Not so long ago people would go to work at a set time and work exclusively on equipment and applications provided by the employer. At the end of the day they would go home and do whatever they wanted to do using their stuff. But now the line between work and life is now a complete jumble for many.
(I am going to refer to work-and-life in this post as if they are two distinct things as a way of contrasting the challenge, but that whole concept is also going through significant disruption which I may cover at a later date)
Personal knowledge management used to be similarly straightforward with work stuff in one place, life stuff in another place. Take diaries as an example, I used to run a home diary and a work diary. If truth be known, Sue used to run my home diary and I would focus all of my energy on the work diary. This situation was only complicated when either the work requirements or the life requirements would break into one of the other’s area. School plays during the day would require a special entry in my work diary to make sure I was there. Likewise overnight business trips would need a special entry in the life diary.
This situation was never ideal, but worked quite well with few issues. One of the huge advantages of this situation was the people at my employer could see my availability and schedule meetings with me because my availability was visible to all.
In a BYOD world it would be, just about, acceptable to make both my diaries available on all my devices, but that’s not really resolving the challenge or addressing the changing culture. Running multiple diaries has never been ideal and leads to all sorts of issues when things clash.
The real requirement is for me to see a single diary, I don’t mind whether it’s made up of a number of diaries, but I need to see it as one. That diary needs to be embedded into my mobile experience so that I can use all of the functions of my mobile device. Portions of my availability need to be visible to different interested groups. I need to be able to set parameters on my availability for those groups because I don’t want a completely blended lifestyle where I’m available to everyone 24 by 7. I want event information from one group (project team) to be available to another group (family) so that sensible decisions can be made. In other words I want a completely blended diary experience which has been personalised to my requirements and way of working.
I could just opt out and run a single personal diary with no visibility to others but that would not be very helpful to people who want to schedule time with me. I used to have a boss who did that and it was impossible to schedule anything with him, particularly as the only diary that he regarded as truth was the paper one in his hands at all times.
Another alternative is to run two diaries and to copy everything from one to another. The natural choice for doing this would be to make the life diary the master and to copy everything from the work diary into it, but that just leads to another challenge, what to do about data privacy. Would my employer really want my family to have access to a report with sensitive financial information in it? A diary entry isn’t just about the scheduling information; it’s also about all of the associated content.
My purpose in this discussion is to use diary information as an example of the complications of running any form of personal knowledge management system in a world where work technology and life technology are the same, and where the separation between them is a complete jumble. The same challenges apply to to-do lists, note taking, reading lists, document stores, and all manner of personal knowledge management techniques.
These challenges are multiplied when we want others to collaborate with us in our personal knowledge management system.
We are going to see many ways of resolving these challenges that break the current paradigms and move us to a far more personal way of working. Doodle is an example of a different way of thinking about team scheduling that works across personal diaries. There are many people thinking about the to-do list and note taking most of which are being delivered as cloud services built to interact with personal applications. This continued shift to personal is going to significantly change the way that individuals and teams interact, collaborate and do work. As always the technology shift is the smaller part of a much larger cultural shift.
As a person I’m the one who is enabled and approved for access to all sorts of data. In the future I am expecting to be able to have a personal life assistant which is going to need access to all of my sources of data to enact upon them, but that’s another challenge requiring another paradigm shift.