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Andrew Skalet
Assignment 18

1.1. I thought the most interesting part of the article was the comparison between traditional knowledge managment systems and the approach the article was promoting. The idea that executives or other "experts" would create information that would be consumed by the knowledge workers fits perfectly with the instructor-student model we have been describing, and is certainly inadequate in an environment that requires collaboration. The example of help desks solving users' problems is a very good one. What chance does any "expert" have of solving the problem and entering it into the knowledge system before the system is ever used? None! The system must be evolved over time by workers who are learning new approaches.

I also noted the description of a course that sounds similar to ours where students would write their assignments individually, expending significant effort, but they would not read and analyze the others' comments. I have noticed this throughout the semester as well, most students (including myself) spend nearly all their time on their responses unless they are explicitly required to analyze/summarize. I think part of the problem here is a model students have of their graded assignments; I have no problem being more collaborative and analytical on online forums, but I expect to make isolated contributions for assignments; I think mostly based on past experience.

1.2 I found the entire article interesting. I was already familiar with EDC and NetDE, but outside readers would not be.

2. I think the main message of the paper is that traditional knowledge managment approaches are insufficient for today's work environments, and a "design perspective" is necessary to create very useful KM systems. This is based on several ideas that we have been exploring throughout the semester: that current knowledge work environments require knowledge workers to learn and create new approaches to new problems, that these workers must learn on demand, they cannot memorize all of the information that will be needed to solve any problem, and that if they can contribute knowlege learned in a particular session to a system that other workers can use on demand, meaningful knowledge transfer is possible.

3. I touched on some topics in 1.1, but I will continue here. I will primarily describe the lasting value of information from the course and the "design culture" that may or may not have been created. This site created during the course will likely face some of the same problems as the site described in the paper. Entries in the site will be harder to understand for users who did not take the course. However, the course described in the paper generated several discussion threads. While I feel this is a useful collaboration mechanism at the time, often threads are difficult to sift through after the fact, as the paper described. Since our entries are primarily contiguous sections answering specific questions, the information will be more useful after the fact, at some cost of collaboration at the time. I don't know how much content I will contribute to the Swiki after the course is complete, but I will likely want to refer back to the swiki to think about papers we read and comments I had on those ideas, since we have discussed many ideas with a broad application. Perhaps the most important part of the course is that it encourages a change in ideas from students who have had basically the same ideas about school for a long time. If students are more comfortable discussing challenging topics with each other, and collaborating in an online environment, these are very valuable "design culture" elements taught by the course, and these changes in students are probably more valuable than any raw information created.

4.1 The biggest strength of the Swiki as a computational environment to support KM is flexibility. users are able to create any new pages or discussions that they desire. other users are able to change those structures, without permissions barriers.

4.2 The weakness in the Swiki is probably that it has little in the way of built-in structure. This is nearly a direct tradeoff with flexibility. A standard discussion board, for example, has a simple hierarchical structure of forums, threads, and posts. This structure is usually searchable, with the option to return threads or posts. This structure may make identifying relevant results easier, and it will likely be easier for users to familiarize themselves with a discussion board environment since it is more constrained. The swiki has worked very well for our community, I believe.

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