Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Blog for Knowledge

Hello all, back in balmy Houston where the highs have already reached 80+ degrees and humidity is around the same. But it's home what can I say.
I wanted to focus this entry on the topic of blogging itself. In my second to last post I wrote a bit about the issues with blogging and I want to continue that topic somewhat and also intersperse it with the increased interest in blogging as an approach for knowledge management and knowledge sharing. I beefed up the presentation that I linked to in my earlier post a bit and delivered pretty much the same message to my conference attendees in St. Louis last week that I had shared with the folks from the eGov conference.
So first of all just to give you some perspective, our conference had 285 attendees. The track that my session was held in had 4 other speakers. My meeting planner gave me a small room probably thinking, yeah she'll get 25 or so, you know some spill over from the other tracks. Was she in for a surprise? The room was packed, standing room only. That in itself is an indicator of the popularity of the topic. Very few, almost none of the attendees were small or single consultancies. Almost all of them were knowledge managers like you and me grappling with how to get people to share knowledge in the enterprise.
So blogs are starting to get some serious attention within corporations and they are looking at blogs as an approach to support knowledge sharing efforts. As you have seen in the presentation many companies are starting to use blogs effectively to share information. This trend is especially strong in organizations that have project based delivery and have project managers, teams, or people on the road delivering services.
There are a few key points I want to share with you in case you are trying to sell the concept of blogs to your company.
1) Blogs are updated frequently. Even I (delinquent as I am) try to update my blog at least once a week which means that if I were writing to share knowledge within my organization I would have contributed at least 52 content items.
2) Blogs point out the experts. Because blogs are individual opinion based, you know the material on the blog is from the blogger's brain. If what he/she says means something to you or works for you then the blogger is building credibility and expertise in the area they are writing about.
3)This I think is the key point. The blogs are not necessarily the KM tool. The RSS feed is. This was shared by Patrick Lambe from my listsrv. Think about it, he is absolutely right. If a large percentage of your employees start blogging, then blogs by themselves are no different than individual databases. The value is in having a tool that allows you to select all the blogs that you are interested in and getting a consolidated post of all the new items posted on the topics that interest you. That tool is none other than RSS.

My other topic that I covered during this session was on Wikis. Talk about open mouths. For those who had no concept what a wiki was were aghast at the idea that there are sites out there that allow anyone to edit anything on the site anonymously. "Control" is a major factor in our organizations. The whole idea of not having control over what someone posts or edits is something that will take a long time to take hold in traditional companies.
I saw a couple of optimal situations in which wikis could be used. One, they can be used in a closed project setting to discuss topics or ideas (almost like a collaboration space) but one that has a memory. Its used to house what people may learn on the project or something they need to develop. Second would be a broader application of the same concept that is using the wiki to gather knowledge from the organization. Especially in a community setting I can see the administrator putting out a topic in a wiki and everyone contributing thoughts, issues, concerns, experiences and expertise to it. Then a subject matter expert can use that raw content to build a “usable” content piece that can be added to the knowledge repository. When I use the word “usable” I am implying that the subject matter expert has vetted the information so that if someone decides to reuse or apply the ideas in the content item they know that its valid information.
So as usual my plea for interaction. If anyone has issues, concerns or thoughts they want to share please don’t hold back. Until next time, farida