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Posted
23 June 2005

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Nerd Factor X Linkpimpin'

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I'm Feeling Tacit

Jon Udell's recent column entitled The Tacit Dimension of Tech Support rings true for me.

I like the idea of muscle memory as applied to performing unfamiliar tasks, particularly with technology. Udell contends that the ability to concoct google search terms to solve problems is a form of tacit knowledge (expounding further in his accompanying blog entry). There's some smart thinking in there.

All I know is, sometimes you just get a flash of inspiration for the right search terms, and — Bam! — you find what you're looking for. Today I had an email from a co-worker who had tried unsuccessfully to find some code to perform a fairly common task. She had googled using terms like "foo C library", and asked people, but to no avail. My flash of inspiration was to ask "what would I have called this if I had created it?" When framed in these terms, the answer (ie the right set of search terms) was obvious. One google search for "libfoo" turned up the right result at the top of the list.

The tacit knowledge at work here can be deconstructed into specific knowledge of the naming pattern that is typically used when creating the thing that I was searching for. I guess this doesn't always explain the workings of tacit knowledge, but I'm sure it is a factor.

Ultimately though this doesn't really help me provide spousal tech support — "honey, you just need to develop some tacit knowledge!" — but I'm not expecting rapid progress in this area.

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