The other thing wrong with the DIKW pyramid

I took a side swipe at the DIKW (Data Information Knowledge Wisdom) pyramid the other day, and included a link to David Weinberger’s excellent debunking of it, which concludes:

The real problem with the DIKW pyramid is that it’s a pyramid. The image that knowledge (much less wisdom) results from applying finer-grained filters at each level, paints the wrong picture. That view is natural to the Information Age which has been all about filtering noise, reducing the flow to what is clean, clear and manageable. Knowledge is more creative, messier, harder won, and far more discontinuous. read more

The Role of Story in Technical Communication

I have wanted to write about the role of story in technical communication for a long time. It is certainly a subject that comes up again and again, but without any clear message emerging. I have long felt that yes, story is fundamental to technical communication, but I could never quite pin down how.

It is well understood that story is fundamental to human beings. We are a species who tells stories, who understands ourselves and our roles in the world in terms of stories. The marketing business has long recognized the centrality of stories to what they do, and the importance of story in creating an emotional connection to the reader. A Harley Davidson executive is supposed to have once said: read more

Skimming and skipping is not a problem; quit trying to fix it

On a quite regular basis, someone publishes a study proclaiming — horror of horrors — that on the Web, people don’t always read content all the way through but skim and skip. Oh no! The Web is rotting our brains! Oh no! Writers have to change everything they do!

Bosh. Did they not bother to ask if people skipped and skimmed before the Web? Did they ever pause to consider how people read newspapers or the magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms?

skippingSkimming and skipping is perfectly normal reader behavior. It does not indicate that there is a problem with the content or with the reader. It is not a problem to be fixed, though it may be something that writers need to do a little bit more to support. read more

Think Connection, not Creation

There is a brilliant post by Gerry McGovern today entitled Moving from a world of producing to a world of connecting. We have a tendency, McGovern argues, to think of creating value in terms of creating more things, when we should be more concerned with creating connections between things. In a network, he argues, connections between things are actually more valuable than the things themselves. (How valuable would your phone be if it could not make calls or access the Web?) McGovern concludes:

We must move to a work culture that focuses as much on the maintenance and improvement of what we already have, as on the production of new stuff. But more importantly, we must develop our skills of linking and bridge building. Because in a network, that’s where the real value lies. read more