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What is a k-log?

by Giles Turnbull -- 2002/03/05

Some people are taking the concept of weblogs and applying it to the wider concept of knowledge management. The result is k-logging ("knowledge-logging"). But will it catch on - will your employer dump Lotus Notes databases in favour of browsers and blog-style brain-dumps?

John Robb of Userland has lots of thoughts about k-logs, so we asked him about them in a short email interview.

WriteTheWeb: What is a k-log?

John Robb: This is still a new concept, but it will be huge. Weblogs will potentially become the first new widely adopted desktop productivity tool since the browser.

The problem with the Web is that it is primarily a read-only medium. A personal weblogging tool that runs on the desktop, changes this relationship and makes it as easy to write to the Web as read it. It adds the ability to build an easy to use personal Website to the browser (something the browser vendors should have done years ago).

Within a corporate context, K-Logs make it possible for any employee to add knowledge to an Intranet. It's easy enough to use (start-up in less than five minutes) that it overcomes resistance. Further, K-Logs provide people that use them two immediate benefits: 1) it is a highly visible way to enhance personal brand and 2) it is a great organizing tool that you can share with co-workers (it organizes your most important information over time). There is no other better way to get employee knowledge off the desktop and out of their heads and onto an Intranet where it can be archived, browsed, and searched.

Further, K-Log features like subscriptions let you as an employee keep up with what is going on by automating the process of collecting information. It creates a knowledge network within a company, all based on easy to understand Web standards. K-Logs break down the data silos on the desktop, particularly the notorious e-mail inbox and the directories of files people store all over their desktops. By publishing those e-mails and documents to the Intranet, everyone can get access to that information.

WtW: Do you think senior execs "get it"? How will it benefit their business?

JR: Those that have seen a K-Log in action do. This is the kind of revolution that will sneak in the backdoor of most companies (much like the first PCs), by people that see the benefits of using a K-Log at work. That's another reason that a K-Log works best as a desktop tool, it is portable.

Once execs see K-Logs in action in their company, they usually buy-in. Why? Here are a couple of immediate benefits:

1) People publish into K-Logs what they are doing often on an hourly basis. It is a great way to keep track of what is going on (coordination).

2) Archives. Given that K-Logs are public archives, this is particularly useful when an employee or consultant leaves a company. You now have a permanent record of what they did or didn't do. It also is an easy to use repository for people that need to find answers to specific questions or specific experts that can help them out.

3) It makes it easy to share information and get discussions going (which results in better ideas). K-Logs eliminate the barriers that prevent many people from posting to a discussion group. Everyone with a K-Log has a soapbox to say something. The best ones get links from all the rest.

4) New hires. New people or people that have been recently assigned to a project take lots of time before they can become useful. Much of that time is lost casting about for scraps of information that are useful. K-Logs make that easy. All you have to say to someone new is read all the team members K-Logs for the last two weeks.

Everything is there: thinking, files, e-mails, POV, and links.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

WtW: So could k-logs replace existing knowledge management systems?

JR: The question could be answered by asking another question: how much do current knowledge management solutions positively impact the worklives of employees at most corporations? For the vast majority of employees that answer is not much. K-Logs personalizes knowledge development and use in a way that provides an immediate positive impact on how people do their work.

I shudder to think of the billions of dollars that corporations have spent on barely used knowledge management systems like Lotus. Further, after they have been put in place its very hard for senior execs to chart their impact. With a K-Log network, you can see the impact by using your browser and surfing what has been written. Hey, I think the great unsolved portion of today's KM landscape is the "creation" and distribution of new knowledge. Way too much attention has been spent on managing existing stores of knowledge to little effect.

Comment

Discussion icon K-logs, and one-sided blindness

Posted by: aerolupus at 2003-02-06

A posting in my LiveJournal about Notes via k-logs

I regret that I've only just become aware of this article; however, the points that I make here are more business-oriented than the blind advocacy of this article.

A brief Q&A:

Q: Why should businesses use both k-logs and Domino? A: Because, among other things, even if you add both of them together, you will not come up with a good, easily-managed way of maintaining documentation and expertise. (As a side note, Domino includes the Discussion database, which -is- a blog format, by default. Most blogging systems can't handle workflow or XML translation or other things that Domino does well.)

Q: Why do you say that e-mail should not be included in the knowledge management system? A: Because all organizations will continue to have a need for email, and all organizations will have a need to send and receive email that is never put into the public eye -- for example, Human Resources queries, or senior management budget wrangling, or discussions among the senior management what the company's focus should be, which is a business decision and not a technical one. Salary and other compensation information should -never- be made public, and much of that is sent via email as well. Technical documentation shouldn't be sent via email; links to it should be.

Q: What do you recommend for documentation? A: As always, that depends. Some organizations could use a Wiki-type engine (The C2 Wiki) without an issue. Others would need something like the Everything engine (Everything Engine at Sourceforge) for finer-grained permissions. Still others should use Notes/Domino, but provide an easier-to-use front-end to update the documentation. In any case, though, I would recommend that at least five revisions per author were kept, in date order, to ensure that one (for example) Microsoft zealot and one Linux zealot couldn't undermine the efforts of the entire documentation team. (This is, however, a management issue, and not a technical one. The technology is supposed to exist so that management can be made easier... not more complex.)

Comment

Discussion icon K-Logging Issues

Posted by: glenco at 2003-02-10

My view is that a "brain-dump" of business knowledge is better than no record of said knowledge at all - but it's bit premature to throw away organisation collections of content and communications just yet. (eg try Groove before throwing out Notes at least)

The crux of the matter is how to "organise" Blogs in a way that adds value without destroying their immediacy - Ontology or not ? If Ontology, what kind, based on what, content, communication, intent, subject, context, purpose, etc. If not, what ?

For me the critical fact is that the approach must be implicit, self-organising or evoltionary in the blogging process if it's value is to extend beyond any immediate pragmatic purpose or application, where the domain or context lends itself to a well pre-defined ontology.

Ian Glendinning / ian@psybertron.org / www.psybertron.org