Searching for knowledge.
In his November article [2005, "The Evolution of Knowledge Management," pp. 38-41], Ron Miller raised some particularly valid points and presented an excellent overview of the ever-emerging personal knowledge management market. I think we all agree there's no magic-bullet solution capable of transforming the average knowledge worker into an uber-efficient machine, and as Miller states, the current approach to resolving PKM requires multiple tools.
While I agree that search isn't the entire answer, I politely disagree with the contention that desktop search tools "don't provide a way to get to information that you might need another time or to pick and choose the material you want to save." Certainly, the proliferation of free desktop search tools from Google, Yahoo!, and MSN paints a picture that the entire desktop search industry is limited and only general in its approach to information retrieval. So, this perception is understandable, but there are a handful of companies whose initial focus was on the professional knowledge worker (vs. the average end user). As such, the functionality offered in these tools goes beyond the basics and delivers what desktop search needs to be in a professional setting.
Speaking from our company's experience, there are a few options that directly address the PKM issue Miller and his interview subjects raise. First is the ability to annotate individual results. Not only does this enable knowledge workers to personalize results, but it also gives them the means for performing subsequent searches against those annotations. In essence, it captures what the knowledge worker was thinking about a particular piece of content at the time. Second is the availability of intelligent agent tools, which alerts the knowledge worker when new information that matches their predefined query enters the knowledgebase. Again, the theme here is to proactively target information that might be of particular importance at a given time.
Finally, and more importantly, is the availability of "knowledge warehouse" or "resource registry" tools. The function is straightforward--as information of interest arises, the knowledge worker needs to only drag and drop the content in the knowledge warehouse, which becomes its own searchable index. So, through the course of a typical day, a knowledge worker might find value in particular emails, Web pages, documents, or search results themselves. A simple drag and drop of these items into the repository gives them the ability to search on it today or in the future. Imagine a knowledgebase of competitive information that's built over time and instantly searchable when it's needed most.
This is the idea behind these features, and it speaks to the type of functionality that's already available in business-class desktop search software. It certainly doesn't solve the entire puzzle Miller puts forth, but the push for more proactive tools is an acknowledgement by the industry that PKM doesn't begin and end with search as we commonly define it.
VP, Global Marketing
ISYS Search Software, Inc.