Thoughts on Structured/Unstructured and Shared Information Management using Wiki and other emerging technologies
Monday, May 31, 2004
Are you CIO? Then read this eweek article!!

I came across this eweek article today Finding Middle Ground in Office Use of Collaboration Tools. It is very pertinent to the fundamental culture of organization:

I had a fascinating conversation with a CIO the other day. He was complaining about how users at his company were running roughshod over corporate systems and networks.

The most recent problems came to light when a network failure cut off e-mail and Web access throughout the company's far-flung operations.

Instead of simply calling it a day, creative employees quickly implemented workarounds. One group installed a quick and dirty Wiki to enable team communications.

Another took advantage of America Online Inc.'s Instant Messenger application to route files and messages between geographically remote employees. Others used Web e-mail and wireless networking to keep the company's business flowing.

The CIO's response was predictable: He moved quickly to lock down corporate desktops and laptops to prohibit users from installing unapproved software or accessing unsupported Web services.

Needless to say, the responsibilities of CIO are different from those of other people who do the real work. Everyone tries to save their skin. What if these tools indeed create a security risk that will result in a major problem for organiazation? The overall optimization suffers because different parts of organization are not acting in sync.

And that is the real challenge: How do you let your daughter to go out late in the night, and yet be worried about her safety? Something can still be done here: You can be liberal by nature. But in a large organization, with different people having different visibilities, it proves to be quite a difficult task.

Those companies which enable the right culture will obviously thrive!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Fast Company | It's A Blog World After All

Fast Company | It's A Blog World After All - tracks some of the companies which are allowing their employees to blog.

I am still not aware how much of blogging happens internal to an organization i.e. it is necessarily access controlled, and more specific to internal needs such as projects related info, internal news etc.

Blog Software Breakdown

Blog Software Breakdown gives a very nice table of different blog software such as bosxom, Movabletype, bBlog etc - 10 of them. And a host of features.

If you are new to blogs, then it is a good link to understand what you can expect in a blog site.

Email and RSS compared.

Email v RSS, let us move on... has a very nice table comparing what is good and bad between Email and RSS on various fronts such as Email marketer perspective and customer perspective.

Note: This is very nice table, so worth the visit.


How much better can the the communication interfaces be? (Thinmail)

A very interesting service I came across today: Thinmail. And Thinfax, Thinphone, Mobcall.

From their blurb from Mobcall for example:

Thinmail's newest service, Mobcall, provides instant push-button teleconferencing. It is triggered by sending an email message to any number of phones. They ring and whoever answers pushes a button and joins your conference call.

And similarly simple and interesting interfaces to all others services.

By conicidence, I also came to know of another service today - Allows you to send SMS to any phone in US just by using


Email is "attention management" and not "content management"!

Finally, someone from athority says it!! Check out EDventure :: the future of mail - and other topics:

the real value of the new mail, though, will be attention management rather than content management. In an iterative process based on explicit user instructions and watching of user behavior, mail will start to know what you want to see now, what you want to see later (and when), and what you want to see never.

I'm eager to hear about actual examples of these kinds of tools, and I hope to see a lot of them at Inbox. More when I know more.

Well, we will watch the blogs since we can't attend this important event!

One thing to add: As email moves to notification, the content will have to remain on the web. And that content is useless if you are on the move. So you ought to integrate that with synchronization tools; in other words, how nicely can you replicate that web on the laptop - without requiring any intervention from the user.

Monday, May 24, 2004
Bill Gates Comments on evolution of email and sharepoint integration, Blogging

Bill Gates on information management (in recent CEO Summit):

Likewise, e-mail suffers when you have lots of people collaborating and different attachments that are going back and forth. And the creation of this idea that, whenever you want to work with somebody, you just create a Web site -- called a SharePoint Web site -- that's been very explosive in the last year as we've built that more into Office. Office, even if you have the latest, will make a hint that when you send an e-mailed attachment that, do you really just want to click here and we'll just make a Web site that everybody can go to and see what's going on there?

What happens very quickly when a company adopts that is you get all different templates for these shared Web sites for starting a project, for doing a meeting, for discussing what's going on with a customer. It's phenomenal to see how quickly that takes place. So, the next generation of collaboration really is about bottoms-up creation of Web sites where the IT department doesn't have to get involved. In fact, you can just have a few people administering 50,000 different sites and those sites get staged out and everything in a simple way.

In essense, the focus is on increase in business productivity due to integration of various tools. Sharepoint will continue to get a lot of attention. More importantly, he also gives an idea of how these tools evolve; primary focus being the templates for specific work. This is in essence a mechanism to create dynamic workflows.

The quote about being able to administer 50000 different sites is interesting: Why so many sites? Because each is typically context and activity specific. These activities will be active for only some time, and will disappear; the resulting website should just be archived over the time. So the mechanism of being able to quickly create context specific website is going to be very important.

The email integration is going to be the key factor that decides the success of this approach. Blogs specifically allow you to not bother about To's and CC's. In emailing this does take some amount of time. By blogging, you save this time, and put onus of information consumption to the group in general.

And another problem that Gates focuses is to be able to get notifications from changing websites, sharepoint sites and blogs. How nicely can the notifications be integrated and delivered?

