Managing Knowledge Pt 1

I spend a reasonable amount of time reading about and looking at Knowledge Management (KM) style software. Lots of different types of programs can be used or abused into performing knowledge management tasks. These range from storing bits and pieces of information in Word Documents or text files (or PDF files!), to Outliners and Notepads with Trees to structure and categorize information, to ever more complex programs that morph trees and display them as graphs, or in other visually exciting and sometimes useful ways. For example programs like Grokster use circles within circles where you drill down deeper and deeper to see things of interest. (Surfulater customers who visit the forums will have seen threads about this there.) The higher end knowledge management tools tend to be quite complex and expensive beasts indeed.

Mind Mapping tools can also be used for KM, but how practical these are I don’t know.

There are several basic problems with KM software which are difficult to resolve. First is the onus placed on the user each and every time new content is added, to somehow categorize the new information. This may be deciding which tree folder it goes in, or what categories or keywords are appropriate for the content or both. This is an obstacle to our productivity, but one that is necessary if we want to readily locate our information in the future.

Our program Surfulater enables users to defer the categorization decision to a later, hopefully more convenient time, so they can add content without anything getting in their way. Deferring the categorization process is just that though, you still need to make time and put the effort in, albeit later on.

One possible technique which can help us out here is automatic classification of text. In essence you read or parse the text trying to pick out specific tidbits of information, which can then used to place it into a pigeon hole.

Another simpler and cruder technique is to apply rules which are used to determine which folder(s) or categorie(s) new content is tied to. A rule can be a simple search string like: if the word engine appears in the text place the information in the ‘car’ folder. Or it can be more complex search terms such as: engine and not boat or truck or tractor. If you’ve ever setup filters in an e-mail program you will be familiar with this technique. These rules can take some time to set up and get working as you desire, but the results are always predictable, unlike other schemes. You can also use rules to enable information to be placed into multiple folders or categories at the same time. We plan to add something along these lines to Surfulater in the future. Time will tell how well it will work in practice, but anything that removes obstacles from our path has to be a plus.

The next difficult area revolves around the ability to easily find information that you know or think you know is in the KM system somewhere. There really isn’t much point saving lots and lots of information if you can’t quickly find stuff again. I’ll leave this discussion for a future post. Stay tuned.

5 Replies to “Managing Knowledge Pt 1”

  1. Good article! Looking forward to your article about finding information.

    I came across another program that you might want to inspect for ideas and comparisons. This one won an EWeek excellence award this year. It is called GoBinder by Agilix.

    p.s. And I really like what you did to your site and the blog you started.

  2. Interesting stuff. There have been a few attempts at “Personal” KM. Surfulater seems like a good tool…I’m not sure if maybe I missed something. but if a web page goes ‘inactive’ does Surfulater keep your notes with the page(s) that you wanted to save? Or is is the content dependant upon being able to access that page? Thanks. – Tom

  3. Tom, Thanks for the comment. With Surfulater you have the option of saving web pages, saving selected text and images from web pages or both. You can also save and attach multiple web pages to the one Surfulater article. So the choice is yours.

    The bottom line is if a web page is important to you and you want to ensure you have a permanent copy in case the web site or page disappears you can easily do this with Surfulater.

    Do give the free trial a go and if you have any questions please ask away.

  4. Louis, good to hear you like the new site and the article. I’m certainly pleased with how it (the site) all came together.

    I did see a mention of GoBinder somewhere but haven’t had chance to look at it yet. I’m currently trying to wrap my head around MindRaider.

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