Context is everything with intranet content

One of the things that I can’t tell people enough when talking about user generated content in an enterprise setting is that users MUST understand the context of the information they are consuming. For example, they must know how it was created, who created it, who edited or contributed to it etc … because this vital contextual information will determine how they can re-use it, how reliable it is, how new it is and so on …

As more and more pages on the BT Intranet contain user generated content, we tried to figure out a good way to differentiate those pages from the more traditional, formal content pages. This is what we’ve done.

For some time now, all our intranet pages have had a global navigation bar at the top of them. This bar helps BT people to identify when they are on the official intranet – with all the guarantees/service levels etc. that this implies – rather than the internet or unofficial under-web pages. It also means that a user can never get lost as they always have a way back to the top or to the most popular pages and applications on offer. The standard navigation bar looks like this:

BT Intranet global navigation bar

BT Intranet global navigation bar

We decided to make a variant of this bar to put above pages containing user generated content – we changed the colour and added a Disclaimer link. We’ve also added a new icon to these pages. The user generated content navigation bar looks like this:

BT Intranet navigation bar for user generated content

BT Intranet navigation bar for user generated content

The new icon for user generated content is this:

User generated content icon

User generated content icon

Both the Disclaimer link on the new bar and the icon above link through to a page on BTpedia which explains what user generated content is, what its limitations are, and guidance on how it can be used and what to avoid doing with it.

The new bar is being piloted on Blog Central and BTpedia linked to an on-line form for user feedback. It’ll be interesting to see what users think.

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  1. That’s an interesting approach. Is there a possibility it will reinforce the top-down vs bottom-up gap?

    As for context, I completely agree.

    My response to “content is king” is always, “yes and context is god!”

    What each of us needs is a really good Context Management System 🙂

  2. Nic,
    I hope it acknowledges the fact that, as an organisation, we recognise the importance of user generated content as being at least of equal value to that of the old fashioned stuff. The content is still user-driven.

    Serious gap in the market for context management methinks!

  3. It’s a very good idea, but a question rise: what about blog?
    I mean: a forum space o a “BTpedia” is without doubt a bottom-up space, in wich you can add your funny icon and is usefully.

    But a internal blog (i.e. CEO blog) is a space in the middle between top-down and bottom-up. After all, a blog is a author space, and is guarantee by the “fece” of the blogger (especially if the blogger is a manager of the company).

    Otherwise, other official spaces (i.e. news) coud be let commented by the people.


    p.s. sorry, as usual, for my english (i’m italian, you know..)

  4. All our blogs are on the same platform and the new navigation bar appears above all of them – whether owned by the CEO or any-old employee. The navigation bar isn’t designed to differentiate between top-down or bottom-up but to let users know that they are accessing a page upon which content can be self-published without any ‘official’ editorial controls … whether that content is the latest thoughts from the CEO or an employee.

    Hope that clarifies a bit – and your English is very good by the way! 😉

  5. This is a great idea. Even before the issue of user-generated content came up, I’ve never been a fan of over consistant branding on large corporate intranets that are often made up of multiple intranet instances and other Web-based apps. I think this kind of sign posting to provide context is perfect. However, I’m curious – are you doing anything proactive to educate people about this or letting them discover it for themselves?

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