We are piloting communities at work, the gist of it is:
Blog - broadcast, experience, ideas, feedback, status
Forum - discussion
Wiki- collaborate, document, website
The concept is, it’s much easier to do work using these new tools rather than using email to do all three of these things (broadcast, discuss, collaborate).
Let’s not mention that content is open and centralised for others to see, all have a voice, conversation can evolve into new knowledge, tune into your social filter to ask questions and finds things…pretty much a way to get things done.
Plus all your interactions, contributions, and readings happen in a contextual place. If I want to see the forum contributions I have made on the KM forum, I just go to the KM CoP, or goto my personal dashboard.
For me this beats trying to find this stuff in my email. I like my content to live in context eg. comments about a wiki to be in the wiki itself rather than be separated (disconnected) in my email client.
Jack Vinson talks about context as providing you with a “frame of reference”, he says:
“The better I understand the particular frame of reference (context), the better I can understand what this information or knowledge means.”
This is kind of different to the context I’m talking about. I’m talking about the context of a place, he is talking about seeing data in a context setting (even better if it’s a familiar setting) to help you use your current knowledge to create new information…I guess metaphor is another way.
In a way it does relate to what I’m talking about as reading a forum reply you found in your email, makes much more sense when you see it in the bigger picture of the actual forum.
Anyway so I call the use of our communities as Step 1.
We can now learn to use social tools to get work done with much less confusion, and of course this creates a perpetual open dialogue where knowledge is continuously created and re-used in the open.
Another benefit is that you end up with less email to deal with, as now what would of been email lives at the context of the place (as a blog post/comment, forum topic/reply, wiki contribution/comment).
Although, without an inbox for each community (private messages), one-to-one messages are done in email. I’d rather these emails as private or public messages that live in context, ie. at the community…see more.
Does this really give you less email to deal with…I don’t think so.
It’s great we are attempting to no longer just rely on the intelligence of the email system to do our work, these social tools enable us to work easier and content is no longer siloed (a centralised and flowing corporate memory). But we are still using email.
How? Notifications, that’s how.
In our communities we currently have RSS disabled for some reason, maybe it’s a good thing for now, to prevent scaring people with too much new stuff to absorb.
For each blog and forum you can get new content delivered as a new email, and this is not just a notification, it’s the full-text of the blog post or forum topic.
When you subscribe to a blog or forum you are also subscribed to blog comments and forum replies (personally I’d like a choice).
Also, each blog post and each forum topic has an email address.
This means when you get an email for a new blog post, you can hit reply and it will post your comment to the blog…nice one.
You can also publish a new blog post by writing a new email and sending it to the blog email address (you can include non-subscribers to your blog in the to: or cc: field, that way they will get the content even though they don’t subscribe to your blog…nifty!)
OK, first thing.
I really like this email interoperability, it’s bringing the use of new tools to people’s comfort zone. But at the same time I would also like people to visit the actual community to experience the whole realm. There’s more chance you are going to read something else or contribute, if you are at the community itself.
So right now, this email interoperability is both good and bad.
The more concerning issue that some people have been talking about in the forums is since the introduction of communities they are getting just as much email.
They allude to “what’s the difference to my inbox overload if someone writes an email or publishes a blog post which I get in email anyway…isn’t communities meant to help with the inbox firehose.”
They also mention that community content gets lost in their inbox amongst all other types of emails.
This just screams RSS Reader.
But it also may scream our community Watchlist page.
The Watchlist page is a stream of the lastest stuff you are subscribed to, so throughout the day you can go to this page to see what’s new in the stream. The saves you visiting every blog and forum that you like from every community you like…instead it’s in one personalised page.
But I think I have to have an email subscription in order for this stuff to be on my Watchlist…darn (gotta look into this).
Whether it’s a Watchlist or an RSS Reader, it becomes a second dashboard.
You have your email dashboard and your what’s happening dashboard.
You can read RSS feeds within your email, but the idea is that email is a tool for personal correspondence, and that’s it, and an RSS Reader is a tool for the latest updates.
Perhaps a startpage could combine both into one dashboard, or Outlook could have an RSS Reader module that is just as important as the email inbox…in fact Outlook would no longer be an email client, it would be a personal productivity dashboard.
At the moment we are in the pre-introductory stage of Step 1. - a social way of doing work
(lots of learning, and culture change issues to go with this)
We also need to be prepared for Step 2.
And it’s Step 2. that may win the KM team acclaim in reducing the common email overload problem.
Any department that can reduce the email overload problem is going to get kudo’s, will it be the KM team.