by November 17, 2005 0 comments



The JAM magazine (31,000 copies) sometime back ran a story on IIPM (Indian Institute of Planning and Management), questioning some of its claims. The story appeared on the magazine’s website and that should have been the end of the story. On August 5, Gaurav Sabnis, an IBM employee and an avid blogger linked to the JAM story and questioned the credentials of IIPM and its leading light, Arindam Chaudhury. On October 4, IIPM 

responded with a legal notice to Sabnis, which he promptly posted on his blog, and this was followed up with a call to IBM threatening to burn the IBM notebooks they purchase in front of their Delhi office if the post was not withdrawn. 

Gaurav reacted by resigning from IBM and posting all this again on his blog. By now, blogs the world over were linking to his blog, giving commentary of their own and even “investigating” IIPM further. 

By the end of the day, mainstream media was playing catch up catch up. And this in a country where Internet penetration still has a long way to go.Welcome to the bold new world where individuals and not organizations not only set the agenda, but also act and report on it much faster and in a way that traditional organizations never can. Welcome to the world of community-content creation.

PHPBB Tech enablers
Bulletin Boards (Forum) are a platform for people to have discussions online. phpBB is an immensely popular and free open source bulletin board system having a large community of users providing free support and modifications. It runs on PHP supporting a variety of databases (MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, Microsoft Access and Oracle). phpBB can either be put online on the Internet or can be deployed on an
Intranet.
phpBB has slowly and steadily become a standard among all kinds of users throughout the world, and is one of the most widely used bulletin board packages in the world. It eliminates the need for one to be a Web development master in order to create and manage online communities. One of the major benefits of
phpBB is that with the right guidance, anyone with a basic HTML knowledge and keenness to learn will be able to create, customize and manage their own online community. Just a blooming community of enthusiasts, latent visitors or simply like-minded people can increase both the popularity of your website and also create a reason for repeat visits.
Since its release in the year 2000, phpBB has been an extremely useful tool for developers to seek and share information to better the skills of the community on the whole. 
A good example of such an implementation can be seen at http://forums.pcquest.com. A varied genre of communities ranging from entertainment, education to business have evolved on
phpBB-powered forums around the world.

The traditional model of content creation has been one of collaboration. Take the
example of PCQuest itself. 

One of the reviewers in the team writes an article that is checked by a senior in the team. The
article then moves to the copy desk where it is checked for language and readability,
before it moves to the design department. From there, it traverses back for proofreading and checking before finally
going to the printing department from where it is sent to the press. This is a chain of collaborative activities that takes up some cycle time, from the creation of the content, to the time it reaches you. Also, the number of items that we can create is limited by our team size. 

Impact
Frontline Journalism
Salam, now 31 years old, is an architect who lived in Baghdad during the 2003 Iraq War. He setup a blog titled ‘Where is Raed?’ to communicate with his Palestinian friend (Raed) who didn’t check his e-mail often. ‘dear_raed’ is hosted at Blogspot.com and contains common-man insights into Iraqi life and problems pre-war and post-war. His intensely casual accounts during the war was free from ideological ranting and rhetoric and sparked off many public debates on why the war was being fought. People who were against the US effort were influenced by Salam’s descriptions of Saddam’s atrocities. Likewise those who were with the US were moved by how the common man was being affected by the war. Of course, a lot of discussion also centered on who ‘Salam Pax’ (Pax being a pseudonym Salam posts under) was. He was variously attributed to be a US agent and an Iraqi politician’s son. Pax continued to update his blogs inspite of Internet outages towards the end of the war. For some time, his blog was blocked by the government, yet his blogs streamed out. All the war-time blogs from 2003 have been collected and published as ‘Salam Pax — The Baghdad Blog’ by Guardian Books. Incidentally, Salam now works as a journalist for The Guardian, who tracked him down and told his story to the world.
His blog is linked to in an amazing 9,260 Web pages around the world. This magazine of Canada lists his blog as one of six 
websites that offer a view of the war sans armchair journalism.
Community content 
Forums
Wiki 
Blogs
Social networks 
Podcasts

