KM Resources – Search and Taxonomies White Paper, Blog23 and Twyla Tharp

I’ve been doing some research and planning for an upcoming KM presentation. I’ve found three great resources recently that I wanted to share.
1. A modestly intrusive free registration is required, but the white paper : EContent Leadership Series: Strategies for Search, Taxonomiy and Classification looks like (since I haven’t completely read it all yet, I can’t make any pronouncement yet) it might be a treasure trove of articles about the areas of search and taxonomies. I learned about it this morning from Econtent Magazine‘s ECXtra Bulletin. The teaser for the white paper was compelling – “BECAUSE WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER DO? SEARCH . . . OR FIND?”
The whole notion of taxonomies raises a difficult practical issue in legal KM. If you mention the word “taxonomy” to a lawyer, you’ve all but lost him or her. If you use “taxonomy” and “ontology” in the same conversation (let alone, God forbid, in the same sentence) with a lawyer, you might as well spend your time talking to a brick wall.
For lawyers, using the term “finding tools” will be a better approach than talking about “search engines.” It’s like the switch in perspective that comes from saying that our real focus when buying a power drill is not really the drill, instead it’s the hole that we plan to make.
2. In one of those cases where I’m not sure whether this post is really great because it is great or because I agree with it, Blog23′s Personalization, Classification and Staying Ahead of the Reader makes some profound observations about how we think, learn and organize information.
Here’s the premise:
“But there is something that can be done online which isn’t possible in print, and that is to reconfigure my newspaper to the topics I want to read about, to make smart choices for me and to give me easy ways to make my own choices about what to read.”
In brief, the post sets out the positives and negatives of the two most common approaches to info consumption – personalization and categorization. Most of us will agree with the limitations of these approaches.
There is also a third alternative (and I think there may be more). This third alternative is called a “document-centric” approach. To summarize this approach:
“For us, the document is in a class of its own (or a bucket of its own, to stay with the earlier metaphor). So, we don’t have just one bucket, or 400,000 buckets, but as many buckets as there are documents, each of which can temporarily become home to other, related documents according to the user’s interests. The document is our best guide to what the reader is interested in right now. The document is richer than its metadata (unless that metadata cost more to produce than the story). And the reader’s interest in the document may be different from the interest of someone who happens to have read some other documents that I’ve also read.”
I’m intrigued by this – it “feels” right to me. Both my personal interests and my categories do change (I’m about to dump my latest effort at creating a useful subfolder system and try another, much looser, one). Categories and documents make the most sense within the applicable context. In other words, I regularly find that I do not know what the “right” category is (or whether an “info object” should be in more than one category) until I am in a place where I want to use it.
However, the answer is neither singular, simple, or even yet known:
“But all three appraoches have merit (personalization, classification and document-centrification — OK, we’ll have to think of a better -ation there), and perhaps the best way to serve the reader is for all of us to collectively keep churning out new and innovative ways of helping users find the information they want, perhaps combining several of our techniques into an intuitive UI, giving the user that thing which makes their world go around: choice.”
Yeah, baby. You are talking to me now. There’s some cool stuff going on in that area around Blog23.
3. I plan to write more about this next item in the neaar future, but suffice it to say that Twyla Tharp’s recent book, The Creative Habit, has completely changed my thinking on KM and a number of other important things. It also helped me finish several uncompleted projects that were dogging and blocking me – no small feat. And, on top of that, you get an “open the hood” look into the creative processes of one of our greatest living artists as she discusses how she created some of her most successful (and unsuccessful) works.
Here’s my best short review of the book – I have now finished my fourth reading of the book and my copy is full of notes, markings and underlines. I can guarantee you that this is not my usual reaction to a book. You may not “see” how this book might apply to KM or to you, but if you have developed any confidence at all in my opinions, you will want to read this book in the very near future.