Making Knowledge Work

November 24, 2016

Personal Learning Networks

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 3:00 pm


We sit by the banks of a limitless stream of information.  At any moment, you or I can dip our virtual hands in and grasp insights and learning we never dreamt we’d have access to.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, of course, you can repeatedly retrieve fistfuls of weed and dross – so some guidance on how to fish and filter is useful.

Our panel for #LIKE69 at The Green in Clerkenwell helped us navigate the channels of Personal Learning Networks:  we wanted to learn from their experiences of creating and maintaining learning networks and pick up some tips on selecting sources of trusted information.

Elizabeth Charles,  our host for the evening, is in charge of e-Services and Systems at Birkbeck, University of London.  She’s hooked on lifelong learning and found the discussion forums attached to the various MOOCs  she’s completed to be rich sources of personal learning.  In common with the panel members, she’s a big fan of Twitter as a Personal Learning Network resource.

Her colleague, and Birkbeck’s resident Learning Technologist, Leo Havemann,   relies heavily on Twitter and follows a range of people who are his filters of useful information.  He advised us to be smart in our use of Twitter – for example by making use of hashtags to filter and find what’s useful.

Kate Arnold, Information Services Development Manager at The Francis Crick Institute, has been nurturing Professional Learning Networks for decades.  She started by subscribing to professional Listserv services and, when she was at the BBC, making exchange visits with fellow media librarians at The Times, CNN and other organisations to learn about their ways of working.  As well as professional networks and associations (such as LIKE and SLA ), she learns from others on Twitter.  She told us it takes discipline and perseverance to create Personal Learning Networks.  Her advice was to schedule time during the day to “indulge” in personal learning – Kate uses the journeys to and from work, and her lunchtime breaks to check in with her Personal Learning Network.  And, she said, follow people from outside of your sector as well as those with similar interests.

Adjoa Boateng,  Head of Reference Services at The British Library, is another active Twitter user – one of her friends described her as a “professional lurker” – as she determinedly focuses on specific topics, follows and learns from proponents on Twitter and uses the gained knowledge as a springboard for further learning.
She’s also active in person-to-person learning networks and started developing them when she first graduated and kept in touch with a small group of fellow graduates so they could continue to support one another.  Adjoa draws on the practical advice of a Leadership Foundation  learning set and casts her net even wider to pursue knowledge.  Even when she can’t attend conferences, she’ll check out the programmes to glean what she can and, as a member of IFLA she took herself off to a conference in Puerto Rica where she learned about the networks of people she met and tapped in to an even wider Personal Learning Network.

Adjoa reminded us of the importance of generosity – that to maintain successful learning networks you need to give as well as seek information.  And, like Kate, she said it was essential to follow Twitter users from other sectors.  She also advised us to follow some people we don’t agree with:  you can learn a lot from discordant perspectives.

Sarah Parry   had been listening closely to the panel of speakers and told us that much of what they’d described aligned with the practice defined by John Stepper as Working Out Loud.

In his Tedx talk, John Stepper described the evolution of STEMettes,  an inspiring social enterprise that started with a straightforward ambition: to help combat the lack of women in STEM.  It’s a great success story, and illustrates how much can be achieved when you put an idea into action that engages others.

LIKE was just an idea a few years ago, and now it’s one of my most valued Personal Learning Networks.  It’s a lot of fun too!


September 9, 2016

LIKE and the value of knowledge

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 12:10 pm

When I worked in broadcasting I’d often find myself surprised by colleagues that had a high regard for opinion.  Even the most hard-nosed Harrys would look grave, nod sagely and start “it’s a fact that……” then go on to state an opinion: either theirs or some borrowed wisdom.

Running training courses, I was constantly asking hapless journalists or producers to “tell me what you know, not what you think”.  And sometimes they didn’t seem to realise there was a difference.

As we moved into a new century, I moved into the online world.  I found that people who spent their days in the orderly universe of the algorithm could be equally entranced by opinion.  Sometimes, familiarity with an inadequate software product would influence opinion, and make someone argue in its favour despite its evident shortcomings.

