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Public weblogs as a tool for (internal) knowledge management

A lot of discussions that I’ve been involved into about uses of weblogs in somehow assumed the distinction between intranet and external weblogs regarding it. External weblogs were considered great to connect with other professionals (usually outside of one’s organisation) and (potential) customers, while internal weblogs thought of being one of the tools that could replace or complement knowledge sharing and expertise finding tools behind the firewall.

I’m more and more convinced that this view is short-sighted. Next to my own experiences (blogging as a coffee-table dialogue) this is something that came out in my study of Microsoft weblogs. I looked for examples documented in public – this is one from Josh Ledgard (next to serving as an example the discussion itself could be interesting for those thinking about interactions in forum-supported communities):

I recently posted my ideas for cutting off the duplicate questions in online web based forums. I’m enjoying all the feedback, but I was most impressed when Lee Holmes who took my PM art to the next level and created a functioning prototype to further the feedback process.

[…]

Side Note: Not to blog about blogging, but I’ve never met Lee or had any agreements with anyone that he would do this. Nor would I ever have been able to send mail to the right group of interested people that might be able to spend the time building a prototype. I simply blogged my idea, the idea found the right people, and we’ve made a bunch of progress that will help ensure the right feature is delivered to our users.

This brings me back to the discussion on recording and discoverability of knowledge traces in my previous post.

Recording. Writing about an idea in a public weblog makes much more sense than in the one with much smaller audience internally – it’s just a matter of critical mass of people who can potentially see it and react to it. In my own case, I’d hardly write anything if this blog would be intranet-only, even knowing that my colleagues could be interested.

In addition there are more reasons to write externally – to get feedback from a broader audience, to provide information to customers, to connect with other professionals outside, to develop own reputation, while in the case of internal weblogs it’s mainly about documenting work or sharing ideas within an organisation. Of course, all these doesn’t mean that internal blogs do no have any value – they do – but only that in many cases writing externally may be more motivating.

External weblogs may not represent company’s confidential knowledge (those who write about it are risking being fired), but they still may have many ideas that could add value if shared internally and they provide good visibility for finding in-house experts.

Discoverability. So, it would be stupid not to use external weblogs for internal knowledge management purposes, but this is not easy if they are treated as an external resource – in this case chances of discovering knowledgeable colleagues and relevant resources are left to chance encounters. I’d think of ways to bring this “external” knowledge back into intranet. For example:

  • including external blogs of company’s employees into intranet search
  • syndicating them in the relevant intranet sections (based on topic? person? “all people working in this project blogged yesterday”?)
  • creating a “weblog of the month” column in internal newsletter featuring ideas from external employee blogs
  • facilitating employees finding and subscribing to relevant blogs of their colleagues

At the end why not use knowledge traces that are already there? :)))

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2005/09/15.html#a1670; comments are here.

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