Information vs knowledge

2007-02-27

    I was at an architect event at Microsoft today called ‘The Social Life of Information’ where Beat Schwegler built the foundation for a day of Share Point demoing by talking about information vs knowledge.

    The rest of the day was ok, but I got stuck thinking about knowledge.

    I think that our industry would benefit a lot if we could refine (or maybe even redefine) the ways in which we transfer knowledge. If we had the tools and culture to transfer knowledge the success rate of IT projects would go through the roof.

    We need to stop transfer vast amounts of non understandable information.

    I think that a great tool for moving massive amounts of information into the knowledge realm is a wiki. Every development team should have access to an unrestricted wiki. If management can’t handle the thought of having it’s staff writing without moderation something is wrong in the organization. Something is also wrong in the team if the unmoderated writing turns into flame wars and bullying. It is totally ok to restrict outsiders, even deny them, but let the team be free. Every new developer should get time to be familiar with the wiki, maybe even before looking at any code.

    It is not enough to use the wiki to cross reference all the information about the current state, we also need to write down the discussions and mishaps that lead here. That way we can turn these vast amounts of information into knowledge that is transferable.

    I really hope that knowledge sharing gets the same status as object oriented design, unit testing and so on.

    …but maybe that is what has been happening lately with the rising of architects in this industry.

    It should be the role of the architect to spread knowledge inside his organization and to absorb knowledge from the community of other architects. He should also create an environment where all team members and stakeholders can share their thoughts (especially the unfinished and unpolished ones) without feeling stupid or elitistic. If we can get people to collaborate around unfinished ideas we will make wonders.

    It is well known that the earlier you find a bug the less time it takes fix it.

    What if we could find problem areas even before they have turned in to a concrete idea?