Intranet 2.0: Blog Networks, Social Bookmarking, Mash-Ups And Wikis
Building a blog network
This section focuses on network of weblogs, or blogs, at a global consulting firm. The firm has decided to link its 100.000 consultants through a series of five weblogs, or blogs in order to help them have access to more up-to-date information on clients and increase innovation throughout the company.
There are five blog types, reflecting the way the company is organized. Each is interlinked, so when one is updated, all the other blogs in the system automatically reflect the changes:
- Profile Blog
The starting point for anyone entering the system. The profile blog provides an enterprise identity including a CV, list of skills, interests, friends in the organization, your projects and your boss.
It also contains the most recent posting from your blog and your most recent podcast. Employees are supposed to update their own blogs. The profile blog is automatically crosslinked with project blogs. If someone is added to the list of people working on a project, the system automatically updates their profile blog.
The incentives to keep blogs within the system current are primarily "reputation-driven" and are supported with reminders built into the system. For example, if in a consulting company, a consultant wants to be recruited to the best projects, they'll keep their blog up to date. Consultants constantly promote themselves within the company so they're asked to work on the best projects.
For project blogs, when a project is completed, people are reminded by e-mail to update their blog before it is readied for archiving. The content of the blog is then fed to an archiving server and a CD copy of the content is created.
This is a much simpler means of archiving that what was done in the past when people were required to use web forms and manually transfer copies of their files to the archiving system.
Here is Part II of Kathleen Gilroy and Bill Ives report entitled "Transforming Your Intranet: New techniques, in strategy, technology and measurement from the world's leading organizations". (Part I)
These are used to share and coordinate the latest information on client companies, and include client descriptions, locations, markets and the challenges they face.
While no confidential client information is placed on the blog, it does have both current and proposed client projects with links to their project blogs, along with information about key meetings, and the current status of the client relationship. Consultant can quickly update themselves on a new client by reading the blog.
There is one blog for each of the company's practices, or service offerings. In a management consulting firm, these might be the customer relationship management practice or the HR practice. They're cross-referenced with markets to reflect the organization of the firm.
There are links made to all relevant project blogs and clients blogs for each practice, as well as the profile blogs of participating personnel. The entries in the practice blog are very much like yellow pages entries, with the structure of the practice, the ongoing projects, the clients being served, biographies of managers and so on.
The most open ended of the five blog types and the most similar to traditional blogs, with their free -flowing, often opinionated content.
Anyone with a profile blog can start a theme blog. The initiator becomes the blog administrator, but they can later delegate this role. Themes are chosen by participants and relate to the firm's service offerings such as customer relationship management or risk management.
They may have the same title as practice blogs, but this blog is a dialogue about a certain issue rather than a yellow pages describing its place in the company.
Developed for every project the consultancy works on. Team members are listed and linked back to their profile blogs. The blog contains the status of the project, with the latest news, key milestones and meetings. Also linked to the client blog for a history of the firm's relationship with the client.
The linking and interrelationship of the five blog types makes the system's decentralized structure powerful and effective. Information entered into one blog is automatically replicated in other blogs.
Aggregation of information, coupled with the transparency of blogs, gives everyone in the firm multiple views of what is going on. Google-style rankings allow users to see a list of blogs that other employees have chosen to link to the most, a good determinant of value. In a consulting firm, consultants want their blogs at the top of that list because it raises their profile in the organization.
IBM was one of the first large companies to allow companywide blogging, with its "Blog Central" initiative, which allows employees to start a blog on any aspect of their work.
The only requirement is that they follow the IBM business code of ethics and that everyone can see what others are blogging about. It was started as both a service to employees and as a research effort to see what people do with blogs.
There are currently thousands of internal blogs at IBM. IBM was also an early podcaster - it now publishes podcast versions of its white papers. IBM is also using social bookmarking, mash-ups and wikis to achieve greater productivity and foster innovation. These are explained in greater detail below.
Social bookmarking at IBM
Photo credit: Ann- Kathrin Rehse
One of the most successful web 2.0 services to emerge in the past year is social bookmarking, also known as tagging. As previously mentioned, Del.icio.us is the most popular and well known of these services.
Social bookmarking is a term for allowing people to publish, categorize and share their bookmarks to other websites. Del.ici.ous uses a non-hierarchical keyword categorization system, known as a folksonomy, where users tag their links with one or more freely chosen keywords.
This system is like a taxonomy but peer-authored. Once bookmarks are posted and tagged, the keywords that users give them can be combined and shared in powerful ways. Users can see all the bookmarks on a keyword to learn what others feel is important, and see how many people book mark a particular item to gauge its popularity.
Users can subscribe through RSS to receive notice of new book marks for a keyword they are interested in. They can also see the other keywords attached to a link to uncover related themes.
First, the readers, not just the writers, get to tag. Tags allow the individual user to organize and display the collection with meaningful labels. Furthermore, multiple tags allow bookmarks to belong to more than one category.
Tagging builds taxonomies from the ground up by users, rather than the top-down by experts. Weinberger argues that the difficulty in creating common taxonomies was one obstacle to the success of enterprise knowledge management. Tagging provides a means to accomplish this goal through the involvement of users in taxonomy development.
