Fear of wikis and blogs at a corporate level
August 30, 2005 5:16 AM   Subscribe

How do you explain the reluctance (hesitation) for developing blogs and wikis (and social softwares in general) on the big companies' intranets (if you have succeeded so far please contact me) ?
posted by vincentm to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The desire to compartmentalize information to protect the advantage of people who know key information? Lack of understanding about what blogs and wikis are and what they can contribute to the bottom line? I have no idea if this unwillingness to use the tools is a serious problem, but these would be two of the things I'd guess would cause hesitation to adopt them.
posted by socratic at 5:30 AM on August 30, 2005

A lot of people worry about employees 'wasting' time on such things. Their misguided work ethic leads them to frown upon anything that isn't directly related to immediate productivity.
posted by malevolent at 5:48 AM on August 30, 2005

Response by poster: E-mail already represents a huge amount of wasted time (funny powerpoints and porn movies...). But smart use can lead to a better productivity (I think).
posted by vincentm at 6:13 AM on August 30, 2005

Best answer: Liability. Blogs and Wikis, by their nature, have zero centralized control. Big companies need to protect themselves from stupid/incorrect/law-breaking/contract-breaking things their employees say.

For example, what do you do when...

... a disgruntled employee starts mouthing off?
... someone accidentally leaks some sensitive news?
... someone, at a senior level, starts contradicting corporate policy?
... someone starts talking about "the hot new girl upstairs in art"?
posted by mkultra at 7:36 AM on August 30, 2005

It's because the internet is already a huge source of time-wastage in offices everywhere. It's huge and out-of-control. In every company I've ever worked for, the management hasn't known what to believe: the euphoric, utopian, unrealistic conception of the internet and its productivity potential that they get from geek employees and the media, or the reality of the internet in actual offices: employees checking email, playing Snood and poker, and reading blogs and newspapers from 9–10 and 4–5 every day.

Obviously there can be benefits; but I think it's self-evident why a manager would be very reluctant to actually encourage employees to, for example, post to a blog. I don't think it has to do with some kind of stodgy control-freak Luddism. It's basically because the internet and email have created many headaches and productivity slow-downs.

In my own experience, the best way is to focus on process. For example, if you want to have a corporate wiki to share resources and knowledge, new content needs to be routed through an editor. Articles need to be rated and comments moderated or filtered outright. Etc.
posted by josh at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2005

I work at a .edu, and some of the resistance here is based on the perceived "faddishness" of blogs and wikis and lack of tech savvy (or willingness to learn new things) among many of our staff. Most of my coworkers are also very social people and prefer "face time" over any other form of communication.

I don't agree with either, but then if it were up to me, everyone would have IM/Rendezvous on for at least part of the day, and office communication would take place on a blog w/ comments, and collaboration on projects and reports would take place on wikis.
posted by whatnot at 7:45 AM on August 30, 2005

It's also, I'll add, because writing skills are very poor in many workplaces. Methods of communication and collaboration that depend on writing--email, wikis, blogs--can seem straightforward and easy to one person, and onerous and time-consuming to another. Some--perhaps many--people express themselves better in person than in writing; these people will understandably resist the wikification of the workplace.

It can be a challenge to implement a wiki, for example, if half of your office has no interest in writing comments and doesn't look forward to being represented by their written output. These people do not want to be 'left out.'
posted by josh at 7:55 AM on August 30, 2005

Response by poster: > Josh. I mainly agree with you but there is a great amount of knowledge that is already put down on MS Word documents, unshared among teams. These knowledge (information) producers could, in my humble opinion, switch easily from Word to a wikiwyg editor. The only big change would be that the information (if valuable outside the present team) would not stay in the sub-sub-sub folder of a hard drive or an email client but could be propagated (pulled or pushed via RSS) to "unpredicted" readers.

I hope my english is not to bad...
posted by vincentm at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2005

For wikis, Sarbanes-Oxley may be partly responsible. In today's regulatory climate, businesses are examining every facet of computer usage, and accountability must not only be established, but documented and possibly reported.

As for blogging, time spent writing is time not spent doing other tasks, and good writing eats up a lot of time. Unless the position calls for writing, the return on that investment is very difficult to determine.
posted by mischief at 10:03 AM on August 30, 2005

In this post-"Sarbanes/Oxley" business age, accountability must not only be documented, but possibly reported as well.
posted by mischief at 10:06 AM on August 30, 2005

Hmm, I thought that first comment had disappeared...
posted by mischief at 10:07 AM on August 30, 2005

employees checking email, playing Snood and poker

er, you don't need the internet to play snood (or solitaire, or the other things people did on computers in offices before the internet came along).

On topic, I have implemented a wiki for internal documentation in a research group I used to work in. It worked reasonably well, but the main problem was that no one wanted to actually add to it or change it. Wikis work best if everyone is using them, even if just to fix typos/small errors etc, but no one wanted to do that. One coworker of mine did pick it up and is probably still using it. Even if only a few people did modify it, though, it still was tremendously useful for documentation. But I'd guess the problem with wikis is that most people don't understand how they work enough to effectively make use of them.
posted by advil at 2:26 PM on August 30, 2005

We have blogs at work. No one uses them, me included. What am I going to write about? Most non-work blogs are just bitching and web links. Well, I'm not going to bitch about work stuff — that just creates a paper trail that can come back to bite you. And I'm not going to link to web stuff, because why would I do that on a work blog?

And at the most base level, if I actually talk about what I'm working on, I run into that compartmentalization thing. Not everyone who has intranet access should know our next product or our plans or our problems. Our intranet web access is basically assumed to be public, in a confidentiality sense, and I would have to respect that. What if our competitors got access?
posted by smackfu at 4:23 PM on August 30, 2005

I started using a wiki at work for documentation and as a knowledge base for the applications we support. I'd say I was the only user for maybe a year or so. I figured if I was the only one who found it useful it was still worth it, because it was easy for me to find any docs I needed. I did end up pointing others in my group to it and some of them found it useful, and even contribute to it now.

As for the liability part of it, use software that forces people to log in (I know that is somewhat anti-wiki spirit, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.)

As for time-wasting, years ago people misused the phones and copy machines, so being a responsible employee is not a new concept in the age of the internets...
posted by raster at 10:07 AM on August 31, 2005

I'm actually in the process of convincing MGT here at a small manufacturer to use wiki software. There are so many details to our processes that can and do change on a daily basis so wiki would be perfect to track the changes, inform the work groups & store a history.

I've got a start on getting the basic info in wiki form and I've shown off how easy it is to change & update to a couple of bigwigs but so far, I haven't had much luck getting MGT to see *why* we need this and how helpful it could be. I haven't given up and even if the company doesn't adopt it, I still find it a very useful tool just for myself (since my job is to be the gatekeeper of this info)
posted by jaimystery at 10:28 AM on August 31, 2005

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