Awasu » Scaffolding
Monday 6th March 2006 5:17 AM [General]

Apologies to those of you who use RSS to read about other peoples' cats but Earl Mardle has an interesting post on information architecture as scaffold that I think is worth commenting on.

Mostly because I think he's wrong :-)

And that, my friends is what information does; it provides the scaffold that bridges the gap between people. A bridge that we call a conversation. And once you have built the bridge, you can take away the scaffold and it doesn't make any difference, the conversation can continue because it no longer has any need for the information on which it was built, it has its own information; a history of itself, on which to draw and whenever the relationship is invoked, it uses any old bits of information lying around to propagate itself.

Maybe it's just the technical architect in me but this doesn't sound quite right. Ultimately, information is only useful in what it lets you do. No information results in the inability to decide (intelligently) what to do next. Saying that the conversation can continue even after you remove the information just seems odd. The conversation is the information.

If you're looking for scaffolding, it's the network. It's the relationships we create and build with people whose opinions and thoughts we value, via the conversation. And even if the network fails, it doesn't matter because the relationships still exist; we just create new connections via a different channel. So if Ton lost all his posts, no it wouldn't really matter because, as he says, the relationships are still in place and the information can therefore be reconstructed.

All that business process IP? All those templates and legacy documents and previous sales pitches and so on? Surely the business can't run without that?

This is what I call the McDonalds question: how do you get low-skilled, inexperienced trainees to consistently produce hamburgers and fries to an acceptable level of quality? Process. And it's the same thing in a corporate environment: how do you get people, who generally don't really give a toss about what they're doing, to write proposals and reports and all the other guff to an acceptable level? Document templates and guidelines.

Corporate KM and other such initiatives are our typically short-sighted attempt to find technical solutions to what is actually a people problem. There are plenty of people selling solutions and processes and methodologies to "fix" the information management issues that exist within companies because it's an easier problem to tackle than the real underlying issue: how do you get people to actually give a damn about what they're doing?

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