Over the course of the past twenty years or so, the software development community has created or sought axioms, metaphors, techniques, approaches, analogies, processes and other practices (sometimes borrowing them from automobile manufacturing) that render software development work more productive and the worker more effective. These practices continue to influence work across organizations, teams, and individuals and their recent rise to prominence in other knowledge worker disciplines supports the notion that software developers are in fact “pioneers in knowledge work”, as was suggested by Watts Humphrey.
Many of these practices resulted from the need to improve the effectiveness of software development efforts after the general ineffectiveness experienced with projects that followed the traditional management and engineering mindset. As other forms of work continue to evolve to depend more and more on the effective application of specialized knowledge, we may find that what has proven effective for the software development community (e.g. Agile) may be equally so when applied to other work disciplines.
About ten years ago I started implementing my vision for a repository of knowledge worker tools and practices that could help promote this cross-pollination of practices. At the time I referred to it by the name “Metaframeworks” and the idea was to organize, document and digitally capture these popular practices so they could be effectively studied, referenced, mixed and matched across disciplines. An example of the practices I set out to capture were all those defined under the compound software development practices such as Scrum and Extreme Programming. With Metaframeworks however, I wanted to capture the practices emerging from many knowledge worker disciplines, not just software development.
So as the ‘need-to-know’ culture of Web 1.0 began a transition towards a ‘need-to-share’ culture in Web 2.0, I also started looking for ways to add more structure to this repository as well as introducing new ways to share the knowledge and information it captured. At this point the project was renamed ‘CGuide’, and supported a new hierarchical classification of practices, with the classification scheme borrowed directly from Google Directory. The repository had also moved from my local hard drive to Amazon’s online Simple Storage Service (S3) and while CGuide’s predictable structure and online accessibility made it easier to find and navigate towards a relevant practice, there was something missing. Needed was a common metamodel and associated metadata to capture key characteristics of these practices. This metadata would be critical in promoting the development of semantic tools capable of searching through the directory of practices, for example.
Which brings me to the third generation of this repository. This new phase operates in a web increasingly dominated by social media technologies such as Twitter and Facebook but also increasingly limited by traditional keyword based search tools of Web 1.0 and 2.0. As our collective maturity in using the Internet increases, along with the tsunami of data it generates, users are demanding more relevant search results to their increasingly sophisticated queries. Back in 1999 the founder of the World-Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, was quoted as follows:
I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.
– Tim Berners-Lee, 1999
His ambitious vision is turning out to be the seed for the Web’s next generation. In the spirit of evolving this repository with the times of the Internet, I am moving it to Metaweb’s excellent structured data platform known as Freebase, with the vision of turning it into the world’s largest open linked data repository of knowledge worker practices.
Technology of Doing includes a comprehensive dataset of knowledge worker practices. You can start using this dataset by visiting http://technologyofdoing.freebase.com. Practices are none other than methods, concepts or phenomena that feed from a large body of true sciences and/or experiences and provide an effective way to achieve a set of objectives. For example, ‘Pair-programming‘ is a type of knowledge worker practice prevalent in software development , ‘DIKW‘ is a type of practice found in knowledge management, and ‘Strengths-based Selection‘ is practice adopted by business management specialists. Each of these practices can be associated to one or more objectives (e.g. improve productivity) as well as a one or more practitioner strengths (e.g. empathy).
With the structure and metadata in place, the development of semantic tools capable of offering a strengths-based practice selection to individuals, teams and organizations alike is now possible. An example of this is the Boost Practices application, where individuals can use it to better align their work practices with their natural talents.
Check back throughout 2011 as I cover more of the Technology of Doing.