Information Neighbourhood as a Social Software Ecosystem

I have written before about information neighbourhoods as arrangements of information and action opportunities that are contoured to the needs of a particular community or type of users. An example might be an information arrangement shaped to the needs of a particular project team, with the most frequently used resources most readily to hand, and additional links to their less frequently used resources. Check here and here for the background, and there’s a whole chapter in my book giving more detail on how information neighbourhoods fit into a knowledge organisation strategy for an enterprise.

Here’s a recent workshop video explaining the idea and the steps involved in designing an information neighbourhood. You can download the video file by right clickinghere. And here are the slides with some additional suggested templates for the activities.

Now, Thomas Vander Wal has stirred up my thinking with what I think will be widely recognised as a very important seminal post called “The Elements of the Social Software Stack”. Up till now I have been seeing the idea of the information neighbourhood as a shared information space, with a few links to actions tossed on the side. But of course, there’s no life in a neighbourhood if it has no sociability. It must, in Thomas’ terms accommodate identities as well as information objects. This was the idea I was grappling with in the city metaphor I used in a post I made over a year ago, “How to Kill a Knowledge Environment With the Taxonomy”.

I strongly recommend that you read Thomas’ account of the elements and the dependencies between them in full: and although he describes his idea of a “stack” in linear, progressive terms, the idea that kept coming through to me was that of an ecosystem, not just of interlinking parts, but leveraging the idea of “keystone species” – ie the species in an ecosystem upon which all other species depend, and without which the ecosystem will collapse. This would explain very well why technically you can have “all the right functionalities” in a knowledge sharing system, but somehow it just doesn’t work. But whether the metaphor is organic or mechanical, this is a really important article for knowledge managers to read, to help them figure out whether their platforms for knowledge sharing are (a) complete and (b) workable.


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