This is the traditional collaborative approach to content creation that is followed by everyone from newspapers to TV to filmmakers and every other content creator, be it for a full publication, or a marketing brochure.

jargon
Blogs Blogroll Trackback Wikizen PermaLink Splogging
Internet
diaries, maybe public or private. Popular blogging software like
WordPress has made this a media the fastest conduit for news, gossip
and rumor propagation
A list of frequently
visited blogs, posted by bloggers on their sites
A linking system
introduced by Moveable Type and now by all blogging systems that let
posters track who has visited and linked to their entries. (See also
PingBack)
People who frequent
Wiki sites and are members are many of them.
Links on the web change
regularly. Permalinks do not change and this helps webmasters link
to pages deep within sites with the assurance that it will always
work.
The art of creating
fake blogs (‘spam blogs’) in an effort to drive up search engine
ranking on websites and get more hits.

Community-content creation is exactly the opposite of this model. Instead of a team, it relies on the individual. Instead of collaboration, it depends on propagation, and instead of an assured cycle time, its key differentiator is the spontaneous nature of the propagation (over the Internet). While collaborative content creation is limited by the size of the available team, and its skill sets, community content relies on the availability of thousands of individuals, spread across time zones and over inaccessible geographies, with a range of talent and capabilities that an organized team can never match.

Jargon
RSS Wikisquatting Wiki RDF Moderator PingBack
Really
Simple Syndication, is an XML-based language that describes various
resources like Web pages, downloadables, etc. Webmasters use RSS to
generate a ‘What’s New’ list
The practice of using a
Wiki site as a personal website.
Derived from the
Hawaiian word ‘wiki wiki’, it means ‘rapid’. Wiki is a
community-centric system, where any visitor can edit pages and
generate as well as improve content
RSS 1.0 is also known
as RDF, this is Resource Description Framework
Usually
applicable on a forum, these are users of the forum tasked with
maintaining orderliness and decorum on the forum and making sure
other users adhere to that site’s policies.

Because of its very nature, community content displays all the characteristics of a mob at work. More often than not, it is disruptive of the established order. Lacking in an established leadership and hierarchy, its effectiveness on a given issue is difficult to predict, but once the ‘community’ or the ‘mob’, depending on the way you want to see it, gets galvanized, seemingly no force on earth can match or stop its impact. So, of the millions of community initiatives, only a few reach mass proportions, and the ones that do reach mass movement proportions do so rather quickly.

Community content initiatives use the basic tenets of the Internet-instantaneous, cheap, and minimal controls-to work their wonders.

Just DO it
MoBlog
On a moblog one can post content to the Internet from a cellphone and this needs only the device to have MMS facility activated. Choose from among many websites that support moblogs for free and create one of your own. Consider what site caters to with regards to posts limit per day, image size limit, RSS support and other special features. Other than posting on Blogs, such message (with photographs or video) can even be circulated via MMS.
A person with a cellphone with a camera can take even high-resolution 
photographs
These photos can be posted on moblogs via 
e-mail, with both pictures and text 
The blog then contains the latest images and news, faster than TV or news can get it out. This creates serious competition for traditional media

While, so far we have talked of Blogs, they are not the only form of community content. They are one of the latest. We would define community
content initiatives as any that enables an individual to post his or her opinion without moderation, online, and allows others to link to it. Currently there are atleast five major
community content platforms (see adjacent box).

Impact
US Elections 2004 Blogout
Once a techie phenomenon, blogging emerged as an invaluable tool in the US Presidential Elections 2004. Candidates and supporters used Blogging across the spectrum for tasks as varied as political gossip (Druge Report) to fundraising. Leading the candidates into the blogging revolution was Howard Dean in the democratic primaries. Through a network of websites and blogs, he created a dedicated Netizen-following. This also helped him in fundraising. He was the first US Presidential candidate to create a blog (blogforamerica.com). Tech-enabled youth voters were perhaps targeted for the first time in the most direct way using such blogs. 
During the same elections, Dan Rather, the celebrated anchor from CBS pulled off a coup of sorts, producing documents purportedly written by George Bush’s commanding officer from his days as a cadet in the armed forces. 
That should have meant a huge setback to Bush. Right wing blogs soon got into the act first questioning and soon proving that the document was of suspicious origin.
CBS withdrew the story; George Bush went on to win a second term and Daniel Irving Rather, Jr retired from anchoring!