A few months ago, at LIKE 65, Stephen Dale guided us through workshop sessions on evidence-based decision making.  Steve put us into groups of four or five and set scenarios for us to work through.
The room was full of analytical brains – knowledge professionals, information scientists, business researchers, education specialists, even an ombudsman. Yet each group jumped to conclusions, misread details, surrendered to cognitive biases.  As we retraced our steps through the maze of our misconceptions we were feeling pretty sheepish.  But, and this is what I love about LIKE, instead of arguing the toss or trying to justify our conclusions we got engrossed in a fascinating discussion about cognitive bias and the weighting of evidence.

A knowledge network LIKE no other

A small group of us started LIKE (the London Information and Knowledge Exchange) in 2009.  We wanted regular, informal, get-togethers for knowledge professionals.  Seven years and nearly seventy events on, we’ve covered an astonishing range of topics including:

Storytelling and knowledge sharing, the ROI of KM, Information behaviour and cultural change,Taxonomies and Folksonomies, Reimagining records, Transliteracy, Civil rights in the digital world,  Making the leap to open source, Organising terrabytes of information, The evolution of mobile information access, Information literacy, Future of history: digital preservation, Copyright, Hargreaves and the Digital Economy Act, The business of social media, The UK web archive, Coaching, Open data and Open economics,  Big data and little apps, Gamification, Data Protection in Europe and The business case for collaboration.

To lead most of the events we’ve been able to draw on the knowledge of our members because many are experts in their fields.  Who needs opinion when you can access real experience and first-hand knowledge?

I was discussing the role and value of LIKE recently with members of the Association for Project Managers Knowledge group.  To prepare for the discussion I reviewed the professions and roles of more than 1,350 LIKE members.  The top ten (i.e. job titles held by the largest number of members) are:

  1. Knowledge Manager
  2. Consultant
  3. Researcher
  4. Learning Resources Manager
  5. Digital Manager
  6. Business/Research/Insight Analyst
  7. Data Analyst
  8. Sales Director
  9. Project Manager
  10. Marketing Manager

That’s just the top ten.  There are so many more.  I’m not certain that some of the job titles existed when we started the network (and I’m still not sure what a Creativitor does!)  It was fascinating to visualise the brilliant range of brains that make the LIKE network:


In my opinion it’s a privilege to be part of LIKE.

August 13, 2012


Filed under: Knowledge and Information Management, Knowledge Networking, LIKE, Social Media — virginiahenry @ 6:13 pm

The Aim

In the weeks running up to LIKE’s first Conference (on 29th June), we asked people we met “how do you judge a successful professional event?”  Of all the answers – from seasoned conference-goers to occasional event attendees – three signs of success featured most prominently:

  • If I’ve learned something worthwhile
  • If I’ve met and talked to interesting people
  • If the presentations have been relevant to my work and interests

Of course there were numerous other responses, including the quality of the freebies, the lavishness of the venue, the quantity and excellence of the food and refreshments….  But most people we spoke to were more interested in the content of the overall programme than the content of their glass or their  goodie bag.

As organisers of LIKE Ideas 2012 we found that reassuring, because our aim was to run a conference that fellow professionals would find both enjoyable and worthwhile.  When you ask people to invest some money and half a day of their time, you don’t want them to feel in any way short-changed.

The Event

We knew the focus of the conference – The Business of Social Media – was relevant and timely:  Increasingly we’re using social media tools and platforms to engage with our colleagues and clients, and we’re eager to learn from others’ experience about innovations and best practice.

And, in LIKE, we’re incredibly fortunate.  Not only do we have talented, imaginative members able to plan the conference programme (and design the logo, write the literature, scout for the venues, co-ordinate the team workload etc…) – we’ve also got an enviable network of knowledge to tap into:  half of the expert practitioners we asked to speak at the conference were already LIKE members (and since the conference, most of the others have joined!).

We were very fortunate, too, in the support we were given by our sponsors.  Many of them are also LIKE members, and they wanted to help us ensure the event was consistent with LIKE’s ethos – affordable, informative, relaxed and enjoyable.

When the day came, we believed we’d fulfilled our aim.  But we knew that confirmation could only come from the people who attended LIKE Ideas 2012.

The Attendees

48 of the 100 attendees completed feedback forms.  And we were delighted to discover that for more than half of them, this was their first LIKE event.

