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KM World 2004
Thursday, October 28, 2004

Yesterday I drove to Santa Clara for a day at the KM World Conference and Exhibition. Actually, it's KM World plus Intranets 2004 in conjunction with Streaming Media, also known as "The National Conference and Exposition on Knowledge Management, Content Management, Intranets, and Portals."

KM appears to be on the comeback trail. Last year I reported "In 2001, 1600 people attended KM World. 2002 it was 800. This year, KM World and Intranets 2003 were combined, so attendance figures are murky. Vendors told me lots of the people walking the aisles were consultants hungry to cut deals." The number of participants is up from last year, if only slightly so. 38 vendors were showing their wares. While the participants still wander around lamenting that their field doesn't have a catchier name, they are once again talking about real projects rather than simply chasing jobs and quick deals.

The Elements of User Experience

The first session I attended was The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett, a wonderful romp through a powerful approach to design and development. Jesse focuses on web pages, but his approach is also appropriate for designing instruction. In fact, his "user-centered design" is awfully close to the performance-centered design at the heart of Workflow Learning.
User-Centered Design:
  • a philosophy of product development

  • the product is a means to a larger end, not an end to itself

  • the product is a means toward the end of providing a good experience for the user

  • a suite of methods emphasizing understanding people rather than technology

Look at an Amazon page. Jesse removes the color. He blurs the text. He points out zones, The page begins to look like a Mondrian painting. Of course, a page doesn't exist in isolation; it's part of a structure of related. More abstract than this is a checklist of features: the scope. Underlying that is a strategy that specifies what we want the user to do.

I've been a fan of Jesse's work since first seeing his levels of use experience graphic three years ago. This formed the structure of his presentation. It's also the backbone of his book, so I'm not going to go through the detail here. (But do look at the full-blown model.)

User Research - the best way to discover user needs. Many techniques, ranging from quick and cheap to lengthy and expensive. Best source: Observing the User Experience by Mike Kuniavsky. But be careful not to treat people as data-points. That's why we need Personas (character sketches based on user research).

Site's functional specs focus on "what it does," not "how it works." Content requirements answer "What info will users need of want from the site? What form should it take? Where will it come from? Who's responsible?"

Jesse shows three maps of San Francisco: 1. the tourist map with cable-car lines, 2. the transit map (because San Francisco has the lowest ratio of parking spaces:residents of any major city.) and 3. a cyclist's map that shows the steepness of each street.

Why bother with this stuff?
  • Plan before you build.

  • Have conscious reasons for your choices

  • Articulate them explicitly

  • Make things that people love.

Thanking him for his talk, I mentioned that his planning schema was an ideal road map for conceptualizing and building instruction as well as websites.




Implementing Knowledge-Based Relationships

Ross Dawson, CEO, Advanced Human Technologies

Ross is author of Living Networks and Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, two visionary books about networking human relationships. (Disclosure: I am a fan.)
Ross enters a restaurant in India; they bring him a goldfish in a bowl, saying "We thought you might like to company." Want another anomaly? In the last twenty years, the GDP of the US has doubled, but the weight of the GDP has stayed about the same -- intangibles are where it's at.

Knowledge flows in relationships:

  • knowledge to
  • knowledge from
  • knowledge about
  • knowledge blending
  • knowledge co-creation

Key sources of lock-in
  • You know your client better
  • Your client knows you better
  • You're embedded in your clients' processes

Stages of relationship development
Engaging Aligning Deepening Partnering

Ross has posted his presentation, but I think you'll find his books more satisfying.
Ross and I are thinking of experimenting with new forms of remote delivery. Stay tuned.
His blog. | Coordinates

Free Software + Security = New KM Software

I wandered through the Exhibition several times. KM vendors sell a mix of search tools, content managers, discovery tools, collaboration tools, taxonomy builders, web publishing engines, and document management software. I hadn't heard of most of them: Ovum, RedDot, Morphix, New Idea Engineering, Ixia, and Sane Solutions, for example. I talked with several vendors who had taken ideas from Open Source, made them robust, and added a layer of secure access and measurement to create corporate software that struck me as reasonably priced for what you get.


Traction provides blogging software to corporations and government. Why would anyone buy what's available on the web for free? Because Traction provides security and access levels. By name or position, you can specify who sees (or can change) various pages. Corporations aren't flocking to this. After two years, Traction clients include Fleet Bank, the Atlanta Constitution, Verizon, and others. Cost is a $10K per server and $125 per named user. (Named users can edit, see things selectively, etc. There's no limit on fully public blogs, inside or outside the firewall.) Compared to free, this is pricey; compared to any other KM solution, this is dirt cheap.


Gartner predicts that within two years, major corporations will need fourteen times more bandwidth than today. Distribution of video files is the main culprit behind this "gridlock." What's a company to do? They could buy more hardware? (Pricey.) They could buy more software. (Also pricey.) They could multicast. (Ditto.) Or they could buy Kontiki's software. Kontiki takes advantage of idle cycles on a company's existing PCs. (Think NETI.) Kontiki distributes the downloading to individual PCs. On the web, this is akin to BitTorrent. Kontiki claims they can squeeze a ten-fold gain out of existing networks. If you're downloading gobs of video, this is an attractive proposition.


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