Of these, online forums are one of the oldest, having their origins in the bulletin board systems (BBS) of the pre-Internet days. Given their
origins, they are the most moderated of all community-content initiatives. Online forums (such as http://forums. pcquest.com) let people post their opinions about a topic and string together opinions posted under the same thread. 
Since forums are established by someone else, there is some amount of moderation
of the content posted.

Impact
PCQuest Forums
As a technology magazine, PCQuest has maintained an online community interface for a long time now. It started off way before the Internet revolution happened, with PCQ Online, a single telephone line BBS.
The PCQuest Forums, at http://forums.pcquest.com, had a quite beginning on Christmas day of 2003, the immediate objective being to get reader inputs for
PCQLinux 2004. It started off with a custom created piece of software, with just threading support. We soon replaced it with the current phpBB run site. Also, the objective of the forum was expanded to include three things. Firstly, we moved our existing email based support activities (for
PCQlinux and for other topics) to the forum. We started using the forum for getting reader feedback on our articles and finally, we use the forum for getting article ideas!
At the time of this writing, we are just touching 24,000 posts. How do we keep running it? What are the issues involved in soliciting community participation? What goes on behind the scenes?
There is no rigid hierarchy or set of rules at the forum. Any body can post anything, as long as it is remotely linked to technology (General interest posts like Sania Mirza’s current ATP ranking also gets added once in a while, though no one has yet posted on Ganguly’s captaincy!). Direct personal attacks and abusive language is frowned upon and removed by moderators. Incidentally, the moderators include even a person from outside the PCQuest organization. 
Have we had trouble? Yes of course! How can you have a system that takes public input without having any trouble at all. But it is mostly easily managed.
First things first, moderators are not Gods. Over moderation can kill any interesting debate. So, someone has to keep an eye on overzealous moderators. That is the job of the Editor. Any comment on the magazine-good, bad and the ugly is welcome and is never edited out. That is part of the policy. That is why the forum exists.
If users tend to abuse the system, in terms of language or content, then polite warnings often do the trick. So far, we have banned only one user from the forum (the software has facilities to ban by name, by incoming IP address and so on). More often than not, corrective action is over private email from the moderators to the offenders, than through public warnings. Recently we have had one instance where things went a bit too far in a slanging war between two members at the forum. An ultimatum to both was publicly given when all other
efforts failed. Did it succeed? Well the fighting stopped, but one of them is still sulking!
One facility we do not provide at the forum, that users have asked for, is private messaging (the ability to send a private message to another member). We feel that that is not required for meeting the objectives of the forum.
We also keep experimenting with new things. We are trying to build up a repository of the history of
PCQuest. 
Ocassionally we post an article or two before it gets printed. Those experiments go on.
Beyond our own forum, we constantly search for discussions and comments about the magazine and about the articles in it. We come across them, allover the world. Mostly, these are of two types-availability (of the lack of it) of copies and comments about specific articles. 
Wherever be such comments, anyone in the team coming across a comment is expected to take action to resolve the issue or to escalate it.

Wiki is where individuals from across the globe collaborate to create, edit and update content on a page. The traditional method of creating the page, laying it out and subsequently updating it on the server is given the go by. You edit or add to content posted by someone else on the same page as it was originally posted. Wiki’s are traditionally used to collate knowledge, as in
www.wikipedia.org

WordPress Tech enablers
This free personal Web publishing system removes the need for you to be a Web developer. WordPress runs on PHP with a MySQL backend and requires minimal technical knowledge to install it as a weblog or website and manage frequently updated web content on it. It lets you manage both static pages as well as dynamic content. The dashboard (control panel) of WordPress ensures access and modification of everything related to the weblog effortlessly.
It allows multiple authors for the weblog and each author can be assigned different levels of access for creating and modifying content. The Blog generated is web standards compliant XML, XHTML and CSS and supports RDF, RSS2.0 and ATOM feeds. Any of its pages, or sections can be subscribed to by visitors and the content linking suits both human and machine understandability. Inter-blog communication is made possible as WordPress comes ready for PingBack and TrackBack. WordPress supports posting by email as well and posts of an extended period of time get systematically archived as suited (yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, categorically or
author-wise). Community building becomes possible through the use of comments, trackbacks and pingbacks. Also creating
a ‘blogroll’ acknowledges frequently read good blogs or related blogs. The latest release also protects the Weblogs from being
Splogged.

