The PKM value-add

Cristina Milos recently tweeted that; “Curating is different from aggregating information. That is why I am not a fan of Paperli or Scoopit.” The curation craze has been assisted by an increasing number of web platforms that enable easy sharing (with emphasis on the word easy). But what value do they really provide, aside from another platform to sell user data or advertising?

During my online conversation (recording on YouTube) with Jane Hart yesterday, we discussed personal knowledge mastery (PKM) and one very important aspect, in my opinion, is the need for active sense-making. Merely seeking and sharing information does little other than create more noise online. The sense-making part takes effort. It’s why so few people keep at blogging for years, because it takes work.

But sense-making, or placing information into context, is where the real personal value of PKM lies. The knowledge gained from PKM is an emergent property of all its activities. Merely tagging an article does not create knowledge. The process of seeking out information sources, making sense of them through some actions, and then sharing with others to confirm or accelerate our knowledge are interlinked activities from which  knowledge (often slowly) emerges.

One strength of PKM is the “manual” nature of sense-making activities. The act of writing a blog post, a tweet, or an annotation on a social bookmark all force you to think a bit more than clicking once and filing it to an automated system. Other sense-making routines, like a weekly review of Twitter favourites and creating Friday’s Finds, encourages reflection and reinforces learning. Automating sense-making is antithetical to the rationale behind PKM.

  • Personal – according to one’s abilities, interests & motivation.
    (not directed by external forces)
  • Knowledge – understanding information and experience in order to act upon it.
    (know what, know who, know how)
  • Mastery – the journey from apprentice to disciplined sense-maker and sharer of knowledge.
    (masters do not need to be managed)

It’s not PKM if there is no value created, and I’m not sure if it’s curation either.


20 Responses to “The PKM value-add”

  1. Augusto Cuginotti (@acuginotti)

    Hello Harold,

    Great article. I have been asking myself this question since a friend wrote me saying that a very sensitive issue he had shared was tagged as Entertainment by the robot of

    I’ve just helped to put together a new structure to share articles and news I and other colleagues read. I feel there is a higher potential of value creation because many people can be curators together, sharing a collective, in our case, Tuesday’s Finds. It is at

    Your article made me realise that there’s more to be done in terms of annotation rather than clipping – so I’ll spread the word and improve what’s there. Thanks!

    • Harold Jarche

      Making it more difficult to read an article, by using redirect/tracking links such as or requiring extra clicks to get to the source article, does not help, Augusto. I see little value as a reader, other than getting more advertising, which is not something I am looking for in my feeds. Perhaps adding good annotations would make this effort worthwhile but the extra value would have to be significant to keep me as a reader.

  2. Augusto Cuginotti (@acuginotti)

    I agree that extra clicks does not make any sense. I think what might generate value, apart from good customised annotations, is the possibility of a group of people being able to collectively Seek – Sense – Share.

    I’m imagining a community of practice sharing Friday’s Finds around their topic of interest. So people could write their content on their website but share what they read on a collectively platform.

  3. Isabel de clercq

    I think harold that what you describe above will be used an argument for the l&d people who will defend the organization of class room trainings.
    Why? Because maybe not everybody has the discipline and energy to make time for sense making activities. And sometimes connecting different parts of information ( also a way of sense making) is a work done by the trainer.
    So maybe this means the future of PNL is just the future for knowledge workers …. And maybe worse: just for the not lazy ones. For example: I still see a lot of law people attending formal class room training because they want somebody else to pick up the info for them and make the connections.
    Curious to read what you think about that.

    • Harold Jarche

      One hundred years ago employers may have felt that not all farm boys had the discipline to work in factories, so they added control measures like time cards, hierarchies and whistles signalling start time.

      Today, many factory-conditioned workers may not have the discipline to take control of their learning. I’m helping to give them some new tools and processes for the network era; before it’s too late. Yes, I believe it’s the future of work.

  4. @dan_steer

    Hi Isabel and Harold

    I agree with both of you, but think you say 2 compatible things about 2 different issues:
    * Isabel suggested that some people are lazy and undisciplined and that they will still be happy for others to do the (filtering) work for them. Here “discipline” meant “motivation” and self-learning attitude, not “need to be controlled”.
    * Harold equated discipline with need for “external control” and then with “internal motivation”.

