Intranet 2.0: one more bandwagon jumper

I get the feeling there will be a lot of tired tech buzzwords from fads gone by which will be wheeled out soon with the suffix "2.0" bolted on.
Written by Paul Montgomery, Contributor on

I get the feeling there will be a lot of tired tech buzzwords from fads gone by which will be wheeled out soon with the suffix "2.0" bolted on.

I'm envisioning the vendors as a pack of slobbering weresheepdogs, herding a shambling mass of zombies wearing brand new tank tops emblazoned with 2.0 across the chest. But then, I may have watched too many episodes of Buffy.

The latest old chestnut to get a new coat of paint is the humble intranet. Kathleen Gilroy posted about her co-authorship with fellow consultant Bill Ives of a chapter of a book entitled Transforming Your Intranet, and linked to a PDF file of said chapter: Preparing for Intranet 2.0: how to integrate new communication technology into your intranet.

The piece starts off with a lengthy explanation of RSS, stating that it "has become the language of syndication of content between all the systems on the web". This is slightly hyperbolic, since short shrift is given in the piece to Atom as a syndication format, one which in many cases would be better suited for corporate uses due to RSS's manifold peculiarities. It would be more accurate to say XML, of which RSS and Atom are flavours, is the language of syndication, not just of text content but also many other backend applications. The chapter uses the word RSS where "feed" would be more appropriate. That's just another indicator of the success of RSS's proponents in branding.

The links provided for RSS resources on the Web are functional, though anyone downloading the freeware RSS feed creators might come away a bit under whelmed with the DIY nature of the programs, such as this Perl script or this Windows executable. The value of feeds in an intranet is not to plonk yet another interface for publishing static data on the desktop -- since if you already have an intranet then presumably you already have a way for anyone to publish on that intranet -- but in the syndication of that content alongside automated output from backend systems. A perfunctory case study from Siemens illustrates this point.

The section on blogging is excellent, explaining the different kinds of corporate blogs, along with who would write them and why they would be started. The links for employee blogging guidelines of Yahoo, IBM, Sun, Plaxo and Hill & Knowlton are also valuable. These are real examples of battle-hardened corporate policy, setting up the templates which many other 2.0 pioneers will follow.

Tagging as a replacement for taxonomies also gets a mention, along with a few paragraphs about IBM's internal testing of the concept. Personally I don't hold much stock in case studies of vendors "eating their own dog food", as the tasteless saying goes. This is a very new area fraught with difficulty, so it's not surprising that it is not covered in great depth. Many more words will have to be written about tagging before we come to an understanding of exactly how it will work in practice inside the firewall, since its philosophy is so starkly different from the approach used up to now. Mashups are glossed over, with further extensive use of IBM as an example. No mention is made of the technology that allows mashups to occur -- open APIs -- but that is not surprising since it doesn't appear to be the specialty of the authors. So-called learning networks are the specialty of Kathleen Gilroy's Otter Group, however, and she spends a few pages on it towards the end.

One is always wary in reading reports on new technologies by people whose living could be made by implementing it. Nevertheless, parts of this PDF are worth holding onto if you want to educate yourself and others about some of these new technologies, and there are more than a couple interesting links in there as well.

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