Web20 is making trouble for IM

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. 

The challenge

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

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2 Responses to Web20 is making trouble for IM

  1. Marie-Claude says:

    Hi Peter
    I just found your blog (thanks to NickCharney on Twitter). In this post (Web20 is making trouble for IM), you express my thoughts better that I could ever do with English words. Managing Web20 content from an IM perspective is like trying to manage a phone conversation! I will provide comments on the latest version of the guideline, and will hopfully use it as guidance for the GC-wide wiki when it’s out. I’ll give an award to whoever can figure out the IM practice in Web20! On a related topic, a bunch of colleagues and I set up a blog as a departure gift for another colleague who retired yesterday. You know, 2 or 3 years ago, you wouldn’t have received a blog as a gift. One thought I’d like to share with you: the multiplicity of silos, in the Web20 era, really bugs me. Most sites/apps do one thing, and only one thing. It is both a strenght and a weakness. But it makes so that I have too many things to look after. I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, I’m following various blogs, and so on…. Web20 is time-consuming! As for work, so far I haven’t seen any real benefits of using the GC-wide wiki. GCPEDIA is another thing I have to do in addition to the traditional consultation mechanisms/venues. Work processes and culture haven’t followed the technology advances yet. Hopefully it will.

  2. deepishthoughts says:

    Marie-claude, appreciate your comments and look forward to your input on the IM guidelines. I agree with your assessment of the wealth of tools and the pace at which they are being introduced (i feel guilty about neglecting facebook because i am so caught up with the twitter phenomenon). Not sure we will ever be able to decide on an integrated tool set that would simplify things nor am i convinced that we would want to. the important part from the IM perspective might be how to capture this information/knowledge and integrate it with our knowledge base. We are using our search to provide some unified access. ie our search will index our wikis, our blogs, internet as well as our traditional document management systems to provide this.

    As for your comment about productivity of using wiki I think that the culture will evolve and you will stumble across real productivity gains as this happens. We have had our wiki for over two years and we are now starting to see real benefits. But culture change is a slow burn. Sois patiente tu verras les changements benefiques

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