The 10th annual conference of KM World and Intranets Conference in San Jose, October 31 - November 2, reflected the complexity of knowledge management today. There were sessions on KM itself, then additional tracks for Intranets 2006, Content Management and a new event, Taxonomy Bootcamp. Attendance increased this year in the concurrent Streaming Media West conference, with an expanded presence in the shared vendor exhibit hall, reflecting expansion of video on the web. Web analytics and business applications were part of the mix, reflecting a shift from a more technology based focus.
The payoff for effective knowledge management is improvements to the organization. Using that knowledge for innovation, rather than just maintaining the existing business, was the challenge described by keynoter Steve Wunker, Innosight, as he described cases of disruptive technologies. Second day keynoters, Dave Snowden and Cindy Gordon, carried that theme further, showing the infamous video clip with the gorilla walking unnoticed through a basketball game. Closing keynoter, Peter Andrews, identified two major future trends: nanodevices and virtual living, as epitomized by World of Warcraft and Second Life.
Organizing digital information was a major topic at the conference, with Taxonomy Bootcamp keynoter, David Weinberger, focusing on the complexities of providing context for categorization. Traditional taxonomies are based on physical objects, but in an electronic world, linkages permit multiple taxonomies with different views. Tagging is a way of capturing emergent terminology, but taxonomies provide structure. Overall, the taxonomy sessions in the KM track were well attended along with full rooms for the Taxonomy Bootcamp sessions.
Search is the driver behind expansion of categorization, as it exposes different aspects of information, which have been hidden in silos within the organization. On both the exhibit floor and on the panels, search vendors described their different approaches to making it easy for users/customers to find "stuff" on enterprise websites. Endeca provides guided navigation, Vivisimo does clustering, and the Google/Yahoo/Ask world does keyword matching...all valid approaches.
But the crucial aspect of implementation within the enterprise is characterizing the application, determining the relevant content, and then selecting a search software! As Steve Arnold aptly stated "Search is hard".... he described the upcoming battle for the desktop between Microsoft with its upcoming new release of Sharepoint, and the ever expanding world of Google on the Web, as well as competition among the other major search vendors. Though not represented at KM World, Autonomy in its different flavors and FAST are competing head to head in the OEM marketplace as well as large content providers. Smaller search vendors can be found in other niches, and at other price points....all leading to the need for search consultants, such as New Idea Engineering, with their popular Dr. Search to review cases on the exhibit floor!
Presentation is another aspect of organizing information which extends into designing websites to provide information in alternative formats which provide context and additional meaning. Jeffrey Veen, Design Manager for Google, showed examples of Google map mashups that provide extra utility for the organization, by presenting information in different formats. Tools like this will have a major impact on the intranet designs that are utilizing Web 2.0 technologies (whatever this term really means!).
Improving the user experience was an underlying theme for many of the sessions. Information is both generated by the organization and utilized by the organization for decision making, so optimizing usage is a crucial challenge. The challenge for attendees is to find the right approach to their situation, given the myriad of options available in a rapidly changing environment. Though there are no easy answers, this conference gave them a lot of different aspects to explore!