Archive for January, 2005

I was jogging in the early morning with my friend Tim who I was staying with in Wellington. We were talking about the pictures from the probe sent to Titan. Tim, who has a much greater degree of interest in space told me that the mars rovers were still going, 360 days after they landed when their anticipated life was only 80 days, and that the titan probe was only sending back one data stream because they’d forgotten to turn the other one on. I realised that we had different levels of knowledge about the same topic even though we both only took a passing or amateur interest in the topic. If the sun could be used as a metaphor for knowledge about space exploration, Tim was more tanned than I. He was slightly ‘closer to the sun’. It got me thinking about the way clusters of knowledge occur in organisations, and that the level of ‘light’ diminishes the further away from that source we are. If we want to make sure people in our organisations are more ‘enlightened’, perhaps it’s about moving them closer to the source, or taking away shade causing barriers than it is about moving the knowledge to them.

IT Conversations: Tim O’Reilly – O’Reilly Radar – just listened to this from Tim O’Reilly was talking about the possibilty of using social software driven contributions on mapping services. For example Microsoft research is developing a system to let people contribute photos to map locations. This got me thinking about a story Dave Snowden told about narrowly escaping mugging in New York. He was using this to illustrate the difference between information and knowledge, using a map and a taxi driver as examples. Long story short he used a map to figure out how to get somewhere more quickly using the tube and a short cut across 42nd Street. As a gang of muggers approached a police car picked him up and told him he shouldn’t be there, especially dressed in a tux and carrying a laptop bag. Any New Yorker, let alone any taxi driver would have had the knowledge to tell him not to take that route, but the map didn’t say ‘here be muggers’. With the ability for large groups to annotate and describe map locations wikipaedia style, the map actually could.

The other highlight of the speech was an anecdote about a service in cambodia where a small number of people drive a route daily through remote villages picking up email without stopping from user’s wireless networks.

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Muhammad Ali