While discussing our upcoming informl learning unworkshop, the need for personal knowledge management (PKM) came up again. Previously, I’ve explained how my blog helps me to stay organised and I’ve talked about the PKM methods I used with my previous system.
Staying organised, or more importantly, finding stuff when you need it, is much easier when you add in a few web tools. I would suggest the web tool to start using is an online bookmarking system. I no longer have to search through Favourites or Bookmarks on my browser because I use a free online bookmarking system called Furl. This lets me mark a web page with any number of topic headings, save a copy on my personal cache (in case that website goes down), make the bookmark public or private, and then have all of my bookmarks in a searchable database. Much less clutter and I have about 700 in my archive, which I am constantly retrieving for one reason or another. An online database like this is handy when you’re onsite with a client.
I use Furl on a daily basis and I almost never put anything into my browser Bookmarks, except for the login page of some password protected sites. If you did nothing else, just adopting a social bookmarking tool like Furl or del.icio.us would save a lot of time in searching for things. You could use social bookmarks to share with members of a project team too. After you used it for a while, you might see the value in sharing and searching other people’s topics or tags, but the bottom line is that these tools work for the individual.
You may have thought about writing a blog but you’re really not sure how to go about it. Before you ever decide to start blogging, I would suggest that you read some blogs of interest to you and perhaps make a few comments on them to join in the conversation. Using an aggregator to keep track of your blogs saves a lot of time. You can see who has made a new post without actually visiting that site. I use a free web based aggregator called Bloglines and my feeds are public but yours can all be private. Both Firefox, a free web browser, and Thunderbird, a free e-mail client, have aggregators built-in, so you could use these instead of a web-based system. There are some aggregator plug-ins available for Outlook, but I’ve never used them.
Basically, you can take a few free web tools and start controlling your information streams (Input). Then you can file the good stuff somewhere you can always find it (Filing & Sharing). You can also group your information for sharing by using free applications like a Squidoo lens. You can even create a public aggregator which shows as a single web page, as Jay Cross has done for Corporate Learning.
My navigation bar on the right of my Home page has links to some of my web PKM tools:
If you don’t use any of these tools and you want to get a handle on your information flow, then start with one and test it out.