Capturing knowledge

I like some buzz terms and phrases. Some just resonate with me, even if they turn out to be hyperbole. In fact, I think it is important to hold on to them even when the implementation isn’t what I thought it could be. Federated social network. Information worker. Knowledge capturing.

That last one is what keeps me reading on when I browse the feature list of proprietary wikae products. They are these monstrosities that include a wiki, code repo, mailing list, blah blah blah. But they claim that it will help your group/tribe/community/company capture knowledge.

For me, it conjures up ideas of AI learning how people write, and creating well-formatted documents that are linked in a sane way. But it really means search boxes or copy/paste buttons.

I don’t have an AI, or a lab to make one. But I do have the passion of an editor, someone who sees communication and often thinks it could be presented better. My analytics for the year is a testament to that: most traffic was generated from folks trying to set the hostname in Fedora 18, find Rackspace’s DNS nameservers, configure the folders in k9mail, and anything about ownCloud. I write to be helpful, and for my reference, but also because I like answering questions that are asked over and over again.

One of the missing features in those knowledge management systems is an incentive for people to use them. Sure, if your only channel for offering support is through your ticketing/forum/live chat thing, they you may think people like using it. They don’t. I hate you for it. So what would that feature be? Facebook. Or Twitter, maybe.

There was hope that StatusNet (the company) would figure out how to navigate the corporate communications waters, but that seems like a mess that we should just let die (it runs in the face of radical transparency, anyhow).

Obviously I don’t endorse those social networks. They are crap. But if I wanted to compete with those other corporate services, I would build a Facebook app that could turn a wall message (or whatever they are called) into a group/public editable page.

And that is what I am going to try as an experiment, in a smaller capacity that Facebook, but still large enough to be interesting and valuable to me.

Sunset on Denotes

This is the message I sent to Denotes users, posting here as well.

Heya folks. I am shutting off in a month or so. switched to software, and has mostly punched a huge hole in the StatusNet community, and I don’t think it will recover. Meh.

I could deal with that, since I love running me some software, but I just received notice from another site admin with a security patch. The driving force behind StatusNet was Evan, and since all his energy is behind now, we don’t have a centralized way to push out security patches (since I sent this email out Evan patched the code, so I was just confused by getting a message from the person that created the patch). That is too much of an expense to run software that I am not going to actively use.

It was a good run. I will help anyone get their content exported, if they want.

I am not giving up on a federated social network, but I am changing how I think it should be done. In the coming months I will lay out how I think WordPress could be the platform that folks could use for their public social network needs. Fortunately I don’t have time to just lay it out, because work is plentiful! ^_^

Feel free to ping me if you have any questions.


Updated to PuSHPress, networks-wide. That means we has a PuSH hub built-in, and services can use your normal feed (i.e. to subscribe. This functionality had either been broken in past versions, or didn’t work on a WordPress network, but now it is working. I am using it to mirror this site into my StatusNet account.

Eventually I am planning on getting the parts of OStatus working that allows for replying directly to the site, but even more interesting is resurrecting some of the plugins that the OStatus suite was based on, and making WordPress talk to a lot of different federated systems. Of course we still don’t have an interface for reading the streams from other systems… but it isn’t a bad idea!

Federation is hard

Mike’s assessment got me thinking about why federation is so difficult for the social web, or maybe just the web web. We have examples to work with, federated models that work. Like email or the phone network. Also, jabber.

Not that this assessment is entirely correct, but someone on Wikipedia claims, “In networking systems, to be federated means users are able to send messages from one network to the other. This is not the same as having a client that can operate with both networks, but interacts with both independently.”

The web is a terrific medium, but the metaphors we use to “browse” “web” “pages” don’t serve us well when we are trying to figure out what happens where. For instance, when I load my StatusNet profile and see who I am following, it is a different interaction I am having when I load up my buddylist in my jabber client. My web browser is serving as the client, and the server is doing the heavy lifting. Kinda. Not that it matters, because most people don’t have a server, and the federated social web is supposed to serve everyone.

There are too many projects trying to solve this to mention, though of course I certain personalities that I follow. I suspect that moving towards a clever (client-server) might be worth experimenting with. In the meantime, we should still be making sure that our non-federated social web tools are as easy to use as possible.