Interestingly, social media played an important role in alerting people to the conference – more than half had learned about it on Linked In or Twitter:

How Did You Hear About LIKE Ideas 2012?


And, as we’d hoped, the topic was a big draw:

What Most Attracted You To The Event?


Their Verdict

In spite of some on-the-day disasters, such as the main ladies toilets being out of action, the venue’s WiFi dying and the projector’s cooler fan providing unwelcomed sound effects  – the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

More than half of our respondents thought the venue was, overall, a good choice.  The refreshments were rated as good by most people too.  And, when asked their opinion of the speakers, the verdict was a universal thumbs up:

How Would You Rate The Speakers?


Great news for the team, who’d worked hard to select and brief a range of speakers they believed would deliver excellent sessions.  And the responses to the feedback form’s last question were equally heartening:

 How Would You Rate The Conference Overall?


We’re grateful to those who took the time to answer our post-conference questions – and come up with so many excellent suggestions for future LIKE events and conferences.

 LIKE is run by its members for its members.  So we will, of course, be following up on those suggestions and using them to inspire our future event and conference programme.

Thank you to everyone who sponsored, supported, presented at and attended our first LIKE Ideas Conference.

An especially BIG  thank you to Emma Steenson, Sarah Wolfenden, Emma Davidson, Nova Dobb, Lena Rowland, Nicola McGinty, Jennifer Smith and Ben Summers – for turning a LIKE Idea into a successful reality.

Oh – and the content of the conference bags and the wine glasses?  We did well with those too: quality quaff and much-coveted goodie bags!

June 5, 2012

LIKE Ideas Conference: The Business of Social Media

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE, Social Media — virginiahenry @ 2:53 pm

Did you know there’s an Institute for Social Media?  Well, some enterprising Australian Soc Med evangelists have started one.  And they point out  that “Social Media is not about platforms, paradigms, tools, or a contemporary stage of the ongoing development of the Internet. Social Media is a Movement!”

LIKE has been part of the movement for a few years.  Early in 2009 we set up our London Information & Knowledge Exchange group on Linked In and announced our first meet-ups. Thanks to social media – through word-of-web – we’ve run dozens of successful information exchange events, and have grown to a membership of nearly 900.   Each year we use web applications to survey our members, and tailor our events programme to match demand.

So when they asked for a conference, the obvious focus for the event was The Business of Social Media.  On the afternoon of 29th June a hundred or so professionals will gather in Clerkenwell’s Old Sessions House for sessions examining the practical, business-building uses of social media.  We’ll learn about ways to use social media for external engagement and to support research. We’ll hear first-hand experiences of making business social, and get some straight-talking legal advice on safeguarding reputation when using social media.  And we’ll explore the future of social media in business.

In the spirit of LIKE we’ll enjoy each others’ company (and continue to pick one another’s brains) over drinks and dinner after the conference.  Just like social media, LIKE is a movement – and the organisers, the conference speakers and sponsors, and those who’ll be attending are all part of that knowledge-sharing collective.

As are the writers contributing to our pre-conference Blog Carnival.  Follow the links to learn more from them:  Kathy Ennis   Suzanne Wheatley    Sarah Wolfenden  Karen McAuley

April 29, 2011

Human Library – LIKE 24 being bookish!

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 7:47 pm

One of the many things that make LIKE  events wonderful is that you can turn up after a long day at work feeling weary and a little out of sorts (at LIKE 23 I was ‘going down’ with the pneumonia that kept me in bed for the next fortnight!), or maybe a tad dubious about the issue up for debate (what the heck is Human Library, and why should I care?!) – and in no time at all, you’ll be having a fascinating, illuminating evening.  And you probably won’t want it to end.

In truth, if you’re going to spend a night learning about Human Libraries, there can’t be anyone better to do it with than Linda Constable

Linda’s been working with Human Libraries for five years, and she told us how the Human Library is a forum for making connections, communicating differences and challenging ideas.  These events are best held in comfortable environments, with quiet corners for books and readers to talk – and with a few ground rules agreed:  books and their readers need to maintain a relationship of respect, books can refuse to answer questions they don’t feel comfortable with, they should be’ returned’ in the same condition as they were when’ taken out’ and the period of the loan depends on how many borrowers are waiting their turn.
Human Libraries are often used as a means to help bridge cultural gaps – getting people talking and listening to those they wouldn’t normally come into contact with.

