Collaboration, Groove and SharePoint – History Repeating Itself?

I just read that Groove is being renamed as SharePoint Workspace 2010.  For those of you who are not familiar with Groove or its history, I’ll take you back to the early 80’s. 

Ray Ozzie is the visionary behind Groove and currently the Chief Software Architect at Microsoft (a role he took over from Bill Gates).  At University of Illinois (as many know, home to the NCSA  which created Mozilla, the first web browser on which Internet Explorer is based) Ozzie worked early iterations of some of today’s knowledge management,  collaboration and social media applications (discussion forums, message boards, e – learning, e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multi-player games.

He also worked with some of the pioneers in personal computing and products like Visicalc, one of the first spreadsheet programs that ushered in the age of personal productivity.

Ozzie worked for a time at Lotus Development and went out to form a new venture called Iris Associates which developed a collaboration tool called Notes.  Lotus acquired rights to Notes with Iris remaining a separate entity but doing all of the research and development behind the product.

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The Fractal Nature of Knowledge

Here is the question posed by Arnold King (

I am interested in the phenomenon of knowledge specialization.For example, in medicine, there are many more specialties and sub-specialties than there were 30 years ago. My guess is that if libraries are still using classification systems, there should be a lot more categories. My guess is that major universities have many more departments than they did 30 years ago.

I think this is important in economics because I think that businesses and economic systems have become harder to manage as a result. In short, the leaders tend to know less about the specialized information that is further down in the organization, because the amount of the latter is increasing (I conjecture).

I would like some quantitative indicators of the rate at which new knowledge categories or sub-categories are being developed. Do you know how to even go about searching for such indicators?

I spent some time thinking this over. I may have ranged too far from the question and I know I am preaching to the choir here, but thought the issue of economic value creation and knowledge categorization would benefit from a bigger picture perspective.

The problem with the question is that knowledge is fractal in nature. It is endlessly complex and classification depends on scale and perspective. It’s not a matter of “there should be more categories… “; there are more. It simply depends on where you look and your perspective. Continue reading

Good Facets Gone Bad

I recently met with a client who said “no one uses facets for searching…”  I expressed surprise at this comment and probed a bit as to why they thought so.  We opened their home page and I soon surmised why.  The facets they had did not seem to be very useful.  No one had tested them and I had not yet spent any time in analysis, but at first glance, they did not provide context for their content.  I recall one facet was “content type” and contained terms like “pdf”, “doc” and “jpg”.  There were also ambiguous terms like “article”, “white paper” and “research”.  I am not necessarily saying these were not useful, but I did not understand the difference between “white paper” and “research”.  (Perhaps a frequent user would).

The point here is that faceted search is incredibly powerful but only if the facets make sense to users and the terms are clear, concise and meaningful.  Terms have to help users locate what they want and not frustrate them in the process. 

In support of that goal, I wanted to point out some examples of bad facets – the facets that don’t help anyone and that sully the good name of faceted search. 

Here is an example from the Verizon Wireless site:  "Wireless" as a facet on the wireless site is not terribly useful

None of these terms are really useful – I have a business, it is a coporation, I work from my residence and yes, my cell phone is wireless. 

Do you have some good examples of bad facets?  I’d love to hear about them.  Send a note to me: and I’ll post them here.

Relating Different Lists of Terms

There are three different types of relationships in taxonomies: 

Equivalent (Synonyms: “International Business Machines = IBM”)

Hierarchical (Parent/Child : “Computer Manufacturers => IBM”)

Associative (Concept/Concept: “Software Group – Software”)

Heather Hedden’s presentation on taxonomy powered discovery for a recent Boston KM Forum contained an interesting set of examples for how to organize the last type of conceptually related term sets.

Process and agent: Programming – Programmers
Process and instrument: Skiing – Skis
Process and counter-agent: Infections – Antibiotics
Action and property: Environmental cleanup – Pollution
Action and target: Auto repair – Automobiles
Cause and effect: Hurricanes – Flooding
Object and property: Plastics – Elasticity
Raw material and product: Timber – Wood products
Discipline and practitioner: Physics – Physicists
Discipline and object: Literature – Books Continue reading