Blogs, Wikis, Forums, Email – the differences – Part 2

You may have read my previous post on blogs,wikis,forums inviting comments. I got some great inputs from Arun , Ranjith, Mahesh Kumar and Vamsi. I used their inputs and my own views on the topic to classify blogs, forums, wikis and email from a KM perspective across various attributes summarized in the picture below:

Mind you, this classification is entirely based upon using these techniques behind the firewall. Inside my company, blogging is a rage as of now and because of the encouragement it offers for the reading mindset, it has become a great way for disseminating information/knowledge on a variety of subjects.

People actually come to the blogs to read stuff which is much different from any centralized KM system I have seen so far. Most KM systems would fall under the purpose driven mindset and hence ability to disseminate knowledge is lower unless it fits the purpose being fulfilled.

Another important aspect that Arun touched upon is Search. With today’s Enterprise Search technologies – Google Appliance, Microsoft Sharepoint, IBM Omnifind (it is now available as a free download co-branded with Yahoo), SAP Search Appliance, Oracle Search etc, Searching inside the firewall has become a very important application. Blogging does require a lot of effort to sustain but in an enterprise context, with a sufficient number of bloggers someone somewhere is always writing some thing, so the system generates a lot of traffic because there is always something new to read thereby fueling the reading mindset to come back for more.

I think the other attributes are somewhat self-explanatory. Overall, Blogs, Wikis and Forums complement each other very well and are an excellent fit for any modern KM strategy. I have also included Email just to show how poor it is from a KM viewpoint. Do the readers agree with my ratings? Are there other attributes that you would like to see?

1. Thanks to Google – the WIMP interface is dead. A post that i did a while ago explaining why Search is becoming important. It attracted the attention of Nick Carr, Sadagopan and the Zoho team.
2. Why the WIMP interface is dead. A follow on post that explains in a more in depth fashion why Search is important.


  1. Anonymous said April 6, 2007, 8:46 am:

    I would think barrier to entry is Medium to High for blogs (ie if we define blogging as not just reading or commenting but also writing). Most people who would not hesitate to write a mail but it takes a lot more prodding to make them write a blog post. I feel the entry barrier for blogs and mails is not in the same league. What do you think?

  2. Anonymous said April 6, 2007, 12:02 pm:


    Talking purely from a collaboration perspective and that too within an enterprise, we in IBM have traditionally used Notes database and I see more folks switching to wiki’s. Recently, we had a discussion within my team about why one was better than the other. We came up with 2 fundamental reasons –

    1. Ease of setting up a wiki and using it. With Notes, we have to go through a ‘process’ to setup the database, which we do not have to for wikis. Setting up access control policies and granting them at a granular level, which are very important for departmental control of the their collaboration space.

    2. Search – for the reasons you have mentioned above.

    We, in IBM, are also seeing a phenomenal growth in blog and wiki usage.

    I think we will see a bigger growth in use of wikis within IBM if we tie in workflow/process with wikis – enabling one to drive and manage process(es) from within a wiki. In scenarios, where content drives the process, wiki already holds the content. We need a way for the process side to leverage this already existing content. This will shift wiki from a KM to a PM (Process Management) tool. And, I believe this will come sooner than later.

    Blogs, especially withing an enterprise, also offers a level playing field. Blogosphere treats everyone in the chain of command the same. IMO, this is yet another reason for the growth in the usage of blogs.


  3. Anonymous said April 6, 2007, 12:46 pm:

    Sukumar, Stumbled upon your blog out here! You have done a fabulous job of brining a blogging culture to Cognizant. Outstanding stuff! Congratulations. Some of the internal blogs would be top blogs outside of Cognizant as well. So when would Cognizant would have external blogs on its website?



  4. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 12:00 am:

    Disclaimer: Please note that the above views and opinions expressed are my own and does not in anyway reflect official views of IBM.

    And no, I was not contacted by IBM administration/HR to post this disclaimer :).


