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who this book is for (revised, with definition of 'knowledge worker' clarified and expanded)

This book is for you, who want to work to make digital environments more useful in helping us work and solve problems together, either as a user or designer.

I only have pieces of advice for the liquid information systems designer:

Take ownership of the problem, not the solution. Focus on the actual use. What does the user need to accomplish, not just in detail but also in terms of the bigger picture? Try not to hold on to pet solutions.

Assume you are wrong. Always. Learn what you can, question it, talk to people in different fields, never forgetting actual users. Question your assumptions and their assumptions.

The goal is to help knowledge workers understand the world and communicate what they learn clearly. That’s really the heart of it.

There is a “distinction between “knowledge workers” and other categories, such as clerical workers. Clerical workers use information—about, say, customer orders—to aid the smooth working of the company. Knowledge workers use information to change themselves.” I am not convinced there is a sharp boundary but it’s worth thinking about how the job of a knowledge worker results in a change of the knowledge worker.

Clerical work is external – you can do clerical work at arms reach. You move this information over there, you arrange that to happen here. Knowledge work however, is immersive – the information you work with has to be processed in the knowledge workers brain.

The liquid approach will hopefully be useful to those who design Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and other knowledge augmentation systems for large companies where the whole systems are integrated and controlled. However, half of workers are employed by small companies (as defined by companies employing under 500 people in the United States ( and these people cannot be expected to have the support of a knowledge work focused IT department. Innovation happens at the edge. Be the edge.

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

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Tight interconnections & high complexity

Might be an issue w the cloud as well as finance: tight interconnections & high complexity?

This article from the NYT is interesting as it seems to reflect the dangers inherent in the complex, tightly coupled financial markets: Wind it tight, connect it deep and unexpected problems can quickly spread:

‘Statistics dictate that the vastly greater number of transactions among computers in a world 100 times faster than today will lead to a greater number of unpredictable accidents, with less time in between them. Already, Amazon’s cloud for businesses failed for several hours in April, when normal computer routines faltered and the system overloaded. Google’s cloud of e-mail and document collaboration software has been interrupted several times. “We think of the Internet as always there. Just because we’ve become dependent on it, that doesn’t mean it’s true,” Mr. Cheriton says. Mr. Bechtolsheim says that because of the Internet’s complexity, the global network is impossible to design without bugs. Very dangerous bugs, as they describe them, capable of halting commerce, destroying financial information or enabling hostile attacks by foreign powers. Both were among the first investors in Google, which made them billionaires, and, before that, they created and sold a company to the networking giant Cisco Systems for $220 million. Wealth and reputations as technology seers give their arguments about the risks of faster networks rare credibility. More transactions also mean more system attacks. Even though he says there is no turning back on the online society, Mr. Cheriton worries most about security hazards. “I’ve made the claim that the Chinese military can take it down in 30 seconds, no one can prove me wrong,” he said.’

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