An Email alternative: four dimension of feeds (RSS) in organizations

8/10/2007 | Christian Kreutz

To continue with my post "What is enterprise2.0," I wrote a case study for organizational blogging. Inspired by the posts from EnterpriseRSS, Paul Dunay, rss.jpgI want to focus this time on RSS and feeds. In my opinion feeds can make a decisive difference in getting the right information at the right time in the right place, and can also reduce the email overload. As we still have to wait for the semantic web, RSS offers great potential for organizations in the following four dimensions:

  1. Transmitter: Don't email it. RSS it. Feeds deliver the latest information from themes and projects: Discussions in group blogs, solutions for problems in personal blogs, the status of documentation in wiki, interesting website through subscribed links feed, etc. This information is transparently available, showing organization wide activities otherwise hidden in email boxes. It is possible to get information from all kinds of projects inside an organization, and knowledge creation can be seen through news tickers from everybody's browser.
  2. Filter: Contrary to email push technology, feeds are a pull technology. One can decide by himself what to follow and escape the email flood. Some feeds are binding, such is the case of the department protocol or the follow-up of a milestone for a project; but most feeds can be subscribed by interest. Project steps can be easily monitored, links in a specific community of practice exchanged, or discussions can be followed. With evaluation tools such as AideRSS, valuable and most discussed content can be filtered.
  3. Overview: Imagine that an intranet homepage would be like a feed aggregator. A look on the page shows exactly what is happening right in that moment in the whole organization. A feed aggregator would present all kind of feeds sorted by topic, projects, departments, date etc. Each topic or bigger projects have their own aggregator and can be browsed through tagclouds in every direction to find quickly a topic. Knowledge creation and information exchange can be followed from anywhere in the organization. Information does not have to be pushed into singly categories and limited databases.
  4. Mashup: Like Yahoo pipes presented a while ago, these feeds can be easily combinable. Project developments are connected to a map application so one can see geographically where about and who it's own organization is dealing with or discuss about it. In a multilingual organization, feeds can be redirected through translation services. Every employee can build his own aggregator and can mix data for his individual purpose.

No doubt this approach cannot be implemented easily. The problem is not technological, but it does need an open organizational culture. It does shift vertical to horizontal communication. Clearly, there can be numerous obstacles listed. The transparency must not always be in the interest of the management. It demands from the staff a great capacity to absorb all this feeds, sort, process, and digest them. Or how David Weiberger says it: "The task of knowing is no longer to see the simple. It is to swim in the complex." Another obstacle are feed-readers, which are until now very basic and have to be further developed to easy sorting, archiving (tagging) and so forth.