  5. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 8:11 am:


    good point. Arun also pointed this same thing out. I have actually split the attribute into 2 parts – barrier to entry and effort needed for a sustained contribution. In my view barrier to entry is fairly low. that is why there are over 40 million blogs in the world. But when it comes to sustaining it over long periods of time is especially hard. So i gave that attaribute a high and made barrier to entry low. Hope you agree.

  6. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 8:18 am:

    All 4 excellent points Ganesh – ease of setup, search-ability (already covered) and role in process management (particularly insightful), flattens the hierarchies (another insightful one). The flattening of the hierarchy has a related attribute – that of humanizing the management as well as the employees. Inside our company, we find that our executives come across as more personable, more approachable and friendly and we find that our associates come across as people having a wide ranging set of interests, funny, friendly etc. Additionally, because of the openness and the informality, our associates are able to express things that they don’t like about our company very easily without worrying about negative repercussions.

    BTW, don’t worry about the disclaimer. i already added one in the about page covering this entire blog.

  7. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 9:06 am:

    Thanks for visiting. It took me a while to figure out which Raj you are, but i did figure it out. It is nice to know that you have been blogging since June 2004, which is when this blog started as well.

  8. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 1:26 pm:

    I would think that with wikis, the effect on personal branding is minimal. You can’t assert ownership on an article as it is co-edited. And nobody will know even if you made major contributions to an article as for that they have to explicitly see the edit history which most people don’t care to see.

    Wikis in my opinion are best to be used as central always-updated official sources of info within a company. The collaborative nature is mostly used to keep the info comprehensive and upto date. So a wiki has to be marketed in that manner.

    Eg: Support knowledge base, intranet pages etc

    Since people don’t get recognition in using wikis, and since barrier to entry is a bit high, there need to be some rewards given to lure people to use wikis; Unlike blogs

  9. Anonymous said April 7, 2007, 1:37 pm:

    As you have rightly pointed out, email has the lowest barrier to entry and the lowest barrier to sustainable contributions.

    But again, blogs and wikis have medium to high barriers to entry and high sustainability barriers.

    So the key to get a blogging and wiki initiative kicked of successfully within a company are:

    — Integrating blog posts and wiki articles into the email inbox as this will lower barrier to readership by allowing the janta to read the posts

    — Make it easy for novice readers to find good blogs and wiki posts

    — Providing feedback to the blog and wiki writer on reader numbers


    Integrating blogs and wikis into email


    — Make it easy for readers to sign up for updates to specific blogs and topics. Let the full post be emailed into the inbox

    — Allow readers to comment on posts by replying to the emails directly

    — Have an email alert sent to all commenters whenever there is a new comment


    Make it easy to find good blogs and wiki articles


    — Have a leaderboard of blogs based on popularity, comments, ratings etc

    (Check out “Hot blogs” on the right of the SUN blog site –

    — Hire 1-2 staff for the 1st year to pick out good articles and post them on a special webpage

    — Have a newsletter sent every week to all employees of the firm with the leaderboard and good articles. This will increase awareness and also give recognition

  10. Anonymous said April 8, 2007, 3:06 pm:

    Thanks Sukumar and everyone else for your insights. I’m tussling with switching from a weekly science Q&A column to a blog Q&A. Either is a form of knowledge management, though more of a knowledge dispersal. Which form is better? Hard to say. I’m beginning to lean towards a blog. Sukamar suggested the notion; the rationale is persuasive.


  11. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 7:58 am:

    Thanks Arun. Good points about wikis. Agreed.

  12. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 8:00 am:

    Another set of good points Arun. In my view, email is so much overused for everything inside the coorporation that corporate spam is a big problem. So we are moving all such updates from KM systems and soon other systems into RSS Feeds. You can subscribe to them. I like your leaderboard idea. we use similar concepts on our forums and blogs.

  13. Anonymous said April 11, 2007, 8:02 am:

    Thanks April. Knowledge dispersal is a key element of knowledge management. I am looking forward to your experiments with the Q&A blog. Hope to learn more from you.