PKM (Part 1): The Explosion

When the virus hit the planet, it induced other parallel pandemics. They did not spread through the air and did not require physical proximity. They spread online. Some were conspiracy theories, of which a good part related to the virus itself. Others were political propaganda, already successful but now more than ever, seizing the opportunity that people got more susceptible and spent more time online.

A less-known yet undeniably astonishing parallel pandemic was the explosion of Personal Knowledge Management tools. There were a dozen PKM tools by the end of 2019. Then suddenly, something happened. In the second half of 2020, there were already more than 50. New ones kept popping up almost every month in the following two years. What makes it even more bizarre is that unlike viruses, which take hours and days to spread, the development of a software tool is a combination of entrepreneurial, engineering and design activities that need much more time to produce usable output. When we add to this the time for users to learn about a tool, be attracted to it, try it, adopt it, and contribute with their feedback, this quick spread looks even more incredible.

So why the sudden interest? Was that a dormant demand? Or could it be that this breed of tools redefined themselves after a series of innovations and created an entirely new market? Was it the rise of interest in Zettelkasten that caused the rise of PKM tools, or was it the other way around?

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