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BarCampRDU – Expertise Location

Another successful BarCampRDU this past Saturday. Fred did a great job organizing the organizers and making it all run smoothly. Red Hat hosted again this year and again, to rave reviews. Pictures and Posts.

I was in charge of the big schedule board again. We had it up much faster this year with less tape failures. Technique is very important. And having 12 hands.

I learned how to play Bughouse in the first session. Two chess boards, four players, two chess clocks – and it turns you a bit nuts in less than 10 minutes – which proved just enough time for me to recover before the next hour.

I hosted the next session in the Bughouse room on Expertise Location and had a very engaging discussion around the problems of figuring out “who knows what” and how to keep track of that when you’re trying to hire or place people on teams.

I lured them in with an explanation of my thesis work around Contextual Authority Tagging and asked for input from the “real world”. I heard lots of encouraging comments about how my work meshes nicely with the movement in today’s knowledge management circles away from documenting our knowledge into files (separating the knowledge from the person who knows it) to documenting the people, their work, and simply keeping track of who knows what.

The group agreed that my ideas around tagging others’ knowledge is related to the 360° interview process and the Johari window and its concept of a “blind spot”.

“Everything is pointers.” The overwhelming consensus was that the real way people figure things out is by asking other people, and moving up the chain of expertise until the answer is uncovered. If Bill (who knows about X) doesn’t know the answers himself, he’ll point you to Dave. If Dave doesn’t know, he points you to the next person. This is how we solve problems and if I can help companies do that in a more efficient, documented, trackable way – then everyone agreed I’ve got a very marketable project – as soon as I write it all down, show that it works, and then defend it and get out of school.

The most interesting comment to come from the day’s talk was about a “persistent gap” that may prove itself to exist between what a person thinks they know about and what the group around them thinks the person knows about. Identifying if and when that happens would be a very interesting application of this technique and something I hadn’t really considered before. I’ve been working under the very straightforward assumption that there will be convergence between the three “lists” of terms/tags in my experiment:
– What I think I know
– What they think I know
– What I think they think I know

We’ll see.

The current plan gives me a year to write down what those who have come before me have already done (called the Literature Review) and a year to prove and then write down my own work (called the Dissertation).

Then of course, I’ll have to be a part of that “real world”. Hmmm…

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