I received a number of thoughtful responses to my recent thoughts on "The conversational enterprise," including this one from Ben Ko:
"As a project manager, I wish I had an authoring interface that has the same ease of use as weblog writing interfaces, but allows for more logical structuring of information, rather than putting everything on a calendar roll."
There's a subject near and dear to my heart! A couple of years ago I predicted that Weblogs would emerge within the enterprise as a great way to manage project communication. I'm even more bullish on the concept today. If you're managing an IT project, you are by definition a communication hub. Running a project Weblog is a great way to collect, organize, and publish the documents and discussions that are the lifeblood of the project and to shape these raw materials into a coherent narrative. The serial nature of the Weblog helps you make it the project's newspaper of record. This kind of storytelling can become a powerful way to focus the attention of a group. The desire to listen to a compelling story and find out what happens next is a deep human instinct.
Although Weblogs are typically calendar-oriented, they are not restricted to chronological views. You can, for example, easily categorize items. Popular and inexpensive blogging tools, including Radio UserLand and Movable Type, make it trivial to do this. What's more, each category can produce its own RSS feed. So if you categorize items by task or team, readers can subscribe according to their interests.
The value of a project Weblog has a lot to do with getting everybody onto the same page -- literally. You want to deliver a manageable flow on the home page, drawing attention to the key events in the daily life of the project. To do this well, think like a journalist. You're not a journalist, you say? Don't worry, I'm not one either, I just play one on TV. Really, I'm an information architect. And by a happy coincidence, many of the principles and techniques I've learned over the years -- designing software user interfaces and information displays -- turn out to be the same ones that journalists use.
The newspaper editor's mantra is "heads, decks, and leads" -- in other words, headlines, summaries, and introductory paragraphs. These devices are, in fact, tools for managing a scarce and precious resource: the reader's attention. A well-written title (or subject header if you happen to be composing an e-mail message) is your first, best, and often only chance to get your message across. In the Web publishing game, a title plays a number of key roles. It identifies an item on the home page, in the RSS feed, and in the results list returned by any search engine. In the last case, Movable Type has the advantage over Radio UserLand since each item gets its own HTML page and HTML document title.