For those unfamiliar with the concept, Knowledge Management is (was?) a term that in technical terms has been deprecated (some would argue with that, I know), mostly because it attempted to describe a category of software that had very little central consistency in approach or functionality, and worse, often didn’t work as promised. But the concept – capturing the knowledge that walks around in people’s heads for retrieval – is one that did make a lot of sense.
The problem with it, typically, was that the knowledge capture at some level depended on individuals actually motivating to transfer their knowledge from head to paper, or Word document, as the case may be. And therein lay ruin, at least at the few places I’ve been that used some software designed for that purpose. Who’s got the time it takes to capture individual thoughts, impressions and ideas down to make the tools useful, particularly when those captured ideas are likely to sift to the bottom of an organizational repository, there to stagnate and die? The problem, as Peter Gibbons might put it, was one of motivation.
Enter blogs (throw social bookmarking or imaging services in there as well, same principle), which allow for the quick and simple capture of thoughts and ideas which can be picked up via RSS. All good. But what was far more important was what blogs brought with regard to motivation. By their very nature, which is interlinked, indexable, searchable, and, most often, public – blogs offer the hope, however unrealistic – that none of your ideas will go to to a repository and die. Instead, all of your earnest inquiries, analyses and movie reviews will spend their twilight years (not always aging gracefully) on the internet, available to anyone and everyone. Seemingly overnight people were blogging on all sorts of topics, and in the process capturing many of the same thoughts and ideas that KM was after. The power of this “network motivation” was profound.
That would seem to leave the problem of how to find this knowledge, but of course you’ve all used Google. And then there are the specialized tools such as Feedster and Technorati designed specifically to search blog content. Want even better results? Find a blog written by an expert on a topic, and see what he/she has to say, and what he/she links to. More often than not, you’ll find what you need, and get the information you require. Which is more than can be said for many KM tools I’ve worked with.