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Blogs and wikis: ready for prime time?

"his makes for a very agile application," Frank adds. "Users don't think about knowledge management—it just happens as part of the process."

Wiki-wiki

Wikis are editable Web sites that allow users to build content and collaborate. Like blogs, they are easy to use and update, often displaying changes in near real time, thus validating the meaning of "wiki" ("quick" in Hawaiian). Wikis also rely heavily on hyperlinks. Socialtext, established in 2002, is one of the earliest commercial wiki providers, although the concept and initial software emerged in the late 1980s.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein is an international investment bank that began using a Socialtext wiki to foster collaboration between IT and business users. A carefully managed rollout helped increase the number of users to nearly 8,000 in 2006. The wiki is used for developing and distributing materials related to meetings, supporting brainstorming sessions that culminate in finished documents, and developing presentations in a collaborative mode.

At Stata Labs, a software development company now owned by Yahoo, Socialtext is used to provide a collaborative environment in which to develop product specifications and address issues related to product development. Stata Labs also uses Socialtext workspaces to track customer requests for new features. Customers send in requests via e-mail, and when the Stata staff responds, a copy is sent to the Socialtext workspace. That process allows e-mails to be accessible to everyone on the project. Programmers can respond, offering comments and suggestions.

Wikis have become popular to some degree as an alternative to enterprise content management (ECM) systems, but the two serve different roles and can work in tandem.

"Collaboration is very effectively carried out within a wiki," says Kris Duggan, VP of sales at Socialtext. "But when a document becomes final, that is the time it can go into a Sharepoint or Documentum system." ECM solutions generally are managed by a small number of people, and can be difficult to use, Duggan says. That's why wikis are valuable solutions for creating "living" intranets and for rapid capturing and sharing ideas.

The informal nature of wikis allows them to exploit the wisdom of crowds, according to Duggan. Good ideas "get legs" and persist, while poor ideas die out naturally. Greater democratization of ideas is possible when contributors do not have to run a gauntlet of approval.

"Too often, good ideas get trapped inside an e-mail from one person to another," says Duggan. "The information does not get captured, and the individual who could update or improve the idea might never see it."

Blog and wiki technologies are moving rapidly into the corporate market. "We expect that by 2009, more than 80 percent of organizations will have blogs, and half will have wikis," says Jeffrey Mann, research VP at Gartner. "We look to blogs and wikis for authoring and collaboration because of their ease of use, but believe ECMs will be used to provide a permanent repository when certain milestones are reached."

Traction's Jordan Frank noticed a striking difference between the 2005 KMWorld & Intranets Conference and the one held in 2006. "Last year it was, ‘What are blogs and why would I want one?'" recalls Frank. "This year it was, ‘When and how should I deploy one?'"

Blogging with ECM

Although many low-cost blog and wiki software products are available, enterprise content management (ECM) companies also have taken note of the growing interest and are responding.

"Blogs and wikis are another form of Web content management," according to Andy MacMillan, VP of product marketing at Stellent. Stellent (see related article on page 1 [KMWorld, Vol 16, Issue 1] regarding Oracle's acquisition of Stellent [also in News Analysis, January 2007)) released blog and wiki templates for its Web content management suite several months ago. "A significant number of Fortune 500 companies are looking into deploying blogs and wikis through our Universal Content Management platform," MacMillan says.

The content management tools underneath Stellent's offering provide the enterprise infrastructure for corporate rollouts of blogs and wikis. "It's easier for Stellent to generate a new front end enabling blogs and wikis than for traditional blog and wiki companies to create the enterprise infrastructure of a content management suite," MacMillan says.

Existing workflow and review capabilities can also help with the process of managing incoming content while ensuring brand consistency across blogs, wikis and traditional Web sites companywide. For organizations that already use an ECM system, deploying blogs and wikis through their existing infrastructure is a good option. 

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