SRI International
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Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 17:39:39 -0700

Mr. Rod Welch
The Welch Company
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111 2496

Subject:   KM Defined - Two Camps

[Responding to your letter on March 21, 2001 requesting peer review on KM in the POIMS paper....]

The material you point to [in POIMS], with the dichotomy highlighted between orality and literacy, is interesting. There is a tremendous amount of context required to understand what you are getting at. I think that the work is interesting although I think I understood only some large fraction of what you are talking about.

So, peer review. Let's see. I can review that material only if I know the intended audience, and the desired goal. That is, "Why do you want who to read this?". Making some general guesses about this, I'll just blabber on for a bit in hopes that it would be useful feedback for you.

The point that there are multiple aspects of KM is a good one, but I wouldn't stop at only two points of view of the value of KM.

The 4 defects of email interaction are targeted toward the normal stream-of-consciousness mode of email interaction. On software projects it is fairly common to have some amount of structure in the email interactions regarding that software, and there are tools that get employed which increase the quality, reduce meaning drift, and decrease the general friction of email interactions. In my experience, general management and organizational decision making is much less well supported by practices and tools to help structure problem solving or collaboration.

Jack Park's point that IBIS-like categorization of interactions are useful is another good bit that shouldn't be lost. I think that the gIBIS experiments from 10+ years ago showed that there is a lot of mileage one can get out of very primitive tools used in a disciplined way. Email-based IBIS could be one example of such a thing.

One point that is not highlighted in your POIMS discussion but that I find very compelling is the concept of scale. One person's ability to manage knowledge in their own head does not scale up to the world's most urgent and critical problems. So what is absolutely required is a scalable way to collaboratively manage knowledge. The details of this are not evident to me right now, but I expect that when folks really embark on that kind of effort and get moving beyond current things, there will be qualitative jumps in tools and abilities and modes of use. I'm not smart enough to foresee what these are. But I think that the importance of setting up to allow these, and to encourage these kinds of shifts early and often, cannot be overstated.


Computer Science Laboratory


Pat Lincoln

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  2. Jack Park,