With blogs and wikis in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, a lot of business users are thinking about whether they should try to take advantages of the new capabilities. Many are struggling with how to use them, not so much from a technology perspective, but from a governance perspective. What should the rules be? Who should have access? Who should vet the content? Here are my thoughts on how and when each of these capabilities should be used.
Announcements are best used when a small groups of people (or one person) needs to broadcast information to a larger group. The right to post items to the announcements Web Part is typically limited to very few people. Announcements are the most restrictive of the three formats, and are probably the most familiar to most business users. Therefore, they are not as confusing to think about from a governance perspective.
In a blog, a single person posts information about a topic or set of topics. In a business setting, this generally means that the blogger is telling the larger community that she is an expert in the set of topics and want to share that expertise for the community’s betterment. The organization needs to trust the individual to post appropriate content that follows the governance model. Generally, blogs are not edited in any formal sense, though it is possible to require posts to be approved before publication. In my opinion, requiring approval somewhat diminishes the value of a blog, as it tends to water down the voice of the blogger.
In some cases, a blog can be shared by a group of people. This creates a sort of virtual blogger identity. In this situation, it’s important for the group to maintain a consistent tone and focus to make the blog useful. Blogs are in between announcements and wikis from a restriction standpoint.
Some consider wikis to be the Wild West of the Internet. In a way they are: everyone can publish and edit content in the wiki. Wikis are best used when there is a set of content about which the organization wants to get to a common mindset and trusts that individuals will post appropriate and useful content. Wikis are very good tools for groups of people to generate content together asynchronously. For instance, a team working on an HR policy can use a wiki to get 80% of the way done and then edit for polish and legality from there.
Wikis can also be very useful when there is a set of content that needs to be created, yet it is not totally clear who the right people are to generate it. By using a wiki and making it know across the organization, all sorts of interesting twists on the content are possible. By interesting twists, I mean good twists. Think about the situation where someone with a law degree happens to be working in Marketing or Sales. If the legal department publishes a wiki about a legal set of topics, this person has the opportunity to express their unknown expertise to generate better content.
While wikis are indeed "wide-open", by having a clear governance model, they can be very useful. As usual, the technology is not the hard part; setting up the rules is.