Making Crowdbase a More Lively Place

We recently released new features that we hope will make it easier for users to interact with each other and to stay up to date:

  • Interact with your home feed
  • Home feed auto refresh
  • Mentions and references

Keep on reading for more details!

Interact with your home feed

The home feed always was a great starting point to give you a quick overview of all the latest content in your Crowdbase organization, but it wasn’t so great at letting you give feedback and engage in conversations.

In order to make Crowdbase a more lively place, we added the ability for users to like, comment and answer questions right from the home feed.

homefeed_interactivity

Home feed auto refresh

After adding new ways to interact with your home feed, it only made sense to make it refresh automatically. From now on, look at the top of your home feed for updates!

homefeed_autoupdate

Mentions and references

A huge part of knowledge management is about bringing people with knowledge in the right conversations and creating a network of resources.

From now on, simply type “@” when writing a post or a comment to get access to an inline search tool that you can use to mention people (who will get notified instantly) or create references to other posts in Crowdbase.

homefeed_mentions

More to come soon. Stay tune!

The Inversion of Knowledge

NotePeter Dorfman, former Knowledge Management Lead in the Office of the General Counsel at Hewlett Packard, has been a technology marketer, process consultant, author and thought leader in the KM field for more than 23 years. He can be reached at pwdorfman@dorfmanwords.com.

The Inversion of Knowledge

By Peter Dorfman, © Copyright 2014, Peter Dorfman. All rights reserved.

inversion

Knowledge management was, in its early years, largely a top-down enterprise. Driven by a concern that corporate knowledge repositories would quickly fill up with inaccurate, useless junk without rigid quality review, organizations created small priesthoods of knowledge administrators responsible for virtually all authoring. Unfortunately, the results often were massive bottlenecks as content generated in this centralized way sat for weeks or months awaiting review. By the time knowledge reached its intended users, much of it had aged to the point of irrelevance.

Top-down knowledge management had limited success. It did not take long for proponents to arrive at the realization that KM would begin to show significant ROIs when the process was inverted. Centralized knowledge administration clearly produced higher-value knowledge — but centralized authoring retarded growth. Eventually, it began to be recognized, everyone — not just a small elite — would have to become responsible for generating the raw materials for corporate KM.

KM technology development followed the pattern. Adopters once favored highly engineered “expert systems” and similar artificial intelligence approaches for knowledge representation, until they experienced the difficulty and expense of implementing and maintaining structured knowledge bases. Structured approaches were in direct competition with more straightforward search-based tools. Search ultimately (and probably inevitably) won.

That was, of course, in the last millennium. Today, while there still are knowledge managers, knowledge engineers and knowledge bases, KM is an increasingly informal and an overwhelmingly social activity. Formal knowledge repositories are giving way to, or are supplemented by, informally-managed communities of shared interest. And managers are easing up on the expectation that content, once authored and subjected to elaborate review and refining, is then “finished.” Content is instead being deployed after relatively cursory editing and refined continuously through use.

This really is just KM finding its most effective orientation. Managers have found that allowing knowledge to be generated from the bottom up, through community interaction and a more informal knowledge capture process, wasn’t the compromise they assumed it was. Opening the knowledge capture process to more junior authors initially seemed risky – content that had not been created or extensively vetted by experts was getting into circulation and being used. But in important ways it was more realistic content, because it was based on actual experience, as opposed to being anticipated before it actually turned out to be relevant.

More importantly, bottom-up knowledge capture actually happened. Many organizations found that carefully designed top-down knowledge generation processes broke down, because the subject matter experts didn’t have the time to author. In addition, they quickly lost interest in authoring because they benefited little from the exercise. They were generating content for more junior people to use; it meant they got fewer interruptions to respond to questions, but the content was of little use to the SMEs.

Junior authors, on the other hand, wrote for each other’s benefit. They were both contributors and consumers of the content; in many organizations, it turned out they were more avid adopters of the KM process because of this. And the content created by junior authors was, to management, surprisingly good. Often, the quality of this content opened management’s eyes to the effectiveness of their own junior staff, whom they had assumed were not capable of generating effective material the way experts were expected to.

Today, when users of a product or service need answers to their questions, they frequently bypass “experts” entirely and just Google to see what their peers know. Often, the first place end users think to look for how-to advice is YouTube. Smart KM tool vendors are designing their offerings to accommodate this “self-help” tendency among their end users.

