10. Findability is power – Unfindable information or people are irrelevant.
What is this picture? To some it may mean rescue at sea. To others it may be law enforcement coming to get them. To others it might be helicopters. Maybe piloting.
When we create information it is usually created under a given context. However, as we’ve discussed, Context is Fluid.
So an object created under a given context is not bound by that context.
Time spent searching for items we need to get our jobs done (people, expertise, information, how-to, etc.) is waste. In most businesses, a great deal of this information is tacit knowledge. To search for it, we wade through our professional networks at the office – we ask the people who sit around us who (might) be able to point us in the direction of someone else who (maybe) knows something.
This is wasted time which is often exacerbated by corporate structures, cultures, and rules which restrict access to knowledge by fiat or construct.
We can deal with this but making information more freely available. However, when business begins to open up and democratize the storage and distribution of information, the problem of searching and cataloging instantly becomes apparent.
The context under which information is created often dictates how it is stored. It’s storage then creates ease for searching under that context (e.g.: it’s filed under “Scuba Diving Disasters”) and not under other contexts (e.g.: I’m searching for “Worst underwater birthday parties ever”.).
This becomes even more complex when trying to build ad hoc teams made up of people with various reputations, skill sets, and locations.
In Social Media, tagging or folksonometric designations are given to objects of social value. A tag is a fluid designation given to an object.
Here we have a particularly sadistically delicious picture of a dessert at Jose Andres’ restaurant Zaytinya in Washington DC. When my friend Toni took this picture and put it on Flickr, she did not tag it. I added the tags, according to my context. They included Jose Andres, Food, Zaytinya, dessert and – because I wasn’t lucky enough to go myself – I added the tag “overwhelmingdesire”.
The final tag was clearly my context and not the photographers, the photographer ate the food – more than likely enjoyed it – and did not feel the overwhelming desire that I did.
While this is a rather glib example, the problem with contextual search is clear. Simply digitizing information or making it transparent does not necessarily make it findable. This principle calls on us to respect this dilemma and build systems that allow for objects to be found under a variety of contexts.
This is looked at from a second angle here. Principle Ten Take Two
An Bui’s take on this principle is here.
Photo courtesy of Tonianne.