The Semantic Advantage

March 13, 2010

Putting meaning to work

Filed under: knowledge work,Uncategorized — Phil Murray @ 3:30 pm

KMWorld [finally] published my article, “Putting meaning to work.” See

It begins ….

Committing vast resources to the “fragmented and miscellaneous” aspect of our Internet-driven economy is a deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the superabundance of information. That reaction might be unavoidable, but it is also unfortunate, because information—and, in particular, unstructured content—is a surface characteristic of knowledge-based activities, not their essence. Focusing exclusively on new ways to handle or respond to the superabundance of information distracts us, ironically, from solving the most important problems of the Information Age.

Let me know what you think.



  1. Hi Phil. I just read your article in KMWorld and was really struck by a number of your insights. “Our reaction to knowledge work has been analogous to focusing on the shavings on the machine shop floor instead of on how we create products with those machines” is brilliant.

    In wonderful synchronicity, I read later the same evening a strongly resonant part of Patrick Lambe’s amazing book “Organising Knowledge: Taxonomies, Knowledge and Organizational Effectiveness” ( Lambe complements your thoughts on meaning and the superabundance of information:

    “[Usability expert Don Norman] concludes that arrangement for use (taskonomy) is different from logical organization for well-structured retrieval, where the immediate context of the information or tool is not available (taxonomy). The taskonomy represents the workface, whereas the taxonomy represents the warehouse or stockroom…

    “If we go back to our taxonomy work, all we’ve really done is created a way of organizing a large virtual warehouse of information. Our taxonomy and metadata together with search and browse give us the instruments to locate any item and compile and inventory. But in the midst of a working day, who wants to browse a warehouse or read an inventory?

    “[Information designer Maish Nichani] is describing page structures organized around ‘target’ content that much more resemble department stores than wholesalers’ warehouses. Go to any part of the store, and you’ll find associated content and ideas for other purchases. Go looking for a fishing rod, and you’ll find fishing lines, and maybe a couple of instruction guides on fresh water fishing. You might even find a knowledgeable salesperson who explains the differences between different rods and lines, depending on what kind of fishing you want to do. The department store contextualizes its content for use, and suggests other useful content to you. The warehouse does not.”

    Thanks for a great article! Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    Comment by jeff — March 19, 2010 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your comments, Jeff.

      I have heard others say good things about Lambe’s book, too.

      I have several articles in process. I hope you will enjoy them, too.


      Comment by Phil Murray — March 19, 2010 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

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