Saturday, February 2, 2008

Organizational learning and Knowledge Building

One of the things we have been doing at PARC in order to understanding this new field that we're calling Augmented Social Cognition is to go back to past research on understanding organizational memory and learning, and past systems that have attempted at collaborative knowledge building. Even though much of this research has mostly focused on group collaboration (typically on the order of a work or task group or perhaps a small organization), I believe the research points to directions for future Web2.0 research.

One of these papers we read in our ASC Reading Group recently is Mark Ackerman's work on AnswerGarden, which I consider to be pioneering work in this area. The research developed a tool that enables a database of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to grow "organically" over time. As new questions arise and are answered, they are inserted into an ontology that organizes past question and answer pair. A user interacts with the system by going through a branching network of diagnostic network of questions that might help them find the answers. If the question is not in the database, the question is automatically send to an expert, and the answer is both send back to the asker as well as inserted into this diagnostic network.

The research contained an outline of how to build such systems, which bears quite a resemblance to how people use Yahoo! Answers as well as ways people use Google/Wikipedia together, as well as the recent Google announced effort called Knol. Moreover, the research contained field studies of the system used in practice to answer questions about how to use the X11 Windowing System. This is all very cool research indeed, and I encourage more people to find out more about this work.

Ackerman, M. S. and Malone, T. W. 1990. Answer Garden: a tool for growing organizational memory. In Proceedings of the ACM SIGOIS and IEEE CS TC-OA Conference on office information Systems (Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, April 25 - 27, 1990). F. H. Lochovsky and R. B. Allen, Eds. ACM, New York, NY, 31-39.

Ackerman, M. S. 1998. Augmenting organizational memory: a field study of answer garden. ACM Trans. Inf. Syst. 16, 3 (Jul. 1998), 203-224. DOI=


Anonymous said...

If interested, there are also AG2, AG3, and ...AG23 (maybe not in the title :-))from Ackerman's later works.

Ed H. Chi said...

Indeed, we're planning on reading more papers from Mark Ackerman's publication list: