This is a response to a tweet I received this morning from @fuzedigital asking the question “Do you think KBs with editorially controlled content still serve a purpose in a social networked world?”.
Some time ago my stance would have been to NOT provide editing for network-created content.
The idea of pulling experts from across the world (literally) to write content for our knowledge-base is very appealing. I wrote about this being the ultimate goal for a Customer Service organization back in 2004, when I started looking into social networks. The level and quality of the available information would be astounding. People that figure out solutions for problems with your products can write it into your knowledge-base as soon as they find it and make it available immediately to all your customers. Your engineers and R&D people would benefit by accelerating the creation of an “official” solution in the form of patch, policy, or process.
The power to access all that knowledge, package it, and make it available is almost too good to be true. And that is when reality sets in.
Not all the experts, customers who figured out problems, even competitors should be allowed to publish freely. Malicious or wrong information will corrupt your knowledge-base — and more importantly the trust your users place on it – faster that you can imagine.
There are two things that can manage this problem: reputation management, and self-cleansing knowledge-bases.
Reputation management ensures that the person posting the content has the knowledge, the required trust, and the proper disposition to write the content. Reputations are built into the community, and grow over time with each positive contribution.
A self-cleansing knowledge base is a side-effect of large communities — not defined in number of existing users, rather in number of active users. It could be customers, employees, users of your products, even competitors in some cases. Their goal is to make sure that wrong or malicious information is immediately discredited (together with the author).
Unfortunately, reputation management is not yet well implemented in communities. Alas, self-cleansing communities are also not yet into mainstream. If both of these elements were to be in place, I would say go ahead an let the network-created content be free and the community will self-police it.
As things stand today, I have to recommend shackles until the community managers can figure out whether they have a large enough number of people to self-cleanse the content — or reputation management tools get better.
Mind you, I am not talking about censorship (which I don’t endorse), but rather editing of the content for accuracy.
What do you think? Do you endorse or use either one? Why?