Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Information Age is seriously ill

"The era of Information "hunter/gatherer" is fast fading away. Welcome to the era Knowledge Management". This I wrote as a starting statement in my KDR Lab web site. Well, it is my wish only. The information age – as aged and ill as it is now - isn't fading away fast enough. Whilst conventional information systems are excellent for data harvesting and processing they are no longer able to provide neither the required predictability of unconventional situations nor able to cope effectively with the impacts of unconventional situations and events. The idea that we need more information to make sound decisions and to solve our social and organizational ills still persists and is like a millstone around our necks. After countless failed critical decisions which were based on poor information and gut feel rather than on judgment based on discerned information, knowledge and know-how, there has been some realization of the value of knowledge and in many cases – although not many enough - even a noticeable shift towards engagement of knowledge diffusion specialists.

Arve Sund, executive VP in charge of extrusion for Hydro Aluminum North America, Baltimore in an article in the Indusry Week submits: "We are in an information society, and if you look upon the consequences of that from an industry perspective, it has deep implications of how we run our businesses. ...When you look back in history you see that information and technology was the power base of running a business. The consequence of that was that you protected information, you protected technology. If you look at it today, information and technologies are immediately available all over the world at the same time. That changes what is the key to success for businesses. It gets more and more important to look at the human resources side and people side as the key to your response."

Sadly, however, there are still too many snake oil merchants out there selling the need for more information gathering power and information storage to IT managers. What's even more sad is that some IT managers are still falling for the fallacy of the more information gathering power is better; and so they keep hording up mountains of all kinds of information and in the process burying the valuable information under the non-contextual, irrelevant, outdated and incongruent information heap. Welcome to the era of Information Deluge and Knowledge Depravity! Some IT managers worship the technology by decree yet cloak themselves in robes of grandiose slogans like Knowledge Management (KM), Competitive Intelligence (CI) and Business Intelligence (BI), whilst parading as champions of collective knowledge and memory. In reality these information gluttons are just like the emperor with no cloths. *“But the Emperor has nothing at all on! …But he has nothing at all on!” at last cried out all the people.” Yet the corporate information moguls still keep on dragging their organisations into the morass of useless and costly information: *"The Emperor was vexed, for he knew that the people were right; but he thought the procession must go on now! And the lords of the bedchamber took greater pains than ever, to appear holding up a train, although, in reality, there was no train to hold.”

Hording up information in corporate silos is easy and glamorous. Creating and diffusing knowledge, however, is difficult and not glamorous. The fact that it is far easier to sell technology than to asemble useful, contextual information and diffuse knowledge has led to the proliferation of coxcomb consultants who equate any kind of information with knowledge and will do anything to tickle technology worshipers' ego for a quick & easy sell. For they understand one thing well: "The more gross the fraud the more glibly will it go down, and the more greedily will it be swallowed; since folly will always find faith wherever impostors will find impudence." (Rev. Charles Caleb Colton 1780-1832)

** “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – Hans Christian Andersen

Saturday, May 21, 2005

World Wide Web of Junk

The WWW is the greatest junk yard of low grade information!

The value of the Internet as a repository of useful information is very low. Carl Shapiro in “Information Rules” suggests that the amount of actually useful information on the Internet would fit within roughly 15,000 books, which is about half the size of an average mall bookstore. To put this in perspective: there are over 5 billion unique, static & publicly accessible web pages on the www. Apparently Only 6% of web sites have educational content (Maureen Henninger, “Don’t just surf the net: Effective research strategies”. UNSW Press). Even of the educational content only a fraction is of significant informational value.

So why is it that the Internet is so popular as an information resource for the masses? I submit for 2 reasons:
  1. Convenience:
    Since everybody is using the same thing – the WWW – there’s no compelling or competitive pressure to seek out quality information.
  2. No alternative. All feed on the same junk.

For those who are skilled in finding the nuggets of valuable information an online library of 15,000 quality books is an attractive proposition.

Oh yeah one more thing; entertainment content has little quality information value, however, for as long as it tickles the consumer’s senses the Internet will unfailingly seduce all of us.

Did you know that there were days when the most popular search word on the internet wasn’t sex; it was hotels; sex ranked only 6th. Wow how useful this information is, and it wasn't hard to find.