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Social Knowledge Networks: It's all about relationships

Today's social networking sites focus primarily on developing, building, and following relationships (generally people to people). If we consider the more business-oriented LinkedIn rather than Facebook for this analogy, we can see how relationships are key to professional development, but are crucial to taking you beyond your comfort zone.

In other words, relationships not only help you follow current interests, but really pay off when they introduce you to new things or people you perhaps hadn't thought of. In summary -- relationships lead to discoveries.

In a Social Knowledge Network (SKN), where subject matter and subject matter experts are intertwined, it is perhaps the relationships between our knowledge assets that will prove more valuable than the assets themselves. Here is an example to illustrate my point.

In my SKN, I am managing multimedia assets and documents to make them more easily available to a business unit. This in and of itself is a useful capability because I can search for assets, use social tagging to impart my institutional knowledge about the asset, and e-mail a link to someone else on my team who might find it useful.

We both decide that this cool image would be great for use on our corporate brochure. But before we can do that, we need to find out if we have the rights to do so.

In my SKN, there's a "relationship" between that image and its copyright contract. In this case, that relationship is a Web link. The contract might also be linked to five other images that are covered under it, and which we have now discovered. After reviewing the other images, we end up finding one that's better than the one we started with.

This is a somewhat simple example, but shows that finding exactly what you are looking for is not the end of the story. How this asset relates to other assets in our SKN enables us to find out more and ultimately discover and use assets we were not looking for, or assets that we just didn't know existed.

If you had chosen to manage your assets through federated search, or decided to search different systems for the same information, these relationships would not and could not exist.

So when you are considering how to improve the efficiency of an information-centric project or business unit, don't stop at solutions that focus solely on the assets themselves. Consider how these assets are related in the real world and how that relationship will enable discovery and innovation if it is managed.

After all, how large is your LinkedIn network now compared to when you joined and how much have you learned from those people and groups that you have been "introduced" to through common connections? The same principle applies to SKNs.

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