Web 2.0 and Personal KM: Rude Lessons in Impermanence

This article was originally posted on December 13, 2010.

Not only has my default start-up site been down since some time in November, but the error message has gone from the slightly ominous “We’re experiencing technical difficulties” type (below) to the vastly scarier, generic error message pictured above.

I know it’s been reported before, but Pageflakes, the page where I aggregated all of the blogs I care about most dearly, along with my newsfeeds, to get a quick, one-stop view of most of the information I care about the most, seems to be gone and not coming back.

Because it was an aggregator, it’s not like any of my information (other than configuration of Pageflakes itself) has gone missing, but I’m without a tool I use literally every day to organize the web properties I pay attention to.

Through this process, I feel like I’ve learned a small lesson about the impermanence of information in the Web 2.0 world, and personal knowledge management. There’s been a lot written about how digital information never goes away if someone wants it badly enough (especially as the Wikileaks saga continues to unfold), but I’ve been made rudely aware of the opposite: how easily Web 2.0 properties can go away, or evolve in ways that we don’t want, leaving us with little recourse but to find new tools to connect with others and consume information.

The lessons for me:

  1. Invest my time and information in brands that I can trust, and ones with scale to last (note: those two attributes can be at cross-purposes as power corrupts)
  2. Consider off-line tools and open standards (a client-side RSS reader/aggregator installed on my local computer, like FeedDemon for example)
  3. It’s hard to complain about changes in, or termination of, a free service, but people do it anyway. Being change-averse is part of human nature.
  4. Learn to live with the transience. If Twitter went away tomorrow, and with it my over 2,000 tweets and 300+ followers, what would I do? Probably pick up the phone or make time to visit the important ones in person to stay connected. I’d certainly process less information than I do now, but likely in more depth. Maybe not a bad trade-off.

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Mike Gilronan

Project management, financial management, and knowledge management. Microsoft 365 aficionado, proud Sympraxian. Opinions and Philly attytood are my own.