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Information (sensemaking) tools are pathetic

In spite of dramatic changes in information creation, sharing, dissemination, and validation, tools don’t yet exist to help provide images and patterns of what information means. Fragmented information means that the act of coherence making now rests with individuals, not with linear (or centralized) structures like newspapers, books, and courses. Innovation has been limited in conceiving new tools for the task of helping individuals make sense of complex information patterns. Visual browsers such as KartOO help a bit with information. FriendFeed helps with tracking people. Where are the tools that help us to make sense of distributed (fragmented) information from multiple sources and interactions with many different people, networks, and organizations? They don’t exist. CognitiveEdge’s SenseMaker looks interesting, but it looks like I have to get accredited first (when are you coming to Winnipeg, Dave? Better yet, why not offer it online? I’ll help.). Bill Ives reviews Filtrbox – a service that offers more functionality (primarily as a market intelligence tool) beyond “basic, free services as Google Alerts”. We’re still a long way off from where we should be with information tools. We’ll see much more innovation/progress in this area (I hope) over the next several years.


  1. glen wrote:

    SenseMaker does look very interesting.
    Looks like it might be based on the same principle as the grounded theory method. GTM is a systematic process for gathering data from multiple sources, and analyzing for patterns using inductive and abductive reasoning. The process generates middle-level, working theories (aka pre-hypothesis) that then can be tested by other qualitative or quantitative approaches.
    It would be wonderful if you could convince the SenseMaker outfit to offer an online seminar.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Gary Lewis wrote:

    “Where are the tools that help us to make sense of distributed (fragmented) information from multiple sources and interactions with many different people, networks, and organizations?”

    Can you give an example of something that you’d like done that you cannot do presently? Seems like maybe the human brain is the best tool for the task you mention above.

    It’s incredibly difficult to even combine structured data from multiple sources and not shoot yourself in the foot doing it (ie, make the combined data set useless or flat-out wrong).

    But maybe I’m misunderstanding what you intended.


    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  3. Hi George,

    To follow up from Gary, surely ‘sensemaking’ is what the brain does, and any tool can only display information according to the parameters we give it. Can any tool really make sense of things for us?


    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 2:29 am | Permalink
  4. Martin wrote:

    Is Cohere ( (I must confess to a vested interest, it’s an OU app, but not developed by me) any good for what you have in mind?
    My colleague Simon Buckingham Shum ( is the brains behind it and sensemaking is his thang.

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  5. Dave Snowden wrote:

    You don’t have to be certified to use SenseMakerâ„¢ just talk with Michael or me!

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  6. George
    I haven’t had much time to play with it but I think that could be an interesting tool. Effectively plugging a wiki functionality into a social network with the ability to position contradictory/complementary arguments and rate them. Certainly could be more efficient at extracting/evolving sense than an army of paid consultants. But it will depend on whether it is user friendly enough for people to actually use it.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink