Dispelling the Myths

The news about Knowledge Network has been out for two weeks, and it’s been fascinating to see the reactions and perspectives from so many different people. It sounds like many of you are just as excited as we are about the promise of sharing tacit knowledge in organizations. As is always the case, there are bound to be misunderstandings and misconceptions. What we’d like to do with this blog entry is to try and dispel some of the myths that we’ve heard thus far.

Myth #1 – My organization is mining my emails without my consent

KN is an opt-in system. Each individual with the KN client installed decides whether to become a member and what information to share. The analysis of your emails is not initiated until you have gone through what we call the “Information Sources” wizard. This tool enables you to configure exactly which Outlook folders you want the local KN analysis to run against. This tool also allows you to configure whether you want to include Outlook contacts that you've personally added as part of your profile. You choose whether to include IM contact lists from Office Communicator, Windows Messenger, and/or MSN Messenger. Only when you finish this wizard and select “Start” will the keywords and contacts analysis actually begin. At this point, no information has been sent from your computer to the server.

When the analysis process has completed, the KN client presents profile recommendations to you. Specifically, a Windows “balloon” will pop up and ask you to review your profile. Again, nothing has left your computer at this point. You have the opportunity to review and modify your profile to your heart’s content using the “Profile” wizard. The Profile wizard allows you to step through each profile item and make changes, which may include deleting items, adding items, or changing privacy settings on each item individually (we call this privacy setting the “Show To” setting).

Once you are satisfied with your profile, the last page of the wizard has a “Publish” button, and when you click this button – you guessed it – that’s when your profile keywords and contacts are finally published to the server and displayed on your SharePoint My Site. It’s important to note that you can make changes to your profile keywords and contacts at any time. Even just seconds after you publish your profile.

You may also decide whether or not you are willing to appear as an “anonymous helper” in search results. If you receive an “anonymous helper” request from another user, you can decide on a case-by-case basis whether you will help by responding or rather anonymously decline the request.

We architected KN with a separate client component so that you control how much (or little) personal information to reveal to your coworkers based on their organizational and social distance from you. The KN client runs locally on your machine and finds keywords and contacts that are relevant only to you, and only you can choose which of your keywords and contacts you want to publish and share with others. KN is most definitely not a tool for IT to automatically mine your emails.

Myth #2– Microsoft is mining my emails

KN brings the power of social networks safely to the enterprise by running as a “behind the firewall” solution, so organizations have complete control over the profile information that users of the KN client have published to the KN server(s) in your organization. Absolutely no profile information is sent to Microsoft’s servers.

Myth #3– Knowledge Network affects document search

KN is an extension of the People Search functionality in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. It is separate from the SharePoint content search functionality. As described above, the scanning and analysis of your email for keywords and contacts take place on your local computer. You decide how much of your profile information will be published to the server. After your profile information is published, it is indexed and made available as part of the People search functionality in the SharePoint Search Center. When you use SharePoint to search for documents or content, the keywords and contacts in your profile (what you know and who you know) do not impact document/content search performance or results. KN is about people search, not document search.