Note: If you are looking for the summary page on personal knowledge management/mastery (PKM) it is now here: 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 I’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 serendipitous 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, I’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 perspectives.
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.