Information gardening tasks

A large part of my work involves capturing and organizing information. It takes a surprising lot of time and thought. Here are some of the things I do:

  • Capture and file information, relevant mail, work in progress, final output, etc.
  • Help people find information and improve the findability along the way
  • Create and refine navigation (links, new pages, etc.)
  • Move information from private spaces to public spaces
  • Facilitate and summarize online discussions
  • Coach people on tool use and answer support questions
  • Document and refine processes
  • Set up communities, discussions, and other sub-sites
  • Recommend processes and improvements
  • Correct obsolete links and assets

I do that across multiple tools (Wikis, Communities, TeamRooms, Activities, e-mail), with a team of mixed early, mainstream and late adopters and changing communities of learners.

I think of this as information gardening. I can’t architect a beautiful information structure from the beginning. I don’t know what the final result will look like. All I can do is support, organize, water, tie, and prune. I have to find out what paths people use, then pave them to make finding things a little easier.

It’s not easy. It’s less engaging or measurable than programming, where you can track your progress by the defects you close and the features you build. But it creates a lot of value and helps scale up the effect of our group’s work. Why do I do it?

  • I’m building an example of how social computing can support a team.
  • I’m learning more about emergent information architecture.
  • I’m developing and documenting practices that other people might find useful.

How am I learning about this? Mostly through inspiration, practice, and reflection. I collect examples of well-organized wikis and I talk to other teams who use combinations of tools. I handle my team members’ requests and questions, and I think about how we can organize things better.

If you want your team to get more value out of social tools and knowledge sharing, you’ll probably need someone doing work like this.

Anyone else doing this? Want to share notes?

  • Brendon Robinson

    At my last organization, I started entering information into a corporate wiki to try to capture some of the tacit knowledge that previously, people always had to ask me about. It seemed to cut down on the amount of times I had to spend explaining things, but I didn’t get any feedback from anyone using it to know whether or not it’s organization was useful. How do you collect information about what is well organized and what needs to be rearranged?

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Brendon: When people know about the wiki (because it’s part of the team’s resources) but they can’t find what they want, I send them a link and ask them: Where did you look? Where did you expect to find this? What would make it easier for you to find this in the future? Then I build that navigation. =)

  • Brendon Robinson

    Thanks Sacha!