Knowledge management’s leading proponents saw this social element coming. In the customer support community, the developers of “Knowledge-Centered Support,” a set of KM principles championed by the Consortium for Service Innovation (San Carlos, CA), anticipated the migration of the KM discipline from a highly-structured and targeted knowledge base focus to increasing reliance on user community conversation (in KCS terminology, “from the funnel to the cloud”) well over a decade ago.

Personal experience in the KM field has reinforced this trend in my own practice. For example, while one multinational was developing its knowledge management practice in its global legal affairs function, it was simultaneously contracting its corporate law library down to bare bones, eliminating a once-highly-valued service through which the library provided custom searches of legal databases to its in-house attorneys. The downgrading of this service came in part because the company was getting similar search services from its outside counsel – but more importantly, executives in the General Counsel’s office realized that when lawyers needed information, they had stopped asking for help. They just Googled whatever they needed, and were quite satisfied with the results.

It has been observed widely that the ascendency of social knowledge sharing is a generational phenomenon – that “Generation Y” employees entered the workforce with social networking habits deeply ingrained and expected to indulge those habits in the workplace. While this probably is valid, the legal experience suggests to me that the move to the cloud is not as generational as the pundits assume – the Google-it-yourself approach was adopted just as avidly by the older attorneys as it was with the Gen-Y crowd.

What is going on in the cloud is the social element of KM, which in turn is an inevitable expression of the bottom-up evolution of the discipline. It is, on balance, a healthy trend.

Bottom-up knowledge generation will have significant impacts on the way work, and workers, are perceived by corporations. Management will have to develop new incentives for knowledge workers to contribute high-quality content. The most important element of this is time.

In order for staff to contribute effectively to a KM effort, they need assurance not only that management values this, but that they really have time to devote to it (i.e., during actual working hours). This is a difficult commitment for some organizations to make. Employees are expected to devote their time to prescribed work functions, and that time, and the work output, is measured. If those employees are told they are expected to contribute to a knowledge repository but not given protected time to do it, they will immediately object, because the work they are evaluated on will suffer, and this could affect their compensation. Some organizations offer their knowledge workers bonuses for knowledge contribution; a more effective incentive is protected time, not direct compensation.

Awesome New Ways to Stay Up-to-Date

Like we mentioned in our previous post, we didn’t stop there :)

There are many features in Crowdbase to help you stay up to speed with what’s going on in your groups, like live email notifications, daily and weekly digests, in-app notifications and the activity feed.

Our team decided to go one step further and give you even more ways to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. Here’s the list!

Digests Become Reading Lists

Our users love their digests. It helps them to stay up-to-date with all the latest activity within their groups and provides an easy way to quickly access content they think matters the most. The only problem with that is that digests used to only exist in the form of emails. After you clicked something in your digest, it would open up in Crowdbase and you had to go back to your email inbox and click on the next interesting thing.

Well, not anymore. From now on, the digest’s title is clickable:

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And when you click on it, it will open in Crowdbase as a reading list that looks like this:

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From there you can click on any post to start reading from there or just click next and go through everything new. If you click on a specific post in your email digest, it will open in Crowdbase, but as one piece of a reading list. This means that you’ll still be able to go to the reading list summary from the top navigation bar, or you can use previous/next to go through the other posts.

Read/Unread Markers

Sometimes small tweaks can make a huge difference. We think this is the case here. As our users shared more and more important content, they felt like it was becoming difficult to keep up with what they already have read and what they still had to go through. From now on, everything that is new to you will be marked with a little blue dot and will have bold fonts. This is true for posts in the group view as well as for updates in the home feed and for notifications. In addition, every time someone will comment on one of your post the unread marker will be applied again. So handy!

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Last Visit Marker in External Feeds

External feeds are great to help your team follow customers, competitors, industry news or even for devs to stay up-to-date with all the libraries and tools they’re using. It provides a place to centralize multiple sources of information and to turn the curation process into a team effort. However, most people don’t have a 2 hours stretch of free time to go through everything, and with all the information coming through those external feeds you would probably have to be that guy to remember where you stopped reading when you come back.

To help with that, we added a simple last visit marker that will help you resume from where you left off.

