Tag and Ye Shall Find?

MagnifyingGlassI just read a good summary of taxonomies (formal, forced-choice method to categorize information) vs. folksonomies (organic tagging method to organize information) in KM World; this author felt they were not equal and definitely not interchangeable. I am really glad someone has formally stated that.

Tagging does not necessarily create a repeatable, easy-to-find organizational structure. Tagging is great if your objective is to raise the most popular items to the top, which might work for certain organic sharing like in forums, blogs or social network sites. I have played with both and have found that there still is a need to have a standard classification method to help people find information especially for formally published items, like documents.

Now, that standard taxonomy must be maintained, reviewed and updated to reflect new products, programs and vernacular within an organization. Too often, a taxonomy is set and forgotten about until five years later no one can find anything because a product is no longer called “value statement” but, rather, “value proposition”.

One way to compensate for those changes is to create a synonym in your search tool so that they equal each other. This is why I am such a big fan of search. However, in the workplace, I have observed that many people prefer to browse over search.  Yet, in their personal lives, they would never browse the Internet, they use Google. This is a really astounding phenomenon to me and one that deserves a good deal of change management attention.

Until internal search becomes perfected, a sound taxonomy is needed but so is tagging. I still balance both. I ask users to select a formal category but also allow them to free-form tag the document as well. Those tags provide valuable insight into how people might search for information and how we may need to evolve the taxonomy!

The Dawn of the Generalist

Is it me or are the lines blurring between Communication, Marketing, Learning and Knowledge Sharing? Usually, these are distinct functions with people who have years of experience and even advanced degrees in the relevant subject matter. Not anymore!

My own path has taken me from Communication (with a Master’s in Communication) to Learning to Knowledge Management to, now, some light Marketing. I pride myself on being a generalist because I feel these disciplines are very related as they all depend on content, messaging, organization and, yes, technology.

The audiences might be different; the objectives may vary but the skills sets needed are similar – listening, coordinating, compiling, distilling, writing, delivering, editing, managing people and projects – all necessary to achieve success in any of these areas.

I think the new bridge tying these areas together is social technology. The social sphere has a distinct and valuable purpose in all of these areas. The ability to connect, publish, engage and respond to people all have a significant role in communicating, marketing, learning and sharing.

Some are not comfortable with the fuzziness of the new frontier of communication generalism but I say embrace this era! Being flexible and having the ability to be plugged into any one of these situations has tremendous value especially in today’s cash-strapped environment.

I, for one, have been anxiously awaiting the time of the generalist. In the past, it has been difficult to articulate the value that someone can bring to the table if you can accomplish a lot of things in a variety of areas without a so-called specialty. Now is the time for generalists to shine!

Autumn Means Work

autumn_leavesWell, I missed my goal of blogging every week. I set out this goal when I started my blog back in June. I inadvertently took the last 3 weeks off because my schedule became overrun with professional work, outside presentations I have been working on and a full personal calendar.

Why is October so crazy? When you have a significant other’s birthday, Halloween, college football parties, raking leaves and companies ramping up projects to get done before the end of the year, October tends to be a pivotal month.

Apparently, we’ve played all summer and now it’s time to get down to business. The weather is crummy, darkness sets in at 4:30 pm so there is nothing to do but work. And, we need to be productive before the holiday time takes over our personal lives and forces us to take vacation to accommodate those plans.

Even nature gets busy. While I’m toiling away on my computer at home on Saturdays, I see the squirrels going nuts (literally!). They are in a hurry. Gathering as much as they can as fast as they can and heaven help the other squirrel that gets in the way. With puffed tails, the squirrels chase the other off and yell at them that if they ever see them in their territory again, they’ll get it.

Are humans this way? With October and most of November being crunch time, do we snap at others more easily? Do we expect more from our families and employees? To a degree, I think the answer is yes. So, focusing on health, sleep and sanity is most important during these crazy times.

October and November have to be the most productive time of the year! I know…what about spring? Spring is perfect for spring cleaning, listing a home, planting flowers, engaging in outdoor activities that we couldn’t do in the wintertime, and don’t forget planning for the projects that will commence in the Fall. We also lose an hour so we have to compensate for that lost time by doing more in less time.

Let’s face it…we are busy all year round regardless of the weather. The race to November 26 is on. Good luck to everyone!