Knowledge Tiers

Storage Management and Information Lifecycle Management have the concept of storage tiers (online, near-line, off-line) with datapath tools helping to manage the movement of data based on the criticality, age and recent access attributes for data. One can easily make the argument that the convergence of tiers of knowledge within your grasp is similar. There are parallels of tiered storage in how you acquire, retain and access knowledge as a person. With increasing performance and availability of knowledge devices you should be able to have all available knowledge ready to be processed without disrupting your train of thought or communication with other people. Consider a knowledge device any one of many categories of devices that aid in carrying knowledge with you. The combination of knowledge devices with network infrastructure builds your tiered knowledge world. Here are the tiers of knowledge in my world, in the order I use them:
  • First-level cache - This is the information and knowledge that comes flying out of my own brain, often unchecked and, as often as not, to my own detriment.
  • Second-level cache - This is the information and knowledge that I have to sit and think about. It is information that disrupts conversation since I have to think, but not enough to notice much.
  • Team knowledge - This is information the folks around me know. This category includes shouting distance, instant messaging and, of course, the traditional phone
  • Internet knowledge - This is the stuff I can get through surfing the internet. Notice the placement of Internet knowledge, I use it more often than I use books. How strange is that?
  • Book knowledge - This is the stuff I have to reach for and peruse. Books are often FAR more efficient than the Internet simply due to the contextualization and consolidation of information in one spot and the performance of flipping through the book. It is still very difficult to efficiently "flip" through the Internet. On the other hand, I'm hoping that with the advent of digital paper, ebooks can finally merge the accessibility of the Internet with the readability of a book while losing the unwieldiness of a laptop.
What is changing quickly in the world is exactly how accessible these tiers are at any given time. Consider me, today, with the following attachments to enhance my lfe:
  • Motorola RAZR with instant messaging (takes care of Team Knowledge and Internet Knowledge) and Bluetooth. Bluetooth is interesting because my phone no longer has to be in my hand, I can interact with team members and team knowledge without unnatural movements. I press a button, say a team member's name, and I am talking to them while I continue with my activities.
  • Laptop with WiFi (takes care of Team Knowledge, Internet Knowledge (more than the phone) and Book Knowledge). This is a problem. If I need higher speed access or more screen real-estate, I have to take out my Laptop, power it up, and connect to WiFi at a hot spot...yech.
Ok, now here's where things get interesting. Consider that within the year we will have
  • Instant-on devices that are connect to the Internet and don't take sports conditioning classes to carry with you on the go
  • Ubiquitous network connectivity, anywhere, anytime the 3G, wifi and other ways to connect
  • More and more "personal" bluetooth head sets (built into our clothes, shrinking into our ears, and, eventually, put one in an implant...why not?)
The world is getting smaller. Within 2 years, given I have the money, I should be able to know anything, at anytime, from anywhere (within limits of course). I've strayed a lot from tiered storage, haven't I. The principles are the same. Performance, accessibility, and the ever shrinking and lower power computing capabilities will bring information to me at the flick of a finger from anywhere. My knowledge tiers are getting closer and closer together. When will I be able to have a conversation with a person without them realizing where I've pulled the knowledge I'm talking to them about. In other words, when will the Internet Knowledge or Book Knowledge be so "near-line" that it appears to the other person that I am only accessing my own personal second-level cache. A few implants here and there, non-visual cues, speech recognition. We have every single component, we just need better and better power efficiency and to make sure we don't give ourselves tumors with the all of the wireless implants that will be injected into our brains. Like storage management, knowledge tiers are going to be drawn together and increasingly hosted directly on the device that accesses the information, our body and persons. Am I looking forward to it...well, yes and no. The access to so much information and the need to continuously process it seems almost a flaw in our brain's chemistry. If we can partition our brain so we don't feel the need to continuously process all of this "stuff" at our fingertips then I have to welcome the coming merging of tiered knowledge into my world. If we can't find a way to manage the knowledge tiers and keep them in check without overwhelming us then we are going to have a tough transition with some seriously overwhelmed people roaming the planet.

Interesting post. I've been, somewhat randomly, building a volume of information through a network sources. I concur with your tiers categoriation and I think you're right on the button with the phone, laptop, bt comments (I really don't get PDAs). My challenge is now what do I do with all that knowledge that my curiosty has brought. It's spilt out beyond my immediate vocational needs, family needs, etc. So the challenge now is: I have well stocked "vault", the feeds and some organisation around it but how do I exploit it?

Posted by Don Thompson on May 20, 2006 at 09:22 PM MDT #

PDAs certainly seem to have tried to reach beyond their purpose (a calendar you can walk around with and a simple way to take notes). The Internet experience is less than satisfying and their use as a general purpose device seems awfully limited. Still, the footprint is right to stick in your pocket and I've never liked the thought of my phone being my PDA, so there is hope yet if they can get back to basics. Now, a PDA with wifi that syncs with my home network instantly to get my calendar, finances, tv schedule, and lets me simply manage those things. Cool. A general purpose computing device...not so cool.

I think Origami is a step in the right direction. It will bring that lightweight simple computing experience (in theory) that the PDA has occasionally tried to step into.

As for your vault, very interesting, I've considered doing this as well. Seems like you need to figure out how to get your "vault" online and designated as your first level of Internet cache for your family / team as well. Remember "Groove" from the Lotus Notes guy? In one of its original incarnations this sort of organization / exploitation seemed to be similar, now the Yahoo 360 service is also similar. In the end, you're asking to server your information on the net and make it your first place to stop. Probably "merely" a massive exercise in setting up your content and making it searchable. There are a few search engines out there that are open source, have you considered using one of them to make your content indexed and available?

Posted by Paul Monday on May 21, 2006 at 02:28 AM MDT #

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