Thoughts on Structured/Unstructured and Shared Information Management using Wiki and other emerging technologies
Thursday, June 15, 2006

Great article in collaboration loop - by Steven Tedjamulia, Knowledge manager at Novel: Collaboration Loop - How Knowledge Workers Would Like to Work. The key points summarized from their internal survey of about 80 people:
- Standardized collaboration system that integrates tasks/emails/events etc. among all their interactions (i.e. with co-workers, customers etc.)
- Teams should be able to do content management and share information effectively
- Be able to set up collaborative workflows themselves (and not by IT dept). And that too with other information sources such as SAP!
- Be able to get to right experts.
- One search engine.
- Contextually identify the importance of document.
- User portals - where they can integrate different data themselves.
- Integration with presence information, for better simulation of face-to-face interactions (since, the whole purpose of collaborative systems is to be able to achieve good collaboration even when people are not in same room!)

In my own experience, this KM+Collaboration stack should use commonly understood paradigms. For e.g. to point out a good resource to a friend, you simply send the URL of that resource by email. But the problem is, this information remains in email. We need a way that will allow this person to integrate that information back into his own view of the same underlying collaborative world. (In any case, email integration remains a big issue in these scheme of things.)

Current recommendation for this type of stack:
- Wiki for uniform collaboration as well as document management (by having a topic for each submitted document. Use the same approach to convert a submitted mail into a topic. (Mails need to be shared this way - by forwarding to shared areas's email - so that it becomes public information in controlled manner.)
- The above wiki supported by good Search mechanisms.
- Tagging framework for subscription, ranking etc. Further the tagging framework (like delicious) needs to be uniform across intranet, extranet and internet resources. By using wiki, each resource would have unique URL, so this is indeed possible.
- User portals as extension to wiki. Have special plugins/macros to allow user to reconfigure how the page contents should look like. These plugins pull data from different sources. For e.g. twiki has plugins to display RSS feeds in any topic.
- Everyone uses wiki based collaboration as uniform approach. Team areas can be easily created in these wiki systems.
- RSS feeds off wiki to ensure easy consumption of information.
- We also require a mechanism (as part of collaborative areas) to reference other resources and organize these references in nice way.
- Expert location is very easy when everyone uses tagging infrastructure.
- Some Wiki systems allow workflows to be created by end users.

What's missing? I would of course like to see good email integration; especially for workflows. Usability is another area of importance, and wiki systems aren't exactly known for their usability (i.e. end users has to learn a lot.) Lot of ajaxy constructs are required (and usable by process owner) to create good processes within wiki frameworks.

We do keep experimenting with these approaches (-- in my day work, as being responsible for good KM implementations). Some aspects are easy, but some are cultural and still evolving...

About this blog
All realms of collaboration:
  • Wiki. Weblogs
  • New Integration Platforms for combined structured and unstructured information: Wiki, Portals, Email Clients,
  • Collaborative Document editing, Collaborative knowledge building
  • Email Interfaces to collaborative shares
  • Information organization, management, Publishing: In context of organizations, individuals, Opensource projects etc.
About me:
Name:Vinod Kulkarni

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