Why our internal blog pilot failed

Our internal blog pilot has failed to move off the mark after a little more than a year. Here are what I think are the top reasons why. Note: This feedback should not be taken as “Why Radio Sucks”. It’s just a brainstorm of some of the reasons why it hasn’t taken off (yet?) within our particular organization. Most of the issues are probably things to watch out for regardless of the blogging tool being used.

What we did

We gave a copy of Radio to our most ardent “sharers of knowledge”. We basically painted a modest vision of what blogging could do for us internally, showed how the tool worked, and then let nature take its course. We gave each blogger space on an internal Zope server (running on Linux) and provided detailed instructions on setting up a category within Radio that would upstream to the Zope server.

Why it hasn’t grown like crazy

1. We made it harder than it had to be for people to upstream to the internal server

The blog pilot particpants are typically always on a client engagement. The Zope server sits on the intranet behind a firewall. You have to VPN to get to it. Most of the time that works but not always due to proxy configs at the client. So, upstreaming to the internal blog web server was an extra step for most and impossible for some, other than what little time could be spent at home or at the office upstreaming.

2. We didn’t index the blog content

Our Zope server does not currently get indexed by the corporate search engine. So, the content that does get created by our bloggers for the internal server doesn’t get seen by people who aren’t subscribing to those feeds.

3. We didn’t drive traffic to the blog content through the portal

This is related to the search engine point. One way to drive use would have been for people to get to valuable content and then ask, “Where did that come from?” or “What are you using to create that?”. We could have driven more traffic to the blog web server by dropping in a couple of RSS portlets on the main page of the portal.

4. Email is easier

As much as I hate getting “internal spam”, for most people, email is still easier to use when sharing links, news clippings, or thoughts on a topic. The client is almost always open on a user’s desktop and the interface is very familiar. And, many things you want to share about come in the form of email so you hit forward and go. Also, unless everyone is aggregating internal feeds religiously, you cannot be sure someone got your post. Email is closer to a guaranteed read.

Because not everyone uses an aggregator, I always felt like I had to do double-entry–post once on my blog and then send a link to my blog post via email to the people I thought would be interested but who don’t aggregate feeds.

5. Radio is still beyond “typical” corporate users

Although it is a relatively simple tool, I think Radio is still beyond “typical” corporate users. Yes, the install is fast and simple. Yes, you can be publishing in minutes. But, there are a few things that should be table stakes for a desktop tool that aren’t there yet. Reliable backup/recovery/migration procedures are a good example. Try installing Radio on a different computer than you have now and moving all of your posts and stories over intact, even if you are using the built-in backup tool. The two or three times I had to do this due to laptop swaps, I was able to get all of my posts, but the stories had an annoying feature where the original post date was updated to the file modified date. I’m not sure a non-technical user would be able to execute the recovery procedure.

Debugging and troubleshooting has also been an issue. If a business user is having trouble upstreaming and the events page doesn’t have an obvious indicator as to what’s wrong, it can be tough to figure out how to get them going again.

Modifying the navigation is another example. It is extremely easy to update the XML file that controls those links. But would our CxO be up for doing that? Maybe. Maybe not.

6. Radio is a desktop tool but sometimes you need to blog from anywhere

For the most part, I like that Radio is a client-side tool, but there have been times when I wished I could get to it from a different machine. I know you can set up a POP3 account to send mail to that Radio would look at, but that seemed lame. And, I know you can set up Radio for remote access, but for me I’m not sure that would work very well. Radio is installed on my laptop and my laptop is not always-on or always-connected.

7. We didn’t offer clear instructions on when to use a blog versus a teamroom

We have standardized on a teamroom technology for group collaboration. Usually, the subject area for a team room is a project or client engagement. Sometimes, though, it is more horizontal, like in the case of a teamroom focused on a particular vendor. We handed out Radio to our early adopter/collaboration junkie types and said, “Here’s this cool tool. You can aggregate RSS feeds from the net and each other’s blogs.” But, we didn’t clarify the types of things that should go in a blog versus when a teamroom is more appropriate.

I don’t think it is too late for blogging to catch on here at Navigator. And, I will continue to use Radio because I like the tool despite some minor annoyances. But, the items listed here are going to have to get addressed to re-energize the original pilot group and to grow it beyond that.

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