UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Blogs For The Intranet

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 May 2007

 

On 1st March 2007 I published a post on FireFox – The Researchers Favourite Application?. I had expected this to be an uncontroversial posting, so I was surprised when Mark Sammons, a Sys Admin at Edinburgh University, stated that “Simply put, Firefox is not Enterprise-ready enough to be considered for migration from IE“. Mark gave a full explanation of the difficulties on large-scale deployment of FireFox and his reservations were echoed by Phil Wilson.

Mark commented on these discussions on his In-Cider Knowledge blog in a posting entitled Blogging On The Intranet – The Real “Killer App” of Blogging? :

I recently got into a discussion about the deployment of Firefox with Brian Kelly from the UK Web Focus blog. The discussion was quite interesting in that me and him were coming at the topic of Firefox from totally different angle – but it was interesting because we both listened to the others’ viewpoint, understanding where and what our areas of expertise in this field were.

I would very much agree with this sentiment; this, after all, is surely what blogs are about. So I was fascinated by Mark’s alternative interpretation:

However, what interested me is that this sort of issue that is raised within the University where I work yet the conversation isn’t happening.

He went on to add:

One of the most significant barriers that I see is that blogging is very transparent, very outward-looking, all posts are in the public domain. This seems an ideal scope for the conversation but the reality is, people will temper their language if talking to people outside of the organisation, temper their views to more “official” viewpoints. This does not match the ideals of what blogging was mean’t to be. I wonder if blogging confined to people on the intranet might be its real “killer app”.

My view of blogging is very much about openness and transparency. This, after all, reflects my role as a national Web adviser, with a responsibility for dissemination and engagement with my user communities. But am I guilty of assuming that an approach which may work for those with responsibilities for liaison with the wider community will also work within a organisation? I do, of course, see arguments and debates which take place within my institution, often on mailing lists. And I wonder whether blogs have a role to play in these debates – and the extent to which the culture and best practices which are being developed for public blogs will be applicable for blogs within an Intranet.

Thanks, Mark, for this insight. Does anyone have any experiences in the use of closed blogs? And might this be a way of addressing the concerns raised by Sheila Webber in her recent posting on Webbed or Websceptic: You Decide. – rather than a debate on the relative merits of blogs versus more traditional publications, might not blogs have a more important role in encouraging internal debate and discussions?

4 Responses to “Blogs For The Intranet”

  1. Some possibly random midnight thoughts – I think that even if you make it “internal” there are still inhibitions, but obviously it does open up slightly freer conversation. To take the example of the collaborative blog with colleagues on a module we’ve been teaching here: as it is a fully public blog it would be unethical to discuss things related to the performance and activities of the students themselves; also we don’t want to look like complete idiots in front of the students, so there might be some self-censoring there. That means there were a number of perspectives on how we were running the module that couldn’t be discussed on the blog.

    If access were restricted to staff in the Department – that might open up some things, on the other hand we don’t want to look like idiots in front of our colleagues either …. in the end email and face to face turned out to be the way we could comfortably discuss a number of aspects in a frank and free fashion.

    Sheila

  2. The majority of organisations with a thriving blogging environment tend to have an established ecosystem of internal blogs. For example, IBM’s internal service, Blog Central, boasts a 12,000 user base (, with a mere fraction of that having their blogs publically facing.

    Now, you could argue this could only work in a massive organisation like IBM, but in many ways, there are bigger gulfs between different members of staff within Universities, especially between facilitators in IT and the Library and the educators, from my experience.

    There are numerous advantages for encouraging blogging within the intranet, not least because it adds to a sense of community within the organisation. It also adds to the knowledge retention within the organisation if you can get to a mature stage where people are open to their intranet about all their developments. I also believe it will help the mobility of staff around the organisation if they become interested in a new area and wish to be seconded/moved/take up a project elsewhere within the organisation. I also believe that if you can encourage both upper management and those at the other end (the ones who do all the work?! :-) ) to blog on the same platform, you should be able to flatten the organisation, making it easier for management to see what is really going on down on the “shop floor” and vice versa. Furthermore, with regards to mailing lists and the ilk, these suffer from issues of volume and blogs and opt-in RSS feeds are a far better solution.

    One point I would pick you up on, and that is, it is wrong to assume that a blog facing the intranet is closed whereas a blog facing the internet is open and transparent. Its all to do with attitude – frankly, some of the blogs you’ve linked to, especially those which represent organisations, are not open or transparent at all. In fact, when I look at some blogs, they just seem like a collection of press releases and proves what I said in my original post – people are tempering their opinions and views to the institutional viewpoint and that, simply, is not engaging with the user community.

    So why do I think the intranet is the “killer app” of blogging? I simply don’t think the public blogs are mature enough. Yet.

  3. Just an addendum to my previous comment…

    When I said the public blogs are not mature enough, I was talking more explicitly about blogs that represent organisations.

    As I pointed out in my original post, if anything, Microsoft have gone too far the other way. They seem to have a relatively poor internal blogging infrastructure but encourage their staff to have public-facing blogs. As such, there have been numerous PR gaffs coming from Microsoft bloggers and you get a relatively poor view of the infrastructures at Microsoft BECAUSE they have been very transparent. Also, because people are concerned they might say something publically which could get them into trouble, an insistence that blogs should always be open and transparent is basically cutting off your nose to spite your face!

    In this respect, internal blogs act as training wheels for bloggers to find their voice before exposing themselves to the big, bad world. For management, it also gives them the ability to control the lines of communication exposed.

  4. Wendell said

    jilltxt.net somewhere has a wonderful piece about how blogging-as-classwork shifted her students’ perceptions of their assignments once they realized their writings were public.

    In basic adult ed & Adult Literacy work, there are various intranet systems designed to allow for “safe” elearning, blogging and email use. I prefer to build “gated communities” using the perission tools of public systems (Facebook, Yahoo!360, etc.) because it provides these learners with a resource they can con’t to use without me – it creates independence.

    But, of course, these public tools are less “safe”. Still, dealing with internet ethics and the challenges of spam, rudeness, stalking and i.d. theft are also appropriate learning areas with my work.

    Thks for the interesting conversation(s). :)

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