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That’s it for now :) We really hope that you enjoy those updates! As always, feel free to send us your thoughts, comments and suggestions, and stay tuned for more great stuff in the coming weeks!

-The Crowdbase Team

Markdown Editor and Enhanced Viewer

Mother nature has been really hard on us this year in Quebec City. On the bright side, it’s been a good time to drink hot coffee and write code and that’s exactly what the Crowdbase team did :)

As a matter of fact, our team has been working really hard in the past weeks to release new features and improvements many of you were requesting. We thought now would be a great time to let you know about them :) Here we go!

Markdown and Syntax Highlighting

Markdown is really useful to style text without having to click here and there on the usual text editor’s buttons and dropdowns. When mastered, it really increases productivity and will help you to get uniform styling across all of your posts, especially when you copy and paste text from emails, documents or web pages.

To switch to markdown mode, just click on the markdown option:

switchtomarkdown

If you’re a software developer, you’ll be happy to know that our markdown editor also supports syntax highlighting!

Just like in GitHub or StackOverflow, use 3 back-ticks and specify your syntax like this:

```javascript

Write your code here

```

It will look super great in our viewer!

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 4.02.16 PM

Don’t know much about the markdown syntax? Get started right here.

Viewer Improvements

Speaking of our viewer, we released many improvements lately to give you the best reading experience and more management options. Here’s the list!

  • Re-designed top navigation bar;
  • Re-designed comments section;
  • New previous/next buttons at the bottom of the page;
  • Re-designed actions menu that always stays in the page when you scroll;
  • New copy action to let you copy a post from one group to another;
  • New revision history that let you look at previous versions of a post and rollback if needed.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 4.04.24 PM

 

What’s really cool is that we didn’t stop there. Go on to our next post to learn about Awesome New Ways to Stay Up-to-Date!

-The Crowdbase Team

When employees leave

As much as it all pains us when it happens, yes, employees can (and may) leave your company. It’s a fact of life and it can’t always be helped. They may retire, relocate, go back to school or simply, well, quit their job. However, it doesn’t always have to be the end of the world if you come prepared.

Once all is said and done, and their departure becomes inevitable, how can you ensure to make the most of the situation? Other than letting HR take care of termination processes, what are the things you can do to tie up all loose ends? Here are a few suggestions to ensure losing an employee doesn’t negatively impact your department or even your entire company.

Fix the leak

Good people are hard to come by. It’s difficult to see them go, especially when they are well-liked by their peers and contribute positively to the success of their team. As a result, colleagues can be in shock, thus negatively affecting morale. If an employee is not the first person to quit a particular department or team, this should be a red flag. We’ve all heard the saying that “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers”. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate management practices before more employees quit. Are there recurring issues that have to be fixed? Does a middle manager with a bad attitude compromise an entire department? Are good entry-level employees seemingly leaving in droves lately?

A departure is a good opportunity to make some changes that will hopefully prevent more resignations in the future. Sometimes, the issue isn’t obvious. At other times, a resignation can be brought upon by a wrong person-fit for a particular job. But you’ll never know until you take the time to evaluate the situation, right? ;)

Prevent a digital disaster

Cut access to all company accounts and social media as soon as possible. You don’t want to risk data being lost, compromised or erased – nor your company’s dirty laundry aired out to the world. After all, there have been a slew of corporate disasters on Twitter and Facebook these past few years, where disgruntled employees seriously misbehaved. Make sure you ask for all passwords, devices and company property before the terminated worker leaves for good.

Draft a privacy policy

Understand that employees may leave with sensitive information or data, yet take the required steps to avoid a potential debacle. In the digital era, it is so easy to duplicate files, save emails or store content on a USB drive.

Privacy Please

Take time to reconsider your privacy policy – you may need to draft up an agreement for all staff to sign to ensure your company’s assets are protected, if this is not already in place.

On transitioning responsibilities: plan ahead

If you have the luxury, start way in advance to ensure a successful transition. If the person who is leaving is retiring or going on maternity leave, find the time to hire someone competent. The more you plan ahead, the more likely it is that you find a new employee with the right skills and cultural fit. Then, you will be able to let the more experienced person train their replacement. This will make the new hire more at ease with your company and their role, as well as ensure proper transition of ongoing projects and duties when the other person leaves.

