intranet IAQ

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Some intranet-related insufficiently asked questions (IAQ) that tend to make intranet projects more successful, or work with less friction and more early progress. See wiki FAQ for questions commonly asked about the base technology used in this intranet, that being a wiki. See new wiki user for a workshop agenda and wiki best practice for a list of habits you will probably want to acquire.

Do I have to learn this? It's hard.[edit]

Yes, learning is hard. But it's not as hard as failing at your ultimate goal because you didn't collaborate effectively enough with other people. Wiki collaboration is not as hard as any other method of collaborating. So this kind of excuse amounts to whining. There's a lot of evidence that becoming a good wiki intranet user pays off:

critical job skill[edit]

Learning how to effectively use an intranet, or how to maintain or manage one, is a skill no corporate employee can possibly avoid learning in this century. If you would prefer a job that does not requiring learning how to use advanced intranet technology, it's most likely a poorly paid unskilled service job. In such jobs, people will tell you what to do, and they'll be reading their instructions to you out of an intranet. Other people will be writing those instructions for them to read to you and clarifying them on the phone, updating them to avoid later confusion. Still other people will be managing those writers and researchers and support people. You will have to decide for yourself where in this service chain you wish to be. The question is not how hard it is, it's how hard is it to work with no control over how your job is defined and evaluated. It's the most dedicated intranet users that in general will have such control, whether they have management titles or not. They even influence accountants and lawyers and stockholders, because those all rely on information assembled first in intranets.

the Manna scenario[edit]

If you doubt this, consider spending some of your own time reading Manna, a short novel in which an artificial intelligence (almost certainly created originally as an intranet and maintained by intranet users at least initially) radically changes American work. Ask yourself if the scenario of the early chapters is feasible, with service workers becoming more monitored and more controlled either by intranets or artificial intelligences or both. And what job you would want in that world. Of course the efficient economy generated by intranets and headsets has upside as well.

you're just in time[edit]

Learning new technology is key to getting ahead. Imagine you were asked to master a typewriter in 1910, a telephone in 1920, email in 1980, video conference chairing in 1990. Doing so would have opened up some career opportunities. It's not too late to be a semantic wiki pioneer in your organization or industry. You're just in time.


I'm afraid of making a serious mistake and looking stupid. How can I avoid that?[edit]

First, wikis are not fragile. You actually can't make a mistake so serious it can't be undone. If you could, it would be a mistake in the wiki configuration, not a mistake made by the users.

Second, you should be aware that many policies and wiki best practices inhibit others from holding new users to higher standards than they can meet. Wiki users are advised to assume goodwill, be bold and let others be bold, welcome open links as a guide on what needs more explanation or definition, and practice political virtues to avoid unnecessary tension.

Third, you should be aware that your managers are also new users and even more afraid of looking stupid. So rather than avoiding it, why not dive in to try to help them when they make an error? Then no one looks stupid.

There are lots of technologies I could use. Which ones do I use for what purpose?[edit]

Wiki[edit]

Wiki is the primary interface to the NB public intranet. However there are many ways to exchange internal information, and the wiki is merely the best archive for all of it. Other interfaces:

Feeds[edit]

Every wiki page has an associated list of related changes which you can subscribe to as a feed. Web browsers or extensions can track Atom feeds or RSS feeds for you. You can also subscribe to recent changes as a feed, to specific user contributions or your own watchlist. Browsers that directly support this include Firefox, Opera & Safari.

Talking[edit]

As you walk around the office or do field work, you will find that you sometimes have to mention wiki pages (with instructions, answers to questions, etc.). Because a wiki page URL is very predictable, you should not have to do more than name the page, if it's named correctly, for others to find it. That is, say "on wiki page be_bold you will find some good reasons to just go ahead and edit the wiki without asking anyone." It's also wise to verify agreements made verbally sometimes on user talk pages to enable followup.

Printing and non-web documents: Word/Excel, PDF, press releases[edit]

For the same reason, you will find it easy to add wiki URLs to printed, PDF or Microsoft Word documents distributed internally. Among other things, this make it relatively easy to distribute invitations to participate, since the URL is easy to just type in at the browser, and also easy for someone using other software to remember without having to look it up in the wiki.

Email[edit]

You can also get email notices to tell you when specific pages change but this isn't recommended - save email for real conversations. You can email other users if they have authorized this and given their email address.

Chat[edit]

Keeping chat windows (Microsoft Messenger, jabber, Gtalk, ICQ, etc.) open as you edit is a wiki best practice so you can coordinate with other users without having to stay on the headset with them. This may be preferable for fast typists or those who are coordinating with many people at once.

Phone[edit]

A cordless/wireless headset phone is very very strongly recommended. Corded phones do not allow you to get up and get a document or go to someone's office. Headsets free both your hands to type. You need your feet and hands at all times, and moving around and standing up improves bloodflow to the brain and improves ideas. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at a stand-up desk. Seymour Cray dug a tunnel from his basement to the nearby woods by hand while designing the world's fastest computer in the 1980s.

Public talks: radio, speeches[edit]

Again because wiki URLs are easy to remember and speak and type in, citing them in public TV and radio interviews, or live public speeches, is a good practice. You should not however be mentioning any intranet URLs in such public talks, as they're invisible to the public.

Licensing[edit]

This page is based on CC-by-nc-sa licensed material and can be adapted and distributed freely for nonprofit use, or within this wiki or the NB public intranet. Use beyond that may require other authorization. See internal:copyrights for details of which licenses apply. The use of open content accelerates development of the wiki but requires sharing generic improvements. See NB public intranet terms of use for a description of the legal implications of editing this wiki.