There are a nice couple of sentences on the Human Library website:  “One of the great features of the Human Library and taking out a book, is that there are no such things as stupid questions.  Books have been prepared and made themselves available, in order for you to be able to dig deep and find out what you always wanted to know about the book title.”

Not sure how prepared the LIKE books felt, but Linda made things easy for us by guiding us through the process of writing titles and descriptions on sheets of paper.  These enticing “covers” also acted as booking slips, so readers wishing to explore the subject could book a loan with the book.

There was an impressive range of topics including:
Comics for Adults, Online Gaming, Multicultural Britain, Gardening, Running a Marathon, English Non-conformism, a Guide to Hackney, a Rough Guide to Italy, Flamenco Dancing…..

Linda was adept at pairing readers with books and orchestrating the loans- which was great, as everyone else was so deep in conversation they seemed scarcely aware of time passing.  I got very involved in discussing Knowledge Management with a LIKE member who’d flown down from Edinburgh for the event, and by the time we were joined by another LIKEer, and were delving deeper into ways of making knowledge work, it was almost time for dinner – but it felt as though we’d only sat down to talk a few minutes earlier.

It was good to catch up with others over dinner, and hear about what they’d been “reading”.  And it was interesting to think about the applications of such a format in business environments.  An evening that had started with insights from someone who works a lot in communities – helping people to benefit from sharing their life’s experiences with strangers – ended with discussions about how useful Human Libraries could be as vehicles for business knowledge sharing.

February 6, 2011

Getting to Grips with Information Governance -LIKE 21

Filed under: Information Management, Knowledge Networking — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 3:17 pm

There’s plenty of discussion about Corporate Governance, but Information Governance isn’t a topic you come across so often. Gartner’s been talking about it for a while, but as “Information” has so many meanings to different people and organisations, discussions around defining governance frameworks for it are relatively rare.

Fortunately, LIKE loves to tackle such subjects.  We invariably take a very practical approach – asking “what is it?”, “why should we care about it?”, “how important is it to the future of my business?”……   Sometimes, when we’ve stripped away the impenetrable business, or academic, terminology that shrouds the subject – you’ll hear comments such as “Oh, that’s what it’s called!  Been doing it for ages….”   And then we have to remind each other – “common sense” for one person is new learning for another (and the “common sense” we’re alluding to almost certainly started as new learning for the cognoscenti).

Hanna Kazerani is a woman of uncommon sense, and she was an excellent practical guide to the topic of Information Governance.

Her varied career has focused on information – whether as a journalist or parliamentary speech writer, or as a consultant with Andersen, TFPL or The Content Group.

When with Andersen, she spent a year in Silicon Valley running a sandbox for big multi-nationals, exploring the ways information technology could help their businesses.  She realised that, although these organisations were buying lots of applications, they weren’t very clear on how to use them or connect them with each other.  Their business information had no business intelligence applied.

At TFPL she set up a content management practice and started to audit information for clients such as the Inland Revenue. Invariably she found her clients’ information affairs were in a mess.  The Revenue had millions of internet and intranet pages – and much of the content was out of date and unhelpful.

Since then she’s been on a mission to inform her clients on how to cost-effectively store information and how to manage it.

Recently she ploughed her way through a utility company’s unstructured store of 45 million documents (around 20 terabytes).  Of those 45 million documents 32 million were duplicates. Her recommendations saved them more than £1million in storage costs.

Hanna set the LIKE group a challenge – to work on two scenarios in small groups and come up with some answers:

Scenario 1 was “You’re an information manager in a company with around 2,000 employees.  Your task is to rationalise the disparate information policies (where they exist) and draw together a framework.  What are the top 8 elements, or chapter headings, of your draft framework?

Scenario 2 focused on an organisational implementation of SharePoint: “You’re an information Manager preparing for your first meeting with your IT colleagues about SharePoint – what issues will you raise?  How will you ensure a successful long-term relationship with your IT colleagues?

