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Abhinav

Agree with most of them.
Some points:
1. I would probably impose a taxonomy and discipline when creating blogs and wikis. Without a taxonomy it becomes a burden on people to discover new blogs as a company's size grows and more and more groups start to publish blogs or wikis.
2. The second would be to introduce just a little bit of 'friction' into the process of creating blogs and wikis and instill some discipline into the process lest these proliferate like rabbits. While it should be left to the discretion and judgment of people wanting to start groups, there should be some formal or informal understanding as to when a new blog/wiki is needed vs. when using an existing one should suffice.
3. The third is housekeeping: to retire blogs that are no longer needed. Too often blogs start out with a lot of enthusiasm, but then meander into neglect due to various reasons.
rgds,
Abhinav

eric norlin

anand-

tks for the great post. i've been thinking a lot about this issue lately, as i've been working on a session for this at Defrag (www.defragcon.com):

http://defragcon.com/Blog/?p=244

ejn

Ian Gardner

Really interesting post - thanks.

Two questions:

Do you make any use of VOIP and/or telephones or do you expect everyone to use IM?

Are IM communications recorded and available to others at all? I could see that as being the next step towards totally breaking the silos and opening up all information.

Mohan Gummalam

One thing that has worked in my new company is IRC. Although at the face of it IRC conjures up the images of really old technology (like gopher, etc), I find it to be a very effective tool. As a new employee, with IRC, I find it extremely easy to 'sit' in a conversation or be a 'fly-in-the-wall' - and absorb as much as I can. Plus, the benefit is that one can join any channel, and thus be up-to-date with the happenings within the company. Also its best for posing questions, not directed at anyone in particular, like: "Does anyone in appdev know why this page is rendering so wierdly?". Kosmix should adopt IRC (to supplement IM). IMs are great for direct person-to-person communication, but IRCs are best for conducting an electronic 'hallway conversation'. As an added benefit, you get help from people with whom you might not have interacted with otherwise. For a growing company, what better way to increase camaraderie?

sak2109

i have observed the utility of these tools in our research group. I think any number above 2 means people shud switch to these tools instead of emails.

We have moved a lot of the documentation, meeting minutes etc to wiki (twiki in our case too). Email is just not the tool for work updates, documentation sharing etc. That technology has been much abused. And the constant flow of emails leads to an interrupt driven workflow - numerous studies that i have done observing workflow in healthcare settings, clearly demonstrate that an interruption causes inefficiencies.

The point that putting information on wiki/blogs by its very act leads to documentation is an important one. By doing this we have greatly reduced the amount of time briefing a new member to the research team or by bombarding them with tons of word documents to catch up.

I am actually beginning to experiment with using twitter for updates instead of blogs.

I must add that it has taken an enormous amount to move people to use wiki for documentation - even now they are stuck to word documents, which necessitate several back and forth when versions change. Its a battle that is still on.

One more point - if even one member (and if that happens to be a senior member of the team) doesnt use the Wiki/Blog, then the whole thing can become counter productive - the same has to be documented in word and stored along with the wiki. So to make this successful you need for leadership commitment


Scott Frey

Have you considered or use anything like Meebo or Simkl to handle your IM conversations? Simkl just keeps a running history of IM conversations and easily allows sharing of the entire conversation. Meebo has widgets that can be embedded within web pages, and also keeps records of conversations. You could attach the conversation streams to running projects or anything else.

Scott Frey

Second Idea....Google talk also saves conversations, and you could set up filters with "chat with" in the subject line to automatically forward conversations wherever.

Colin Crook

Great post Anand! We've been tackling this issue at our communications firm. Not just internally, but all clients want to use email too of course. I'm starting to use RescueTime to analyze/track the time spent on these kinds of issues. Pretty interesting and I think it's a good place to start the research. More on those guys here if you or anyone else is interested. http://www.rescuetime.com/

Richa

Hi,

I am Richa from SiliconIndia. I am also an avid blogger for a while now and participating actively in Indian blogosphere. I read your blog posting and found them very interesting and informative. We would love to see a copy of your blogs posted here, whenever you are posting it on blogger.com. Here are some of the benefits of posting your blogs here:

We have a strong community of 500,000 Indian professionals
Best blogs of 2008 to be published in a book "SiliconIndia bLoG PrinT"
Best blog to be printed in SliconIndia & SmartTechie magazines each month
Chance to be featured on homepage everyday

We appreciate your community initiative here and in helping build a more powerful India! Also, if you have any ideas or want to volunteer to help for SiliconIndia, we would be more than excited to get your help. Pls mail me back at richa@siliconindia.com with your suggestions and feedback.

