Monday, March 10, 2003

Simple tools - Just the facts

Effective Social Networks on Ross Mayfields blog brings up the point of the complexity of groupware tools - I would add to this the whole field of knowledge management as being guilty of the same sin. There is a self perpetuating myth that there needs to be a complex set of software to manage large amounts of unstructured information. The myth appears to be that this information is hugely valuable and needs sophisticated tools to ensure you can squeeze the last drop of value out of it.

One of my professors taught his class a key rule in any engineering project - always do a rough estimate for any calculation/project to get an idea of the size before doing a detailed analysis. This serves several purposes - makes sure you understand the variables in the problem and makes sure you do not misplace any zeros in the detailed analysis. Doing the same in any groupware or knowledge management application is a similarly revealing exercise - take a representative sample of information and reduce it to the key facts - it quickly shows there is not much there and what is there does not benefit from complex tools.

So what is all this unstructured data - mainly attempts to create the evidence to prove the few facts that we are all trying to reach agreement on. Perhaps we should be looking for tools to assemble evidence in favor of the few key truths that we all hope exist.

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