I just attended a KM Pro discussion on "Keeping Content Fresh." We started with the question: How can organizations identify and remove stale content from their web portals? As we debated different technologies for managing content, the underlying discussion really turned into a debate about responsiblity. When you depend on information from me, which of us is responsible for ensuring that I have provided you with information that is accurate and up-to-date?
Before I go any further, I'd like to acknowledge that just debating content management (much less resolving it) is quite a modern privilege. Once upon a time, literacy was a rare and precious thing. Now our society is not only predominantly literate, but most of us operate mini publishing houses as well, via our PCs. See recent posts by Bill Ives for more on this historical perspective.
The super-abundance of literacy that contributes to the issue of content management reminds me of the typical rush-hour traffic jam. Technology (like the automobile) that liberates the privileged few of 1904 can burden the many of 2004, when everyone else's liberation starts to get in the way of my destination.
So what is the tele-commuter to do? (Or anyone else on the information superhighway, for that matter?)
A number of people at today's discussion shared their struggles to ensure that new content (ie, information placed in some shared repository) is reviewed for accuracy. This noble goal seems increasingly unrealistic. In organizations where more and more people are producing more and more information (some of it even useful to others), any centralized editorial board can easily become a very costly and expendable bottleneck.
Without a central editorial board, who manages the flow of information? Several participants spoke of the need for systems to sense interdepencies and update shared information automatically. We focused especially on healthcare, where a doctor prescribing a drug via his PDA can receive automatic alerts to inform him of new guidelines, side effects, or even interreactions with other medications currently prescribed to the patient at hand.
That sounds great, but I think it's important that we don't go too far in expecting our Palm Pilots to anticipate our needs.
Information storage grows ever cheaper, communication bandwidth ever wider, and search technology ever more adept. Sure, we have a quality control problem, but the benefits of mass electronic publishing far outweigh the pitfalls. I am more convinced of this every time I use Google and find just want I wanted, despite the typos and outdated links.
And so I might wish to push my blog upon the world with weighty claims of importance, and others might wish to hold me or some system responsible for alerting them to new developments in organizational effectivness; but for most of us, most of the time, I think the key is to look up what you want, when you want it.
You might be wondering, surely there are some situations where I do have a responsibility to inform you of new developments? Yes, of course there are. However, I think that these situations are becoming increasingly rare, especially here on the Internet. I expect to say more about that next week.