KM and Organizing Information

August 28, 2007 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

A post at Thinking Faster, Organizing Information, describes a real-world example of “doing KM.” A group discusses where to store stuff and how to organize it.  

Fancy software and technology might enable KM, but these sorts of decisions, what I’ve called a “Network-use Strategy” (i.e. “How we agree to use the network”) is a critical piece of KM, in my opinion. 

Why?  To make it easier to find and share information.  How?  By agreeing on a set of guidelines and publishing processes to define where to stick stuff and how to organize it so it’s easy to find again, “….Rather than each person creating and managing their own filing structure… ”

The post continues, asking questions that calls to mind Glut, Everything is Miscellaneous, and Information Anxiety 2, and Sorting Things Out, etc.: sure organization is great, but how?  Folders, context, client, timeframe,  “…Depending on your perspective of the data, any one of these could be an important and valuable first cut at the data.  ” 

A traditional ‘folders within subfolders’ approach might be too constrained here.  As in Sorting Things Out, a top-down “standardized file structure based on a ‘taxonomy’ designed by ‘senior leaders within our team’ ” will be subverted, and the ‘miscellaneous’ folder will grow. 

 Would a faceted (or colon) classification ala Ranganathan work better here?  Or would a style folksonomy allow a self-evolving taxonomy to bubble up.  And how to implement anything in a practical way, i.e. like, really do it rather than just talk about it?

Microsoft’s SharePoint ends up providing a pretty flexible way to both create a structured (folder-like) hierarchical system alongside a flexible metadata scheme.  You end up with a Windows Explorer like view for the most part, but you can continue to add metadata columns to your heart’s content.  These metadata fields can contain free-text ‘tags’ or they might ask you to choose from several predefined keywords.  Once the library contains a load of files, you can slice, dice, organize, filter, present and view based on all this associated metadata.

Making a group decision about which folder that PowerPoint presentation should go in – you can start to hear the frustration in the Thinking Faster post – can be really tough. 

As Weinberger says in Everything is Miscellaneous: “The solution to the overabundance of information is more information.  Add metadata to help categorization.” and “Instead of everything having its place, it’s better if things can get assigned multiple places simultaneously.”  There are probably many ways to do this, but SharePoint is looking pretty useful right now.  Couple this with SharePoint Search and things are looking pretty sweet.


Entry filed under: KM.

Quantitative notes from Tufte When does the truth matter?

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