Saturday, October 29

Googlizing Learning

I'm not sure if Googlizing is a word but the way this steam engine is rolling I'm sure it will be soon.

David Grebow's recent post (Wait a minute, let me Google it ...) really got me thinking and since I hate the fact that comments do not get seen by those receving RSS feeds of this blog I decided to do a follow-on post rather than a comment.

Breaking News! Google is doing all kinds of interesting stuff, much of which will have an impact on learning. One of their latest endeavors is Google Base:
Google Base is Google’s database into which you can add all types of content. We’ll host your content and make it searchable online for free.
Sounds like a potential learning object repository to me. Read more about it. Couple this with their free Google Desktop (to index and search your computer and intranet files) and you may have a pretty decent knowledge management solution.

No doubt about it, Google is great especially when it comes to connectng people to content. However, as a learning resource, it falls quite short. Fundamentally the quality of the content is often suspect for just because something appears on a web page does not mean that it is correct. And ironically today's search engines are almost too good - there is simply too much content available now.

To me learning is always made up of content AND collaboration. I learn more from reading a book and discussing it than just simply reading it.
Content + Collaboration = Learning
(see my post on Search sucks - where's the context?)

So you can see where I'm going to go with this ... Google needs to add a way to explicitly rate the content (Google's PageRank implicitly ranks the popularity of a web page) and Google needs to add a way for people to add comments to the web page links that result from a search query.

"Who creates it? Who maintains it?"
Easy. Those who use Google. They have the option to rate the pages and the option to leave a comment. Google has a large enough (massive) user base to make this work. Think of this as a 'people filter'.

This ability to connect people to people through content I think is critical. I often go to and read the book reviews for I what to know what actual people think of the content. Those that have validated identities I trust more than those that don't. A search is not always going to give me the answer I am looking for - this approach gives me the option to tap into the collective knowledge of other users.

Content is so Web 1.0; People is Web 2.0. (grin) Google has the opportunity to start connecting people to people - let's see if they will take advantage of it.

Is this the poor man's version of Jay Cross' workflow learning? What do you think - is Google becoming the best way for rapid, informal learning?


Ben Watson said...

Forgot to mention that when Google started to index blogs and giving them a higher priority in the search results that Google acknowledged the value that people can bring to the search process. But blogs are typically one-to-many (with limited blog comments) and what I am talking about is many-to-many; a social network (people) that overlays the search results (content).

martin lindner said...

i don't agree with the content/1.0 vs. people/2.0 opposition, though i know what you mean (and do sympathize).

it's about semantics, i think. you may call it: microcontent (, semantic clouds (, data cloud (Johndan Johnson-Eilola --, personal infocloud (thomas vanderwal,

Anonymous said...

Ranking by people offers up too much of an opportunity for skewing - sites would try to up their relvenace with 'zombie raters' Google is just figuring out how to deal with spam-blogs in Blogger, I wouldn't want the equivilant if I am looking for some JIT learning.

You could manage this with a registration process, such as ebay. BUt Google isn't ebay - I don't want to register for somthing unless it is absolutely necessary. Thank god for, it saves me from registering at every two-bit newspaper that wants to market things to me. Google needs to stay anonymous at its core in order to avoid the perception of 'doing evil' registering and/using 'expert' ratings for content doesn't goa long with thier empirical, algorithmic tactics

Ben Watson said...

Ah yes but remember that Google has already started to offer a host of services that require registration (Gmail, Blogger, Talk etc). Aggregated these together and you could get a pretty strong identity profile created. eBay manages to overcome skewing by using some well designed algorithms and the sheer volume of rating/ranking helps to overcome any manipulation.

David Grebow said...


Thank you for deep diving on my Google post. It added to my thinking with the links you provided.

I know there are a number of companies that are using (and have given up using) company only Google or Google-like search engines to try and create a corporate JIT knowledge base.

The failures so far are typified by many of reasons you gave: lack of rating of information; no collaboration; missing function that closes the loop.

One of the few programs I have seen so far (recommended by Jay) is a program called Teamlines by Itensil. They capture the existing and approved knowledge in a repository. Make it available ONLY to the people who might need it JIT since they are assigned to a team and need to know it or know-how to do it.

It has a WIKI like feature that provides a closed loop by team members who want to add updates, reactions, customer info, etc. to what they know or know-how to do after they've finished their work. And includes a variety of collaborative functions such as email, chats, IM, etc.

It's a smaller and more focused Google with some good approaches and touches.

The focus is on using the employee network as an invaluable corporate asset. Content and context are the key. An assignment may be a better way to 'rate' the validity of the knowledge than a more open-to-all Amazon-like rating system.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

We're not that far away ...

The original repository is already around in most companies, it needs to be digitized and loaded in a database.

Taxonomies are created by the user. How the knowledge is used is the basis for a working taxonomy.

A new job, 'Digital Librarian', will need to be created to maintain the repository.

Users will also be asked to provide 'maintenance' by adding comments to the original knowledge.

Access would be based on a 'need to do' basis. So if I was part of a team that needed access to the knowledge about setting up a conference, I could have it.

Trace Urdan said...

Dave's comments regarding issues of content quality within a corporate environment (and that is after all the presumed context of the LC blog!) However I still believe the answer lies in more adept searching than in some top down approach to content management. This Soviet-style desire for control is what always fails -- it never keeps up, it becomes impossibly labor intensive, and most-often employee turnover and budget vaguaries often renders early enthusiasm to catalog content half-baked.

I think the only hope for true knowledge management is one that allows messy market forces to prevail: SMEs choose what content to render up to a shared environment (which presumes some level of quality within a corporation) and then search skill and search popularity does the rest. I personally believe anything else is doomed.

Solving content quality issues in the blogosphere is a far more difficult challenge and one where I will always be more apt to rely on edited environments. (Present august company notwithstanding of course.)

Anonymous said...

you may call it: microcontent (, semantic clouds

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