Web Logs: Moving Beyond Cool


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It was with some regret that I was not able to attend Intracom 2003 in Montreal in October, as the previous two conferences have provided valuable insights into intranet issues. It was at the 2001 conference that I discovered Web logs (often called blogs) through an excellent paper given by Karl Fast. In essence, a blog is a Web diary. A Web log comprises entries that are created on a regular basis (usually) and the default arrangement is a chronological sequence. Many blogs also have an archive that is categorized by subject. One of the best introductory articles on Web logs I've come across was written by UK consultant Phil Bradley and appears in the ejournal Ariadne. (www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/search-engines). In this article, Phil also discusses the problems of searching for information contained in public Web logs.

Blog software is generally free or very inexpensive (less than $50), and can either be used on a third-party host, or on your own server. Some of the more popular packages are Radio Userland (www.radio.userland.com), Greymatter (www.noahgrey.com/greysoft), and Moveable Type (www.moveabletype.org). The Intranet Focus Blog uses Movable Type and we wrote a template that converted the standard Moveable Type look-and-feel into the same format as our Web site.

The number of blogs in existence is unknown…perhaps a million or more. Many are started in a rush of enthusiasm and then realization dawns about the level of commitment required. It certainly has for me. Since April 2003, the level of consulting work meant that I did not have the time to update my blog as frequently as I would have liked and in the end discontinued it for several months.

By now you are probably wondering what all this has to do about life behind the firewall. Patience! First let me highlight one of the best Web logs I know. James Robertson is the managing director of Step Two Designs, a knowledge management consultancy located in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Column Two (www.steptwo.com.au/columntwo/index.html), a Web log that covers knowledge management and content management issues with a strong intranet bias. How Robertson manages to maintain the volume and quantity of Column Two is a mystery to me.

Other intranet-relevant blogs include: http://iaslash.org; http://louisrosenfeld.com/home/; www.unstruct.org/; and http://semanticstudios.com/publications/semantics/000012.php.

Now Web logs are moving inside the firewall as a complementary Web application to an intranet. One of the leading advocates of Web logs for supporting knowledge management initiatives within an organization is Michael Angeles, an information specialist in the digital library of Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, and the author the www.studioid.com Web log. Angeles wrote an excellent paper on "K-Logging: Supporting KM with Web Logs" in the April 2003 issue of Library Journal (a link can be found on his blog.)

Web loggers frequently use articles gained from newsfeeds (often RSS) and from scanning the Web as the basis for their daily entries, adding valuable insight into the article from a personal perspective. In a corporate environment, there could be considerable scope to harness the technology to enable staff to share these insights with others in the organization, again making use of RSS technology. I should emphasize at this point that there may well be copyright issues that need to be addressed.

Web logs can be used for many other purposes. Some organizations I know are starting to use them as a way of managing projects, with the Web log acting as a periodic record of the project. They are also excellent for internal and external newsletters, especially where the content management software for the intranet or Web site precludes rapid publication of news and views. What is valuable in intranet context is that the RSS feed technology can be used to provide a "push" of information whenever the blog is updated without having to use the corporate email service.

Web logs can be used for many other purposes. Some organizations I know are starting to use them as a way of managing projects, with the Web log acting as a periodic record of the project. They are also excellent for internal and external newsletters, especially where the content management software for the intranet or Web site precludes rapid publication of news and views. What is valuable in intranet context is that the RSS feed technology can be used to provide a "push" of information whenever the blog is updated without having to use the corporate email service.

Web logs can be used for many other purposes. Some organizations I know are starting to use them as a way of managing projects, with the Web log acting as a periodic record of the project. They are also excellent for internal and external newsletters, especially where the content management software for the intranet or Web site precludes rapid publication of news and views. What is valuable in intranet context is that the RSS feed technology can be used to provide a "push" of information whenever the blog is updated without having to use the corporate email service.

I'll conclude with an edited extract from the final section of Angeles' paper in Library Journal: "Web-logging is more than just a cool form of Web publishing. Savvy corporate k-loggers have proven that it can be a useful way to capture and share knowledge. The final message is not to fear the k-loggers, but to embrace their willingness to share knowledge. Empower them to spread their message across the enterprise. Remember that if the right messages reach the right people at the right time, you will positively affect your organization."