I recently did a ten minute presentation to a recordkeeping symposium on the status of some work a group of us have been doing on IM guidelines for web20. I didn’t end up talking about guidelines at all. Instead, I laid out what many of us in this space have come to recognize as the fundamental challenge web20 poses to IM.
Even though we have been living the electronic information age for a couple of decades IM professionals and records managers still look at information as if it were a collection of paper documents. This doesnt mean that we havent noticed electronic information or don’t recognize the problem (although they often call it the ‘paper’ mountain’). What it means is that we are bringing practices and processes conceived in a paper world into the electronic one.
Concepts like metadata, lifecycle management, retention and disposition and even ‘author’ are really throwbacks to the paper world where documents needed complex classification and lifecycle management in order to make them findable on a bookshelf in a library or in a records storeroom etc . This paper paradigm assumes that all documents are finite; they have a beginning, a middle and an end. ie books, reports, studies etc. It also assumes that documents are not physically connected one to another. Neither one of these core assumptions can be applied to much of the information generated on web20 tools.
Web2.0 is organic and ever changing
Web20 is about organically connected information and knowledge. Much of the value of wiki, for instance, is the way one topic will interlink and connect to other topics. It’s a bad thing to have dead end pages in the wiki-verse. You can also see this organic nature in blogs and twitter which are just as much about contributing to a broad open discussion by commenting or responding to each other posts or by sharing links to related information as they are about personal acts of authorship.
Web20 is also more about information streams that continuously change and update and less about documents that have a lifecycle. The idea of managing information and records from the creation to their eventual grave assumes that there is a final document and that document then needs to be preserved and stored in a repository. There are traditional type documents on web20 tools, but, if we focus on those we miss this whole other order of information that is constantly evolving and changing such as continously updated Wiki topics or the Twitterstream.
In issuing this challenge to my colleagues in IM the hope was that this would lay the groundwork for them to read the draft guidelines (due in april or May) from a web20 perspective; where everything is organically connected and evolving, and, to recognize that our existing IM discipline needs to be adapted to take into account this reality. We can’t ignore this new and powerful source of information and knowledge.
References: Everything is miscellaneous http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2159021324062223592