My PKM System

Note: Latest version: PKM in a Nutshell (2010).

In response to a post I made on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), Tony Karrer recommended that I look at his post on Personal Learning for Learning Professionals. This had me review my posts on PKM and reflect on how I go through my process of triage. As a result, I created this picture.

I’m starting to use some other web tools but this is pretty well how I move from “interesting stuff” to “this is what I think”. For me, PKM is more about attitude than any given tools. My system works for me because I’m curious and because I have got into the habit of writing down my thoughts in a public forum. This develops into some interesting conversations about things that matter to me at the intersection of learning work and technology. Having a defined field of interest helps stop this blog from spreading too far and wide and keeps my PKM manageable.

Update: The diagram was slightly changed in response to Loretta’s suggestion (see comments). I would also encourage a look at Dave Pollard’s graphic on the same subject.

23 Responses to “My PKM System”

  1. Stephen Downes

    I suppose I have a PKM system, but I think it looks very different from this. I would include things like my photos and video clips and audio recordings, which are certainly as important to me as blog posts and essays. I depend partially on search when I intend to use content, but also largely on memory, to know that I once wrote about a thing (and conversely, I write about such things in order to help me remember them). My retrieval process is therefore pretty chaotic, involving my own website, Google, Flickr, Creative Commons, and a bunch of other services. In a similar manner, I rarely do ‘planned’ writing, but rather, write in response to something I see, or occasionally, on request. This means there is a decision point in my process, ‘respond to this?’, and then a set of possibilities, including comments (though I am trying to get all of this to route back to the same place (so far unsuccessfully, which is why I originally proposed mIDm)).

  2. Harold

    Thanks Stephen:

    I know that my search, analysis, reflection & retrieval process is more complex than what I posted. It’s only a slice of the whole picture. However, following a process such as this small chart would be a great leap for many people.

    I would surmise that your disciplined daily writing makes a significant difference in your PKM.

    BTW, I had to look up mIDm but did find your post to remind me:

  3. Karyn Romeis

    I think my PKM is pretty similar to yours in respect of what comes in via my RSS feed. But I think it is less quantifiable if the source of the information is something other than that. I think the process differs depending on the situation. Like Stephen, I tend to write in response to something I see, but I also address things that exercise my mind/give me sleepless nights. Writing about something helps me marshall my thoughts and get clarity or closure. Sometimes putting an idea into writing helps me see how ludicrous or unworkable it is – hopefully I spot that before hitting the post button, but there’s no guarantee!

  4. Harold

    Thanks, Karyn. No doubt this is a bit simplistic, but my aim was to show how PKM could work for people not used to it, especially those feeling overwhelmed with information online. I should have added exercise to the top of the diagram as well, because it’s while I’m cycling or skiing that I get my best ideas and threads seem to gel.

    The essential component, IMHO, is the act of writing it out and letting others see it.

  5. Dave Ferguson

    So if you could write while cycling…?

    I value your willingness to think out loud (and in public). I don’t know if this is a related phenomenon, but sometimes I seem to improve my thinking by talking with someone… a lot oftener than I sometimes wish, I interrupt myself, because as I’m describing or explaining, a new understanding comes to me.

    I’m not saying it’s always a useful understanding, though I suppose like Edison’s experiments, I can at least learn that X doesn’t work.

  6. Jay Cross

    Dave, now that I write and blab without thinking, that’s become how I tell what’s on my mind. (I used to keep everything bottled up; now it’s almost all out of my mind. (Double-entendre intended.)


  7. Loretta Donovan

    Harold, this is a great example of where I believe thof web2.0 will bring us. When people ask me why these tools are making a difference, the opportunity for community and learning are what I mention most. Here we are individually and collectively reflecting on the model, our own habits, each others’ comments and comments on comments. I am less dependant on RSS, a dedicated user of and the host of numerous collaborative environments where some lively discussions and chats are hosted. I have started to use wikis for co-writing. So I would add a loop back from to to indicate that this is an iterative process.


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