Re: Knowledge versus Information

Subject: Re: Knowledge versus Information
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 09:43:44 -0400

I had a look at the website and while I was interested as a practitioner, I
wasn't impressed as a practitioner.

In my earlier years I was also intensely interested in such distinctions and
in the theoretical implications. But I've begun to conclude that, in a real
world, these are distinctions that feed our need for theory to justify
grants to study more distinctions. Information or knowledge? Frankly, for
most purposes, it's a senseless separation that obscures the more basic
problem, which is how to get what we want from our cubicles to somebody
else's abode.

I think my conversion to a simpler thought pattern was forged in the need to
market our company. Marketing at its most fundamental is just the process of
understanding the human mind and then working with that understanding. In my
experience, the farther you get into marketing concepts, the simpler things
become. Real people don't distinguish between knowledge, data, and
information. They sail through each, oblivious to any differences between
them. It's messy and unpredictable, but that's life.

What are we mandated to move about in our profession? Knowledge?
Information? Data? All of them? A fusion of them? Maybe something midway
between all three points? Dataedgeamation?

My favorite single definition from all of this is for information: "Anything
that serves to reduce uncertainty." Sure it's situational; what isn't? In my
own case I've stopped trying to make artificial distinctions between nominal
things and focus on how to reduce user uncertainty. At any given moment,
that may mean data, information, wisdom, knowledge, advice, tips and tricks,
or notes. Trying to subdivide what we do into these pockets is an
interesting exercise, but not much more. The mind and its operations are
just too darned complex to honor these pigeonholes. In fact, in most
documentation we're doing, the most workable way to approach them is to
identify user tasks and supply what the subject matter experts believe is
necessary to perform those tasks.

In our Clustar Method, for example, the Reference Sector contains data. The
How To sector contains stepwise instructions. But these overlap in the
user's mind, if not in the writer's. The user will flick from one to the
other when necessary. So what are stepwise instructions... information?
Knowledge? Does it matter to the user?

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Creators of the Clustar Method for task-based documentation
-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Massey <dmassey -at- CELERITY -dot- COM>
Date: Thursday, April 23, 1998 8:58 AM
Subject: Knowledge versus Information

>Hi, All,
>I've seen several threads concerning this topic lately. Anyone who is
>interested in some of the theory surrounding this growing "field" might
>want to visit Gene Bellinger's site about knowledge management at:
>Happy reading!
>Dianna Massey Phone: 423/539-3614
>Documentation Specialist E-mail: dmassey -at- celerity -dot- com
>Celerity Systems, Inc. Web:
>1400 Centerpoint Blvd. Fax: 423/539-5390
>Knoxville, TN 37932

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