Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Social Search for Knowledge Sharing

This was a presentation on a interesting community of practice development program run by the UK government. The project created a NING / Lotus Connections like environment for the 410 local community governments. These represent a workforce of 2.1 million people who deliver 700 common services to the population. The services range from marriage to road improvements and a total budget of 160 million pounds.
The goal of the project was to enable knowledge sharing across the local governments. This would allow a person in Chichester to learn from a similar project completed in Yorkshire. In addition, the groups would create a sense of community across the UK on various topics of interest. The tools provide a blog, a wiki, a library, a discussion forum, and search. There is no governance of the social networking application, communities have formed around the Cornish language as well as around road improvements.

The search implementation is interesting. It allows a community to identify the top 20 web sites for the community. It leverages Exalead's external Google like search engine to then search those web sites via a typical search box. From the results screen the user can further narrow the search by eliminating any of the web sites from the results. This gives the community the ability to dynamically create a custom domain of public web sites. This is similar to the functions EY has embedded within the Community HomeSpace product for internal search, but focused instead on the greater world wide web.

They are now able to leverage the social intelligence of the entire group, the "wisdom of the crowd". The feature has been taken up by 15% of the communities and the self reporting is very positive. Overall they find that the strength of the community reflects the skill of the community manager. A good community manager who keeps the conversation alive, ensures that discussion posts are followed up on, that the content added to the site is fresh, and who "weeds and feeds the garden" will have the strongest communities.

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