Blogs are weblogs, and originaly were online diaries maintained by individuals. Soon they evolved into online commentary, and what has made them a raging success is ease with which you can create a blog on a site such as blogspot. com and the ability to hyperlink to other blogs and sites easily. Blogs have given rise to Moblogs (blogs updated over the mobile phone), Plogs (picture blogs) Vlogs (Video blogs) and Splogs (spam blogs). For more on these, refer to the
jargon strip in this story.

Impact
The middle finger that wasn’t there
In the news for all wrong reasons was the middle finger that Indira Nooyi, CFO and President of PepsiCo,
apparently gave the US. The bloggers got it wrong. But both Pepsi and Nooyi had to apologize
nevertheless.
The issue revolved around a speech that Ms Nooyi made to the graduating class of the Columbia Business School where she said, “…I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents. The index finger is Europe… while the middle finger is the US…the middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively.”
Word of mouth reports of the middle finger in the speech led to the outburst by rightwing bloggers who called it shameful, condescending and patronizing to stab the back of US that made her rich and famous. Soon, it was all over the Net and the TV. By day, newspapers here in India were also running their
versions of the story. End result? A public apology by Nooyi and Pepsi after saturated coverage across the world.

Social networks are more like online clubs. They allow people to come together and find each other and form groups based on commonality of interests. There are social networking sites that cater to almost every need, from
business networking to friendship to dating and marriage. 

Organizations have realized the potential of Blogs to bring their customers and audience closer and share an interaction with them on a one-to-one basis. Employees are increasingly encouraged to maintain blogs or participate on third-party Blogs

Podcasts are audio (and now video) files (of commentary or thoughts, not music) made available online. The word has its origin in ipod + broadcast, with the practice originally being to create and download these files to an iPod. They are not as amenable to hyperlinking as with text. 

Just
DO it
RSS
for your site
RSS or Really Simple
Syndication has completely revolutionised the way we treat
information. If the Internet is the un-ending repository of
information, then RSS is the ultimate delivery channel. Creating RSS
is so easy that you could do it with notepad! You would however need
to be a bit geeky. If you don’t want to be type in XML RSS tags,
there are websites that create the code for you. These can then be
updated to reflect the latest happenings.
Online
tools allow you to create RSS code by simply filling in a form that
describes your content
Once
that is done, the generated code is to be copied and saved as
‘.RSS’ file
Upload the RSS file to
your Web site and add a link to it on your Web pages with a single
line of HTML as shown in the screenshot above. This automatically
reveals the file to RSS-readers.

There are more technologies that disrupt the traditional model of Content distribution. The most prominent of these
is the RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS enables the user to have a synopsis of the content in a page, to help
decide whether to visit the page or not. This strikes at the very root of page view count based online business models and also of most online advertising models.

Just DO it
Wiki for Enterprise
Your enterprise, small or large can use Wiki to collaboratively share knowledge. And leveraging its dynamic editability, you can maintain quality and consistency of that information. Setting one up is easy. If you can do with one hosted on the Internet, there are dedicated Wiki-hosts that can be used by individuals or enterprises alike.
Go to Wikispaces.org, fill in the form and click Join. Use the link in the confirmation e-mail to finish setup You can setup licensing for your Wikispace. This adds a footer to each page with links to pre-created texts of each of license you select
You can add your own pages, with formatting, links, and images, creating a regular HTML page, using a simple online editor Each page can host its own mini discussion among members or the general public according to your settings. You will be notified of messages on e-mail

When a person edits a wiki page, both the previous and new versions are saved separately.A visitor can view all the versions by clicking the ‘History’ link at the top of that page. If you want a wiki on your intranet, you can use software like Twiki, Wikimedia or MediaWiki 

In this story we will see how organizations and individuals can use these disruptive technologies to their benefit.

