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Resources on Information and Knowledge Management

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What are information and knowledge?

There are as many definitions as there are people talking about these subjects. A simple summary definition is:

  • Information is data that has been presented or adapted in such a way as to inform -- often in response to a question or as part of a collaborative conversation.
  • Knowledge is the way that information and experience come together to achive an outcome in a particular situation -- whether the task is operating machinery or deciding strategic direction.

Can information or knowledge be managed?

For many people currently, they're happy if they can simply cope with the tidel wave of data. However, it is possible to manage aspects of information in both the human and technological environment. Organizations have gained tremendously from the ongoing trends to capture information created as a by-product of peoples' work, to tag (classify) the rapidly growing body of data and information for improved structure and findability, and to encourage communication among customers, suppliers and employees in a host of new ways. There is a lot that can be done to look after how an organization creates and maintains tangible information, and to understand the way that people use and communicate their knowledge in more informal, intangible ways.


Want to know more?

Interacting with the Semantic Web Summary and Sample Presentation

After collecting examples and demos of interaction design for the Semantic Web over recent years, it was time to collate that information into a summary page and an online presentation. This "guided tour" has been done at the Usability Professionals' Association conference since 2004 and at other venues since early 2007, updated every year. It provides an overview of the current innovations related to user interaction and user-centered design for the Semantic Web, as well as serving as a reference for practitioners as they consider the role of Semantic Web opportunities and offerings in their work. Examples and interesting web sites are listed in this paper and presentation.

Semantic Web User Interaction (SWUI) Workshops

2009: Sharing Ideas for Complex Problems in User Interaction at ISWC, Washington, DC, USA. 2009 Proceedings.
2008: Exploring Interaction Challenges at CHI2008, Florence, Italy. 2008 Proceedings.
2006: SWUI "Grand Challenges" at ISWC, Athens, GA, USA.
2005: End User Interaction workshop (demos and discussion) at ISWC, Galway, Ireland. 2005 Proceedings.

A series of workshops focused on the human interaction frontier. How do we bring value to users from the power of the Semantic Web? If exploited effectively, the rich markup and processing of information promised by the Semantic Web can provide much more capability to meet user needs. However, if it is to be valuable to users (rather than just computer-to-computer interaction) its benefits have to be made tangible through the quality of the user experience.

Achieving Business Value by Integrating Tasks, Topics and Content (pdf)

"The shortest distance between two points is a relevant keyword." When users need information, the most direct path returns them to their task as quickly as possible with the knowledge needed to be successful. This requires us to design and write with an understanding of the user's context, task, and need. We then reduce seeking time by carefully defining the 'glue' between applications and supporting information. I discuss some 'big picture' ideas for User Assistance practices: understanding the user's context, identifying relevant keywords, and integrating applications and content using techniques from the Semantic Web and Topic Maps.
Presented at Writers of User Assistance conference, March 2008, Portland, OR.

Coming to Terms with Keywords (slides and discussion paper)

In the practice of User-Centered Design and Information Architecture, we often need to identify key words and phrases for the subject domain and the content in order to support navigation, search optimization, faceted browsing, and labeling. This session presents a brief overview of automated tools that can help. Keyword generators, semantic parsers, and concept extraction software do not remove the need for the individual and group design activities, but they can make it quicker to get started by identifying important terms which you can then go on to discuss with subject experts and users.
Presented at User Focus, the Usability Professionals' Association DC Chapter conference, October 2007, Washington, D.C.

Policy Content at SSA: Using XML and Semantic Metadata

A new content management and delivery system has been growing over the past years at SSA. From a content perspective, users have been asking for "simple answers, with all supporting information, relevant to my situation." From an organizational perspective, the role of content is increasingly seen as integrated with transactional systems in order to sustain quality service delivery in an increasingly complex business environment. From a technology perspective, the use of emerging tools based on XML and semantic technologies provides opportunities for simpler systems that control content maintenance more effectively, improve integration, provide easier content access, and allow migration as systems evolve over time. This case study shows the application and discusses design considerations.
Presented at XML2004, November 2004, Washington, D.C.

Maintaining Ontology Implementations: The Value of Listening (pdf)

It's hard to argue against the concepts of self-describing data, contextual interfaces, and richer metadata for content that eventually will make up the Semantic Web. The need is just so great, and becomes greater by the day with the huge increase in unstructured content and non-integrated data repositories. However, it is easy to imagine semantic environments suffering from the same challenges that many content management system implementations and the Web itself suffer from: the preoccupation with data could easily leave us drowning in it. We focus on approaches being explored to promote feedback and user involvement for the maintenance of semantic representations, to ensure they remain useful and current.
Presented at Extreme Markup, August 2004, Montreal, Canada.

The Usability Imperative Inherent in the Semantic Web (pdf)

A tremendous amount of hope – and hype – has been attached to Tim Berners-Lee's concept of the Semantic Web, where machine-readable "meaning" enriches the promise of the web. Creating a positive, successful, trust-worthy experience for users is crucial to its success. What does that mean? What is imperative for it to become the "next generation" web? Most importantly, why must the usability community play a leading role to shape the Semantic Web in a positive, user-centered way?
Presented at the Usability Professionals' Association conference, June 2004, Minneapolis, MN.

