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White Pages & White Papers

1 December 2006
Omer Ben Yehuda
A cloud shaped box with a glass door

Anyone wandering around Knowledge Management websites or performs a search on Knowledge Management subjects in large search engines, has probably encountered the term 'white pages' or 'white papers' more than once.

The term may appear in several ways:

  1. The most common way is a message/link on the homepage/title styled "A new white paper by…"

  2. Another way is as a branch in itself on the Knowledge Management portal/website such as the website IT Toolbox.

Are 'white pages' and 'white papers' merely variations of the same term or two different terms? The answer you will receive depends on who you ask:

In Methodological terms

'White pages' and 'white papers' are two distinct terms:

White pages:

A database or internet guide which contains the names and contact details of experts on different subjects, usually organized alphabetically.

The database usually contains the details of expert and additional information which enables the user to decide whether to turn to them. Part of what makes white pages unique is their specialty in specific subjects, such as white pages for Knowledge Management experts (unlike the 'yellow pages') thus enabling different types of searches: search by name, by field and by context.

White papers

White papers is originally a term referring to governmental/regimental summaries of laws, regulations and instructions published to the public in order to inform it of the regime's view of a public issue. In a general modern context, and specifically in context of internet and specifically Knowledge Management, it refers to an article or document written by an expert in a specific field (e.g. portals) which presents its perception/opinion on this subject (for example: "the purpose of the portal in intra-organizational processes"). The article usually contains a rationale, examples and other means of persuasion in order to strengthen the writer's opinion and to affect the trends in the presented field.

In practice

The confusion between the terms is understandably great so that one can easily find a title with the term 'White pages' on a specific subject (the confusion is usually lesser to the other direction). White papers are very common on the internet and typing the term into Google will prove so. Less common are the white pages, since there few organizations nowadays whose workers do not know each other and need to keep in touch for work relationships.

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