Managing negatives
The huge mass of individuals who can develop content online, the randomness of their involvement and the fact that they could be nearer to the point of action than any media house can afford to be, means that there is no way traditional media can compete with community content. 

Consider the Gulf War. The US military spent billions of dollars embedding journalists within their ranks. News organizations like CNN and BBC spent many more. And what happened? They were all upstaged by Salam Pax, a lone blogger, resident of Baghdad, whose “inside story” of what life during times of war was infinitely more compelling than what any embedded journalist could dish out. 

view point
IIPM and the IBM Blogger: legal issues 
Rodney D Ryder (rodney@preconcept.com) leads Preconcept, a full service law firm with a cutting edge specialisation in technology, intellectual property and media laws. Rodney answers legal question raised by the Gaurav Sabnis vs the IIPM issue.
What legal protection does a blogger have
in the face of such a notice?

At the outset, one must confess sheer and utter bafflement at the notice. As a legal notice, it is unclear in making out the case against either the Blogger [Gaurav Sabnis] or his employer [IBM]. 
Coming to the defences, if this is suit for defamation; at the outset an attempt must be made to prove or try to prove criminal defamation. A Blogger can be liable for defamation, a civil suit, where the two essential criteria: 

  • Reputation of the plaintiff [in this case, IIPM]; and
  • Place of publication are satisfied.

The most important case of recent times on this issue, the Australian decision of Dow Jones v Gutnick [the full text of the case can be found at www.austlii.edu.au], has implications for worldwide litigation that deals with internet material. 
On appeal to the Australian High Court, Dow Jones argued that the defamation action should not be heard in Gutnick’s home state of Victoria because publication occurred where the article was uploaded onto the internet server-in the United States-and that was where the case should be heard. Gutnick maintained that publication occurred where the article was downloaded from Dow Jones’s website by subscribers-in Victoria.
The High Court commented that a claimant has the right to sue in any jurisdiction where the offending statement can be accessed, provided that the claimant has a sufficient connection to that jurisdiction. 
The court stated that the freedom to publish worldwide carries obligations to comply with the laws of those countries where material is published. Countering Dow Jones’s argument that the ‘single publication rule’ should be adopted (whereby publication of a work occurs only once-on the date of its first publication in a particular format), the court felt this may encourage publishers to locate their servers in jurisdictions such as the United States where defamation laws are defendant-friendly. 

What legal options does the other organization in the picture, the employer of the blogger, have: 

(a) With the blogger (b) With the party issuing the notice?
If the blogger uses official resources whether internet access or simply office time, it would be appropriate for the employer to chastise him especially when he does not specify that the views are his own and not that of his employer. It also depends on whether company policy allows to him to write in his personal capacity. 

The company can have recourse [as does indeed the blogger] to a suit for malicious and unlawful prosecution.

The legal notice talks of arrest warrants. Assuming the blogger has indeed committed a crime, what is it? Is it one that can lead to the bloggers arrest?
In this regard the legal notice is quite baffling! A legal notice is much akin to flexing one’s muscles or a display of strength before a probable fight [among other things!]. It is essential that the grounds for a potential complaint or suit be made out. Libel, as it might be, would not lead to arrest, especially as malicious intent would be very tough to prove.

The notice says “We are also providing your details to various corporations within India and abroad ” Does this constitute an offence against the blogger, against whom no crime has been proved (yet). If yes, what recourse do they have?
Another mystifying and bamboozling statement! Why should they do this? This is exactly what they are accusing the blogger of doing! That is, posting potential defamatory material on the Internet.
The notice further says “Be warned, your telephone numbers, physical addresses thereon, login details, network access mechanisms have all been documented, notarized and legally ratified through Google and blogspot. com”. 

What does “notarized and legally
ratified” mean in this context? Can these things be “notarized and legally ratified” through Google and blogspot?
If the learned counsel for IIPM means that records from Google, blogspot or any other site can be produced in a court of law as evidence; broadly speaking he would be right. 