In essence, there is no doubt that the information management area is now under microscope, and we will see a lot of good products to manage information overload.


Providing RSS/Atom interfaces over emails

As more and more tools are becoming available for managing numerous blog feeds, how could we use them to make it easy to manage emails as well?

For mailing lists, there are some solutions:

I am not aware of others.

Ideally I would like a tool for organization mails, and with access control. Cc'ing and/or forwarding to this email address will make the emails part of the feed. It also helps in managing the context for activity, since the feed name (which should be necessarily dynamic and easy to create) represents the context. Since the information is typically sensitive, the feed should only be available to the group. Perhaps only to members listed in each email item.

It is much better approach than mailing lists, because RSS aggregators help you manage multiple contexts in much nicer way. But "subscribing to feed" should be made simpler - with help of good integration, or perhaps a special feed that allows publishing of new feeds and allows easy subscriptions.


Friday, May 21, 2004
On creation of "browses" on your knowledge base / weblogs / Wikis

What is the worth of information categorization - which happens by making it browsable?

Browses are essentially categories / sitemap layer on top of variety of documents / material that gets accumulated from various people. For examplt, Open directory project is a group-based browsing system created to capture the most useful links out there.

The information accumulation may happen under wiki systems, forums, weblogs, newsgroups and sometimes through emails.

While most people submit information, very few people create browsable interfaces for that information. Browses take the user to specific information, unlike searches and news (i.e. tracking changes) interfaces to the same information.

Creating "browsing" on the information will work for specific use cases - such as "What a new person joining the project should learn". In essence, this is a context. Some contexts have long-time validity (like in project-induction process) and some others have short time (such as proposal making).

Since browses are for specific activity/context, the overhead in creating a browse in advance needs to be carefully examined. For example, if a group starts to collaborate on a new process, members should probably put browses to identify "must-read" information by all members, to give context to the work, and to identify relevant documents within and outside of organization.

So it doesn't make sense to have "master browse" for information within organization, the people can browse through a list of activities, and then access the browsable information within that context. It also helps in why that information was relevant to that activity.

When a specific activity is started, how quickly you can let other people (not formally part of activity) to reach you with helpful content? Obviously, you would also like to filter the incoming information - typically this is based on relative expertise of the person is giving the information. In large organizations it would be very difficult to know real expertise levels. That is when you go look at the weblogs maintained by those people.

But it also helps to know "What is happening in organization now"; that is the only way the connections are made. (And that also explains why a canteen or coffee corner is strategically essential to any organization!). You require news like interface her: Which people are in news? What events are happening? What topics are being discussed? Here is an interesting tool: k-collector from It is an interesting approach for presenting information from weblogs (and possibly, from wikis as well): In terms of "What", "Where", "Who" and "when" boxes that give overview of what is happening in your organization (or in a community where the server is hosted). This is probably achieved by tagging appropriate information with weblog entries: such as people, places, events and so on.

The "optimality" of social-expertise and experience exchange tools will continue to be refined, and I hope some set patterns emerge giving a clear idea of what tools will result in better ROI.


This informative take on KM (Presenting People Centred Knowledge Management at the CiG by Matt Mover). Creating communities when new contexts arise is important, and for that, social networks (in form of weblogs, chats, and wiki for information management) are essential. Nice quote: Weblogs + Topic Maps = Shared Context.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Avoiding the "Gotchas" of Knowledge Management | Winter 2003/2004 Perspectives | ICF Consulting gives some good guidelines before embarking on setting up a KM system for your organization. (Same applies if you are trying to agree on wiki or some such technology for your group.)

In summary: Get involvement and complete backing from the senior management (at least 2 levels up!), make sure goals and objectives are understood, make sure you establish processes which are actually understood and followed by people, check out inertia effects and so on.

In a small group, things work fine because everyone is involved, and it is group effort, and things are likey to succeed. But the moment it is an effort where the audience is not personally in touch with you (i.e. you are doing it for much wider group), then you need to handle it in much more different way (heeding to suggestions such as ones from above link). People come from variety of background; they won't have visibility towards objectives and goals the way you do. Or perhaps, they have some suggestions to give from their experience... In essence, the success factors are not in your hands alone, and you have to take help from senior mentors, and so on.

Kamoon Connect has Expertise management products, and rather good elevator pitches on their offerings. More importantly, the site is very pleasing and well organized.

Came across a product/website that recognized ad-hoc and other various types of workflows: Long duration workflow process with activity suspension. In particular, how can we setup a process in a very short time so that some collaborative work is performed? This work can include collection of information from people, be able to route a document for review and approvals, be able to simply categorize and publish information. Also, the expected skillset to create this workflow should be very minimal.

Needless to say, wiki systems are moving towards this. Twiki is actually well placed to handle many such requirements in organizational settings.


About this blog
All realms of collaboration:
  • Wiki. Weblogs
  • New Integration Platforms for combined structured and unstructured information: Wiki, Portals, Email Clients,
  • Collaborative Document editing, Collaborative knowledge building
  • Email Interfaces to collaborative shares
  • Information organization, management, Publishing: In context of organizations, individuals, Opensource projects etc.
About me:
Name:Vinod Kulkarni

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