Friday, July 14, 2017

Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities (Book 14 of 30)

Title:  Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities
Authors:  Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, John D. Smith

This is a very nice "how to" book for communities of practice, with a strong focus on how to make the most of technology.  The book was published in 2009, which doesn't seem that long ago and the first question is going to be whether a book almost a decade old with a focus on technology is going to be relevant.

This immediately brings me to a tangent about adaptation and lessons learned.  Lessons learned are at times mistaken with best practices or even rules.  This happened to project X, the lesson is ______, therefore never/always do ____________.   While this formula may occur in some instances, that is not how lessons learned are generally formulated (in my humble experience).

I've started using the term "insight" rather than "lesson learned" when the so-called lesson does not automatically lead to a strong and obvious recommendation for action one way or another. Sometimes it leads to a warning.  It points to something that should be kept in mind as a potential risk.   The person reading this lesson/insight isn't given a straightforward path for action.  That person is asked to think about how this lesson/insight affects them, how it applies to them and their situation. The resulting action (or lack thereof), is a decision made based on an adaptation of the lesson to the unique circumstances being faced rather than a blind application of a recommendation.

Going back to Digital Habitats, to some extent, it does not matter (at least for this book) that the focus is on technology and technology keeps evolving too fast for books to keep up.  The book is not about specific technologies that may have already become outdated.  It is about how to think about different technologies and even more about how to think about communities and how communities can think about technologies to leverage them.  As such, while the technology landscape may have evolved, I think the approach is still valid.

  • In the "KM for small organizations research project", make sure to explore the tools/technology landscape.  I have a feeling there are 2-3 dominant technology platforms (SharePoint, Drupal, Jive...?) that have both simplified the landscape and complexified things in some ways.  I don't have good hypotheses at this point.  Plan on writing an article that could serve as an update to the book.

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