The documents need to be produced along with the affidavit of an
expert witness. 

But “notarized and legally ratified” through Google and blogspot makes
no sense.

Assuming that the blogger has indeed raised a false accusation, what recourse does the injured party (IIPM in this case) have?
A suit for defamation of the kind Mr. Gutnick filed against Dow Jones; though preferably not of the kind that Oscar Wilde filed against the Marquis of Queensbury [The Marquis had accused Wilde of homosexuality, then forbidden by law in England. Wilde sued him for defamation. 

The Marquis was represented by Sir Edward Carson who ‘proved’ that Wilde was homosexual]. Facts are a defence to defamation. What is factually reported cannot be defamatory.

Assuming again that the original report (in jammag) is wrong, what is the nature of liability of a blogger, a forum or a wiki that: (a) just links to it and points out that it exists. (b) links to it and comments about it.

Merely pointing or linking would not invite liability, except contributory liability, which in this case is far fetched, but comments if not carefully worded could be construed as libel and invite legal action.

If the blogger were not a resident of India, what recourse to law would IIPM (or the aggrieved Indian party) have?
The institute would still have recourse to law and a valid legal action. It would depend on the laws of the country where the order of the Indian court would have to be enforced. 

The United Kingdom 
would be strict; on the other hand enforcement might fail in the United States where liberal concepts vis-à-vis media 
reporting and the First Amendment [Freedom of Speech] would ensure that the blogger would prevail.

While this story is largely media centric, it is not just the media that faces challenges from the new tide of community-generated content. Every organization, every politician, every editor, none of their deeds are spared from the microscopic scrutiny of community content. And it doesn’t take too much to get going. A cyber café, a dial-up Internet connection, and passable English are all that is required to take on the might of well established organizations and triumph them. 

But that’s not all that today’s blogger has coming to his aid. Cheap and abundant technology is there to aid him too. Satellite phones may be costly, but cellphones are dirt-cheap. And they can do passable pictures and video. You can update your blog direct from the cellphone and send pictures from the cellphone direct to services like Flickr. Add to this a cause, real or imagined and you have a very potent combination indeed. That leads us to two questions: the first being, how do organizations guard against ‘negative comments’ and second how do organizations utilize the same technologies for their benefit? Let us take the first question first. What should an
organization do, when faced with negative onslaught from community content? To answer this, we need to take a more
understandable analogy. How do you fight a mob?

Policy
Organizations that encourage community content participation should have a well thought out and public policy on what an employee can write about and what she cannot. The following examples are excerpted from Sun Microsystem’s blog policy, titled “Sun policy on public discourse”.
“…Don’t Tell Secrets. Common sense at work here; it’s perfectly OK to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it’s not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces. There’s an official policy on protecting Sun’s proprietary and confidential information, but there are still going to be judgment calls. 
If the judgment call is tough-on secrets or one of the other issues discussed here-it’s never a bad idea to get management sign-off before you publish. “
“Write What You Know. The best way to be interesting, stay out of trouble, and have fun is to write about what
you know…On the other hand, a Solaris architect who publishes rants on marketing strategy, or whether Java should be open sourced, has a good chance of
being embarrassed by a real expert, or of being boring”.

The answer is very simple. You cut your losses and retreat. The first step in any PR activity -and taking on community content is still largely in the realms of PR-is to contain the issue. Instead of sending out lawsuits, which only tend to 
aggravate the situation, a saner approach would be engage the content creators in an effort to put the situation to rest.
That said, if indeed the blogger/forum/Wiki is at fault, your first attempt should be to get them to understand the situation and acknowledge and rectify it. Legal solutions if at all, should be the last option. Do remember that both the law and case law in this area are in the very nascent stages.

Another point that needs to be highlighted here is that typically, Indian organizations tend to ignore happenings on the Web. With Internet access growing by leaps and bounds, Indian organizations can no longer afford to do so. They need to proactively keep searching to find out how their names and their brands are being referred to on the net. Have you ever tried a Google search with your brand names or the organization names? If you have not, do it. You will be surprised at the results.

