Snake-Oil for the New Millennium

30 March 2008

The Knowledge Management Scam

Red Shoes & Walking Bags, by moriza, with Creative Commons licenceIt’s been a busy week for the information overlords. No, I don’t mean Bill Gates or whoever it is keeping the Internet’s main servers chugging along, although they’ve probably been busy too. Who I actually mean are the snake-oil salesmen of the Cyber Age – those who utter the term ‘knowledge management’ with illogical conviction.

Here in Hong Kong we’ve just had the local Knowledge Management Society’s forum, desperately attempting to ride in the ill-defined wake of Web 2.0. And one of the local newspapers ‘featured’ a thinly disguised advertisement for associated services this week. Not a good start, but let’s broaden our consideration for a while. One question is just begging to be asked: what the heck is knowledge management?

Over the last 20 years we’ve had tortured managerialisms like 360-degree assessment, Six-Sigma (though still with many defenders), business process re-engineering (from the ashes of methods and procedures analysis) and downsizing – that earnest attempt to re-focus business that became a vicious excuse to sack people. Downsizing is still alive and well, with major banks like HSBC excelling at it even though they’re earning record profits, despite claims of hard times after the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. The other methods are faltering, and will eventually fall behind newer fads, one of which is already fading. That’s knowledge management. But it’s not going down without a fight.

If You’re Not Confused, by B Tal, with Creative Commons LicenceSo much for the background – what does ‘knowledge management’ actually mean? Ray Sims recently posted an answer in cyberspace. Well, many possible answers really. Fifty-three all told. These aren’t similar, hairsplitting overviews, but “substantially different. There are only five attributes that are seen in 30% or more of the definitions”. At the Information Research blog, Tom Wilson commented that “in spite of all this he still calls ‘knowledge management’ a discipline!” Indeed.

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Who Knows?

19 March 2008

Copyright, Creative Commons and the Limits of Knowledge

Maybe I am Crazy, by I’m Your Pusher, with Creative Commons licenceShare and share alike we’re told as kids, and it’s a pity we don’t always do so as adults. One of the more dubious, and most challenging, features of the Cyber Age is the promotion of intellectual property rights to the commercial extreme. Knowledge has become a commodity, and were it not for projects like Wikipedia and – let’s face it – rampant piracy, few would share the bounty of the times. But we can change that in our own small ways.

Yesterday I licensed the content of this blog under the auspices of the Creative Commons project. The details are at the bottom of the sidebar if you’re interested, and I hope you are.

Creative Commons Licence NotificationI’ve included the notification button here again – just click on it to see the exact conditions of my Attribution Share-Alike licence. Horrible name, I know, but it means that you can use what I write any way you like as long as you state that I created it in the first place. And I’m also asking you to offer the results of any changes under the same licence.

I’m not expecting a general sigh of relief and a rush to quote my material – Heaven forbid! What I’m doing is lending my modest support to a worthy cause.

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Information + Knowledge = Joy

25 February 2008

Comments on a New Blog

Information shapes knowledge, gives it a form we can understand. Further to my post yesterday on the importance of reworked ideas, I just want to point to a new blog that focuses on information, its location and its uses.

Mother of All Libraries 4Named Information Fluency, the blog is part of a course underway at Gustavus Adolphus College in the US. If nothing else, the use of detail from this marvelous photo of a private library by Underpuppy is worth mentioning. Sometimes blog banners say it all.

Posts alternate between student writing and lecturer observations, covering everything from the lack of non-academic philosophy sites on the Web to unusual Library of Congress categories, the value of libraries themselves and the possibility of sensual experiences in gathering knowledge online.

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