Research: Social Bookmarking #3


I have come to conclude that a name change often reflects some deep, dark, unstatible failure rather than what the typical marketing spin might suggest: some better alignment with ‘what ever.’

So, it is not without some trepidation that I refer to PKM, the successor name to KM (Personal + Knowledge Management). Dave Pollard summarizes the difference as the transition from a focus on ‘content and collection’ to one on ‘content and connection’ [1]. Pollard goes on to describe the basic process as:

“You walk down the hall or pick up the phone and call the people you think have the knowledge you need, you have a conversation with them to canvass what they know, you pull it all together with the knowledge you already have, and you apply it to the challenge, task or decision at hand.”

Keeping it that simple and that well aligned with existing practice and motivators is key. KM, in my own experience, placed too many demands on people which were not sustainable by what they were motivated to do: design a web site, build a web site, define a taxonomy, maintain it, keep content current, index new content, etc. The sad truth was that after all that work, it was hard to tell whether the “knowledge” was being used, so what was the motivation to continue.

The key element in the PKM process cited above is connecting with knowledge, and in the traditional case, hosted in people. For my purposes of exploring social bookmarking, the question is whether that technology can help identify and then connect with knowledge. Are there features that encourage or stifle?

On the surface it seems there is some alignment:

  • Bookmarks are pointers to information
  • The information has been peer reviewed offering some indication of value (both in being identified–bookmarked–and by the number of other people that have bookmarked the information)
  • The bookmarks are tagged to make them easier to find
  • Common tags are defined (evolved) to facilitate the pooling of information
  • Tags are linked together to show “related” pools of information

There are a number of directions to explore:

  • Is there a critical mass needed for these systems to work?
  • Does the concept (of bookmarking and tagging) work?
  • Can an organic method of defining tags to encode information work? Or do more formal means need to be developed?
  • How is this different from search engines? How is this different from existing knowledge bases with tagged content?
  • Is this a means to replace or supplement the “go to guy”?
  • To what extent does the implementation matter (i.e., is one bookmarking scheme better than another)?
  • Is there a way to measure?

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