Informations flow is, like that of time, inexorable and continuous. Each day, we generate more information now than what would be generated in a lifetime a few years ago. This is truly an Information Technology revolution that we are going through. For many of us, in our roles as knowledge workers, much of our day is spent processing and creating information.
Information abounds in its pervasiveness all around us: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, hoardings, emails, documents and websites envelope us. The problem and challenge is how to best manage the information that is there around us. Kevin Werbach puts it in context: The issue is how to manage information without managing it. We want the right information to get to the right person at the right time, but there’s usually no way to know those things ahead of time. We also want to leverage the Web, which is centralized and has links that can break and go in only one direction, while engaging in bidirectional freeform interactions like Weblogging. According to Werbach, the next great business software application, alongside the word processor, spreadsheet, browser, and email/calendar/address book, will be the Information Router.
My belief is that the combination of weblogs and RSS is what can dramatically amplify our ability to process information. Weblogs are personal journals, which have links, quotes and comments either by one individual or a community. RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, an XML format for syndicating information from a website or a web page. Blogs can work as an extension of our memory, while RSS can pull information from various other sites (or even entities like sensors). They form the foundation of what I call the Information Refinery, which is akin to the Information Router mentioned by Werbach.
Much of what we do as information/knowledge workers is process information. We get it from multiple resources, we assimilate it, we route it to others, we translate it into different formats. When we look at our lives today, we have information scattered all over the place: multiple email accounts each with a multitude of folders, files on our hard disk and on the server, calendaring software (like Outlook or Evolution), our address book, the documents we browse, the searches that we do on Google, the business cards that we accumulate (each with its own story), hard-copies of notes which we may make in our paper-based notebook. In the enterprise, we can think of business processes as rules for routing information, as tracing the flow of events through various filters and actions.
In essence, we have information ores which need to be refined. We rely on our memory to manage much of the information. Some of us use PDAs. In recent times, Google has become our second memory for information which is available out on the Internet. But so far, there has not been an easy mechanism to manage much of the other information that we use individually or share with others in a group. This is where weblogs and RSS can come in. This is at the heart of the Information Refinery. Whether it is news items or blog posts or enterprise events, the information refinery should be handle to handle all of them. Taken together, they can create a unified information portal (a digital dashboard, or more like a digital smorgasbord) a single screen as a window to the information world.
Tomorrow: Blogs and RSS (continued)