Avoid mass knowledge outflow

Before your employee leaves (or anyone else does), make sure you put processes in place to help them share their experience with others, document it and save it for the future. Is your departing staffer very good at something peculiar? Is he or she the only person in the shop with a specific type of knowledge, whether it is replacing a certain part on a propeller plane, purchasing office supplies or sending a man to the moon?

Many companies make this mistake, especially when their staff retires. They don’t plan in advance and precious knowledge is lost when employees leave. Being forced to start from scratch is painful and expensive. It’s never too late to establish a knowledge management initiative to ensure important information is safely kept and made available through time. It’s mostly a matter of finding the right tool, setting standards and getting started. Why not start small today and then let your project snowball across the entire organization? If you’re new to change management initiatives, it might be good to have a look at some of our past posts on the subject.

Schedule one last “job interview”: the exit meeting

If they’re willingly quitting their job, plan an exit meeting and ensure all loose ends are tied; find out what clients are handled by this person, what deals they had in the pipeline, what projects are ongoing. Ensure all of that information is readily available in your CRM and company wiki/knowledge base, if you have one. If not, I urge you to consider putting something in place. There are plenty of inexpensive options available (this is also what we do at Crowdbase, feel free to check us out).

Listen with an open mind

This is an opportunity for you to try to understand what you or your company could’ve done better. Be open-minded – it’s always interesting to listen to the perspective of a disgruntled employee or of a departing one.

Listening is important

Since they are no longer required to be politically correct to keep their job, they have more freedom to discuss sensitive topics. They generally don’t have anything to lose by being honest, since they are leaving anyway! You might be surprised to learn things that you had no idea were going on! As you consider the situation from a different angle, you might also identify areas of possible improvement. You may end up shuffling responsibilities between teams, or even desks.

Aim for a respectful farewell

Unless your departing employee has broken every rule in the book or done something unforgivable, try to be positive and kind until the very end. You never know when you may work with that person again – as a colleague, partner or client. Sometimes, departures really can’t be helped, so why not ensure the relationship ends on good terms? It will personally position you as a mature leader, as well as reflect positively on your employer brand.

So there, you have it – a couple of tips to help you get through layoffs and departures. Have you got anything else to add to this list? What are the best practices in your field?

Staying productive during the Holiday season

Ah, Christmas time is finally here. We can hear the sleigh bell rings and we’re excited to go for long walks in the glistening snow while the turkey roasts in the oven. Here’s hoping you have a lovely holiday season with your friends and family, filled with precious moments, delightful food and plenty of time to rest.

If you’re like us, however, you’re probably going to find it difficult to unplug for several days in a row. Watching Christmas movies in your PJs all day is certainly fun, but we personally can’t help it, we just have to check our inbox every now and then!

So we have a compromise for you – how about you get some things done, in a way that won’t even feel like work? Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your downtime. Prep yourself for a productive 2014!

Look back on your year – learn from your successes and mistakes

Take some time to think and reflect on your entire year. What are you most proud of? What did you fail to accomplish? What did you learn? Take out some pen and paper, and start writing: list your top 3 mistakes, quickly followed by your top 3 successes.

Lists are good

You can be as detailed or as succinct as you wish. Just ensure that you identify what mattered the most to you professionally in 2013. Once your list is done, go through each and every single point, and highlight the links between your mistakes and your successes.

Then, list what you have learned since. How you could have avoided those mistakes and turned your luck around? Did they contribute to your proudest accomplishments? How could you do better in 2014? Remember, you can learn as much from failure as you can from success. And if you make an effort to understand what went wrong and why, you’ll grow as a person and become a better version of yourself.

If you have plenty of free time on your hands, we suggest you watch these TED talks about learning from failure. You can never be too wise about turning defeats into small victories. After all, as CS Lewis once said, failures are “finger posts on the road to achievement” – they’re stepping stones on your path to greatness!

Tidy up your inbox

Ah, the mythical inbox zero. We all dream of achieving it, but our plans usually derail after one day, let alone an entire week!

Emails everywhere!

Well, how about you use the opportunity of a quieter week away from the office to sort through it all?

The problem is, most solutions on the web are meant to be one-size-fits-all, yet we’re all unique when it comes to email management. Your needs and habits are different from your colleagues, your friends, your kids… so instead, we’d like to share some tips to help you prioritize and achieve a more orderly inbox. If you can keep it up, it’ll increase the efficiency of your workflow and (possibly) spare you a few headaches this upcoming year!

