I recently presented at the Computers in Libraries 2004 conference in Washington D.C. You can download the presentation, "Supporting enterprise knowledge management with weblogs: A weblog services roadmap", below:
My talk proposed a roadmap for providing weblog-related information services and suggested approaches for dealing with the problem of making weblog output of use to the organization. The idea is that the library can position itself to support individuals and communities of practice that express the need to use grass-roots tools for knowledge capture and dissemination such as weblogs and wikis. I talked briefly about the benefits of using weblogs for individual knowledge creation as opposed to using larger KM solutions selected from the top down, and the implications for IT of an information ecology with a diverse set of people using different technologies for publishing data in a distributed manner all over the intranet. In the near term I suggested first steps towards supporting knowledge creation with RSS. I suggested methods for providing access to aggregated blog output as next steps. And as a far off goal, I discussed the integration of output from sources such as blogs with other enterprise information using social software and social network analysis.
I was concerned, at first, that my talk wouldn't reach everyone. It was my perception from the conference that while many librarians are savvy when it comes to weblogs and RSS, as many are still learning what the value of the RSS format is. Some presentations dealt directly with the problems related to blogging on the one hand or with using RSS for keeping up to date. If these talks were successfully reaching people at the ground level (and that was my perception), my talk in comparison was probably much higher than most people wanted to go.
I talked about far off ideas such as how blogs might relate to social software and after talking at length with a good number of individuals after the session, it was clear that some people were definitely thinking about or actually have librarians weblogging at present in their organization. I found particulary interesting the talk given by Terence Huwe about his organizations' experience blogging at the University of California's Institute of Industrial Relations. Largely, the people I spoke to were interested in the topic of making blog output findable, but would wait until others proved the best directions to take. It didn't seem that the issue of the growth of customer weblogs (blogs external to the library organization) was on people's radar. This may reflect the type of information services organizations people worked in more than anything, but clearly this is also an early stage in our assessment. Even corporate libraries for large organizations, like my own, probably have not found the need to think about making weblog output findable yet. Many others will never have large enough numbers of blogs appearing in the organization to justify these kinds of systems. The issue for me was mainly bring to the forefront the idea that library organizations have the information management expertise to help with some of the problems blog output presents, and that we need to be thinking at this level sooner or later if we operate in an ecology where this type of grass roots knowledge creation might occur -- for example, in large corporations, university and institutional settings, etc. -- and if we wish to have a hand in innovating this new and potentially important knowledge space.
Some feedback received so far on this topic
In a discussion on Lou Rosenfeld's Bloug, Alan Gutierez suggests that an intermediary step before employing social network analysis is to utilize information managers who might serve as filters or recommenders. The idea of using people as recommenders is suggested in the "Mediate approach", which utilizes humans for indexing and supplying additional metadata. He also discusses tools that use ranking algorithms to analyze the frequency of memes and point back to the originators of ideas. I'm interested in this type of analysis as well. All very interesting thoughts.
One person suggested that the presentation should have pointed out more reasons why weblogging is a good thing. He notes that they: take the pain of publishing away; work great for small teams; utilize story telling, a powerful method for disseminating information; and allow multiple ways to publish. All valid points, and I believe I address some of these to a degree. The purpose of the presentation, however, is to focus on information services aimed at making weblog output findable, so I only touched on the main reasons I believe them to be valuable. But these points should definitely be included in a discussion of why weblogs are valuable as tools for KM.
Mopsos provides some additional thoughts about how much Information Architecture is related to the knowledge creation/management process, how innovation is supported by decentralization and re-use supported by centralization. He summarizes bottom up KM in this line: Decentralizing for innovation, centralizing for reuse.
He hones in on exactly the point I make about a mediated approach, which is takes the advantages of the decentralized approach to creation and the centralized approach to aggregation and dissemination. Very nicely put. To extract a few of his points:
bq. Technology is moving fastly into the hands of the individuals. ... What I will need is a common language, grammar and document structure, and I will be ready to forego some of my personal freedom to benefit from the advantages of using corporate standards.
bq. Value is added to existing information through a process of aggregation, simplification and dissemination, which is exactly the concept underlying a web of blogs. In essence, the more decentralized, the richer information is; the more centalized, the more structured it is. Decentralizing for innovation, centralizing for reuse.