Richa
Blog Editor – SiliconIndia

Ian Wild

We came to the same conclusion about 7 or 8 years ago at Plusnet (A UK based Broadband Service Proivder) when we were not much bigger. We now have 240 employees in the UK and more in India, Poland and South Africa all of whom are empowered by other tools not to use email.

I really like the internal blog structure you've created, as that sounds more effective at communicating updates than the internal web forum software we use to do the same.

Our best tools for communication has proved to be our in house web based task management system. This is a simple web interface which performs some project management functions and lets people have ownership of projects, jobs and tasks, which are assigned to individuals who then close their item when the work is completed. This provides accountability, reporting, project planning, delegation etc etc. It's really very useful.

What makes this tool even better is that it is integrated with out meeting management system, which is used to book rooms, invite people to meetings, populate calendars, document and publish minutes to everyone and and most importantly collect actions for named owners that are documented and agreed during the meeting. These actions appear as tasks and the status of the task s can be monitored in any follow-up meetings.

Anyway, thanks for hopefully providing us with some ideas we can use to improve our internal comms...

Ian

PS - We use our own jabber server for IM. Jabber is pretty good as people can choose their own preferred client and the open nature of the protocol means it's easy to populate chat logs automatically into other systems, and they can be stored locally.

Mark Berthelemy

Hi Anand,

Really clear explanation - thanks. I'm going to use it within my company to see if we can reduce our reliance on email a bit...

Have you looked at b2evolution (www.b2evolution.net) for blogging. It provides a multi-user, multi-blog platform in a much simpler (but sophisticated) way than Wordpress MU. You can impose a taxonomy on posts, which means you can subscribe only to particular categories of post. It's also got in-built workflow if you've got more than one author per blog.

Tommie Jones

Good post and a lot of good points. However...
The advantage to email is that it is a known quantity to non techs and it is easier to generate content. The conversation style with responding and asking questions seems to pull data out. Maybe a system that leverages email and blogs would be sensible. If someone has an email that they think is worth publishing then forwarding the message to their blog might be a good solution.
This would also handle one of my big issues with email. When a person leaves the company his personal knowledge base (email) is often never looked at again. We need to make public their knowledge bases.

We also need to break away from storing content on network drives and personal laptops. I consider Microsoft a hinderance these days. People tend to create documents that no one will ever read because they drop it on a shared drive as opposed to putting it on a wiki or the like. Maybe google apps should come out with a internal appliance that people can use to create documents and finally get rid of microsoft office.

Michael

Anand, if you're going to update old blog posts so they pop up in my RSS feed again, could you structure the update so I can tell what changed?

Anand Rajaraman

Michael, good point. I didn't know that updating blog posts causes them to pop up again on some RSS readers -- doesn't happen on mine. But now that I know it does, I'll minimize changes and make them apparent when I do.

Michael

It seems that new comments also bring this blog's posts to the top of my RSS feed. Is that the fault of my RSS reader, or of the blog software?

Nimit Kumar

I cannot agree more. Frequent and redundant emails not only distract, it also creates the 'needle in a hay-stack' phenomena.

I have particularly been amazed by the usefulness of wikis for managing intranet information. Wikis and internal blogs are great ways to maintain publicly editable information. They persist and can evolve as problems at different levels keep getting cracked. We used a wiki in one of my older jobs for collaboration between two remotely located teams. It also helped ease the management's nightmare of tracking progress of the remote teams. I have used mediawiki and it works great for me.

I have noticed very limited adoption of wikis owing to strong allegiance by folks to emails and email-based tools. The fact that several (not so tech-savvy) souls are driven by Microsoft Word, it is a tougher nut to crack.

It particularly makes sense for startups to manage their fast evolving information and ideas as wiki pages. Easy to manage and quick to update, on a shoe-string budget.

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