Knowledge Hierarchies

This blog evaluates hierarchical knowledge systems from searchable knowledge systems.  As Yahoo is to Google, Westlaw is to Lexis, Blogger is to ExpressionBuilder.  … unstructured information can be useful, but the extra effort to add structure make the information even more useful.

I started blogging in ernest a few weeks ago.  At first, it was a spurred on as part of a marketing campaign to drive traffic to my website.  A suggestion by Neil Squillante that the link in my bio to would go nowhere … since the last post was several months old.

I took the time to think what the purpose of the blog was and where it fit.  I knew I liked to write.  But like most writers, I liked to be read.  So I got to thinking, what could I write that a number of peoples would want to read.  I was not a novelist; no plans for that.  I was not a scientist.  No, I was a technology consultant, a recovered lawyer, an invetirate tinkered.

I set myself a quote of 15 minutes a day … capture one thought in the blog.  Then I started looking at other blogs; to see if there were anyone I would want to visit again.  I found a few.  The best ones I have listed in my blog-roll on the right.  If you have the time, take a look at them.

What I saw was that I needed a focus, an angle.  I know a few things about document assembly and case management.  I have written and lectured extensively on these topics.  I make my living providing consulting services in these areas.  I have taken my hand at helping guide the makers of these products to better understand what tools would be useful to people like me (trying to build solutions for our clients with document assembly and case management software.

It took a few weeks to get focused on the topic.  Then I turned to the tools.  As a lawyer, I was used to structured knowledge.  Legal contracts have articles, sections and headers.  Legal briefs have arguments and supporting facts.  Legal cases have fact headnotes and then facts.  Most of law is structured and categorized.

And yet, when I looked at my blog, I had titles, dates and body text.  Unless you, my reader were to come back every day and read what I had written, the mass of unfocused material would overwhelm.  And, if I strayed off the narrow topics of document assembly and case management, you would have no way of following that thread.

And so I hunted for a new platform.  I found pMachine’s ExpressionEngine.  It supported multi-tiered and multiple categorization of information.  And it sported powerful keyword tagging and search indexes.  Moreover, it allowed you to create custom fields that could be used to provide abstracts or summaries to help you, the reader, decide to read on.

Now back to Yahoo versus Google; Westlaw versus Lexis, and ExpressionBuilder versus Blogger.  All of these tools allow you to find information; run searches.  The latter category focus on boolean searches; choose the right search words, and you will find the articles that contain those words.

The former group, Yahool, Westlaw and ExpressionBuilder give you a hierarchal structure of topics so that one can find the correct topic and drill down to find the articles that are on that topic of interest.  As you drill down, you will see abstracts.  And only then do you see the full articles.  This is the approach I hope to use with this Blog.  I will write in an “unstructured fashion” … stream of consciousness like a typical blog, but as I do, I will categorize and abstract, so that over time, there will come to be a wealth of information on a range of topics.