Introduction to Personal Knowledge Management

What is personal knowledge management (PKM)?

What is personal knowledge management (PKM)? Well, I'd hazard a guess that most of us depend largely on two main sources to search for, locate, and retrieve information, either on a daily basis or for more extensive work. These two sources are the people we know and the search engines, like Google or Bing, that we use on a daily basis. Relying on these two kinds of sources may get us by for most things, but there are times when we will require more rigorous sources because the task at hand stipulates better information or the risks involved in making a decision are weighty enough to require more certainty. Good, thorough information can reduce our uncertainty or enable us to measure levels of uncertainty, and this is helpful when making decisions, writing papers, completing projects, and so forth. In this book, therefore, our first learning goal is focused on information sources, and specifically, to:

  • become aware of the variety of information sources that exist,
  • learn how to search those sources for relevant information, and
  • learn how to evaluate found information.

This only covers part of what we mean by personal knowledge management. In addition to being able to search for, locate, and retrieve good information, it is also important to manage that information and to develop good work flows that help with that. What I mean is that, it may be great that we know that UK Libraries exists and that we can use it to locate good information, but if we don't use the library or other great resources because we're not in the habit of doing so, then what's the point of all this good information and all these information technologies that we have to become informed, do good things, and to make our lives better and easier?

Personally, I want to live in a good information age rather than merely an information age. Therefore, our second learning goal is focused on the tools and technologies that will help us build personalized information and knowledge work flows. As stated above, often the point of acquiring good information is to perform some task or to make a decision. A good work flow is good if it fits our style, or our way of getting things done, because that makes the work flow more likely to be followed. A good work flow also maximizes our use of good sources of information as well as helps us to produce desired outcomes, like a paper for a class, a project for a boss, or a decision that involves some uncertainty. Our second learning goal is, therefore, focused on personal knowledge work flows, and specifically, to:

  • become aware of the tools and technologies designed to manage personal knowledge work flows,
  • learn how to use these tools and technologies, and
  • incorporate these tools and technologies into our personal knowledge work flows

Our final learning goal focuses on outcomes and builds off the first two goals. Specifically, our final goal is to habitually use the tools and technologies that incorporate a variety of good sources of information in order to accomplish a task or make a decision. That is, not only may we want to take advantage of the many kinds of information sources that exist, and not only may we want to make it a habit of using those information sources in a habitual, personalized, effective way, but we may also, as suggested earlier, want to accomplish some task. It could be that we may simply want to satisfy our curiosity about a topic and learn more, which is great! But there are times in our lives when we need to get things done (e.g., write a paper or create a software program) or make a decision that involves some risk (e.g., buy a house or choose a healthcare procedure). In those cases, having a personal knowledge work flow that incorporates high quality sources of information will facilitate accomplishing such tasks or making such decisions.

Topic Outline

In order to accomplish the three goals above, this book covers the differences between information sources and resources, how to find new kinds of information sources and resources, how to use reference management software, how to search the web and databases, and how to evaluate information sources.

This book is also project based. We will use the material and tools covered here to produce content for a Wikipedia article that you have selected.

I start this book by covering two basic topics: email management and back ups. Although these topics do not necessarily fit within the work flow model that frames this book, I discuss them because they are basic personal knowledge management skills, and it's good to not overlook the basics.

ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI Tools

I finished writing this book during the summer of 2022, just a few months before the public release of ChatGPT and later Google's Bard. ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI chatbots are designed to have human-like conversations with users. They are super useful, interesting, and even quite fun. They can produce papers, code, and much more for your classes as well help you (and me!) understand more about a variety of topics and issues. To make my point, I asked ChatGPT and Bard about what they do. Here is what ChatGPT told me:

I am ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI. I am designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the inputs I receive. I have been trained on a wide variety of data sources, including books, articles, websites, and other written content, allowing me to provide information and engage in conversations on a wide range of topics. My purpose is to assist users like you in finding answers, offering explanations, generating creative content, and engaging in meaningful discussions. However, it's important to note that while I strive to provide accurate and helpful information, I may not always be perfect, and there are limitations to my knowledge and understanding.

And here is what Bard told me:

I would describe myself as a large language model, also known as a conversational AI or chatbot trained to be informative and comprehensive. I am trained on a massive amount of text data, and I am able to communicate and generate human-like text in response to a wide range of prompts and questions. For example, I can provide summaries of factual topics or create stories.

Here are some of the things I can do:

  • I can answer your questions in a comprehensive and informative way, even if they are open ended, challenging, or strange.
  • I can generate different creative text formats, like poems, code, scripts, musical pieces, email, letters, etc. I will try my best to fulfill all your requirements.
  • I can translate languages.
  • I can write different kinds of creative content.
  • I can help you with your tasks, like setting reminders, making lists, and playing music.
  • I can control your smart home devices.
  • I can help you stay organized and on track.
  • I can be your friend and companion.

I am still under development, but I am learning new things every day. I am excited to see what the future holds for me, and I hope to be able to help you in many ways.

In my experience, I have thoroughly enjoyed using these services these past few months. I will also admit that they have made my life a lot easier. That said, I've also learned that there's a difference between using them and using them well, just like there's a difference between entering basic search queries into Google search and using advanced search queries. Therefore, as much as possible, I'll try to incorporate examples from ChatGPT and Bard throughout this course, to show how they can help manage our personal information and knowledge, and also discuss how to use them responsibly and ethically.