KN Evaluation Guest Blog


The KN team has been gathering feedback from KN customers who are evaluating the KN beta within and outside Microsoft. We asked one of the many insightful evaluators, Patrick, a Software Development Engineer in the Windows Server Division at Microsoft (who we did not know before he joined the beta) to write a guest blog entry. Below he shares some of the good, the bad and the ugly from his KN evaluation.


 


The KN team invited me to write a guest entry describing my experience with KN – here it is.


 


I’m an end user, but I like to think I’m “enlightened” in some respect. With a bit of a background in social network analysis, I could see immediately what KN is trying to do and how it can be useful. And as a new MS employee, it had the potential to help me out a lot in on-boarding, too.


 


KN digs into the knowledge that people have but don’t advertise. How often have you seen an employee skill index? Not very often, if you’re like me. Many times in my career I have been surprised to discover, after some number of months or years of working with someone, that she has deep expertise in some field that we’re not working with at the moment. Some examples from my previous job include a server programmer with a doctorate in numerical analysis, a system administrator with a degree in ecology, and a distributed systems expert who had done groundbreaking work on modeling the migrations of bighorn sheep. None of these may have seemed especially relevant to what they were doing at the time — except of course in the way that education helps with general cognitive ability. However, what they didn’t know was that the same company we all worked for, in the next building, had an artificial ecology project underway that could take full advantage of every one of their skills, either full time or in consulting and advising roles.


 


This just highlights the fact that we hardly know what we know at all. Knowledge in modern organizations isn’t just 80% undocumented, it’s 95% invisible. Knowledge Network painlessly teases that hidden material into the light, over time, and I am looking forward to a better future when everyone in the group, division, and company is working to their greatest advantage as a result.


 


It’s not without some frustrations… the client does have to sit there in your system tray and occasionally sift through your inbox. That’s not free, and because it’s partially a standalone client you have to install, it’s a barrier convincing people to install the thing. The KN client could spit bars of gold out the USB port and you’d still have to do some selling to get it installed everywhere, and that’s an issue because like the Internet the KN system is more valuable the more people who use it. I was on the Internet in 1992 and it was nothing to jump up and down about at the time; the only tangible difference between then and now is a little trim of good software and a huge increase in the number of people using it.


 


Not enough people in my group are running KN, and that limits the effectiveness of advertising my keywords as well as who I can find by KN search to ask about specific topics important probably only to the Windows Server Division. Maybe some of the problem, too, is that the keywords seem, at times, a bit generic, and the weighting feels… a little superficial? My profile has “C#”, 3 stars. Does that mean I can (or am willing to) answer general questions about the language? Or does it mean I am able to untangle tricky asynchronous programming bugs? I don’t know how to improve it, but I think stars don’t offer the final answer on keyword tagging.


 


I’d like to see KN do more of its work server-side, though I can see several reasons why the KN team didn’t go that route. And one of these days the KN client will be as omnipresent, natural, and inevitable as virus scanners… only less intrusive and instead of preventing pain, the clients will be delivering gifts. At least, until the KN idea is recognized as a truly important part of innovating and doing business efficiently, and then it’ll be a hygiene issue and nobody will dream of doing without it.


 


In the meantime, as soon as your organization has access to the software you may want to get a jump on it and install the client on your own.


 


Patrick


Comments (5)

  1. I really liked this posting and can appreciate some of the feedback. This is such a new and wide open area that it is great to see you are taking customer feedback to heart. I know that given the client side nature of much of what you are looking at that much has to be handled on the desktop but I certainly appreciate, and would also like to see more of the server side handling as expressed near the end of the posting. In the meantime I put up a shout out to your posting and blog on my own at http://www.mikeysgblog.com/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=249

    Keep up the good work

  2. ddmcd says:

    The comment "Not enough people in my group are running KN, and that limits the effectiveness of advertising my keywords…" is significant. How this “tipping point” issue is addressed in the introduction of this product will have a significant impact on how the product is perceived by the market. For example, is Knowledge Network a basic piece of infrastructure, is it a tool that is especially useful in particular situations or to particular groups?

    While I personally believe that Knowledge Network functionality has extraordinary potential (see for example http://www.ddmcd.com/expertise_presentation.html) there is the potential here for a “chicken and egg” adoption problem to persist. Given the potentially complex processes associated with introducing what I call “expertise management technology” into organizations, some in management may resist adding multiple clients and users until value is proven. Yet, as suggested here, value is related to the number of users as well as to the nature of the groups that are using the technology. How this product is introduced to the market will, hopefully, help to ensure it does not become a niche product whose use is relegated to isolated and highly specialized groups of knowledge workers. (Not that I have anything against “… isolated and highly specialized groups of knowledge workers!”)

  3. SlickRick says:

    In my early evangelism of this product (MOSS+KN) I am running into pushback concerning security.  In my efforts to mitigate or at least assuage their concerns I realized that the adoption of KN will not be as ubiquitous a feature as I had previously thought (or hoped).  

    Perhaps my drum-beating is off.  How has anyone else evangelized this feature thus far?

    Rick

  4. KNBlog says:

    Every time we show KN to a new customer, privacy and security questions come up. But, as soon as we demonstrate the way we built the client and server sides of KN with privacy and security as top priorities including leveraging the 5 levels of show-to visibility and using anonymous brokering, customers’ are relieved and ready to check out how KN can help them and their organization.  Also, we wrote a KN Privacy Brief that has been reviewed by privacy and security specialists and TAP customers.  We will be publishing this brief (which isn’t so brief at 18 pages) soon for reference.  Feel free to email us at knblog at Microsoft.com and we can send it to you too in the meanwhile. Also, if you haven’t presented or demonstrated all the "dispelling the myths" items from our earlier blog entry, this should help too. http://blogs.msdn.com/kn/archive/2006/06/01/612300.aspx

    Do let us know if you’re running into other dimensions of this topic that we have not yet addressed, and we’ll write a blog entry on the topic.

  5. ddmcd says:

    Rick,

    You get such concerns whenever you discuss any system for sharing knowledge or expertise. My approach has been to acknowledge the issue and look for ways to manage the risk.

    I also think you have to be more specific about what you mean by "security" since this means dfifferent things to different people. Are you talking about what people can record into the system? Or to what automatically gets extracted from KN or Active Directory? Or what people outside the firewall can access? Or what different people within different groups with different security classifications can access? (This latter issue will be important in certain government and military applications).

    – Dennis McDonald

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