Making the most of it 
Jonathan Schwartz, President and COO of Sun Microsystems maintains a frequently update blog. So do many of Sun’s employees. So do Google employees, and Microsoft employees, and Boeing employees and …

World over, organizations getting into the community content bandwagon, with varied objectives.

Should your organization also encourage community content participation by your employees? The answer is an obvious and unconditional yes. But while many are getting
into the community content process for the obvious PR benefits, there are many real life benefits that the organization can reap, both at the Intranet and Internet levels. Let us start with that much-maligned term -Knowledge management. Knowledge, being unstructured, and internal to a person, poses great hurdles in being managed. And KM solutions are mostly structured formats! 

On the other hand, community-content solutions are largely unstructured in the way they capture content. A Wiki may be the best answer yet to the problems of knowledge management.

Think of an organization with a geographically spread out workforce. How do you keep them updated about the latest product developments or market information? Are they getting lost with the plethora of information they have to wade through on your intranet? Consider RSS enabling your intranet as a possible solution? That way, they can get the headings of newly added content pushed to their browser, and only go to the specific pages that interest them.

Want to give your employees a pep-talk? Or want to update them on the latest initiatives of the organization? Are you considering traveling to every location to talk to them? Will all of them be there? Will they have to cancel sales calls to be there? Have you
considered a podcast instead?

Want to discuss the latest market moves of the competition? Are you doing it over
e-mail, often loosing the thread even before you started? Have you tried thrashing it out on a forum on the Intranet (or one on the Internet, that requires login) instead?

Are you an organization that has to deal a lot with photographs? Have you considered a system like Flickr? Have you tried out Gallery?

One could go on with ideas of how to use community-content technologies at the work place for constructive benefits. Like disruptive technologies, the potential benefits of community content and associated technologies is often missed out even as we scamper to highlight the potential pitfalls.

Should the CEO write a blog? This is one interesting question that has often been raised. In the brick and mortar world, the parallel question would be-Should the CEO talk to customers? In all successful companies, the management, and not just the CEO, remains in constant touch with the outside world. When the medium switches over from a conference room to the 
Internet, the tools not the rules change. And in today’s Internet-enabled economy, the tools are forums, blogs and podcasts. Help your CEO choose one that he is comfortable with.

Taming the tide
Since it is free public platform where one can put upfront one’s thoughts and perceptions open for mass-viewing and commenting, noted incidents have occurred where this rather disruptive media has made visible craters into the PR of individuals and organizations alike.The free-form nature of community content can be a benefit, but the lack of control over content causes some companies to wonder whether these tools might prove detrimental to business. In case of enterprise blogs for instance, many struggle with the issue of how much autonomy to allow employees when they
blog.

There is a fear amongst the public-relations professionals that too-candid blogs may
result in branding meltdowns. For example, Microsoft bloggers generally refuse to
respond directly to press requests asking for comment on their own blog posts, instead passing such requests along to Microsoft’s PR agency.

But before all this comes the question of quality and authenticity. How authentic is the content put up by some unknown person? What is the quality of the research behind the opinion expressed? There is anecdotal evidence to prove either side of the argument. For every high quality article in wikipedia, there are others that are nowhere up to the mark. These are questions that remain unanswered by and large. For every Salam Pax, there are blogs that swing to the other extreme. 
It is important to stress accountability and regular review of postings when Wiki are used to share important
information, such as security data. It is expected that enterprise wikis will soon become more like blogs. And this would make it all the more necessary that enterprise have better control over them. So enterprise Wiki should carry permission- based features that allow greater control over posted content through edit and add options. On the other hand, even as newspapers and other media continue to retain their influence.

While the propagative channel (community content creation and its dissemination) brings news a lot faster, it has its own set of limitations too. It can make and it can break, leaving no room for anyone to mend the sabotage afterwards. The poster could later escape the havoc that he may have created by just posting an errata or saying that what he had posted earlier were his own views.

By Binesh Kutty, Krishna Kumar, Rinku Tyagi, Sujay V Sarma and Varun Dubey

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