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The article reviews requirements and tool availability for knowledge management in virtual communities and other knowledge sharing environments, where professionals wish to quickly and easily share knowledge and information. The article compares the characteristics of several newer technologies, notably weblogs (blogs) and wikis, to the more conventional discussion forums. Wilds, the currently least popular technology emerged as the one best facilitating knowledge management needs. The article concludes that although discussion forums are the most popular, different community types are best supported by different technologies. Some opportunities for research in this area are identified, especially for the database community.
Keywords: community of practice; conversational technologies; discussion forum; knowledge management; virtual community; weblog; Wiki
Knowledge management continues to be one of the top issues for senior IS and business executives. A recent Gartner survey (Bertram, 2002) placed knowledge management among the top 10 key concerns of CIOs, with increasing importance over the next three years. The importance of knowledge management has resulted in numerous technologies being developed, from simple single-user tools, such as mind mapping software, to highly expensive enterprise systems for content management or data mining. Interestingly enough, among all available technologies, those that enable the knowledge management of online and virtual communities (e.g., VerticalNet, Dell, EZBoard) have proven to be highly popular and effective.
Recently, several new technologies have come about to support knowledge and information sharing with increased capabilities, although businesses are still slow to adopt them (e.g., Cortese, 2003; Weidlich, 2003). These technologies try to address a similar question, namely, how to enable people to quickly and easily publish their knowledge so that it can be effectively and securely shared with other members of the community. In this article, we will analyze discussion forums and two additional technologies, wikis and weblogs, all of which offer the potential for better knowledge management in organizations. The key question we seek to answer is how knowledge managers can best take advantage of conversational knowledge management technologies, based on application or situation specific knowledge needs.
We will refer to the three technologies, discussion forums, wikis, and weblogs, as conversational, to reflect that much of the knowledge creation and sharing is carried out through a process of discussion with questions and answers (discussion forum), collaborative editing (wikis), or through a process of storytelling (weblogs).
The article explores conversational knowledge management and critically examines the above mentioned three conversational knowledge management technologies: discussion forums, weblogs, and wikis. To do so, we review conversational knowledge management systems' characteristics and requirements. Then, we introduce the three knowledge management systems in more detail, explaining key features and analyzing their fit with the requirements of conversational knowledge management. This is followed by conclusions concerning the usefulness and improvement potential for conversational knowledge management technologies and the identification research opportunities in this area
REQUIREMENTS FOR CONVERSATIONAL TECHNOLOGIES
Conversations, whether in discussion forums or other media have been recognized as a useful medium for knowledge exchange and extraction (e.g., Nishida, …