March 07, 2006

BarCampDelhi Session: Knowledge Management 2.0: Applying Structured Blogging to Knowledge Management - Manish Dhingra

One of the most interesting ideas of the day. It's a simple concept - blog aggregators such as Technorati collect content but they have no idea what the content is about. If there was some way of structuring entries in such a way that the aggregators know, for example, this entry is a review of a Barcamp session held in Delhi and that I rate this session highly, then the value of this entry grows exponentially. Combined with other reviews of the session similarly identified, there will exist structured knowledge about how the session was received.

This is a potent idea. Manish's company Tekriti is working on MovableType and WordPress plugins that enable structured blogging. Bloggers will be required to fill up a bunch of forms every time they make a new post, which then will go through a moderator who will check for duplicity and add keywords. It will then be added to the knowledge base. If everyone blogged this way the value a searcher gets from a blog search currently will grow exponentially. It will become easy to solve or avoid problems that others have faced before. Employees will be able to add more value to their work by documenting their knowledge this way which employers will reward.

However, there are a number of problems with this idea, primary being that it's nothing new. This is precisely what Semantic web proposes to do. Think about metadata, information about information, semantics, tagging and it will all come back to you. I was surprised these words didn’t come up in the presentation or the Q&A. This is nothing but semantics and tagging in a "knowledge management" avatar and in the context of blogging.

I posed a question that there's little incentive for a regular blogger to do this. Actually there is an incentive - more traffic to the blog, but that only comes after structured blogging gathers critical mass. It's a kind of chicken and egg. Someone commented that there will be no extra effort for him to do structured blogging. Sure, that might be true in his case. I won't mind blogging this way either but think of the average Joe who is not a geek talking about a cool restaurant or the 15-year old writing about an album. Would they like to fill up half a dozen forms fields about details of the restaurant or the album when they'd otherwise just point to a link?

The people who go to post on Epinion or Mouthshut and highly motivated by an exceptional experience or a terrible service. I'm not sure the average blogger is as motivated. Adding moderation to the process also takes away immediacy which is the hallmark of blogging. So I'm not convinced that bloggers will see value in this at the onset even with the reward system (not sure how that will work).

This idea also brings to mind the criticism that Sergey Brin voiced recently on the idea of semantic web that it's the machine (algorithms) that should do the hard work to get knowledge out of content and not the user. I blogged about it earlier and it applies here equally well. Here's a quote from Sergey Brin:
I think that tagging and semantics are great as long as the computers are doing the tagging and semantics. Because if people are doing tagging and semantics for the computers then there's something a little bit inverted about the relationship between the man and machine there.

UPDATE 14-Mar: Read more about structured blogging or download MT/WordPress plugins.
Manish Dhingra's blog, his company - Tekriti
All my posts reviewing BarCampDelhi

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