On tailoring content in the world of Web 2.0

I gave my talk and presentation yesterday in Sydney at the Ark Group conference, Collaboration in the world of Web 2.0. My topic was on “tailoring content for Web 2.0”. The focus was on setting the scene for content within a Web 2.0 world (blogs, online collaboration, podcasting, wikis, and social networking) within the enterprise. Instead of just posting the slides, that are not particularly informative without the full text, I thought I’d run through some of the key points.

Firstly, I emphasised the importance of establishing a well constructed launching pad – the intranet – based on the fact that most organisations already have an intranet. A well planned and thoughtfully constructed intranet architecture, with relevant and useful content, is imperative in providing the basic foundation from which to launch a range of Web 2.0 applications. Intranets must avoid the dumping ground mentality. The intranet launching pad is essentially about providing a platform for publishing, but with access points (perhaps from a portal) provided for additional Web 2.0 applications. An intranet that gives useful and timely information in an easy to access fashion will give a great deal of confidence to an organisation.

Moving forward, some organisations have the people and the capability for emergent Web 2.0 activities, and we often hear about them at conferences and from reading articles and books. Generation x,y, and z are all likely to be Web 2.0 savvy and may act as prime movers for collaborative technologies within organisations. However, there are many other organisations that are unsure and require some preliminary thinking – a practical reality for senior management.

Let’s say that the senior management team have found out from a staff survey that there is general disengagement within the organisation, that staff believe that communication and visibility from senior management is poor, and that staff feel they are not being listened to. Add the fact that management wants to encourage ideas from staff to improve organisational efficiency and effectiveness, and what are the options? The answer might be to start a senior management blog, personalising the senior management team, and giving a communication platform for two-way interaction and idea generation.

And what about a project team working on documenting the most effective process for a complex IT installation? Perhaps a wiki may be the answer…

And since communities of practice had been featured at the conference already, I referred people to my previously published paper from the 2003 IAMA Conference.

Some considerations on Web 2.0 for management will include:

  •  mission or purpose (why are we doing this? or what is the problem? or how do we fix this?)
  • context (organisational, physical, and individual and group work processes)
  • organisational culture (work with existing culture if possible, supported with appropriate tools and processes, rather than enforcing revolutionary change)
  • select the most appropriate applications for the culture, context, and purpose

And what about the actual content – “it’s not always about you…or is it?”

  • Why are you writing?
  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are you writing?
  • Does the writing style fit the context?
  • Does the writing make sense?
  • Get to the point…

The challenge in the world of Web 2.0 is now that we have many more people writing content, many more vehicles for content delivery and exchange, and even less time for content review.

In terms of managing content, you can and you can’t. Organisations can provide rules, guidelines, tip sheets, training, etc., thereby setting boundaries and standards of behaviour. In the Web 2.0 world, authorship at creation means there will be many more authors than in the previous expert-publishing domain so that managing content faces a mammoth increase in scale. Organisations can provide varying degrees of editorial or project management control, notably at final publication. Up to then, individual content creation is essentially up to the individual and the more control an organisation puts up, the less likely meaningful and interactive communication will take place. Conversely, organisations that allow for open dialogue and collaboration (certainly within the organisation) will encourage confident full expression and, hopefully, some innovative thinking. In open organisations, peer review and personal reputation profile are usually sufficient to ensure good content standards.

Lastly, there is the debate about content quality – again part of the content management issue. Is the content generated via blogs and wikis and social networking activities a waste of corporate time or do they actually provide meaningful and useful business activities? The answer will depend on the people involved, in the same way individuals choose to use the telephone or e-mail. In fact, blogs and wikis are even more transparent methods of internal communication since they are visible across the membership or organisation. Content quality will always come down to context and individual needs – whether that relates to “just the facts”, or in establishing personal networks and relationships that enhance workplace collaboration and performance, or improving levels of workplace engagement.

That was the gist of the 45 minute presentation. I would have liked to have actually delved into the different forms of content within various Web 2.0 applications and the opportunities for collaboration that such activities provide, either by themselves or in combination, but there was no time. A general overview of content considerations in the Web 2.0 world had to suffice.

And if you’re interested in finding out more about content management, check out What is Web 2.0 content management? 

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