Can Topic Maps Provide Context for Enterprise-Wide Applications?

Topic maps provide exciting opportunities not just to make information easier to find, but to increase the usability of software. In order to provide users with the information that applies to their particular situations, in forms that they can use, software must be aware of a user’s context (in a broad, multi-dimensional sense). Topic maps can serve as the language for linking information to software applications and for sharing information about context among applications. Using topic maps in the design of user-centered software applications for the U.S. Social Security Administration, we have encountered several interesting issues that are not necessarily found in the design of stand-alone information resources.
Presented at Extreme Markup, August 2003, Montreal, Canada.

Personal KM: How Our Tools Fit Our World (pdf)

How do we use knowledge management disciplines and technology tools not just organisationally, but also personally and professionally? To what extent are the lines blurring between our various uses? This paper is based on a talk given in London in April 2002. It explores thoughts about how the design of knowledge management tools and initiatives is affected by the degree to which people feel that tools such as personal computers, the web, e-mail, mobile phones, and personal digital assistants are truly personal tools. Are there social and organisational consequences? Of course. Do we have a sense of what they are? We are increasingly seeing the implications, even if we don't quite understand their effect yet.
Presented at Knowledge Management London, April 2002, London, England.

The Case for Creative Abrasion: Experts Speak Out on Knowledge Management (pdf)

Gary Dickelman gathered a group of us involved in various aspects of knowledge management for a conversation. As he said, "In recent months the advocacy that is performance support has become more focused on the notion of knowledge management (KM). We hear these terms frequently in the literature, in the titles of trade magazines, and even in the names of conferences. We also see the label in products, the so-called Knowledge Management Systems. What are the issues? Has there been any noticeable improvement in performance because of KM activities? Why all the buzz? In January 2001, Douglas Weidner, Hal Christensen, Barbara Cowley-Durst, Duane Degler, and Michael Feldstein converged to help obtain answers around six fundamental issues of KM."
From the Performance Improvement Journal, ISPI, 40(7), August 2001.

Knowledge Management in Pursuit of Performance: the Challenge of Context

Knowledge management has an increasingly visible profile within organizations. Much of the current focus is on the acquisition and storage of knowledge resources. Unfortunately, because most knowledge management solutions are developed to stand alone, the context of a person's need for information when using business applications is often left to the individual. Performance-centered design, on the other hand, focuses on interactions between people and the tools they use to achieve outcomes. Many current designs provide context through task-based interfaces and link existing information to predefined tasks. This works as long as the knowledge base is relatively static and the tasks clearly specified. However, it does not work as well when designing for today's knowledge workers whose responsibilities are less structured. This article discusses ways to merge the best practices of knowledge management and performance support, so that knowledge can be integrated more seamlessly within working applications, and applications can be used to solicit knowledge as a by-product of people's work.
From the Performance Improvement Journal, ISPI, 39(6), July 2000.

Knowledge Maintenance Strategies: Gaining User Involvement

How can organizations work to ensure that shared knowledge remains relevant over time? How can managers determine that available resources are valuable to the organization and the individuals who use them? One key way is to involve the people using the information. The goal is to identify and resolve two challenges when managing knowledge resources: first is the challenge of regularly gathering useful feedback from resource users as well as automatically from within applications to determine value and relevance; second is how to act on that feedback.
Presented at Knowledge Management London, April 2001, London, England.

An Information Perspective on Process Reengineering

The human inability to predict the future with unfailing accuracy means that the implications surrounding change will never be understood completely. This paper outlines a number of pitfalls which stand in the path of reengineering change efforts, many of which can be avoided. It points to the impact of analysing an organisation's information, its "lifeblood," as one additional mechanism for reducing the risk of inappropriate and potentially damaging initiatives.
This paper evolved from a client briefing paper, 1994.

What is Information Management?

An introduction to the subject of information and knowledge management from the perspective of executives faced with the challenge of describing their needs for information in terms understood by both the technologists and the people in the organization who supply information.
Overview of the subject as presented in the seminar series "What is IT?" London and the US, 1996-97.

Knowledge Management: the Human Perspective

Exploring the non-technological aspects of knowledge in the organization, particularly as it relates to marshalling the human resources required to create, share and maintain knowledge resources.
Presented at the International Federation of Training & Development Organizations (IFTDO) conference, July 1998, Dublin, Ireland.

A Role by Any Other Name: the Availability of Skills in Project Teams

Although there is a recognition of the value of project teams in the development of performance improvement interventions and technology, there are increasing problems in the communication within such teams. One of the reasons appears to be that there is a growing cross-over of skills among specialist members of project teams. A paradox lies in the dynamic way that these skills both overlap and leave gaps in the team’s understanding of performance needs. This article attempts to outline the balance between traditional team roles and the skills that are actually available to support successful project completion.
From the Performance Improvement Journal, ISPI, 38(7), August 1999.



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Duane Degler 1999-2010