Testing Compendium and the Illusion of Explanatory Depth #

At the suggestion of Marc Eisenstadt I’ve been trying Compendium.

The tool itself seems relatively straightforward (I have used both cognitive mapping and mind map software before so this may not be a fair assessment of how a beginner would get on) – the trick I suspect is in learning a methodical approach to applying it to a specific task.

I experimented trying to map out the exchange of views in the recent “Hierarchy” exchange (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) [order may not be quite right] between Dave Rogers , Jon Husband and Euan Semple but ran out of steam partway through analysing the second post. I don’t think that is a comment about Compendium, more a facet of the difficulty of mapping this sort of writing especially when you are very rusty at that sort of thing.

This will be the problem with creating the semantic web, it’s completely conceivable to have nice well-formed RDF triples as a way of navigating information that is already structured but the vast majority of human knowledge is tied up in messy human-written text.

My gut feeling is that most of us, most of the time, don’t analyse information to the depth that is needed to make good use of a tool such as Compendium. Certainly my tendency is for a strong degree of pragmatism in my learning – I’d suggest that generally knowledge-workers dig just enough to get a sufficient gist of things for the immediate purpose – as long as I have good enough knowledge for the task in hand then why seek more precision?

The willingness to stop digging could be increased by the illusion of explanatory depth. This tendency for people to over-estimate their knowledge of a subject where there are attractive intuitive explanations was identified in 2002 by Frank Keil and Leonid Rozenblit. I’m probably doing it now of course!

The next area to try Compendium will be working the other way – assembling a set of facts or assumptions about the world and seeing if it helps extrapolate meaningful abstractions. The obvious application of this will be in strategy development.

Wiki page for evaluation notes: [wiki]Compendium[/wiki]

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Julian Elve
Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change

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