2nd Workshop on Personal Knowledge Management

Sunday, September 12th, 2010 | Author:

Today I'm attending the second Workshop on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM2010) at the Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) conference "Mensch und Computer" in Duisburg (Germany).

I have absolutely no idea what to expect, so I expect to be surprised.

UPDATE: Now that the workshop is almost over (coffee break right now), maybe the most important for me:

It was fun!

We need to build a Community of Practice (COP), where developers of PKM tools and enthusiasts from different fields, eager to apply PKM techniques and tools, come together and exchange ideas, conduct experiments and bridge the gap between theory and practice.

I'm willing to try out all methods, techniques, tools, ideas in PKM that can be applied without changing the entire work-flow. So if you have developed anything new (which is _not_ the next generation social semantic desktop to replace everything else), please contact me for any evaluation or experiments. I will at least have a brief look at it, I promise!

Having only one day and a very diverse community (both in profession and in level of confidence in this field of research), we were only scratching the surface. Where and when will be PKM2011?

UPDATE 2: Now there are some photos at Richard Pircher's website.

UPDATE 3: I got an email that registration for comments is very annoying. Indeed, I think so, too, and removed the need for registration. Feel free to comment more freely now :-)

Also, I have to tell you that I don't have access to Windows systems, so I cannot test any PKM tools that work on the Windows platform only.
(end of updates)

Apart from having submitted a small contribution (what they seem to call a "position paper" in computer science, of only 4 pages in length), I wrote a little implementation of my idea, to outline what I had in mind. This can be found in the "extended" version of the paper, which is roughly 4 pages of text long, and then contains some nice visualisations:

The organisers also developed a questionnaire for the workshop participants. My answers to some of the questions:

  • What is your definition of PKM?
    PKM is the process of revisiting, re-organising and refactoring knowledge artefacts such as outstanding tasks, appointments, contacts, documents, ideas. A computer can be used to assist PKM, but is not required to perform PKM tasks. Certain PKM tasks are not possible without aid of computer tools.
  • How would you define data?
    Gerhard Goos (in: lectures on computer science) defines data as message together with information how the message is interpreted. Here, a message can be a signal of various kinds. According to this definition, data requires some physical representation and an interpretation. However, an interpretation could be a code (like a video codec), not necessarily requiring semantic information, observers or humans.
  • How would you define information?
    Information is a difference that makes a difference (Bateson). I consider information a relative notion, not an absolute one. Given some system model, one can ask within the system about information and information content and get an answer (by Shannon entropy, Fisher information or general Kullback-Leibler-distance). Information therefore requires some kind of reference frame and therefore some abstract observing. However, humans are not necessarily involved.
  • How would you define knowledge?
    I consider knowledge those statements which have been proved, in the formal sense. In informal talks, a lax usage is also acceptable, where a statement which is believed but not necessarily proved (or maybe not even provable) counts as knowledge, too. The notion of knowledge fundamentally requires human interaction by the process of interpreting messages as information and computing (proving) information (statements). A computer can not have knowledge as long as it is bounded to a certain formal system.
  • What is your research interest within the field of PKM?
    How to improve teaching and learning by applying personal knowledge management techniques for scientists, especially mathematicians, especially techniques that don't require changing the entire work-flow.
  • What is the biggest challenge regarding PKM or PKM research?
    Pen&Paper work good and most people don't even consider investing time in learning new PKM processes with tools because they don't think the investment will be rewarded. Indeed, the benefits of tool usage are often small, compared to the costs.
  • What I always wanted to say about PKM (but no one ever asked me)
    I wish more scientifically successful people would explain their PKM experience, although I'm afraid of the stories they would tell...

During the workshop, there will be no paper presentations, as everyone is expected to have read the other participants' papers already. Instead, there will be a very short position statement session, along three questions. These questions, along with my answers are:

  • What is your view of the field of PKM?
    • First of all, I have to admit that I'm not working in the field, so I'm viewing it as an outsider. My opinion may (must) seems strange to the insider.
    • My impression is that much research is focused on either finding out how people process knowledge or on creating huge new pkm tools with a certain desktop metaphor that is incompatible with the usual work-flow.
    • PKM seems to be heavily influenced by PIM (which is, at least for me, managing contacts, emails, tasks, appointments, etc.) and vice versa.
    • There is not a strong connection between PKM research and where PKM actually happens (on every knowledge worker's desktop, may it be digital or not).
  • What is your contribution in this field?
    • As I've mentioned already, I'm not working in the field, so I have very little contribution.
    • I think PKM needs enthusiasts in every other field where PKM is necessary, to try out new ideas and promote new approaches and tools within their own community - otherwise there is no feedback from practical use. I consider myself as such an enthusiast.
    • Beside that, I had this idea of knowledge inter-dependency, which is a problem at least for me - so I want to solve it for myself. Maybe someone else is interested in this, too..?
  • What is missing? What do you need from others?
    • I need the PKM community for an exchange of ideas.
    • How can PKM be "applied" or better: narrowed to certain fields (like my own, mathematics)?
    • Are expert systems a good idea to pursue in PKM research?

And if you read all this until now, I'm surprised.

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  1. 1
    (English) Successful Workshop „Personal Knowledge Management“ | Dr. Richard Pircher (via Pingback)
    2010-10-21 (21. October 2010)

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