One of the first design decisions for Dogear was to provide the real identity of those who create tags so that users could make inferences about the interest and expertise of other participants.
The developers felt this would help build communities of common interests. They allowed private bookmarks and role-based and team-based collections of tags. RSS feeds were generated from the tags so that collections can be tracked dynamically.
According to David Millen of IBM Research, Dogear has more than 1.000 repeat users and over 50.000 bookmarks in the initial months, with little publicity. Bookmarks can be made for internet or intranet sites, and users can import their bookmarks from web-based services like del.ico.us and from their personal browser collections. According to Millen:
"About a third of bookmarks in Dogear are for intranet sites accessible only inside the firewall. Over 90% of the bookmarks in Dogear are public, supporting knowledge-sharing across the enterprise."
How might this contribute to the business? Let's say a software developer needs some advice on a project. They can go onto Dogear and see what their colleagues have "tagged" to keywords relating to the issue. Any employee can see the research results from thousands of their colleagues.
Combining content through mash-ups
Photo credit: Luiz Baltar
A mash-up is a web page or application that integrates complementary elements from two or more sources. The first successful mash-up, Housing Map, used Google Maps with a list of available properties on the classifieds website Craigslist. The result is a visual map of properties that are available in a specific location.
Dan Gruen of IBM Research says IBM's instant messaging tool, SameTime, allows project leaders to see who in their team is online, automatically find out where they're located, and then through a mash-up with Google Maps, get a map of their current locations. Gruen says the mash-up was developed by one employee, who showed it to others and its popularity spread.
Another IBM mash-up allows people to look at any internet page and match individuals on the page against the IBM corporate directory to see if they are IBM employees. Once the IBM employee is identified, the user can access information about them from the IBM directory, including their blog and their social bookmarking activities.
This mash-up allows users to contextualize people through the internet. In a very large organization like IBM, the ability to uncover the activities of your fellow employees and then quickly learn more about them is a very valuable service.
Dogear, the IBM social bookmarking tool, is also designed to be mashed up. Since Dogear's release, several employees outside the Dogear group have created mash-ups linking it to other 2.0 tools.
IBM's Blog Central, the platform that supports blogs inside the firewall, is now linked to Dogear, so bloggers can easily add bookmarks to their blogs and those of others. Dogear is also linked to the corporate directory at IBM so that users can track one another's bookmarks.
Whenever an internal chat session is started around a business topic, Dogear provides each
participant's blogs and bookmarks can be easily obtained to get a better understanding of what they are researching and writing about.
Wikis at IBM
Photo credit: Clara Daru
A wiki is server software that lets users create and edit web pages. The most famous is the internet-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which has developed a large group of thousands of volunteers who contribute to and monitor content on the site.
IBM supports wiki use among employees and has set up a WikiCentral within IBM Research to assist anyone wanting to set up a wiki page. IBM employees have added code to wikis to
facilitate the integration of other enterprise tools allowing for mash-ups.
IBM wikis can be integrated with Dogear, IBM's social bookmarking tool: links with specific tags can be automatically placed on a wiki page based on criteria determined by the user. In this way, a wiki page can be set to display newly bookmarked items topically related to the page. Uses of this can range from pointing to suggestions of where to eat in when visiting their offices in Cambridge to articles related to a meeting agenda item.
During a live event, participants can add notes, information about participants, and links to related documents. Wikis are also used as central repositories for project information, where team members can maintain a common view of the project through group editing.
Learning networks at a global financial services firm
Photo credit: Ante Vekic
A learning network uses the intranet as a platform to tie together a set of services that support collaboration and communication and it uses the web 2.0 tools we've described so far. Learning networks make information in networked databases easy to access and to combine and display in new ways.
In 2006 a global financial services firm will run the sixth year of its innovation initiative in which teams of participants have conceived and developed business plans for a host of products, services and process improvements that continue to make money for the firm.
The program has provided nearly 200 employees with the unique opportunity to present a new business idea to senior executives.
Supporting the firm's Global Markets Innovation Program, a learning network links faculty, executives, and participants through blogs, RSS aggregators and podcasts.
In 2004 the company shifted the communication around the program from a central bulletin board and e-mail to a distributed learning network built on blogs.
"When we made the switch, we found that both the quantity and quality of the discussion
dramatically improved" says Glen Mohr, the learning network director.
He attributes the improvements to the transparency in the network - people participate and see their ideas "published" and visible to their peers and to the senior executives involved in the program, enhancing the recognition they receive for their work.
As teams work on their business plans for innovative new products, they use blogs to document their process from idea generation to final presentation and follow-up. Teams have a convenient central repository and communication channel. Employees with necessary expertise can easily be brought into the development process.
Participants support one another by sharing insights, resources and contacts. Program managers gain a window on the innovation process that they use to provide assistance.
A portal blog aggregates status reports, ideas, problems, requests for assistance and other news from the participants' blogs. The learning director seeks out the all of these and feeds them back out to all participants, stimulating discussion and cross-cohort collaboration.
