When I first launched my company 1994, the Internet was quite small. We had one of the first 10,000 web sites, a dramatic increase from the first few hundred the year before. Search engines, web directories, and libraries were quite primitive, typically driven by human experts who effectively judged the value of content. Companies such as Excite and Yahoo began to create systems that could index the Web, but placed more value on the content of organizations that paid for “shelf space.”
The most significant change came when Google began using the wisdom of the crowd to position the value of information. This was done by determining how many backlinks, or references from other sites, had been viewed and then shared via suggested links back to the referenced site. At the same time, Google allowed organizations to submit their site for inclusion. To effectively rank sites, Google used the number of views and a team of internal reviewers along with the public. While Google now employs advanced indexing techniques and machine intelligence, factors other than content, such as the number of visitors, views, and length of time, make a significant impact on surfacing valuable information to the top.
While it is possible to rely on search to find private and confidential information contained within an organization’s document management system, the elements found within the wisdom of the crowd are lacking. This problem is compounded when information that may be necessary for decision making or elevating information into valuable knowledge is outside the scope of a document management system (such as on the Internet), yet may be part of the combination of a variety of sources making up the whole. A unifying solution is needed to provide an easy to use mechanism to organize nuggets of knowledge into collections, and to let the wisdom of the crowd help surface knowledge that is valuable to the organization.
Jerry Goguen is the CEO of Intralearn Software, a pioneering provider of knowledge management solutions.