Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, February 7, 2003

Post Modern Knowledge Management and Social Enterprise Blogging

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"the promotion of information publishing / exchange within an organization, with an eye towards the problem of censorship."

For those of you developing an overall plan for how information should be utilized, exchanged and made useful within a large international organization obstacles that block information and open exchange from flowing free are around every corner.

Most believe the fact that where there is too much censorship and hierarchical control in the publishing workflow it maybe very difficult to find inroads for any valuable open communication and knowledge building infrastructure.

In this light the potential for leveraging internal publishing and direct content management tools like weblogs and other instruments that allow a direct collection and publishing of unstructured and relevant information is often strongly hampered.

The direct publishing dream of any content author that has truly good enough information is to be able to hit the Return key and have it out there, available to others, in the shortest time possible.

The issue is: how can large organizations which manage vast amounts of information, handle the growing load of formal and informal organizational "wisdom" while sharing it and making it available in an effective way?

While informal channels (bar, coffee shop, corridors chat, etc.) allow a lot of useful exchanges and are the key places where the organization actually learns from itself, the other informal channels (email, memos, notes, etc.) and formal ones (reports, official documents, web site content, etc.) do not cross each other path and are securely kept in separate universes. [This takes place with the happiness of technologists, who have more work to do, but with great dismay from results-based information managers who can't effectively leverage organization own knowledge assets and the ongoing internal learning process that new media technology makes possible.]

I myself attempt, in this short article, to criss-cross and mix the outcome of personal reflection and notes, formal info about a new publishing technology from an interesting company and excerpts from email exchanges that took place between me, my Information Architect colleague and friend Antonella Pastore and Jordan Frank, the marketing manager from the above mentioned company.

The resulting article could not be more valuable exactly because in the piece come into play different and complementary points of view, drawn from formal and informal sources and hand edited to create a logical continuum.

The dawning of software technology that can empower the large organizations to listen from the top (to the bottom talking), and to merge formal and informal knowledge channels to speed up the pace at which concepts, ideas, action plans are implemented, can be an enormous motivating factor for many of us to look deeper into this type of technology and the ideas that stand behind it.

Jordan Frank from Traction Software states:

"The real problem (I think) is not the problem of censorship so much as our shared concept of publishing. Intranet and Internet sites are published with website publishing tools or content management tools that are built for the task. The issue is that (a) the tools are tricky and (b) the intended use and audience requires a finished product, written by a real writer and formatted by a graphic designer.

In response, to enable the regular flow of information, idea, and knowledge you need (a) easy tools and (b) a medium designed for more casual, less structured, unedited conversation.

Well, the truth is that there is one such thing that we use, its called email. Email publishes to a select group, the content is free-form, haphazard, and unrestricted. The problem is that email has little "memory" (you cant refer to a previous email) and no permanence (an email doesn't park itself on your intranet, to be seen, shared, repurposed, etc.. for later use).

Our software answers this problem. It's a business communication system that is about as easy as email, but writes to a permissioned project, allows for hyperlink cross-references, labeling, commenting, and a number of other things.

A simple example: I belong to a community of practice focused on new biological methods to grow grains. I come across an article in the MIT Technology Review. Rather than emailing a link to the group, I use my tool to grab the text and post it to the relevant project(s) in traction, with a headline label.
It now appears to the selected audience via newspage. The next morning, everyone gets an email newsletter with the first paragraph of each new entry. Mine appears high in the order because of its "headline" label. Everyone can scan through the information quickly and click on my headline since it sounds terrific. You click through, end up at the server.. read the article, comment on paragraph 5 with a few thoughts and a link to a similar article that Luigi posted last month.

The communication was made easier, the knowledge was both retained and improved, and a resource has been created in the process.

If you have the tools, the next question is how can this get adopted strategically not politically?

There is an emerging concept called Post Modern Knowledge Management.

It basically says that KM (knowledge management) was top down, a pain, and, therefore, never really took off. Post Modern KM says that the effort should be grass roots based and must be more of a side effect than a goal. We look to start with small teams or basic processes that are both painful and would benefit from wider visibility.

In the corporate world, the killer starting point is Market Research. The research team has to deal with enormous volumes of information and must parcel it out proactively or on-demand from their stakeholders. They quickly fall in love with the idea of filing information in a way that instantly broadcasts it and makes it available to stakeholders, who may then comment, ask questions, or otherwise become part of the process. The organizational benefit is huge as information is power and few will turn down the chance to drink directly from the well.

In the non-profit world, we are working with Steve Rudolph at Jiva to promote the concept of the real-time social enterprise. It basically implies the use of Traction as an internal and external reporting mechanism... to keep the core team up to date and also parcel out reports, stories, and information to stakeholders including donors, board members, and volunteers.
It can work because the activity is reporting, not publishing per se, and the Traction mechanism is simply easier and more reference-able than email, which would have been the prior mechanism."

Antonella Pastore's comments:

"There's also another possible scenario in which this approach to publishing can work: that's when a group of people need to feed a selection of articles and "grey literature" classified by topics belonging to a specific area of interest. Because the editors' attention is on selecting and sharing interesting resources, a blog-like experience (e.g. find-select-comment-post) would be suitable.

In this case, peer review and clearance would possibly have less importance than creating and maintaining a useful selection of thematic resources.

The point, in fact, is not that large organizations bureaucracy or tight control mechanism would make impossible the adoption of such technology, as it is in what the Web site is set up to achieve and the degree to which publishing is aligned with the process behind it.

When the final objective is reporting and commenting, or finding and sharing, then a blog-based approach maybe fine."

Introduced in mid-December 2002 Enterprise Weblog is Traction Software answer to the above issues.

Right now, the term Weblog or Enterprise Weblog does not readily indicate to a reader what is the technology. People, in general, are starting to figure out that a Weblog is a personal journal on the web. Once the technology is more mainstream, people will see the Enterprise Weblog as means for relevant business communication.

Traction can currently be described more easily in a horizontal solution sense than as an overall technology.

That is, it can be introduced it as any of the following business process solutions (and more):

- Media Highlights - Capturing corporate communications and posting of articles. Traction distributes and makes an interactive news page.

- Market Research - Research team posts to permissioned project/blogs, organizes information by research topic, writes regular analysis pointing to source materials, responds to incoming inquiries.

Or it can be introduced it as a technology solution:

- Mailing list / news server as replacement for a mailing list and archive

- Some aspects of
o bulletin boards
o document management
o content management

In other words Traction solves the problem of collecting, organizing, sharing, linking and retrieving strategic competitive intelligence information from many sources. In this respect Traction claims to be the first, enterprise weblog technology to address a specific business process.

To find out more about Traction Software please go to:

For a personalized demo please contact:

Very interesting indeed.

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posted by Robin Good on Friday, February 7 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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