Category Archives: Knowledge Management

Cool Way to Manage Information

Yesterday I wrote on my business blog about searchCrystal
and noted that I liked the graphical display of its search results.
Today I stumbled upon a couple of sites that deal with visual
information management.  First I came across VisualComplexity.com which is best explained by this description from the site’s "About" page:

VisualComplexity.com intends to be a unified resource
space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks.
The project’s main goal is to leverage a critical understanding of
different visualization methods, across a series of disciplines, as
diverse as Biology, Social Networks or the World Wide Web. I truly hope
this space can inspire, motivate and enlighten any person doing
research on this field.

From the VisualComplexity site I found TheBrain.com.
These guys have visual content management products, one for individuals
and the other for enterprises.  They describe their products this way:

 

TheBrain Technologies is the leading provider of visual content
management solutions. The company was founded in 1996 and has been
delivering award-winning information management solutions for over a
decade. By connecting people, processes, and information, TheBrain’s
products provide unparalleled context for smarter information discovery
and more informed decision-making.

      
 

TheBrain technology can be utilized on corporate intranets, desktops, and the Internet. Some
      applications include: customer care, project management, dynamic mind mapping, IT management and helpdesks,
      impact assessment, competitive intelligence, marketing and sales support, and personal information management.

       
 

TheBrain has two primary products: PersonalBrain for
        individual users and BrainEKP, an enterprise knowledge platform for group collaboration.

I’ve always struggled with content management.  In the physical
world I’m a "pile don’t file" kind of guy because when I file it I
forget about it.  (A happy compromise for me is binders; active
projects are organized in binders that I keep on my desk and then I
shelve the binders once the project is complete).  I’m constantly
hunting for files online because my folder systems tend to get too
complex and so I forget if I saved a file under "Taxes" or
"Accounting."  These products offer hope for folks like me.

Bad Career Move: Becoming a Real Estate Agent

The guys that wrote Freakonomics have an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about real estate agents.  Not surprisingly they see real estate agents’ business being blown up by the internet much like stockbrokers and travel agents in the recent past.  What is surprising is that they think being a real estate agent in one of the hottest housing markets ever in the US was also a bad idea.  Here’s why:

As it turns out, however, most agents don’t make very much money during
a boom, because of one simple fact: the boom attracts way too many of
them. Over the past 10 years, membership in the N.A.R. has risen by
more than 75 percent. And why not? Compared with most professions,
becoming a real-estate agent is quick, cheap and relatively painless.
In economics, this phenomenon is known as free entry…

From 2002 to 2004, during one of the hottest real-estate markets in
American history, the median income for Realtors actually fell — to
$49,300 from $52,200. This is not to say that some agents haven’t
become rich. As in most sales professions, whether the product is
diamond rings or crack cocaine, the people at the top of the pyramid
make an awful lot more money than those down below. It’s just that the
base of the real-estate agent pyramid grows significantly during a boom.

So if you’re looking to get into real estate I’d suggest becoming a fixed-fee broker or some such thing.  But that’s just me and I don’t know much.

Gen-X Officers, the Internet and War

Just read this article from the New Yorker about the young army majors, captains and lieutenants in Iraq and how they are using the internet to collaborate in real-time.  Very worthwhile read.

The most interesting thing to me though is the part of the story that tells how in 2000 two company commanders started a website on their own time, with their own money, that allows company commanders to collaborate with each other.

In March of 2000, with the help of a Web-savvy West Point classmate
and their own savings, they put up a site on the civilian Internet
called Companycommand.com. It didn’t occur to them to ask the Army for
permission or support. Companycommand was an affront to protocol. The
Army way was to monitor and vet every posting to prevent secrets from
being revealed, but Allen and Burgess figured that captains were smart
enough to police themselves and not compromise security. Soon after the
site went up, a lieutenant colonel phoned one of the Web site’s
operators and advised them to get a lawyer, because he didn’t want to
see “good officers crash and burn.” A year later, Allen and Burgess
started a second Web site, for lieutenants, Platoonleader.org.

The sites, which are accessible to captains and lieutenants with a
password, are windows onto the job of commanding soldiers and onto the
unfathomable complexities of fighting urban guerrillas.

Here’s the amazing thing:  The sites became the go-to resource for officers in Iraq, yet the Army didn’t shut it down.  In fact the it took over hosting the site, put it on West Point’s servers and even launched it’s first homegrown effort, Cavnet on it’s secure net (SIPRNET).  Oh, it is also sending the officers that launched the site to get their PhD. so that they can teach at West Point.

Really, you should read this if you have any interest in subjects like knowledge sharing, distributed learning or management in the "knowledge era."  Also, there’s some really interesting background on the Army’s efforts over the years to create systems for distributing information throughout the command.