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Friday, June 04, 2004
Boiling kettle

Daniel Lemire is on a roll. Here's a researcher who has clearly accumulated a few things he wanted to say over the years, and has found an outlet. Things you don't often hear about, fresh air in the academic hallway, all in one convenient location. A few choice quotes:

What do you think? []  links to this post    2:45:09 PM  
Into the fray

Brian, Alan, and D'Arcy (the Three Amigos as I like to call them) are conducting an interesting experiment in preparation for their talk at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference 2004 (NMC 2004). Basically, they have asked a bunch of edubloggers to participate in a wiki, weblog and chat-mediated debate. (Yes, the whole fruit salad!) I think Robin Good explains it best, so go there if you don't quite get it.

It's a big thing and it can be a little hard to follow the action, but if you want to watch just one place, make that Stephen Downes' continuing coverage page (get a webfeed here). If you want posts of yours to show up there, make sure your RSS feed is in Edu_RSS and use the "NMC 2004" shibboleth in a post. (As you may have noted I'm trying it out right now.)

Now, participants have to pick positions and it seems that the centralist position is in most need of defending right now. So I'll try my hand at it. Note that I may not actually believe everything I write here.

Decentralized solutions are always more work for end users. They have to spend time choosing and installing the tools that will enable them to plug in, and all too often only once that is done do they realize they're missing such-and-such capability that others have, and are necessary to fully participate. It thus makes much more sense to implement a solution at a central point and ensure everyone uses the same. Even if you choose to decentralize communication, e.g. by providing personal weblogs, you're better off centralizing the implementation, ensuring everyone uses the same tools and can access the same powerful features. Look at how well-developed the centralized LiveJournal system has become; by comparison the social features of blog tools in the wild are quite limited, new bloggers feel much more isolated, and many Livejournalers don't even think of going outside even after having taken a peek.

OK. Now you argue against that.

What do you think? []  links to this post    2:14:45 PM  
Lemmings no more: the rise of personal knowledge management

A recent lunch conversation with Yan Simard - who's been keeping an eye on trends in the management literature - and Lilia Efimova's recent pointer to a KM Magazine feature on personal knowledge management made me realize that the individual-centered approach to knowledge management is finally breaking into the mainstream, meaning that it is about to get management buy-in in organization settings. Obviously I think this is very good news. I don't believe this is happening simply because the fruits are ripe but rather because people are finally getting hungry - the demand, not the supply, is the dominant factor here. I've been trying to identify a deeper cause of this transition; here are my thoughts.

For anyone working within an organization or institution, there are tremendously strong incentives to "act normal". Going along with what everybody else is doing - following "best practices" and all - has been an almost surefire way not to get in trouble. But what's happening now is that change is accelerating in many aspects of business and in society in general.

Many organizations are under intense pressure to adapt to changing conditions, but are built in a way that does not make them very adaptable. In many cases, their functioning has become out of touch with reality, and the behavior norms that exist within them have become useless or even detrimental.

There comes a point for each individual when the cognitive dissonance between what the world has become and the assumptions that underlie organizational norms becomes just too intense to bear. They decide that the accepted way of doing things simply doesn't make sense anymore and choose to break apart from the norm, prepared to risk marginalizing themselves with respect to their group. They start taking personal responsibility for their view of the world.

Once that "breaking out" step has been taken they have probably already begun building some kind of personal scaffolding to organize their thoughts, but not yet found any existing group that shares their new models. You could say they are at the "atomisation" or "disintegration" stage. Personal knowledge management methods and tools come as natural supports at that point, because they give us the freedom to organize things and think about them on our own.

I think what is happening these days is that growing numbers of people are living through the pattern I've just outlined, popping out of accepted wisdom and seeking a more sensible way of dealing with their knowledge work. People in management positions are often the last to "question the answers" offered by the existing norms, because they typically got to where they are by doing the opposite. But in the face of mounting organizational anxiety and instability, they are themselves increasingly thrown into a process of questioning, and are thus ripe for embracing personal knowledge management - sanctioning what many of their employees have been discreetly doing for a long time.

What do you think? []  links to this post    10:31:06 AM  

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