Using Public Knowledge Management Services and Email (a quiet evolution)
Blogs have been for many a repository of personal or shared knowledge, either with the intention of sharing and discussing with an audience or to act simply as private knowledge store. Recently a couple of services have made an entry into the market give more of a notebook and knowledge management orientated facet to these blogging type of services. In particular I’m thinking of Evernote and Posterous.
Obviously, Posterous is purposely based around input model of email, then presenting the content in a web format and sharing that with other services; while Evernote is strongly orientated on the synchronised notebook format, but with strong features that support web presentation, sharing and information capture.
I’ve recently passed the milestone of storing a 1000 notes in Evernote as a personal knowledge repository that serves aspects of personal and professional knowledge management. I also use Posterous to shared blog content as well as WordPress (I guess I’m hedging my bets here on the evolution of blog services).
I feel one of the most useful and powerful features that both Evernote and Posterous offer is email integration for content capture. I know there are a myriad of purpose built clients for creating blog content as well as Evernote having its own client, but I feel the email integration has significance. Email has in recent years often been derided as an antiquated, outdated and inappropriate mode of communication in a modern web 2.0 world. While most social media gurus may rave on about mass collaboration enablement via activity streams and community collaboration services. It doesn’t take long to notice that the use of email still remains key to many people as primary mode of sending and receiving information and communication with others.
What is of no doubt in this modern web 2.0 world, is methods and means of collaborating and communicating are increasing and becoming more ubiquitous. There is almost always a choice of which tool is the most effective for each need. However, the choice made is more derived by habitual use and least complexity, rather than from consideration of knowledge retention, re-use and supporting more open forms of collaboration. Here email tends to win out strongly against other communication means, as the formation of the communication is almost universally instinctive, and there is a high level of trust in the delivery of message to the chosen recipient in a timely and dependable manner. Many other communication tools have yet to reach that tipping point of implicit trust and universal availability across all user communities.
So how can modern collaboration media make the most of email as both a delivery and distribution medium? Actually re-distributing information via email hasn’t been difficult and is fairly commonplace in collaboration services features. However, delivery from email is much less common feature. It also tends to exhibiting low adoption and aspects of user experience frustration as the email delivery doesn’t sufficiently cater for accurate placement and categorisation within a content management system.
This is where I see Evernote and Posterous evolving the usage of email to enable automated delivery and categorization of the content to comply with the existing metadata or taxonomy present within the information store. This is typically done in 2 parts, making use of standard Email header fields in particular (To: & Subject:)
Part 1: Use of the Email Header Field To:
Common to public content management services is the use of local-part address to be a private unique address based around the username stem for the account on the system. e.g. [username].[XYZ123]@example.com This provides the system with a unique validation address to identify content for a particular user account and services invoked by that user.
Part 2: Use of the Email Header Field Subject:
By allowing the user to use special characters to tokenize the text string placed into that field, which will indicate particular variants to lexical analyzer, thus declaring destination or categorizations. Such special characters are already used and related to concepts already familiar in electronic communication, therefore it placement and context can be easily understood and interpreted by both human and machine.
e.g. “@” – prefix to indicate destination & “#” – prefix to tag or category as well as common delimiters
This methodology allows the system and the users by a simple mechanism to declare and understand the metadata characteristics to be collected along with the content delivered by email. Thereby enhancing the accuracy and usefulness of the content to corpus of information already within the content management system.
I now use these features regularly as part of interaction with these systems. So much so I’ve developed a simple application (I will write about in another blog post) plug-in for my work email client, to allow me to quickly tokenize the subject of email I wish to deliver into content management services such as Evernote and Posterous.
Such is the volume of information transferred through enterprise email systems, that placing appropriate content correctly within the content management via the reasonable simplicity of tokenization the subject field combined with a straight forward lexical analysis on information delivery. I feel this would achieve a significant step forward in the challenge to manage efficiently and effectively enterprise information and content, both benefiting corporate knowledge retention and wider collaboration efforts.
Also I think that a more wider adoption of this tokenization methodology with enterprise grade content management systems, would be reasonable to adopt and adapt within existing enterprise collaboration infrastructures.
References to tokenization expressions in public knowledge management services: