Google + Blog = Personal Knowledge Management System

David Reed wrote on

It happened again. I told a friend about a new program. He wants a URL. I say “Did you try Google?” and he says “oh … yeah.” He doesn’t need a URL.

Maybe it’s just that we’re used to having difficulty finding information about things. So few people have absorbed that Google creates a shared context that is bigger than all of our brains, so we humans don’t need specific pointers most of the time anymore. We’re slow learners.

But now when I sit in a meeting where I have an Internet connection, or conferencing on the phone in my office, I’m Googling all the time. The context it creates is immense and useful. Somebody might make an allusion to some literary idea – and I’m no longer in the dark. Somebody might mention a product or service – and I can order it immediately, or bookmark it.

When someone can’t remember a fact or a name, I can usually get it quickly enough to be useful.

Google is my other memory. If it isn’t yours, it probably will be eventually.

As I thought about the comments, it struck me that we have three memories. The first memory is our brain, which unfortunately, ages with time. We forget, or some things just slide into the background. The second memory now is Google, which never forgets and almost unfailingly gets us to the right document wherever it on the Web. The weblog we write becomes our third memory.

I have realised that I now use the blog as an extension of my own memory: articles I like, ideas that interest me, excerpts, comments are all being posted on my blog. With Categories and Search, it now strengthens my memory. I can look up things much faster, review recent ideas or thoughts in much more detail. I used to make notes in my notebook when I read articles, but now I find myself doing so on the blog. The attractive features are the ability to excerpt the part from the article that interested me, the ability to comment and then later search.

What I would like is a private blog, which becomes a superset of the public blog and a part which I only keep to myself. This way, I can post all my notes, meeting summaries, etc. on this blog, knowing fully well that I can find them again (and get the context). Searching paper notes can be quite hard — they become like a black hole, difficult to get anything out of them. So, now, I am using my notebook (the paper one) for doodling and thinking. When I am somewhat ready, I post on my blog (like I am doing now).

I think there’s a much bigger idea here…that of using the blog and the other Digital Dashboard components (RSS Aggregator, outlines, directories and filters) as a “personal knowledgement management system”. This does away with the weakness of the primary memory (our brain) — aging. The blog becomes our tertiary memory, since Google won’t be able to index our private blog. So now, I can note down all kinds of things on my private blog, knowing it will never age or forget. (Well, sometimes, it may be better to forget some things, so then we go hit the delete button!)

What this does is build a stronger foundation for new ideas and innovation. I have seen that ideas take time to mature, and many ideas come but the timing may not be right. So, what it means is that we need to store our thinking, and periodically, go back to our old ideas and perhaps, build upon them. This is because we get new experiences, new insights, new knowledge every day.

I guess the right word is “Assimilation”. As we assimilate new inputs, some of our older ideas may strike a chord. I have seen this happen many times, especially on working on futuristic, innovative concepts like we are doing now. In fact, many of the ideas for Emergic and what we are doing now have evolved over time and I still learn a lot reading my notes (and Tech Talks) from the past.

This may be hard to imagine because we have not been exposed to anything like this before — everything we have known of ages, or fades away. For the first time, between Google and our Blogs (public and private), we can build a unified system for managing our own knowledge. What is needed is to add in Directories, Outliners, Search, Categories, Filters and many of the other features we are seeing with now with blogs. Out of such personal systems (excluding theprivate blog, ofcourse) can be built the enterprise knowledge management system. All that would be expected of each of us is to write what we think. More than anything else, it would be an enriching personal system — a “Forget-Me-Not” kind-of Emergent Knowledge Base.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.