In a previous post, The Weblog as Filing Cabinet, I proposed that business weblogs could be used to codify and ‘publish’, in a completely voluntary and personal manner, the individual worker’s entire filing cabinet. The key advantage of providing such a capability is vastly increased access to, and sharing of, a company’s knowledge. This post outlines a content architecture that could enable this to occur.

This architecture would have two principal components: The Enterprise Content Architecture and the Desktop Content Architecture, which are illustrated below.

The Enterprise Content Architecture would operate as follows:
enterprise cm chart

  1. Rather than using a document submission process or enabling automated knowledge harvesting, as occurs in many organizations today, the individual would simply post to his or her personal weblog all of the documents that would normally be placed in the individual’s filing cabinet or saved to the My Documents or Sent E-mails folder.
  2. An enterprise-wide interface would be developed to index and publish each individual’s posts to the company’s Intranet. This interface would allow posting of entire documents, or just document titles or links, and would allow the user to specify whether each post could be viewed by anyone in the company, or selected communities only, or (for confidential information) no one at all.
  3. The Intranet would then archive all posts by account, project and/or subject, using the enterprise’s taxonomy or an automated taxonomization tool. Newsfeeds and articles purchased from external vendors could be similarly archived.
  4. The individual employee would be able to extract knowledge from the Intranet using a variety of tools: 
    1. By subject, using a browsable table of contents or catalogue
    2. By keyword, using a search engine
    3. By subscription to any additions to documents on a particular account, project or subject
    4. By subscription to any additions to another person’s weblog
    5. By subscription to any additions in a specific category on the weblog of any person in a specified community.
  5. The knowledge culture change program of the company could be simplied to “Publish Your Filing Cabinet”.

The Desktop Content Architecture would operate as follows (many commercial weblog tools offer this functionality):
desktop cm chart

  1. The employee would author or amend documents, e-mails etc. using an HTML-capable text/document processor (most commercial weblog tools include one, and allow simple posting from most other processors).
  2. Rather than Saving to File or Sending documents, the employee would Post each document to his or her weblog. If necessary, documents could be indexed by the company’s taxonomy, and access restrictions specified, at the moment of posting.
  3. The employee would access knowledge from the Intranet, Extranet, Internet, peers and external vendors from his or her weblog home page, using any of the following tools:
    1. Table of Contents of the individual’s weblog, or the enterprise-wide Intranet (browsing)
    2. Search Engine to search the individual’s weblog, the enterprise-wide Intranet, the public Internet, or the pertinent categories of all the weblogs of a particular community 
    3. The News Aggregator for automatic feeds of external vendor and public Internet news, publications, others’ weblogs and new posts to the Intranet on specific subjects, to which the employee has ‘subscribed’
    4. The BlogRoll, to link directly to others’ weblogs or send an e-mail to canvass others in one’s community

The fundamental difference between this and traditional enterprise-wide content architectures, is that knowledge under this model resides with and is controlled by the individual. The knowledge of the community is simply the sum of the knowledge residing in the weblogs of the community members (within any shared categorizations the community members decide to establish, and pushed to other community members by the weblog’s ‘subscription’ functionality. The knowledge of the enterprise is simply the sum of the knowledge residing in the weblogs of all employees, made accessible through the weblog’s publishing and subscription functionality, using the tools present in the weblog itself. Theoretically, depending on the robustness of the company’s networks, the Intranet could be slimmed down to nothing more than a set of organized links, with no actual ‘content’ whatsoever.

Each employee thus defines his or her own taxonomy (the same way each employee currently decides how to organize and index his or her own filing cabinet and My Documents folder). Each employee defines his or her own communities (by who is included in the BlogRoll), so communities truly become self-organizing and self-managed.

Culturally, these two features of a weblog-based content architecture are hugely advantageous, because they turn control over the management and sharing of knowledge to individual employees, allowing them to organize knowledge in accordance with their personal mental models (the way they think and learn), and allowing them to retain pride in and responsibility of ownership of their personal knowledge ‘stocks’.

The advantages of this architecture are therefore:

  1. Much more knowledge is codified and available for sharing (including sharing with customers via Extranets)
  2. Knowledge is kept more current and complete
  3. The context of knowledge is more apparent and hence richer
  4. Knowledge is easier to find
  5. Less centralized Intranet management and technology is needed
  6. Evaluation of individuals’ contribution to organizational knowledge is easier to gauge
  7. Less effort is needed to persuade individuals to share knowledge
  8. Communities of practice can develop spontaneously and flexibly
  9. Peer-to-peer knowledge transfer (the most valuable kind in most organizations) is facilitated, and new knowledge is automatically ‘pushed’ to ‘subscribers’ on a timely basis

As weblog tools become more powerful and flexible, open sourcing of weblog add-ons increases, and RSS and XML technologies advance and become standard, the justification for migrating centralized knowledge management systems to a weblog-based architecture will grow more compelling. In the meantime, leading-edge knowledge organizations need to be piloting and experimenting with such architectures, if they don’t wish to be left behind.

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