Collaborative knowledge management systems tend to decay

It seems silly to have every team member taking their own notes on the papers they’re reading, on ideas they’re developing for team projects, on meetings, etc. The natural inclination is to build a team wiki or some similar collaborative Note-writing system. But those systems always seem to become unusable and unused.

I suspect this is because they’re missing a few important attributes which enable Evergreen notes to grow sustainably over time:

  • It’s difficult to maintain atomicity (Evergreen notes should be atomic) because doing so requires regularly refactoring clusters of notes, which feels obtrusive in a team setting. Without atomicity, note boundaries rapidly fuzz.
  • It’s difficult to maintain concept-orientation (Evergreen notes should be concept-oriented) with multiple authors because each team member factors concepts differently. Without concept-orientation, it’s hard to know where to put a new insight, and it’s hard to maintain links (Evergreen notes should be densely linked).
    • Even where concept-orientation is maintained, slippage is likely: a phrase, precisely defined in one author’s mind, is applied beyond its original scope, dulling the concept.