The Intranet is Dead – Long Live the Intranet!

What’s your corporate intranet look like?

Some recent blog posts confirm my impression that the old command-and-control, edited-by-someone-in-HR intranet is being quietly replaced by a combination of wikis, blogs, and social bookmarking type applications.

First, Andrew McAfee describes the Avenue A | Razorfish use of MediaWiki:

What I found most interesting about the company was its own Intranet. To hear David, Ray, and Amy tell it, the company’s traditional static Intranet — the place where an employee would go to look up benefits information or peruse the latest press releases — still exists, but has been marginalized by a suite of Enterprise 2.0 tools.

I like the way they are leveraging flickr,, and digg to ingest content from the internet into their intranet, and gain from some collaborative filtering. (A few other bloggers, however, have noted potential privacy issues with this approach: see Tagging Behind the Firewall and Use of Online RSS and Bookmarking Services).

McAfee also focuses on their use of a “smart mixture of standardized and freeform content.” In other words, some structure is provided, but then users are allowed to mix-in (mash up?) within that loose structure.

Innovation Creators, in a post summarizing the Web 2.0 summit last week (“The Week Enterprise 2.0 Became Reality“), pointed to a demo of QEDWiki that IBM has posted on YouTube. It’s interesting, both because IBM is using YouTube to distribute it, but also because it’s a good demo of what’s possible with the “mashup” approach to development within large enterprises.

You can find a bit more about it here on DeveloperWorks, though I have to say it’s really way too difficult to get any real info about it. The video itself just points viewers to where they will find no mention of QEDWiki, and it isn’t found in their own search engine.

Is using YouTube here a way of getting around a too-structured content management infrastructure within developerworks / alphaworks?

Elsewhere, the IBM Watson Research Center is home to a project called Dogear, which tries to leverage social bookmarking functionality in an intranet context. In their words:

Dogear exploits the enterprise by allowing people to bookmark pages within their Intranet. In addition it uses enterprise directories to authenticate the user’s identity. This allows people to find experts on specific topics within the company. For example, a employee looking for someone knowledgeable in Java can look at the dogear “java” tag to see who has been bookmarking pages around that topic. Dogear will also show tags associated with “java,” which may help to refine the search. Once users have found a potential expert, they can see that person’s bookmarks, internal blog, and contact information. This form of expertise location helps spur collaboration and sharing of resources within the company.

Of course, one has to have an intranet large enough for social bookmarking to make sense. The project is described in greater detail in an article from Queue magazine.

At Optaros, I don’t think we ever had a first-generation Intranet to be supplanted. Our corproate intranet is in MediaWiki (the software behind Wikipedia as well as the AARF example in McAfee’s post above). Here’s my “employee” page:

Many Optaros employees blog regularly (I’ve got a subset of that list in my blogroll widget in my left sidebar) externally, but we also have an installation of Roller in place for internal blogs, which are aggregated together (along with a Technorati feed on ‘Optaros’) into a wiki page.

Additionally, we leverage Trac (with integration hooks to Subversion and Continuum) for project-based spaces. Here’s an example from a made up client (Acme):


Finally, we also use Alfresco solution for document management, discussions, and collaborative spaces with workflow and version control.

Between all these tools and our internal IM Jabber server, we’ve got an embarrassment of riches when it comes to working collaboratively. In fact, we’ve removed all the barriers – so now there are no excuses for not collaborating.

What’s your organization doing to encourage user collaboration behind the firewall? Is the new mode adding to the existing corporate intranet, being developed in parallel to it, or replacing it?

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