Originally posted 30-Jan-20

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Companion Webinar Recording

Social collaboration enables users to enhance content, build communities of practice, and share and reuse knowledge. In this first part of a three-part series, I’ll explain how content can be enhanced through social collaboration.

Social capabilities allow users to enhance content by tagging it, recommending it, and editing it. This form of collaboration starts with content published to knowledge repositories. Tagging makes the content easier to find. Clicking on a “Recommend” button helps identify the most useful content. And wikis allow content to be improved and expanded through editing by multiple users.

Tagging Content

Tagging is the process of adding non-hierarchical keywords or terms to published content. It allows related items to be listed, searched for, navigated to, and aggregated.

Tags are a form of metadata that can be applied by users to help them retrieve content according to their own view of how it should be categorized. Tags can be applied to documents, files, web pages, people, photos, music, and any other form of electronic content. These tags can also allow others to find content based on a folksonomy.

Recommending Content

Users of knowledge management repositories often ask for content rating systems for 1–5 stars similar to the user ratings offered by sites such as Amazon.com. That doesn’t work well when not at scale. The number of people who actually rate things on Amazon isn’t a very large number, but because there are so many people, it’s large enough to matter.

The scale of the Internet is far greater than that of most intranets. Inside of a company, the percentage of people who might actually rate a document is tiny. So the number of ratings given to any document in a repository may not be sufficient to yield useful results.

Typically, there are only two types of people who actually give a one-to-five-star rating on a document: the person who wrote it will give themselves five stars, and someone else who had some axe to grind will give them one star. You won’t get a useful rating.

It’s hard for most users to come up with a five-star rating. They have to struggle with, “Is this three or four or five?” so they may not do it at all. It’s better to ask simple questions such as, “Were you able to reuse this document?” That’s a yes or no question, and an easier one to answer. It’s akin to the Like button. If you click the Like button, you don’t have to think too hard about it. You either like it or you don’t. If you like it, you click Like. If you have to rate something one, two, three, four or five, you have to think about it. That’s a different dynamic.

A better approach is to offer a button: “Click here if you were able to reuse this document.” That’s a very objective statement. You either were able to reuse it or you weren’t. If a document’s button is clicked a lot, that’s probably a document that you’ll want to promote or have appear higher in search results.

To enable the most valuable content to be readily found, add an “I reused this” or “I found this useful” button to all content. This is similar to a “Like” button but more specific. Encourage users to click on this button for content they were able to reuse. And allow content to be tagged with “recommended” or “good example” or “proven practice” to help it stand out.

Editing Content

The best way for published content to be enhanced by those other than the original contributor is to post it in a wiki. Wikis are web pages that allow users to easily add, remove, edit, and change most available content. They are effective for collaborative writing and self-service web site creation and maintenance.

A wiki can be edited by anyone, thus making it easy to collaborate on writing a document, creating a website, or collecting information on a topic. It has been most successfully used in Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia that has achieved dramatic levels of contribution and use.

Within organizations, wikis have been used to create internal equivalents of Wikipedia for knowledge about the organization and its activities. They are very well-suited for the production of documentation by teams of writers and editors, as the shared editing capability is ideal for this task. Wikis are good for co-developing meeting agendas. They are also useful for collecting diverse inputs, links to other sites, and multiple points of view.

In the second part of this series, I will discuss how to build communities of practice.

Read my posts for Lucidea’s Think Clearly blog.

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