Tuesday, August 20, 2002

liveTopics and Categorization

Ernie asked me what the big deal was with liveTopics. In explaining it to him, I figured out why I was excited about it. (Interesting lesson for KM - you can’t share what you don’t know, and you don’t know something until you can explain it.)

liveTopics makes it easier for me to add meta data to my posts. This alone is useful – because context around content is critical for others to benefit from it. But liveTopics closes the loop by automatically creating an outline of all posts to my blog, sorted by topic. The result is a far better navigation tool for my blog – because it increases the likelihood that anyone interested in a particular item ( myself included) will be able to find it quickly.

The outline contains the item title as well as any other topics associated with the item. That alone gives the reader context – this is a post that’s about liveTopics. But if you only really want to know about liveTopics as a KM tool, then only follow links to posts that also contain “KM” associated with them.

For Radio users, there are some critical advantages (as I see it, your mileage may vary) to liveTopics:

  • No duplication of content. If I posted one item to three categories, it created three copies of that item. This always bothered me – not only does it create duplication at Google, but it also means that multiple people could link to the same item but use different URLs. Tracking inbound links (and thereby creating some map of who’s reading what) is difficult when the content is duplicated. Besides – I work for a CRM company, and we’re pretty religious about single instance of a record… categories just rubbed me the wrong way.

  • Categories should route content. Using preferences files in Radio, Radio can easily take care of posting to multiple sites. But categories create duplication (see above) and can bury relationships among related blog entries. liveTopics, by contrast, highlights those connections and makes it easy to drill down into more “related” topics.

  • Cross-referencing becomes easier. I had used a categories macro to highlight what categories were included in a post, but your ability to browse by category was limited to the calendar. If you posted only periodically to a category, you forced users to adopt a non-standard navigation scheme in order to find your content. (Translation: it required additional effort, therefore it was less likely that they would actually dig deep enough to find anything of value .)

  • Less rigidity in categorization. By the nature of the categories implementation in Radio, you are effectively reduced to a fairly rigid list of categories to post to. Yes, it’s possible to create new categories – but as a practical matter, Radio really wants to limit you to pre-existing categories. liveTopics allows you to create topics on the fly – just type in any word and liveTopics will associate the post with that new topic.

I’ve already updated all of August’s posts by removing category information and replacing categories with liveTopics. I’m very impressed with Matt Mower – extremely speedy replies and even better patience with me as I got my legs under me. There are still some rough edges, and Matt’s already identified some things that will get further work. Rest assured, however, that liveTopics is big. If there were any doubt that Radio could really serve as a powerful KM platform, liveTopics goes a long way to erasing that doubt completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment