Knowledge management

I’ve spent decades wrestling with knowledge management. In the realm of systems administration, capturing obscure incantations, and the why’s and hazards that go with it are critical. I have a digital collection of notes going back more than 20 years. Yes, of course it’s named Grimoire. More recently, I started creating my own person knowledge system and ended up with my own variation of a slipbox.

For most of human history, knowledge was something completely inseparable from a particular person. It didn’t mean anything to point to a piece of knowledge without reference to the person from whose life experience it emerged. The idea of a “piece” of knowledge didn’t even make sense, as knowledge couldn’t be broken down into discrete units as long as it remained in someone’s head.

~ Tiago Forte from,

My first learning around knowledge systems was that the very act of building them is incredibly helpful at learning. The effort of composing the notes (or whatever) requires careful thinking, rethinking, adding context, imagining the future where the knowledge will be used, etc. All of which is repetition and integration—key components of learning.

My second learning has just clicked into place as I read Forte’s article: Knowledge systems are tools for later use. I used to think that by building the system up, I was somehow creating something (something as yet unknown and unexpected.) Which was silly of me, because Grimoire has taught me, over decades, that any given incantation found therein can never simply be incanted. The knowledge within is only part of the magic. Only if the knowledge within can be combined with experience and expertise will it be useful in some current endeavor. The knowledge system is working and complete as it is, if when I’m doing something, I can find the knowledge I need to continue.