Information vs. Knowledge

just ran across an interesting article about Xerox finding that knowledge was more valuable than information. my first thought was, “what’s the difference?” the way the terms are thrown around these days, they’ve become little more than buzzwords.

the distinction came when i looked at my own system of managing information. i’ve got a new application called the “Sony Ericsson Clicker“. this contains a built-in “proximity sensor”, which means that i can set it up to perform certain tasks based on whether i am near my computer or not. currently, it is set up to launch four programs (Mail, Address Book, iChat, NetNewsWire) and kill the screensaver when i enter my apartment (okay, and it displays “Welcome Home, Bob!” how sweet . . .). the result is that by the time i reach the keyboard, the screen is already full of information.

but i couldn’t help thinking how this could be better. after all, each of these applications is feeding me lists of information, from updated websites to email messages to online friends and contacts. but it is up to me to prioritize the information, sort it in a way that is comprehensible, and digest it. only THEN does it become knowledge.

perhaps a better plan would be to archive the information intelligently. after all, most of the information is not necessary for me to see immediately, and usually it relates to things in the distant future or with questionable relevance to me. but if the information showed itself just when i DID need it, be that in a day or a year, then it would be considered knowledge. cory doctorow talks about how he uses his blog to archive things of interest to him (and in a strange twist, i’m archiving that article for myself right here!). but what if the system did that for him? that is, of course, how a real secretary/administrative assistant works–they parse the information and make it available to the boss at the required time.

***UPDATE: a very cool article (PDF) on the history of interaction by Marc Rettig goes into more detail about this distinction. he sees the different levels of interaction as 1) operate the machine; 2) use the software; 3) perform a task; and 4) experience (live, learn, work, play). i’d say we’re still at step 2, and i had only envisioned moving to step 3. but really, we all want to be at step 4–how can we cut out the middleman?***

Steven Johnson has posted a thoughtful piece on the Bloogle acquisition, taking the viewpoint that Blogger could provide Google users with a valuable “scrapbook” for the internet (make sure to read the comments on his blog about the article too).

i was fortunate to hear a talk yesterday by Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO. his main quotable moment about Blogger was saying “we hope to help them out”, to aid Blogger users in creating quality content. in other words, he just wants to make the internet a better place, so that his tool to search it comes up with better results. that’s translating information into knowledge.