THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE HUMAN KNOWLEDGE – Working the Crowd

THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE HUMAN KNOWLEDGE

If the PR announcement generates excitement and buzz, and people want to find out more information about your product, new technique or news disclosure, they will go to your site for information. If the only place to go for information is the official press site, people may get frustrated at the lack of news other than the official PR release. Having an information channel such as a blog, populated by key people who have information and opinions, gives a human perspective to the PR announcement and encourages dialogue with the company. This leads to a perspective of greater transparency and honesty.

Companies that permit their staff to have a public voice and permit them to broadcast to the outside world through their blogs, often gain benefits from using similar forms of collaboration inside the company. There is a wealth of collaboration tools available for use inside the company network. There are applications with embedded presence for instant updates, alerts for document changes and broadcasts, and collaborative applications such as internal wikis. Collaboration tools like these can ensure that companies can effectively share their intellectual property (IP) safely inside their network boundary and behind their security firewall. Staff realise that often some of the simplest ways for teams to collaborate is through the use of team wikis.

Wikis are a great way to get interaction from customers and partners. Wikipedia, a website which contains over 15 million articles, is a wiki. It can be edited and added to by anyone who wishes to modify details on a page. It is imperative that corporate entities have a presence on Wikipedia giving information about the company. If your company is global, then there is a further opportunity for you to reach customers across the non-English-speaking world by localising versions of the corporate page. Almost 80% of articles in Wikipedia are written in languages other than English. For example, the BCS (search for “British Computer Society“ in Wikipedia) has its own page. The page includes history, membership details, and certification and there are links to regional BCS branches throughout the UK.

Wikis, by their design, are made to be edited. Unfortunately, some careless editing of a page may do considerable damage to the body of work already created. This damage, whether intentional or otherwise, means that there needs to be some kind of alert mechanism in place to prevent destruction of work already completed. Wikipedia does have a huge problem with wiki editing, both from reporting of inaccurate information, and people deliberately or otherwise falsifying Wikipedia entries. This malicious editing is termed wiki vandalism. Wikipedia defines vandalism as:

Removing all or significant parts of a page’s content without any reason, or replacing entire pages with nonsense. Sometimes referenced information or important verifiable references are deleted with no valid reason(s) given in the summary. ’ An example of blanking edits that could be legitimate would be edits that blank all or part of a biography of a living person.7


Some wiki vandalism is difficult to discover, however. False or misleading information in a regular technical document on your intranet may escape detection. This information will probably be plausible. It may appear to be true but is deliberately designed to obfuscate the true meaning. Misinformation like this could lead to significant issues with knowledge transfers within the company, especially if the mistake has been made deliberately. There must be an effective way to track who is using the wiki, what changes are being made, and by whom. An audit trail is an effective way of recovering your data, especially if an effective alerting system is used. This becomes even more critical when that wiki information is on a site posted on your externally facing website and could be compromised by anyone. In this case, an effective alerts strategy, coupled with proactive monitoring of the site and an effective rollback policy for wiki pages, will alleviate any concerns about unscrupulous vandalism.

To make effective connections with your audience it is important to monitor your feeds and respond to your customers’ concerns and comments. Setting alerts on blogs, so that you receive an email every time anyone posts a comment on an entry, will enable you to be responsive. This is good PR for the person who posted the original comment, but it also helps to stop your site being spammed by any bots that are using your blog to draw attention to their own blog. These automated blogs typically exist to drive traffic to their own site, and associated advertisements, and they place a link on your blog in the form of a trackback or link in a comment. These links are used by Google as a measure of how popular these external sites are, and are used to increase the page rank of that site. Again, having an effective alert process in place will enable you to remove the links to these sites before the web crawlers have indexed the site and artificially inflated their site popularity rankings.