“A knowledge worker is someone whose job entails having really interesting conversations at work”

Weblogs are becoming so ubiquitous among the cognoscenti that we are witnessing a Christian rock phenomenon in their dissemination. The Christian music scene has a Christian analogue for every “secular” pop-music genre and, indeed, for individual “secular” artists. (Pop quiz: Who’s the Christian-analogue Bell Biv Devoe?) You don’t have to worship Satan to clutch glowsticks at a rave anymore!

(Another example: The Quebec film industry, the only one that actually works in Canada, for the simple reason that producers churn out movies in every available genre to compete against Hollywood.)

We are now approaching the point of finding first-contact articles about Weblogs for ever-more-rarefied disciplines. We just wrote one on PR last week, and on other occasions we have contemplated Dockers-wearing former print-medium ad executives busy piloting the Web into a ditch and done their thinking for them.

We’re not alone. This week’s example? Weblogs for knowledge management. Maish Nichani and Venkat Rajamanickam, writing very much in the trade-publication vernacular the Internet suits so well, manage the unexpected: They explain Weblogs to corporate managers while using only personal Weblogs as examples.

It’s a refreshing surprise. We’re used to dumb-arse reporters (so very often girls: what’s up with that?) grasping for the atypical corporatized example, as when prodding drag performers to verify that Milton Berle really was their inspiration. (Scott Thompson’s winning answer: “No, Bugs Bunny.”)

The two authors relate real-world blogging practices to existing theory in the still-arcane field of knowledge management, and more or less say what we said about PR: Giving people a way to tell stories (even the most trivial anecdote) will succeed in imparting knowledge.

We liked this bit:

In many KM systems, the emphasis is only on codifying and transferring knowledge. These systems intend to take the knowledge from an expert’s head and pour it into a novice’s head.... The systems inherently don’t give anything back to the contributors. That is why many KM implementations depend heavily on the use of incentives, such as gifts, rewards, bonuses, etc., to invite participation and sharing.

What is given “back to the contributors” in Weblogging? Nothing tangible. A pseudocommunity; talking at each other; a rash of links to the same item on like-minded blogs; a paucity of reader feedback. That’s the downside. The upside is exploring, finding new or old nooks and crannies online and making them your own, or simply writing down what happened today no matter how many people end up reading it, or how few.

Maybe it’s that last part that might cause the most liberation in corporations. How do we “communicate” in the office? People either keep their mouths shut, or book a boardroom if the topic is important (or they are), or covertly mutter amongst themselves (even during boardroom meetings – under-table Blackberry-twiddling is actually outlawed in some shops due to abuse). Now there’s a new option. The smallest item worth mentioning is now the size of a posting. (Who came up with that truism – Dave Winer? With so much knowledge to manage, we can never put our hands on things when we need to.)

While more or less expecting people to stay on topic, letting everyone in the company post little snippets of anything they want, however big or small, is a way to forge the collective wisdom of the company over time.

Posted on 2001-05-14