A Smart Tool that Could Change How Computers Manage Information

A Smart Tool that Could Change How Computers Manage Information

By Susana Gonzalez Ruiz

Intranetum, a smart knowledge management tool for companies could be the next big thing in the way computers organize information. Their big secret is… deleting folders.

The founders of Intranetum were leading Iskra, a technology agency specialized in information knowledge management. They make technically possible what their clients need (web and mobile apps, content-centric intranets…) by selecting and developing software that fits best their needs.

One of the major problems faced by their biggest customers was sharing information efficiently. Although they used very detailed guides on how to classify files, they had many difficulties in finding information. In the case of multinationals, the problem was worse because even having English as a common working language, employees from different countries used different words and expressions to describe the same concepts.

Although online file hosting services such as Dropbox or Google Drive technically enable file sharing, they don’t solve these problems because, ultimately, they are based on the same system of information management: Folders.

The expertise and experience gained working with large corporations convinced Iskra’s founders to create Intranetum, a knowledge management framework that helps companies be much more efficient utilizing knowledge that has been accumulated within organizations.

Classifying Knowledge

At the time when knowledge went from being stored only in our heads to be written, information required a physical and localized support. The need to create an organizational system emerged with large collections of data. As the volume and complexity increased, it was necessary to create physical systems of management and classification based on categories and hierarchies that would enable their location. These categories and hierarchies were adopted by libraries and, ultimately, offices.

HK Wan Chai Library Inside Bookcase
HK Wan Chai Library, by Skwanem, Wikimedia

At the same time, writing allowed giving a structure to the knowledge we had of the world. Categories were created to classify and relate ideas through a hierarchical system that sought to rationally reflect a natural order. Yet, the classification of information is anything but natural, since there are different logical ways of classifying knowledge.

From Offices to Personal Computers

When the first computers were created, their operation was based on command-line interfaces that required technical knowledge. To evolve into personal computers, it was necessary to simplify their operation. This is how Alan Kay of Xerox PARC introduced the desktop metaphor in 1970.

Computers adopted the metaphor of an office, with icons, actions and procedures that mimicked familiar elements for non-expert users. By using analogies, such as creating, saving or deleting a document, they made accessible abstract and strange concepts that are now all too familiar to us. But for the user, documents and folders stopped being a metaphor to become real things.

Macintosh Desktop (1984) by Unknown, Wikipedia.
Macintosh Desktop (1984) by Unknown, Wikipedia.

However, any shortcut has a price. Just because the system based on files and folders is easier to understand doesn’t mean it’s more practical and efficient. By adopting the desktop metaphor, its limitations were also adopted. This system separated information into individual pieces to identify and locate them, generating a hierarchical system.

It was assumed that this would facilitate the search for information, but cognitive approaches to knowledge organization derived from empirical studies have shown that users are more comfortable with verbal search systems. In turn, experts in knowledge organization, such as Birger Hjørland, have revealed that different viewpoints require different systems of organization of information, as exemplified by multinationals with employees from different cultures.

Eudald Camprubí, CEO at Intranetum, explains that while analyzing firms from the legal area, they discovered that each employee spends up to 2 hours and a half a week looking for information, and according to new research by IDC, knowledge workers spend 16% of their time searching for information.  However, it’s not only a matter of investment of time in the search, but also in classification. We’ve all encountered the dilemma of where to store a document related to different folders.

A Classification System Based on How Our Mind Works

While computers remain anchored in a limited and unproductive system inherited from physical files, the internet has been organizing knowledge in more efficient ways for some time now: Twitter hashtags, ontologies in Wikipedia or semantic networks based on statistical models and decisions probabilistic on Google. These are, in short, management systems closer to how language and our minds work. Intranetum applies these knowledge tools inside organizations.

By a self-learning knowledge tool that combines artificial intelligence and smart knowledge management, Intranetum removes folders to facilitate the search for information and knowledge management. Although, after so many years of being accustomed to working with the desktop metaphor, it may seem counterintuitive working without folders. However it is, in fact, easier and more productive. It makes no sense to close ideas into folders.

The Intranetum knowledge organization system is based on two elements: the classification and the search. The information is classified based on large areas of knowledge and tags, applied both by users and by the system.

Using neural networks and deep learning, Intranetum is able to understand the meaning of documents and the root of words. This is how, for example, although a document on cooking doesn’t contain the word “cooking”, the system understands the theme and is able to classify and label it correctly.

The search for information is carried out through a search engine that offers a list of results sorted and weighted according to their relevance, based on the analysis of the user and the whole company behavior. Thus, the system can predict or suggest results based on the most searched and clicked concepts.

Screenshot of search results with Intranetum

This system of classification and search, ultimately, not only manages information, but generates knowledge, since it is able to show connections between documents that even the users themselves didn’t know.

In “The Information Society”, Manuel Castells introduced a new social organization where the generation, processing and transmission of information were the fundamental sources of productivity and power, due to the rise of new technologies. Could Intranetum be the first step towards the society of knowledge?

Intranetum has been selected to join the Google Cloud Platform Program for Startups.

 References:

Schubmehl,  David  & Vesset, Dan (2014) The Knowledge Quotient: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Information Using Search and Content Analytics

http://www.coveo.com/~/media/Files/WhitePapers/Coveo_IDC_Knowledge_Quotient_June2014.ashx

 

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

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