PKM in 34 pieces

One of my objectives with my latest PKM Workshop was to review most of my resources and work on developing new ones. Much of my work on PKM has been inspired by others. I have put these pieces together into a framework that I think makes sense and may be of some use.

This graphic combines the work of several people into a single aide-mémoire on PKM and the Seek > Sense > Share framework.

pkm in practice

The Five forms of filtering by Tim Kastelle are a good way to understand how to approach the digital surround and our way to seeking new knowledge.

Judgement Filters:

  • Naive filtering is what too often happens in our knowledge searching. It’s like prairie-dogging, or standing up in your cubicle and asking those close to you for advice. It’s rather hit and miss and dependent on who works nearby and happens to be listening.
  • Expert filtering worked when knowledge was more stable but in an interconnected, interdependent, digital world we have to ask, who are the experts? Still, good experts are valuable and I use platforms like Twitter to connect to them, like Valdis Krebs on social networks.
  • Networked expertise can be sought through group-sourced information resources, like our curated Working Smarter Daily or in self-created expertise lists like Google+ to create circles of expertise. You can also link to existing communities of expertise/interest such as KMers on knowledge management.

Mechanical Filters:

  • Algorithmic filters can be simple, like typing in a basic search string, or more refined using  techniques like Google’s advanced operators.
  • A good perspective on Heuristic filters is Howard Rheingold’s Crap Detection Skills:

Unless a great many people learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon, I fear for the future of the Internet as a useful source of credible news, medical advice, financial information, educational resources, scholarly and scientific research. Some critics argue that a tsunami of hogwash has already rendered the Web useless. I disagree. We are indeed inundated by online noise pollution, but the problem is soluble. The good stuff is out there if you know how to find and verify it. Basic information literacy, widely distributed, is the best protection for the knowledge commons: A sufficient portion of critical consumers among the online population can become a strong defense against the noise-death of the Internet.

James Mangan, in his 1936 book, You Can Do Anything, looked at 14 Ways to Acquire Knowledge. Maria Popova, at, reviewed his book and from her I discovered a number of methods of seeking knowledge.

  • Ask: As Maria Popova says, “I really believe our own curiosity is our greatest and most powerful tool for personal growth.”
  • Desire: Seeking without a goal is often just surfing the web, with little to show in the end.
  • Read: There is still a need to read in our digital age. Longer reads, and particularly fiction, and reading novels can make us better thinkers.
  • Listen: Whether it’s in person, on audio, or a video, listening gives us a chance to absorb what others have to say. Too often, our workspace do not allow this. There are many alternate ways of learning.
  • Observe: One learns best by observing from the edge, not the centre of action.


Ross Dawson’s five ways of adding value to information are a good start at sense-making techniques, with my short explanations appended.

  • Filtering: separating signal from noise, based on some criteria.
  • Validation: ensuring that information is reliable, current or supported by research.
  • Synthesis: describing patterns, trends or flows in large amounts of information.
  • Presentation: making information understandable through visualization or logical presentation.
  • Customization: describing information in context.

James Mangan (a very interesting character) identified several skills for acquiring knowledge.

  • Practice: This is absolutely critical. It is primarily through experience – perfomance  – reflection that we learn.
  • Get it from yourself: Sometimes it’s better to work things out for yourself than get a quick answer from someone else.
  • Walk around it: Looking at something from a different perspective, especially away from the mainstream, can give new insights.
  • Experiment: Use a constant probe – sense – respond approach with work and learning.

Finally, Robin Good picked up on this, and added five more curation skills, with my comments:

  • Comparing: With increasing complexity, and obfuscation by competing interests, being able to compare related items becomes more valuable. Imagine if someone could compare all your mobile telephone options in a clear, simple way.
  • Finding related items: Sometimes we forget about the past and it’s important to relate the present to what has transpired. Those who foretold the global financial collapse were in the minority. Good comparisons are quite useful.
  • Illustrating / Visualizing: Good info-graphics are very useful, but too often they obscure. Visualizing takes great skill but can be exceptionally useful.
  • Evaluating: Being able to set criteria and evaluate from a neutral point of view can add real value to what otherwise would just be data. Nate Silver has made a living from this.
  • Crediting & Attributing: While attribution may just seem like a nice thing to do, it is very important to trace how knowledge is constructed. With proper attribution to the original source, you can then make changes if evidence or circumstances change.


James Mangan and his 14 ways of acquiring knowledge also showed ways of sharing knowledge.

  • Put in order: This helps those learning something for the first time. Video from CommonCraft are an excellent example of things put in order to enable understanding.
  • Define: The popularity of Wikipedia shows the importance of defining knowledge. It provides a starting point.
  • Teach: The best way to learn something is to teach it. Google is embracing the power of teaching for sharing knowledge amongst its employees.
  • Write: Blogging changed my life for the better. Need I say more?
  • Reason: Putting thoughts out in public forces you to understand the reason why you are doing so.

In addition, Rob Cross and Lee Sproull looked at tacit knowledge-sharing, as described in the quotes below by Nancy Dixon. Cross & Sproull identified five categories of responses that can be given by experienced workers to those needing help in seeking knowledge.

  • Answers:  “The seekers were looking for the application of facts or principles in order to develop a solution.”
  • Meta Knowledge:  “This category was about where to go to get more information on the issue, or conversely where not to go because a certain report was out-dated, or superficial.”
  • Problem Reformulation: “To gain meta-knowledge and/or problem-reformulation requires the source to be willing “to understand the problem as experienced by the seeker and then shape her/his knowledge to the evolving definition of the problem” and is best served by the give and take of conversation.”
  • Validation:  [also identified by Ross Dawson] “Validation also provides seekers the certainty that they have done enough background work, saving the seeker the time it would take to gather further data.”
  • Legitimizing:As with validation, legitimizing can save the seeker time by reducing the amount of proof or data that may need to be collected before the client is willing to act. It also serves to head off arguments others might raise.”

So there you have it; 34 ways to personally manage your knowledge. Not all are necessary, but it’s a good list to start with.

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