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September 07, 2003


Chris Macrae

I think we should all start with the idea of the network of me or the network of you. I've been in many of the big communities Denham mentions. I am finding I stay in touch with all the people they introduced me to wherever we have common stuff (or even passionate disagreements but done in open faith)

I am actually having more discussions than ever but in contextual groups that are getting closer to doing stuff, and in real meetings

I would suggest 2 working rules to make communities thrive:

choose a few that have enough people you want to connect with; dont lurk; participate both in seeting up conversations and meeting people; start rroting contexts and projects to do together

avoid those spaces ahead of time where their success means someone wants to manage them more and more heaviliy extracting the value for the few owners rather than letting people open source and work relationships through with each other


Hi Cap'n - nice to read you. I may subscribe to the school that we have more to learn from the generations after us, than the generations before us, in many of these matters.

Olaf - you may be right, although Denham is certainly an exception - imo. However, instead of emailing in private, think it is more a matter of people discussing all the nuances of all the aspects of everything KM, on a wide variety of boards - and one has to - unfortunately - spend a lot of time on the web to find even a fraction of it - then knit it all together to arrive at a few of the answers one seek.

And as somewhat of a KM skeptic, let me paraphrase a term coined long ago: "Managing Knowledge" is a little like "herding cats." :-)

Olaf Brugman

One issue is never mentioned, in conversations about participation: competition. May be professionals do not like their conversations to be public, to not let others know what they are up to. In some boards I know, questions may be unsanswered for months, while there are email conversations behind the scenes on the same topic.

Cap'n Fatty

Hello Denham. Good to see a man of your caliber sharing the same platform as me... reflect well Fatty hahaha!

I'm teaching seventh grade S.S. in southern NM. We're starting a S.S. blog at http://consilience.typepad.com/agog/.

I promise to be a good neighbor.


Ton Zijlstra

Hi Denham,

First of all: good to see you blogging. We've exchanged views on the pros and cons of blogging and wiki's and maybe experiencing both environments might help our mutual understanding. I guess that means I will have to try my hand at editing wiki-pages now :)

As to where the discussion has gone:
If I take my personal situation as an indicator, I have certainly migrated my energy from forums to my blog.

But also my general energy spent on on-line interaction has decreased: the pressures within the company to devote less time to not-immediately-returning-billable-hours-activities have been mounting (my CEO e.g. saying that 'KM and QA is a luxury right now', which for me was a sign to start looking for a new job), and although I see a lot of interesting stuff floating by I can't come to the point of responding/contributing. I have a backlist of about a dozen items, I'd like to blog about e.g., and the list only keeps growing at the moment.

So there is a certain feeling of spreading too thin. The result is that I now am more focussed on just staying in touch with the people behind the discussions, than participating in discussions. Been planning on face to face meetings etc. Looking more into workshops or conferences to visit.

Something else that might be an influence: the return of Command & Control management in a lot of firms that were slowly moving away from that. In a recent issue of a managerial magazine here in the Netherlands, it said that in a lot of especially middlemanagement positions people have been replaced by more old-fashioned and more hard-nosed managers, that only care about you doing what you've been told.

In general I think there is a lot of talk here in NL about a knowledge driven economy, but investment in (organisational) innovation and awareness of the skills and innovation needed to stay in business is going down at the moment. (And there is little attention for the idea that fostering product innovation might mean organisational change) It's all about cutting costs at the moment in most firms here. And that is probably not a climate that fosters the type of discussion we are looking for, but gets people running for cover.

It might be that this would be the perfect moment for Academia to jump in and do some rigorous de-hyping of KM, and start helping with formulating application methods. But the academic world will probably use other places for discussion, or won't they?


olaf brugman

Dear all,
Some comments:
- Even the discussion here in Denham's blog is more lively than the discussion in Knowledgeboard.com, where 1) questions from site participants often remain unanswered, and 2) discussions about non-participation just fade...

Factors underlying the declining discussion may be:
- KM info is available in mature literature are available at any streetcorner;
- and KM solutions such as CoP almost become a commodity, and do no longer require the personal intervention of gurus or highly specialized consultants;
- the number of sites and KM discussion boards is large. So they are competing for 'market share'. The number of active KM professionals is not very high, so they have to spread thin;
- KM professionals may be more careful about how and where to seek exposure. And many prefer to have their own blog with picutre, bio on it, and in full control of what is happening there.
- any idea vented will be picked up by many immediately, which makes people careful.
- mainstream KM theory and literature is very stable and lost its innovation speed. We more or less know all familiar concepts and solutions now. Nothing new being added.
- I think the real challenge for KM is in its application. Corporate KM is expanding its solutions into ICT and business process architectures; societally relevant KM is waiting for implementation in/by civil society, in the field of international development cooperation, in networks of small and mediumsized business owners etc.So we might have to check for interesting KM discussions in the discussion boards of other industries, instead of in the KM world :)

Erik van Bekkum

Denham and Martin,

I doubt that the blogs have taken over part of the conversation that was going on in some of these forums; blogs simply are not an adequate tool to create threaded, lively discussions. Also - I have not seen a steep rise in the number of good KM blogs since the activity decline in the last six months, so where has all the energy gone?

One of the reasons may be that businesses and consultants are under pressue to deliver and there is for many just little time to devote to the public debate and productive conversation.

You're by the way spot on as far as the focus is concerned (this perhaps also relates to my previous comment) - the AOK series has focusses on a theme or a 'star' and that just interests people; they are highly energized and excellent discussions and insights come out of that.

Martin Dugage

Yes, I agree with you Denham. Interesting KM discussions tend to leave the traditional online forums, and move to other forms of interaction. The development of weblogs is certainly one important reason, as you rightly point out. From a social point of view, it is far more productive to send messages and listen to signals to and from the blogosphere, than to participate in online discussions, which often tend to drag on for a long time without a lot of value add for participants.

What I see from my perspective on the various KM organizations is a lack of focus (Why do we spend time participating in these discussions? What do we really want to learn to do better by interacting together?). I see the weblog more and more as a priviledged mean of establishing links between people. The next step is to meet physically, maybe by regional "chapters". Then comes the online collaboration environment such as the one of my new KM community in Paris (www.cop-1.net), which supports and prolongs collective thinking by providing a virtual space for it.

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