After ten or fifteen minutes of intense debate, LIKE’s members had come up with lots of practical answers to Hanna’s questions.

The teams working on the draft information governance framework had identified these priorities:

  • Conduct a knowledge and information audit
  • Investigate current data policies
  • Analyse current information lifecycles, and get an understanding of the landscape of information ownership
  • Consider issues such as data security
  • Define what information means within the organisation
  • Look at current taxonomies and classification
  • Identify the thought leaders in the organisation, and get a clear picture of responsibilities at board and leadership level
  • Implement training – so that everyone is clear about their role in information governanc

Those who were focused on the SharePoint scenario had plenty of suggestions for issues to discuss with their IT colleagues and strategies for ensuring good relations.  These included:

  • Identifying the full range of responsibilities and sharing them fairly between the Information and the IT teams
  • Explaining business requirements clearly, and making sure you understand IT’s perspective
  • Ensuring regular communication and cross-discipline collaboration
  • Agreeing an approach that satisfies both parties
  • Discuss things over a pint!

There was general agreement that information governance was the responsibility of everyone in an organisation – not simply the domain of the IT department.  Vendors love to call their applications “solutions” (just as they like to name the unfathomable verbiage that accompanies their software “help files”), but most KIM professionals and honest CIOs know that the application is only an element of the solution.

Knowledge Managers are accustomed to repeating the mantra “people, process and technology together” when explaining the impact a new implementation will have on a business.  Actually, Knowledge Managers do a wide range of things to help organisations thrive, and although the terms KM, Knowledge Management, or KIM, Knowledge and Information Management are well known, what KM and KIM professionals actually do isn’t common knowledge.

At the end of this month LIKE will be hacking through the undergrowth of jargon and misconception to throw some light on what Knowledge Management really is about.  I’d invite you along, but we’re already fully booked……  You’ll have to revisit this blog to hear how it went 🙂

December 9, 2009

LIKE 9 – Sharing the Point

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 7:57 am

There was a record turnout for LIKE 9 last Thursday.  If you’re an information professional (or an IT wizard) struggling to make SharePoint work for your organisation, you might not find that surprising – as we’d gathered to tell our ‘tales from the SharePoint trenches’.

A few LIKE members had completed pre-meeting questionnaires, and one particular comment seemed to sum up the general sentiment of those with SharePoint experience: “in some ways SharePoint defines my role rather than enabling it

Metataxis’ Information Architect and SharePoint expert, Cerys Hearsey, works with the system, and makes it work for her clients.   She told us about the charms and the challenges of SharePoint, and filled us in on its history:

In 1998 Site Server 3.0 was released.  It did some web content management, offered analytics and search, had some personalisation, some indexing and a little document management – pretty much what we see now in MOSS 2007.  The product fitted well with Bill Gates’ vision of “information at your fingertips”.

By 2000 Portals were taking off.  Microsoft wanted a funky portal user interface, so between public beta 1 and public beta 2 of SharePoint 2001, they re-branded.

However, by the end of 2001, the fraudulent accounting practices of WorldCom and Enron executives had focused the minds of business people around the world on records management.  Not especially funky, but essential.  So Microsoft brought back Site Server and put it into their portal.  As this version was slightly better than the original – it was believed to be good…..

‘Veterans’ who experienced the painful upgrade to SharePoint 2003 found no comfort in the fact that Microsoft had replaced their Webstore hierarchical database with relational databases.   Building file plans in SharePoint became pretty challenging.

Indexing isn’t much fun either.  In the 1998 version of Site Server, Microsoft talked about document “profiling”, then changed the term to document “properties”.  They stuck with that until, with SharePoint 2007, they opted for “columns”.  Sadly, these can’t easily be replicated across site collections.

Workflow has had a chequered history in SharePoint.  Windows Workflow Foundation was there in 2001, was removed in 2003, and in SharePoint 2007 it’s back – unchanged and unimproved.

Another change has been more costly – in 2001 search was free, with 2007 the same search engine is covered by one of the most expensive licence Microsoft offers!   (There’s talk that for SharePoint 2014 Microsoft may incorporate FAST, which they bought a couple of years ago.  We didn’t even begin to discuss what impact that may have on legacy content….)

