Fluid Communication

Sharing information in your organization is much easier if you use some kind of knowledge base software. For large enterprises, there are plenty of choices, most aimed at the help desk or call center, but they might be overkill and expensive if all you are trying to do is make a central repository of the bits of information in the collective mind of your company. Here are three low-cost ideas for implementing a simple knowledge repository.

  • News Group Software —  There are plenty of easy to install and use newsgroup applications. I’ve had good experiences with Snitz, which is free and full-featured.
    • Advantages: Familiar interface, every edit is marked with author, support for alerting via e-mail is common
    • Disadvantages: Knowledge is in discussion/serial format, hard to edit old entries, linking to other entries can be hard, requires ability to install software on the server, may not support attachments

  • Wiki Software — A Wiki is a website where every page is editable by the reader. The best known public example is the WikiPedia, but the concept started at the Portland Pattern Repository. It’s a powerful idea, but depending on the exact software you use, it can be hard for some people to use. Here’s a list of wiki implementations.
    • Advantages: Everything is editable, linking is easy, free implementations are available, pro versions track users and edits
    • Disadvantages: Can be hard to use, requires ability to install software on the server, may not support attachments

  • Content Management Software — CMS tools can be as expensive as KnowledgeBase tools, but for ease of use and quality of the resulting site, they cannot be beat. I use CityDesk for this site and others (Note: as of 2007, I use RapidWeaver). It averages about $100 a user for contributors and $300 for the site designer, but for small sites, a free version is available.
    • Advantages: Complete control of resulting site, linking is easy, everything is editable, very easy to use, attachments usually supported
    • Disadvantage: Must set up templates, edits not usually logged

For some knowledge bases, a combination of these ideas can work very well—a news group for requests and a Wiki or CMS for official information, or a Wiki for internal use and a CMS for customer facing pages that need to look pretty.