, even if you are a hot desker at by day or an internet cafe user by night or just a browser tart like me.

What’s new for me is just how good Delicious is as a portal into the web. For the last 18 months or so my start page has been Google News, so no wonder my surfing’s been dreary:  I’ve read more of the Daily Mail than is good for anyone.  (How do they get to be the main link for a story so often?)  Delicious is a much cooler way to tap into the NetGeist.  My favourite Favourite is Fresh Bookmarks, but there are others.  Fresh Bookmarks shows you what’s been bookmarked recently and by how many people.  And this is part of the power of Delicious:  it’s an automatic ranking system based on self-interest rather than altruism, so it works.

You use tags to sort out your bookmarks, and the collective tagging within Delicious forms what is sometimes called a Folksonomy.  For a while I found it hard to find links which had been tagged using the tags I use for my own bookmarks, but in fact that’s easily done using the Subscriptions feature, which gives you more control than an automated feature would.

The other thing that I hadn’t realised is how easy it is to discover who’s got a specific page or site bookmarked, like this blog for instance. (And a special Shout Out to Simon, here.  Hey! Simon! I said it was cool!).  I keep track of myself on Google and Technorati of course, and I’ve found at least 4 other Ben Warsops on Facebook, but it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone thinks I’m Delicious.

I do give myself credit for realising that Delicous lets other people take a look at what you’ve bookmarked.  Feel free to take a look at my bookmarks: you’ll find them rather serious, because I mark recipes and shoes and pages about SatNavs private, but that’s because my account is in my own name.

In summary: Delicious – so much cooler than I thought.


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Organising Knowledge – Book Review

Organising KnowledgeI thought I had put more book reviews up here than I have.  Here’s one of the ones I thought I’d posted.  At the moment I’m doing a lot on Knowledge Management  so here is high praise for Organizing Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organization Effectiveness by Patrick Lambe.  

Lambe is that rare mix, both a theoretician and a practitioner.  The book is solidly based in theory and well-proven by practice.  In the first half, Lambe takes you on a readable tour of how people have organised knowledge in the past and compare different approaches (hierarchies vs facets, for examples) and some of the implementations (the Dewey decimal system, and so on). While the second half gives you tools and strategies for defining and introducing taxonomies to an organisation. He doesn’t pretend it is easy, but the tactical tools and the methodological framework are workable. He’s clearly refined them by using them and some of the pain he has felt on the way comes through between the lines.  I sympathise with him almost as much as I admire him.

The book has the benefit of being fairly short.   I’ve noticed this with other books on the subject – perhaps books about online technologies need to get out so fast there’s no time to add padding, or else people dealing with knowledge management think too clearly to waffle.  Either way, it’s pricey per page but benefits from its brevity.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are working in this area or are responsible for information architecture, knowledge management, or pulling sense out of corporate folksonomies.

If you want more from Lambe, he blogs at Green Chameleon.

And the question is…

Tony Robbins has a slick one-liner in one of his self-help books.  He says:

Questions are the answer.

For a Business Analyst that is certainly true.  We are members of a profession like law and journalism, where success is built on asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time.  I’ve spent most of my professional life consciously trying to improve my ability to ask questions.

I’m discovering just how important this is in academia too.  I’m doing a Research Methods course as part of my MSc at Bristol and I have to think about questions and answers in a whole new way: I must think of them as the set-up for a piece of research, and the research has to be doable.  

Now I thought I was reasonably clear on what I want to do for my dissertation.  Something along the lines of “What mitigates for success or failure of a corporate Knowledge Base, and is it worth the time and effort?”  -Sounds nice and crisp and – hey – how cool is that use of “mitigates” eh?  

But when you pick it over, you find it’s as full of holes as a crunchie.  Let’s define a few paramaters here: what do I mean by “success” and “failure”?  And scope: what is a corporate Knowledge Base anyway, and what things aren’t corporate knowledge bases?  And metrics, let’s define some metrics: how do you measure what’s “worth it” and what isn’t?   

My usual stand-bys don’t work in this context.  If I was running a workshop and put this question to the team, I’d supplement it with “what does good look like?” and “what do you mean by… success / failure / corporate knowledge base” etc, etc, and put the answers up on the whiteboard.

Maybe what I’m learning is that it’s much harder to answer questions than to ask them.

Found for words

I’m always fascinated by word clouds.  When you run somone’s blog through one it’ll show the words they use not the tags they choose.  Word clouds are a reality check, an insight into an individual’s subconscious folksonomy.  

Here’s what I got when I ran this blog through Wordle.net

Ben's Wordle

Ben

I don’t remember saying Chichester or agriculture but I must have done.  And I’d no idea that I was so interested in time.

Towards a corporate hierarchy of needs

Most of us are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which suggests that we prioritise bodily needs over security, our sence of belonging over our own self esteem (which is how peer pressure works) and that we won’t tackle the things that fulfil us until the rest of our needs are met.  

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

What is discussed less frequently is that organisations have a similar hierarchy of needs, and that organisational focus shifts in turbulent times.  

As I understand it, Donald Marchand suggests that organisations focus their attention on information like this:

  1. Minimise risks
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Add value
  4. Create new reality

This is a sequence I recognise, in large organisations at least.  Mind you, it seems to me that small organisations and entrepreneurs run the sequence in the opposite direction.   Maybe that is what makes them entrepreneurs.

Marchand presents it diagramatically thus:

Marchand's strategic information framework

I’ve not yet read Marchand on the subject (I came across the idea in an excellent book on Taxonomies by Richard Lambe).  I need to go to the source to understand the details of he is saying, why he has drawn it like that, and whether or not I agree with him, but this a useful thought-provoker, and may also be helpful tool for working out where strategic attention is or should be focused.  I’m tempted by the tabloid thinking which suggests the banks’ sudden attention to risk is because they spent too much time in the previous years creating a new reality in terms of mortgages-repackaged-as-“securities”.   It’s tempting, but I think there’s more to it than that.

Marchand’s framework is about knowledge.  Lambe, who references it, thinks it misses out two important areas of corporate knowledge, specificially: strategic planning and talent management.    As I said, I’ve not yet played with the framework, so I’m reserving my final judgement.  

However, translating the hierarchy of needs from people to organisations is something well worth doing in these interesting times.



Sources
:  

Lambe, Patrick Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organisational Effectiveness. Oxford: Chandos Publishing. 2007.  

Marchand, Donald, (ed) Competing with Information: A Manager’s Guide to Creating Business Value with Information Content. Chichester: John Wiley. 2000.

Wikipedia: Abraham Maslow.