Blogs, wikis and email for announcements

I've been having a conversation with some colleagues about how to communicate announcements within Sun and rather than do this via email I thought I would go a bit off topic for this blog and post it here.

Why I think a blog is a good place to put announcements.

Email

Email provides a fantastic one to one or one to many communication medium but only if the “many” are all known to you. Sending out large announcements via email is likely to cause large numbers of the potential audience to ignore you. If you want this sort of broadcast medium I would suggest a blog.

Blogs

Blogs being largely write once and then read only are a great way to put out announcements so that they can be subscribed to by users using the blog's RSS feed and consumed either by a blog reader or even by thunderbird so that they look like emails. Or you can read them directly via the web or via a blog reading web site like google.com/reader. They will get indexed via search engines and so can be found by occasional readers while at the same time those who want to can subscribe to them to get the latest news or views when they are posted.

Wikis

There are wikis and there are wikis so to some degree the question as to when they are good and bad depends on the wiki. However I've not found a wiki yet that has a really good RSS feed for handling announcements. They are great for cooperative working or for community documentation (eg wikipedia) but for announcements they lack concise RSS feeds or notification methods that don't either suffer from too much noise (changing a single typo results in the entire page being in the RSS feed) or don't send enough updates (the feed is per page so having an announcement per page does not produce a good stream of announcements). Some wikis allow you to build complex RSS feeds based on search criteria that may allow a feed to be built but this is really for a power user and so I've not found it suitable for announcements.

Comments:

Awesome!

Posted by Mark Marky on October 02, 2008 at 01:04 PM BST #

Announcements should get a prominent position on the front page of the main website like samba.org and mozilla.org . In other words, if you have an important announcement about OpenSolaris it should go on the front page of opensolaris.org . If you want it to be posted somewhere else then great, but it needs to be prominent on the front page of the site. Not everyone interested in a project will be subscribed to a feed or be a reader of a particular blog.

Posted by andrewk8 on October 02, 2008 at 02:52 PM BST #

I would echo that experience with wiki rss feeds, there is hope but nothing as slick as the best news readers like Google Reader. If you broaden the topic to how we process communication rather than just announcements when you include IM and other social feeds there is a real need for a an easy way to process all this information . I guess we'll see closer integration of email, rss etc into a composite inbox.

Posted by Martin Ball on October 03, 2008 at 03:09 AM BST #

@andrewk8:

Announcements about large organisations obviously have to appear at some point on the front page of their web sites. Even then they should appear in a feed and live forever on a blog. However it is the more mundane announcements I am really talking about.

The specific example was announcements about changes in sunsolve. Yes they should be referenced on the front page, but they will age their and be removed so you still need a log of them. Also many people avoid the front pages of sites as they are often filled with noise that is not relevant at the time. Sunsolve being a classic case. I don't have sunsolve book marked instead I have the advanced search page book marked. Even on the rare occasions I go through that page I'm not reading the announcements. I'm heading to the data I want. Now if the page had an announcements feed I would subscribe and the easiest way to provide that feed is IMO via a blog.

@Martin Ball

Indeed a message sent to a IM room could reach a lot of people but it could not replace a blog.

Posted by Chris Gerhard on October 03, 2008 at 03:20 AM BST #

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This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to http://chrisgerhard.wordpress.com

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