Personal profile pages, built on blogs, give participants a way to document their expertise and accomplishments and lay the social network foundation for the learning network.
"When we reposted issues on the main blog that teams were experiencing with their projects, members of other teams were able to provide feedback and assistance. Someone might know that something had been tried in the past and who did it. Or, someone might know of a particular legal or regulatory hurdle that a team hadn't foreseen. It took these people only a moment to scan the blog and post comments that actually were quite valuable."
The latest addition to the program is podcasting, through which senior executives will lay out the firm's areas of strategic focus. Experts from within and outside the firm will provide market overviews and competitive intelligence to help participants define opportunities.
Discussion of the issues raised then continues on the learning network with continued input by executives. Mohr says:
"This year we are giving each participant a new video iPod for collecting and viewing all of the program materials. It turns out that it's less expensive for us to buy iPods for everybody than to give them thick binders filled with printed materials and CDs. They much prefer the iPods, and once they've got them, we have direct distribution channel for all kinds of multimedia materials - all of which is mobile - a huge advantage and times saver for this group".
Innovation supporting change
Photo credit: Job Derksen
This program demonstrates how technology-enabled learning networks based on web 2.0 tools and services can support innovation through greater transparency of ideas, better social networking, and more targeted delivery of critical information.
Just as web 2.0 is turning the web over to its participants, intranet 2.0 will turn greater aspects of the intranet over to employees. This has the potential to dramatically increase involvement and usage, and increase efficiency.
Like many innovations, intranet 2.0 will be driven by users. What's different now is that users themselves can implement many more of their ideas using the web 2.0 tools.
The very nature of these changes - providing increased participation, an open platform that allows for the integration of tools, services and data, along the work now going on to take advantage of this integration through mash-ups - is only going to accelerate the transformation.
The added benefits of taking these innovations behind the security of the firewall will cause them to proliferate within the enterprise.
What is a blog?
Blogs are perhaps the best known of web 2.0 tools. A blog, or weblog, is a new kind of website that is easy to update. Data is entered into a simple form (usually with the title, the category, and the body of the article) and then submitted. Automated templates take care of adding the article to the homepage, creating the new full article page and unique web address for the page - known as the permalink - and adding the article to the appropriate date- or category-based archive.
The blog's structure allows for easy filtering of content for various presentations: by date, category, author or other attributes and for simple recognition by search engines. Their structure of templated data entry organized by permalink also makes blogs good for hyperlinking and organizing into networks.
Novell, the IT services vendor, lists employee blogs in the company directory and its employees use them for project management. Others who use blogs for project management include Dell, Google, Macromedia and Sun Microsystems. Field managers at the Hartford Financial Services Group use blogs rather than e-mail for technical discussions so they can search the archive of previous communication to troubleshoot problems.
Blogging: employee blogging guidelines
The guidelines for employee blogs of several companies are available on the internet. Here are some from a handful of major organizations:
There is also an excellent analysis and digest of a variety of employee blogging guidelines at
http://www.corporateblogging.info/2005/06/policies-compared-todays-corporate.asp. And there's an inventory of materials on blogging policies at The New PR.
Wiki: online resources
- Wiki Engines: A listing of all the available open-source wiki software applications
- WikiScience: A wiki-based book on wikis, including information on how to start one
- Wikipedia's list of wikis
- A comparison of wiki software applications
End of Part II (of 2)
(Part I )
About the authors
Kathleen Gilroy is a graduate of the Stanford class of 1979 and has been working in the field of electronic learning and education for her entire career. Highlights include developing the first distance education program for scientists in 1984, Harvard Business School's first e-learning program in 1992, and working with Peter Drucker in 1996 to develop an e-learning program that was seen by 10,000 nonprofit managers in North America. She is currently the CEO of The Otter Group. Check out Kathleen Gilroy's personal blog.
Bill Ives is the Vice President for Internet Channel Strategy at iQuest Analytics, a software firm that provides a software tool, iQuest, that integrates search with social network analysis. For several years he led the Knowledge Management Practice within the Human Performance Service Line at Accenture and was an advisor to their internal KM group. He has published extensively on these topics and is a frequent conference speaker. Bill writes the blog Portals and KM. He recently completed a book on the business applications of blogs, Business Blogs: A Practical Guide. Bill Ives was a Research Associate at Harvard University exploring the effects of media on cognition. He obtained his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Toronto.
About the publisher
Melcrum is a research and information company with offices in London, Chicago and Sydney. Through its publications, research, training materials and events, Melcrum gathers best practices from businesses around the world to help practitioners make better business decisions. Founded in 1996 by Victoria Mellor and Robin Crumby, Melcrum has seen rapid but steady growth through the development of a global and extremely loyal customer base.
"Transforming your intranet" is the new research report from Melcrum, designed to make your intranet perform at the next level. Get practical advice on improving search and usability, integrating communication technologies and measuring your intranet's performance. Click here to download a chapter-by-chapter summary of the report.Kathleen Gilroy and Bill Ives -
Reference: Otter Group [ Read more ]
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