Don’t be afraid to use labels (or folders)

Email doesn’t have to sit in your inbox forever; sort your newsletters, organize your customer communications and label whatever is important so that you can find it quickly if the need arises.

The archive button is your best friend

Does that company report from last quarter need to sit in your inbox right this moment? And that email you got from your supplier last June? Yeah, probably not.

If you hate to delete emails because you’re afraid you might need them one day, just archive them. They will still be searchable in most email clients, but will not clog up your inbox. Keep only what you still need to act upon, and archive everything else. Say goodbye to inbox infinity!

Use alternate email clients

Perhaps Outlook or Mail are simply not working for you. There are leaner, simpler solutions available to suit your needs. Or perhaps you need a mail client that is packed with features? There are endless options available nowadays – just do a quick search on the subject and we bet you’ll find something you’ll like.

Our personal favourites are the Thunderbird client for Windows, and the Airmail app for Mac. Give them a try!

Find some useful apps to cut through the noise

If you need more extreme solutions to sort through your emails, don’t fret – we have a few apps that might do the trick!

  • Mailbox: they say it’s “modern tech for an ancient medium”. Snooze emails and make your way to inbox zero with this powerful tool.

  • Unroll.me: an email management tool that helps you keep track of your subscriptions and easily get rid of the junk.

  • Taper: keep only five messages in your inbox at all times. Achieve “email zen”!

  • Triage: it’s “first aid for your inbox”! Flick through your mail to keep, delete and archive effortlessly.

Improve your business knowledge and share your learnings with your team

Instead of fighting the crowds during Boxing Day, why not take the day off, stay home and read a bunch of interesting articles? You could also swing by the local library or bookstore and buy a book or two to keep you company while you spend your days relaxing by the fire.

Even Santa does it!

If you’re like us, you’ve probably bookmarked a bunch of articles (or saved them to Crowdbase, ha!) that you didn’t take the time to read or fully appreciate over the past year. Now that you’re not running from one meeting to another or struggling to keep up with client emails and conference calls, it’s time to revisit these stories and write-ups. Read them carefully, highlight what matters and share these nuggets of wisdom with your team! Why not use that opportunity to make everyone smarter in 2014! :)

Most business news websites have already published their best-of lists for the year – that’s always a good place to start. Otherwise, you can always browse through some of our favourite websites: Forbes, Business Insider, Mashable, Medium and Harvard Business Review.

We’ve also stumbled upon a couple of best business books of the year lists. Have a quick look!

Enjoy the most wonderful time of the year

We hope these suggestions will help you get ready for the new year. There is so much more you can do to prepare for an amazing 2014. Make lists of tasks that you wish to accomplish in the upcoming year and start tackling them now! Target who you want to contact when you come back to the office and draft out a few talking points. Set some goals and try to imagine how best to achieve them. It’s never too early to start planning for the new year!

But most importantly, treasure the holiday season and spend some precious time with the people who are dearest to your heart. It only comes once a year after all – so make it count!

Happy Holidays!The whole Crowdbase team wishes you very happy holidays and a delightful New Year!

Great updates for our power AND casual users!

Notifications and digests are among the most popular features in Crowdbase. A few months ago, we launched our best Crowdbase version to date : a completely new look, organizations, an activity feed, private and secret groups, as well as the possibility to invite guests to your groups and external feeds, just to name a few.

However, our email notifications and digests design lacked behind. Well, not anymore! Starting today, you’ll be enjoying a brand new design every time you receive a notification or a digest.

This new design not only matches the quality of the latest release of Crowdbase, it also does a better job at keeping you up to date with what’s going on in your groups and notifying you of anything happening on your posts (likes, comments, annotations, you name it).

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Did you know that you can setup your notification/digest preferences in your account settings? Access this menu by clicking on your profile picture in the upper-right corner of the app and selecting “account settings”.

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We also implemented something pretty neat that was requested by many users: shortcuts! Shortcuts are really great to help you be more productive while working in Crowdbase. We hope you’ll have as much fun as we had while testing them before this release!

To learn more about available shortcuts, look for the “keyboard shortcuts” link in the Crowdbase footer.

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As always, feel free to let us know what you think about our most recent updates. You are also welcome to share suggestions and ask questions – we love to hear back from you!

-The Crowdbase Team