    I think the future of work is one of less or no control by external forces about the way we work and the way we learn. No more industrial-mgt styles..

    In this era, most people will turn to self-learning, driven by an internally created thirst for competence and willingness to excel. They will go get their own learning, not needing someone to direct them in it.

    However, 2 points:
    1 – some people, like me, will still be “lazy” and happy to profit from the filtering/curating/facilitating efforts of other people like L+D professionals. This will be part of their self-learning strategy: knowing how to get with the least effort the maximum of the right stuff to do their work. Training may still be useful there. Even some knowledge-sharing classes, like Isabel suggests.
    2 – Not everyone will be as competent at self-learning and PKM. They will still need done help (direction and guidance) from time-to-time.

    Bon weekend!

  5. Debbie Morrison

    Good discussion – though Dan I agree, that “not everyone will be as competent at self-learning and PKM. They will still need done help (direction and guidance) from time-to-time”, and this is no different than how organizations functioned prior to the social media tools we have access to now. There will always be ’employees’ or individuals that won’t dig deep for learning content – but will adapt and determine how to source out the information, to turn into useful knowledge with the least amount of effort. I don’t see anything wrong with this paradigm, except having the ‘smarts’ to know who to follow -(the chosen ‘leaders’ should that have a broad and robust PKM). But, followers who might be lazy, still have a PKM, but ‘creates’ his or her own PKM based upon the leaders he or she chooses to follow.
    Thanks for the good discussion – and excellent visuals Harold. Debbie

  6. Alex McClung

    Hi Harold,

    The PKM process seems akin to the aggressive/active listening espoused by Tom Peters and others. From my perspective these are both acts of signal-to-noise processing. We live in a stimulus-rich environment. Some of this is genuine signal; useful to our needs and interests. The rest is noise. This situation is not a function of the availability of information or the explosion of social media. The challenge is (and always has been) to parse out the noise and respond to the signal. Perhaps the signal-to-noise ratio is constant over time; I don’t know. A few years ago Dan Pink told us the ability to “connect the dots” was a necessary skill. I agree with Dan and add to it the basic skill of finding the signal in all that noise will be a differentiating success factor as the quantity stimulus increases.

  7. Arabella Santiago

    Thanks for this, Harold. I know I’m a bit bias, but I’d love the opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding. is not an aggregation platform like We have a suggestion engine that aggregates content, but these are only suggestions. The user is the publisher and the curator of the suggested content. We also encourage people to add their insight for each piece that they curate. We warn people against “over-curating” and say that if there’s any doubt that the piece isn’t relevant to their topic, DO NOT CURATE IT. is exactly what you have written about — a personal knowledge manager — but with our technology combined with the human touch, we make this easier for people to manage the influx of information from all over the Web. Our CEO and Co-founder, Guillaume, created a presentation about this called “Humanrithm: …How Algorithms Lost the Content Curation Battle” —

    Please let me know if I could be of any help. I’m a fan of your work and am eager to connect with you. Thanks again, Arabella.

    • Harold

      Thanks for your comment, Arabella. Guillaume’s presentation is quite clear & informative. While I would not call a personal knowledge manager, as only people can do that, I can see how it could be used to support PKM. My personal issue with is the way most people seem to use it; for collection but not curation. Many of my posts get picked up on but only a very small percentage of users add any value. Most “scoops” (is that what they are called?) that I see have no comments added. One exception to this pattern is my friend Robin Good, who understands curation very well:

      When I advise people on starting a PKM process I suggest they use a variety of filters, as explained here:
      Algorithms have a role, though, as Guillaume points out, it is a limited one.

  8. Arabella Santiago

    You’re fast on your reply and tweet! I think that even if a user starts as a “collector,” we’ve built the product to help the him become better at curation — and perhaps turn him into a “(Robin) good curator.”

    We also give points to our users to incentivize them to do better curation. These points are measured not by the amount of posts on their topics but by the insight they’ve added to each piece of content and the quality of engagement they’ve received from each piece they’ve curated. Here are the curators with the top points on — Our data shows that as the user becomes a better curator, they become more likely to add and share their own insight, which I think is part of “sense-making.”

    • Harold

      It sounds as if you are building a good platform for sense-making, Arabella. By the way, is it possible to export your data from


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