Blogging: The ultimate crowd sourced knowledge management?
There was one issue I did not highlight, though: Blogging is a kind of crowd sourced knowledge management.
What do I mean by that? An example:
When I worked at the ecology lab at the University back in the 80′s, we did research on the foraging habits of migrating geese (exciting stuff, I know!). Twice a year, we published an article in a magazine. That involved a lot of to-and-fro’s between us and the publishing house, about the topic, the depth of the article, the wording, drafts, corrections. Eventually the article was published. It took weeks before it got physically distributed, and then the article resided in libraries waiting for ‘someone to consult it’. It took weeks and months before we got reactions, feedback on research finished almost a year earlier. Not too much we could do with the feedback at that point.
If all went well, other authors would make a reference to our article in theirs. Sometimes years later.
Think how the Internet changed all of that. Websites democratized the publishing power, even though it was still pretty sturdy going. Standard CMS-es (Content Management Systems) governing websites are not always the easiest of mediums to publish things. Easier than printed material, but nothing compared to blogs.
Nowadays, researchers can write about any aspect of their (ongoing) research on the fly, on their blog. Hit the “Publish” button and there it goes off in the ether. Within seconds people will start reading it, within minutes comments will come in, and a dialogue will start. Within hours search engines will have indexed the article and people all over the world, interested in the subject, can find the article and can get involved.
I might sound like ranting, but have you ever thought of the sheer raw power “blogs” give to your fingertips, people? Have you ever really considered the way blogging can, and should, change the way nonprofit research is done? –And here I explicitly use the term “nonprofit” as “profit” research is often still covered under a veil of secrecy. God forgive if a commercial researchers would blog about their efforts to make the iPhone speech-enabled, or on the newest LCD density techniques. No, nonprofit is different. The data, the process and the outcome of nonprofit research is public property. The benevolent donors paid for it, after all.
On my personal blog, I did an experiment to test how fast search engines picked up on original content and how content got propagated through the Internet-ether. It is a simple example, but think of the applicability to your own work:
Since I installed Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, I had a weird problem: every 30 minutes or so, my /temp directory filled up with Gigabytes of AdAxxx.tmp files. I googled like nuts to find the solution, the ICT helpdesk too. It was only when I googled in different languages, I found a trace of someone with the same problem, and its solution. The person posted it on an Italian discussion forum. If it was not for that obscure post in an obscure discussion forum, I would never have found the solution. And my life would still have been miserable. Someone found a similar problem like mine, and had posted it on the Internet…. Simple as that.
So, I decided to unleash the powers of a blog. While I was laying in my hammock, in the back garden, with my laptop on my knees, I wrote a blogpost describing the problem and its solution. I hit “Publish”, and tweeted the post on my personal Twitter account and this blog’s Twitter account, @BloggerTip.
Literally one hour after I finished the post, Google had indexed it, and it returned as a top hit for the search “AdAxxx.tmp problem”:
From my hammock to the world, in less than an hour. But what was not the only thing, look at the full search result:
Google is clever: not only had it indexed my original post, but on top of that, they also found the Twitter entry, even though the tweet itself was not related to the AdAxxx problem:
RT @TheRoadTo You know what I like about blogging? It is really crowd sourced knowledge management http://bit.ly/dgzdfM
So while crawling Twitter, Google had also crawled the bit.ly link to the original post, and indexed it with the content of that link.
But there is more:
As BlogTips also displays my latest tweets in the side column, Google found the entry, as content of this blog, and indexed it.
In short: Within one hour after publishing a blogpost, and tweeting the link, Google indexed both the post, the tweet and the blog on which the tweet was republished. Pretty groovy, no?
As I said, it is a simple example, but “Think People, Think!”. Imagine what this can mean to your nonprofit work: There you are, experimenting with a solution to a locust problem, or working with innovative ways to drill wells in Southern Sudan, or struggling to find a crop with the same nutritional value as the traditional barley a tribe used to cultivate, or just (Eureka) found a simple way to solve a complicated medical condition for one of your patients. These are all things either others can help you with, or where you can help others.
How? Blog about it, dummy!
Picture courtesy Starts with a Bang