Note: If you are looking for the summary page on personal knowledge management/mastery (PKM) it is now here: http://jarche.com/pkm/
Jay has recently posted on Learning Circuits that blogs can be used as knowledge management (KM) tools. Using these tools brings some new challenges, as Lilia has noted “In a sense personal KM is very entrepreneurial, there are more rewards and more risks in taking responsibility for developing own expertise.” I won’t deny the cultural change issues in using blogs for knowledge management but I will show how I, as an independent worker outside an organisational hierarchy, use blogs and other tools for personal knowledge management. [This is an update & re-write of a previous post from last year.]
I write on my blog for several reasons. First of all, it’s the platform by which I try to make implicit knowledge (e.g. not codified or structured) more explicit, through the process of writing out my thoughts and observations of what I have come across in my life. By forcing myself to write a summary or an observation, I have to reflect on my own learning. Also, by making my thoughts public I know that they will be scrutinized – now and in the future. There’s nothing like public visibility to make you check your logic. I also view my blog as my main communication medium, letting me converse with potential clients or provide them with a venue to get to know me without any feelings of obligation. Basically, it’s all out there for the world to see.
But how do I get from “gee isn’t that interesting?” to a written blog post?
Many of my observations come from the blogs that I visit regularly. These feeds are aggregated in my Bloglines account which is made up of +/- 100 feeds. This feed aggregator is sorted into various folders and feeds are routinely added and deleted depending on my preferences and information needs. If Iâ€™m working on a project in a specific field I may add some feeds for the duration of the work. The feeds I select are a reflection of the work that I’m doing. I also keep a couple of feeds that have little relation to my work for any serendipidous learning. The ability to scan, preview, read and save posts makes this a simple and easy process – better than visiting each site.
There are also some web pages, posts or sites that I find interesting but I feel are not worth the effort of writing a blog post. For these sites I use Furl, a social bookmarking service. Furl not only saves the page but allows me to tag the item by category. My Furl archive is public so that I can share these pages.
Items and thoughts that are not ignored or stored in Furl usually get saved into a temporary bookmark folder in my browser. Over time I review these and may find a few others that relate to each other. When I have the time and inclination, usually after exercise, I’ll draft a post, review it and post it.
But what use is my blog?
Because my website is searchable, Iâ€™m able to retrieve two years of thoughts and comments and easily review these. This is quite practical for presentations, papers, proposals and responding to questions. If I didn’t write a blog, I would have a lot more bookmarks, without annotations of my reasoning and reflection at the time. After two years, my blog is becoming a valuable productivity tool, and the comments and links from others only add more value.
My blog is also a great way to meet people interested in similar subjects, and has helped to create an evolving community of practice. As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is like a very detailed business card, and those who disagree with my points of view may decide not to engage my professional services. This would be a good thing; from both perspectuives.
As an independent consultant, a blog is probably the simplest, cheapest and most effective knowledge management tool there is today. Some other benefits are listed here.