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there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth

May 4, 2007

You know its interesting to see the way in which people involved in social computing are paranoid about distinguishing themselves from Knowledge Management (KM). Now I can understand this, given the way KM has developed over the years, and I stand by my earlier comments to the effect that KM is in the long tail of its life cycle.

The latest example referenced the banner set out here.It had been placed on the Wikipedia KM article this morning. The blogger who used it, added a comment People have been trying to do that for years!. Now I will not name names, to protect the obviously innocent, and in any event although their blog appeared in my RSS feed at 0754, the entry had been deleted by 0810 which may indicate they thought better of it.

Now I agree with the banner, the article needs to be improved. However if you look at the talk page you will see that the person who added in the comment is not aware of the last ten years of practice. The Wikipedia is like that, anyone can add a banner, its not a definitive statement. But given that the banner is correct in asking for more editing work, it cannot be used to justify an attack on the relevance, or importance of KM. The last decade has seen much progress, if nothing else KM provided a means to limit excessive re-engineering. It was the first management discipline to really focus on the importance of the human brain, even if the tacit-explicit focus got it wrong. Ultimately, to its evangelic proponents it was disappointment; just like any other endeavor. Social computing will be no exception. Interestingly many of the more evangelic KM people are still unwilling to realise that the tide of interest has moved on. Their voices are reminiscent of Isaiah 40: 1-3

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

The reality is, that if we had been able to use social computing tools a decade ago, then KM would have gone down a different, and I think more healthy route. Social computing also allows those getting started in KM (and there are a lot, and will be for some time to come) to avoid the excessive structure and top down design/control philosophy of of portals, taxonomies and recipe based CoP roll outs. So, rejecting KM from a social computing perspective is as stupid as rejecting BPR in favour of KM, which would not have existed without BPR. Social computing in its turn owes a large part of its development to the interest in collaboration created by KM. This whole process is called evolution and those who reject the learning of the past (and its continued value within boundaries) are likely to suffer hubris in respect of their current enthusiasm in the future. We can return to the Bible with Matthew 8:11-12 for a foretaste of their fate:

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth

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