A problem of plenty

An interesting discussion I had with my team yesterday triggered a lot of thoughts. We were talking about how Internet2 (the next generation 100 Gbps Internet created by Internet2, an advanced US based networking consortium led by the research and education community since 1996) had broken the light barrier for access to content. Add to that the tremendous availability of processing and storage (look at Amazon S3 for an example of how easy it has really become).

On the other side, we talked about Internet 2.0, a writable web, where everyone is a content producer (also increasing spam – see akismet). This is a web future where everyone has an opinion, where everybody has a contribution. The only thing is that the responsibility for accuracy, consistency, completeness and validity of information is more a community responsibility rather than a structured or process based expert validation.

And then let us look at the problem Google or other search engines have. Such a lot of content. Such a lot of access – fast access! How will any search engine be able to sift through content and make a determination of what is the “right” content. It will go beyond META tags or ranking algorithms. Perhaps it will need a ranking infrastructure. It will definitely need experts.

With so much quick information, maybe most of it irrelevant, coming through the search engines and sharing tools such as blogs, learners shall probably fill their hard drives or web 2.0 accounts with more junk than not. It is really well established that people are not efficient managers of information (look at problems faced by IT administrators – “that hard disk just keeps filling up!!!”) – and face it – my hard drive for example, is something a seasoned librarian would have trouble cataloguing and maintaining.

Also another dimension is that information that we get on the web is atomic. Can’t save a section of a PDF or a webpage – that part which is most relevant (can tag it now with digg) to my learning and should be put along with the other such fragments.

So we have the problem of plenty. More storage, light speed Internet, potentially as many contributors as users of the Internet, no existing validation processes – how do learners effectively construct their learning then?

What this means for a PLE and any personal knowledge management software is in terms of how effective learning through collaboration really will be, there is a big question mark.

Also, try and see how organizations would cope. So, if each employee was given his/her own PLE and had some  kinds of policies to separate company proprietary content from personal Internet/publicly sharable content, how would companies ensure that the correct content is available enterprise wide? How will it appeal to it’s employees to be responsible?

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