Tag: tips

Intranet design: Lessons from MythBusters and Batman

What can Adam Savage (cohost of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters) teach us about intranet design?  Plenty, it turns out.

Before MythBusters, Savage was a professional model-maker, working on everything from Star Wars to The Matrix Reloaded (highly underrated, IMO).  In this  article he discusses how critical the design of his toolbox was in his effectiveness and creativity.  The toolbox he created allowed him to pull any tool that was needed with one hand, without the need to first move anything else out of his way.  He calls this organizing metric first-order retrievability – likening it to Batman’s utility belt.

So, what does first-order retrievability have to do with intranet design? 

One of the most commonly heard intranet design rules is the Three Click Rule – dictating that nothing on the intranet should take more than 3-clicks to find.  Coincidentally, James Robertson busts this myth, stating that:

“While the three clicks rule may be a myth, the common sense principle of bringing more frequently used content towards the top of the site still holds.  While users may not dislike clicking, there is no reason to make them work harder than they need to. Effort should be applied to identify common or important content, and to make sure this can be easily and quickly found on the site.”

While the three click rule is a myth, designing an intranet so that the most important applications and content are easily and quickly within reach should be a top priority for intranet managers.  Designing solutions with first-order retrievability in mind should ultimately result in a more efficient and useful intranet.  After all, what user wouldn’t want their intranet to be as handy and cool as Batman’s utility belt?

Community Success Factors

On October 16th I co-presented to the Systems Integration Knowledge Management (SIKM) Leaders community on the subject of Community Leadership.  For my part of the topic, I focused on the community success factors/community health report that we had developed for the Deloitte consulting communities program.  The 2nd part of this deck speaks to that, as well as some of the recommendations we make to communities looking to improve their health.

Welcoming community members

When creating enterprise communities, it’s important to welcome each new community member that joins. Generally, it’s important to share with them information about what they can expect from the community, how they can interact with other members, the resources available to them, and what (if any) action items you’d like to request that they take immediately (e.g., set up email alerts, introduce themselves to the community).

The method that this message is delivered will vary, given differences in technology and resources. While it would be ideal to get to know each community member individually with a welcome conversation (rather than message), that often isn’t as feasible internally as it is in external communities (given time restrictions for both parties). So, most enterprise communities tend to rely on an automated message after a member joins, or manually copying/pasting a welcome message template and sending this to each new member. This is fine; however, what often happens is that community managers get bogged down with the other details and demands of managing their community, so this message (often drafted when the community was first developed) gets stale.

To keep your welcome message fresh, consider:

 1) Keep it short, keep it simple

Nothing will make your members hit delete on your welcome message quicker than a wall of text – especially if it even has a whiff of being outdated.

 2) Update quarterly, include key dates

Try updating your message quarterly, and even including a brief message about recent community successes or upcoming community events/plans for the current quarter. Members want to know how your community will be relevant to them now. Tell them.

3) Action items, less is more

When asking your new member to do something additional after joining, be considerate of their time. Focus on asking for only what is most important to you, and let them know why you’re asking them to take an additional step. If you want them to sign up for email alerts to your collaborative tools, tell them what benefit that will give them. If you’re asking them to take a survey to collect demographic information on your members, explain how you’ll use that information and what’s in it for them.

4) Personal follow-up

Especially if your welcome message is generated from a generic community mailbox (or worse yet, a no-reply email), consider sending each new member a quick, personal follow-up. Even if it is just a one sentence, “thanks for joining, look around and let me know if I can help” email, that makes a world of difference between your member being onboarded to your community vs. being welcomed to it.

Photo via Flickr

A Structure and Strategy for Subscribing to RSS Feeds

At the most recent KM Chicago meeting a familiar subject came up during our discussion – what KM blogs do you follow?  What feed aggregator do you recommend?  Given that I hear this question frequently, and I think that I have a pretty good system going, I thought I would share some of my own tips and tricks for following many blogs.

It’s not all or nothing

One of the biggest excuses I hear for not subscribing to RSS feeds, or even for using Twitter is the idea that, “I can’t read all of that information.” – but really, no one can, and you’re not supposed to read it all!  Just like you don’t avoid a buffet because you can’t eat it all, you shouldn’t avoid following many sources because you can’t read them all. So, how do you manage the glut of information out there?

Folder structure is key

I use Google Reader as my feed aggregator – not because it’s the best one out there, but because it’s easy to use, and integrates will all of my other Google services.  Any aggregator should work with the approach I describe.

My approach for following a number of blogs is totally dependent on my use of a tiered folder structure.  For demonstration purposes, lets say I follow 100 KM blogs.  15 of those are probably ones that I find really insightful, another 30 or so I enjoy reading on a pretty regular basis, and the rest I tend to read when I can.  So in Google Reader, I have three folders set up that reflect this:

  • KM1
  • KM2
  • KM3
When I go to read my feeds, I’ll read everything in KM1 – this allows me to read all of my favorites.  If I have time, I’ll see what is in KM2, and then maybe even KM3 if I get the chance.  But, generally, I have to say I never get to that third level down.  Then why bother following them at all?  I’ll get to that in a minute.  But first, how do I decided which blogs get added to which folder?

Finding blogs, rating blogs

Now that you have a structure ready to go, you need to find good KM blogs to fill them with.  Normally this is where I would point you to my repository of KM sources, but as I recently mentioned, my web server had a hiccup and I lost all of my information.  I’ll get this rebuilt, but in the meantime check out Stan Garfield’s listing of KM Blogs – it’s comprehensive and is a great source to being with.

Now, I know it’s a lot, but trust me, subscribe to all of the feeds listed.  Then, start reading through them when you get the opportunity.  Fairly quickly you’ll get a sense of the blogs you really like, the ones that are good, and the others that just might not be crucial reading for you.  Once you do, start assigning each feed to a folder.  It won’t take long to get the basic structure in place.  You’ll continue to adjust the settings over time, but I’ve had this setup going since about 2006 and it has been very sustainable for me.  I don’t read everything, but I don’t have to.  I used to be concerned I would be missing something interesting in the KM3 folder that I would rarely get to, but the odds are if it’s something that is really interesting, it would eventually be covered by one of the blogs in my KM1 or KM2 folders.

So like you may have asked earlier – why bother subscribing to the other blogs at all then?

Personalized KM searches

The value in subscribing to a number of feeds does not always lie in discovering something new and interesting, but often it is in the ability to query this information for a specific reason later on.  As I mentioned, I’ve been using the setup since 2006 and have subscribed to a number of KM blogs – most of which I don’t actually read on a regular basis.  But when doing research on something KM related, I’m more likely to begin my query here than going to Google.

A real life example I can share is when I recently began to do research into expertise location tools, techniques, and examples.  Rather than going to Google, where I would get a mix of good information, outdated information and ads, I used the search functionality within Google Reader.  Here, the benefits of subscribing to a number of KM sources is very helpful:

  • It allows for a focused search from sources I already trust and am familiar with
  • Adopting a tiered folder structure allows me to essentially sort my results by trustworthiness and familiarity
  • Being populated with just KM blogs automatically weeds out a number of irrelevant hits I would have received doing a standard search on Google
  • If I have questions about the material presented, it is easy to reach out and ask for more details because I’m usually familiar with the author by having followed them for a period of time
In this case I was able to find a number of good examples and case studies – many of which came from the KM3 folder.  So although I rarely read the feeds in this folder, they is a great deal of value that comes from subscribing to them.

In summary

  • Find a folder structure that works for you
  • Subscribe to as many feeds as you can, sort and cull the list over time
  • Read what you can, query the rest when you need it