Copyright 2002 C. David Gammel. All rights reserved.The level of investment required for really excellent km tools, such as weblogs, has gotten so low that it is much easier for a relatively low level employee to start a grass-roots movement within the staff if they are motivated. Given the failure of enterprise level KM initiatives and the burst .com bubble, this could be the perfect time to stealth in some web-based knowledge sharing tools.
In this article I will discuss how you can create a low-cost knowledge weblog (klog) network using free and/or donor supported software. This method is well suited to the stealthy introduction of weblogging as a knowledge management tool. All you need is one server to host the klogs and you can be off and running before senior management has a chance to quash your initiative. Or take credit for it. :).
The basic components of a klog network include 3 key elements: weblog publishing, searching, and news feed publication/subscription.
The weblog software enables individual staff and teams to publish their writing. They also need to be able to search their own writing as well as the writing of others. Finally, the news feeds allow staff to easily keep track of new posts from their own desktop.
Here are some software packages you can use at no or low cost to fulfill those three functions:
Weblog Software: Movable Type (donor-ware weblog software)
Search Software: Thunderstone Webinator Search Engine (free version of powerful Thunderstone search engine)
News feed Subscription: Aggie or AmphetaDesk (open source, free-ware, news aggregators)
Klog Network Architecture
On the Web Server
Here you will install the Movable Type (MT) scripts and the Webinator search engine. The MT scripts are written in perl and can be run on most web servers (such as Apache or IIS). There are also Webinator versions for most platforms.
Create an MT weblog for each staff person who will be participating. You can also create a weblog for teams and task forces and assign multiple authors (the TrackBack feature of MT can be very powerful for teams as well). It is always best to start by walking the talk. Write your own klog for a week or two and then introduce others to it. Get one or two more people writing klogs. Only set someone up to write one after they express interest and you talk up the benefits.
Webinator should be configured to index all of the weblogs and your other intranet content on a regular basis (I set ours to reindex every hour). You can also configure it to create subindexes for each individual weblog on the network so people can narrow their search. Add a Webinator search box to the MT templates as well as the weblog home page on your intranet.
Make sure the MT and Webinator databases are being backed up. Why facilitate all that knowledge sharing just to lose it to a hard drive failure?
On the Desktop
Here you should install Aggie or AmphetaDesk. Aggie requires the .Net service pack for windows (go here to get the .Net update). AmphetaDesk runs as a server on your desktop. Either one is fine.You may want to provide an initial subscription list for your users when installing a news feed aggregator that includes all of the existing klogs on the network. Staff can then modify the list to meet their own preferences and add new weblogs as they come online. You could also include relevant feeds from the public web.
Both of these software packages use XSLT to create their output. This can be customized to pull content out of your intranet (if available as XML) as well as entries from their news feed subscriptions. Very powerful, if arcane, stuff.
You will need to do some training for staff. Not only on how to use the MT interface and news aggregators but also on what they should write about. Kittens and political opinions are probably not appropriate for a klog network in the workplace. Rebecca Blood's advice is to not write anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable saying in an interview. Words to live by for klogging.
Depending upon the web savviness of your staff you may even need to teach them about the format of a weblog and how to read them. Do not assume they have the same technical skills and knowledge as you.
Training can be as simple as hosting an open invitation brown-bag lunch session once a month on klogging. Tailor it to be appropriate to your specific organizational culture.
That's it. It is not rocket science, it is not expensive, and it is relatively easy to set up by someone with modest technical skills. It is perfectly suited to coming in the back door and begin knowledge sharing as a grass roots movement. Get klogging!