Saturday, October 22, 2011

Teneo Vulgo

The term "Teneo Vulgo", or "Commonly known" can be used to describe the new Era of information Management.

Social media, semantic web and information governance are taking the world by storm. What distinguishes these "technologies" from what we have seen before is the human phenomenon which they enable. The power of mass validation of content and the improving ability to organize and manage information are changing the way we engage with and value of information.

Let's take a few steps back. Before internet search capabilities (and the build-up of on-line content), we had to rely on expert knowledge just to answer, sometimes, the simplest questions. We would ask family, friends, and teachers or visit a library (that physical place with inked-printed-paper-bounded books). Today, you can do all that, but in a "real-virtual" sense amplify the effect of a single query by a factor of just about a million.

Is that good? Well, you do get all the information you need (hopefully), but you also get a lot of information that you do not need. We obtain more information more quickly, but then we need to sift through and clean it. This requires time and also increases the risk of using incorrect information, which may appear initially as credible. In the past, you had to spend a lot more time and effort in collecting information. You had to make sure you identify the right sources, to avoid wasting a considerable amount of time and money to obtain content which is of no use to you.

This is analogous to the differences between software architecture and structural architecture. The latter has always been understood as requiring careful planning. It is too costly to build a bridge or a house in an incorrect manner. Software, on the other hand, has been initially perceived as cheap and easy to rebuild. In recent years however, it has become clearer that careful design is important for software development. This is due to the associated cost of incorrect implementation, re-deployment, application life-time and maintenance optimization. 

Teneo Vulgo, in a sense, is the recognition that the information we deal with is not ours alone. Other people can connect, verify, dispute our data and in certain situations also change it. This requires an appreciation to the life cycle of information and a change in our thinking as well as in our fundamental skills and capabilities as they relate to communication and organizing information.

Why do people care about where, how and why information is being shared?

Society, whether big or small, relies on information sharing to promote a common goal. People want to share information, because they believe that this will assist in realizing an outcome they support. You might tweet about an earthquake you experienced; not only to express your emotions and let your communities know you are ok, but also because you believe that this will promote greater awareness. This, in turn, is likely to accelerate the scale and speed of response from authorities and other organizations. You might blog about Teneo Vulgo, because you believe there is a need to debate and evolve this concept in order to accelerate the momentum for the human race to improve its communal intelligence.

But how does mass media fit in to this picture then? Information systems, like any other system, can be optimized through improving the response to changes in the system's input. The best way to do this, if the conditions allow, is to flood the system with inputs, observe its response and learn how to tune the controls which are imposed on it. Mass media acts as the flood, semantic web as a structure for the inputs and response (output) and information governance acts as the control over the system of information dissemination.

"Commonly known" is the optimized result of such a collective knowledge system. Once we have analyzed and tuned our measures to manage mass knowledge - we have developed a capability to answer questions not through the use of a single set of unverified sources, with an unverified method - but rather via a well-tuned and self-optimizing communal knowledge management system. This then is the foundation of progressive social intelligence, and differentiates societies in terms of their ability to steer towards common goals.

These ideas are not necessarily new patterns of behavior. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the potential to optimize communal knowledge through this framework is approaching its peak. In order to maximize on this opportunity, communities will develop technologies which will allow them to build and control communal knowledge.

So what can we do today?  We need to teach our children to manage the knowledge they connect with through a full appreciation of its life cycle and all its stakeholders. We need to also become more conscious of the challenges of connecting communal knowledge in order to help advance the intelligence of our communities.

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