According to Microsoft’s overview pie chart – MOSS 2007 provides:  Portal, Search, Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Process and Forms, Enterprise Content Management.  Into that last slice of the pie is crammed document management, records management, knowledge management, web content management and pure content management.  This lack of distinction between types of information is further demonstrated by the low-profile place records management holds in Microsoft’s hierarchy of user groups – it’s a subset of the document management working group

Why, asked Cerys, do we tolerate this apparent indifference to our concerns and priorities?
Liz Scott-Wilson and one or two others helped her list the main reasons:

  • SharePoint has a lot of incredibly useful features, if you can make them work for you
  • Considering the very high cost and inflexibility of some other systems, it’s not such a bad option
  • We can, at least, get more involved in configuring and managing SharePoint
  • Unlike other unwieldy and CAPEX-devouring systems – much of SharePoint is OPEX
  • It sits well with Office 2007

If the world were a different place – one in which $4 billion was spent on developing SharePoint and only $3 billion on marketing it (instead of the other way around)….a world where ‘records management’ and ‘archiving’ were cool buzzwords, up there with ‘dashboards’ and ‘workflow automation’…. a place where Info Pros were the acknowledged superstars of their organisations…….   Yeah, right.  Better to hold on to the hope that SharePoint 2010 will address some of the most troublesome issues, and to take careful note of Cerys’ 5 top tips for making the product your organisation has opted for as good as it can be:

1. Have a coherent strategy
Whether mapped to an information strategy, IT strategy, or tools strategy – it must fit the wider landscape of the organisation.  If it’s the ‘odd one out’ it will look odd, and looks matter.  If it’s the core to your business, it won’t seem strange.

Be innovative
Traditionally, EDRM systems worked like old paper filing systems.     SharePoint cannot and will not ever work that way.  You need to think about your information as a set of objects rather than using the distinctions of data, knowledge, content etc.  Think about how you use and automate data, and how you present it to your organisation.

Talk to your IT department
In a SharePoint implementation, they’re the best friends you can have.  You will need to work closely with them to make sure SharePoint works for the organisation and its strategy.  But it’s important to remember that the more development you do, the more difficult it will be to migrate and to get support from Microsoft if things go wrong.

4.    Get involved on the ground
Talk to people.  If they don’t like the system, and you don’t know about it, that is not good.  Discuss peoples’ problems with them and offer help with resolving them.  To do that, you must get to know the technology stack.   It’s not easy to master: it has plenty of legacy issues and lots of components.  But an organisation is unlikely to use all of them.  So, for example, if yours decides to embark on the Forms route – get to know Info Path inside out.  Then you’ll know what the issues are.

5.    Know where you’re going when you start out
Have a clear idea of what the thing is going to look like and work like at the end of the implementation.  Do not decide to pilot some document management with a couple of teams and let them use it as ‘business as usual’.  Because, all of a sudden, everyone will want Team Site, and everyone will want to be able to save their documents and search for them.   Then your pilot for a couple of teams will be for the entire organisation – and you’ve built it in one site collection which can only support up to 100 gigabytes worth of data.  And that accrues pretty fast, especially when you’re doing transactional stuff.

So take the time to plan for where you’re going at the start.  If you want to do document management today, but you know you want to do records management tomorrow, that’ll have big design implications from the outset.  If you want to store a bunch of data and then harvest it using business intelligence tools, you’re going to want to use a dashboard.  You may want to explore excel services, do you have an enterprise web licence?  Most of the cleverest features of SharePoint aren’t in the standard edition, they come in the enterprise edition – and that includes the business data catalogue that enables you to link the SharePoint database to, for example, your old Lotus Notes database.

Cerys’ advice reminded me of a quote I read somewhere from Guy Creese of the IT research and consulting firm, Burton Group: “a really good SharePoint installation is as much organisation as it is technology”.

November 5, 2009

Getting the lie of the (info) land

Filed under: Knowledge Networking — Tags: , — virginiahenry @ 9:47 am

Food for thought and a good supper at  LIKE 8 last Thursday.

Information industry expert Tim Buckley-Owen guided us through the changing information landscape.  He used the metaphor “from walled garden to Amazon jungle”  to conjure contrasts between  the ‘look-but-don’t-touch’  gardens formerly tended by information professionals with the open-to-all broad  tracks and paths created by Google and Wikipedia, in a jungle that’s “densely planted and uncultivated, with plants self-seeding in their millions and exotic blooms hanging down inviting to be picked”.

But, he said,  not all visitors to the information jungle want to hack through it alone,  there’s a need for expert trackers. The skills of modern information professionals – their knowledge of the jungle, its dangers and hidden treasures –  are valuable.  Or should be.   Tim pointed out that it was up to info pros to demonstrate their expertise and worth, and he saw a number of opportunities for doing that.  He quoted a recent article by Sue Edgar,  in Business Information Review,  in which she discussed the demise of the centralised corporate information unit and  questioned whether Google could fill the gap – noting that freely-available information hadn’t yet proved a serious threat to vendors such as Westlaw.  Tim saw  in the loss of corporate libraries an opportunity for info pros to be dispersed in functional units across enterprises, perhaps giving them a greater chance to occupy more visible and vital roles.

Drawing a parallel with law professionals feeling threatened by dis-intermediation and commoditisation, Tim gave the example of do-it-yourself small claims, and quoted from Richard Susskind’s book The End of Lawyers?, that the inescapable changes may convey a bleak message to conventional lawyers, but for progressive ones it signalled an exciting future.

At a recent Sue Hill breakfast he’d found general agreement that an exaggerated faith in information technology had led to a down-playing of information professionals’  discovery skills.  Applying those skills by, for example, providing better competitor analysis would be a good tactic.  According to Forbes Insights’ “The Rise of the Digital C-suite”  most of the searches carried out by most of the top US bosses they surveyed were related to competitor analysis.   Another report – from the information consultancy Outsell found that while end-users were spending less time on searching, search failure rates were rising.

It wasn’t only info pros’ discovery skills that were needed in the virtual business environment, but their abilities in managing risk – a  report on records management from the Association for Information and Image Management found that a quarter of the enterprises surveyed had no records management disciplines for their electronic records, and nearly half of them couldn’t freeze electronic records if litigation was pending.

Tim ended with an alert for any info pros working in banking, insurance or finance – that the VAT ‘reverse charge mechanism’ comes into effect in January.  He wondered how many of their employers were aware of the implications.

It was good to get such a measured and informed perspective – and the decibels rose in the upstairs room at  The Perseverance as everyone got down to the serious fun of exchanging views and reflecting on what they’d heard.  The arrival of supper and a few more bottles of wine provided fresh fuel for discussions which ranged from the intricacies of information governance to the comparative merits of bangers & mash and cod & chips.  The expert trackers were cheerfully exploring new trails….

October 9, 2009

I LIKE it!

Filed under: Knowledge Networking — Tags: , , , — virginiahenry @ 4:45 pm

Really pleased with LIKE (London Information & Knowledge Exchange), the knowledge networking group I set up with Jennifer Smith and Marja Kingma at the beginning of the year.

We wanted a free and open forum for knowledge and information professionals: no membership fees, no event charges or sponsors, no red tape. So we use LinkedIn, Twitter and our own website to collaborate and communicate news of events etc. Our meetings, on the last Thursday of each month, are free to attend and our exchanges frequently continue online after the event.  It’s been great getting to know so many talented and interesting individuals, from such a range of disciplines.

We’ve explored some fascinating topics together, and arranged visits to the RSA to listen to Don Tapscott asking “whether the economic collapse has triggered a crisis of confidence in our previously trusted sources of knowledge” and the Science Museum for Tim Berners-Lee on the future of the web.   Of course, members had to pay for their own tickets to the events.  And this month – a discussion led by Tim Buckley-Owen, called “From Walled Garden to Amazon Jungle: orienteering in the new information landscape” – they’ll have to pay £10 for their dinner and drinks (a fiver more than the usual optional buffet).  But aside from those little overheads, we can honestly say LIKE  is  the free and open forum we wanted.

Today, visiting LIKE’s pages on LinkedIn, I see there are 99 members. More than a dozen have joined in the last week. The more the merrier!

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