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Knowledge Plaza – An Enterprise 2.0 Knowledge Sharing Platform

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Knowledge Plaza is a Web-based platform for enterprise search, social bookmarking, knowledge management, information brokerage and expert identification. It was developed by the Belgium based firm, Whatever. I recently spoke with Olivier Verbeke, CEO at Whatever and COO Antoine Perdaens. They explained the concept behind this interesting platform. There are three components, the Dashboard, the Plaza, and the Web. They offer a SaaS version and an on-premise version.

The Dashboard lets you know what is happening in your knowledge community. You can see recently activity within your personal workspace, team workspaces you have joined, and your network of contacts. Pieces of information are called Tiles and they are put together to create Mosaics that provide knowledge. You can see what you have saved and what others have sent you. Here is a screen shot of a Dashboard page

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As mentioned above, users can individually and collaboratively combine pieces of information (Tiles) into a Mosaic, build wiki content around the information and make it available for other users. In addition it’s possible to export the Mosaic for sharing outside of Knowledge Plaza. I especially liked this last feature. I remember using Quickplace in 2000 along with a Notes based content management system to provide a more primitive version of this concept. We could send the Quickplace where the document and other related ones were created to offer more context. Now with Knowledge Plaza you can create a specific collection of documents and links to build a story and then send this off intact to others.

The Knowledge Plaza is where the real action is located. As the name implies it is a place to share information. You can bring many different content types into the Plaza. Users can add internet bookmarks, documents and files, e-mails, contacts and references into the Plaza. There is browser and e-mail integration to simplify the process of adding content. You can just email content to the Plaza. Users rate content and this helps guide search efforts. There is enterprise social search allowing you to use the expertise of those around you to find and retrieve information. You can also save searches and repeat them over time. Here is an example of a Plaza.

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You can set up different workspaces, invite members, and provide layers of access to the content. You can search individual workspaces or across all of them. You can also rate members, as well as documents, and this rating stays private but it can guide your search results. Members set up their own pages, as in Facebook. Here you put information about yourself and your network of individuals. You also add your workspaces and other information. People can use you to guide their search efforts by seeing what you are storing and what sites you have visited. You can restrict search results to the activity of one or many members. Here is an individual members Knowledge Plaza page.

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The third Web component creates on-the-fly vertical search engines within Internet bookmarks stored in the Plaza. A keyword search in this component can provide results exclusively located inside your own bookmarked websites, as well as inside all shared websites in the Plaza. Their concept of “Expert as Search Engine” (EaSE) allows you to search only inside a specific member’s bookmarked websites. Further contextualization of Web search results can be carried out through tag and faceted navigation. The Web component additionally provides a combined search tool for pulling in and categorizing external or commercial search tools to the Plaza. Here is a look at the Web component.

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Knowledge Plaza has struck a balance between top down taxonomies and bottom up folksonomies. You can set up a taxonomy for consistency in tagging but users can add new terms. Then administrators can check these new terms on a periodic basis to decide which new terms to add to the taxonomy. When looking for information users are able to combine full text search with facet and tag selection. Such categorization is applied in the same way to all tiles (including members and contacts) and allows for many different uses such as efficient expertise location, library management, etc.

Every tile, or piece of information, has its own page like members so you can see all the activity related to the information. You can also send a link to the page so others can see the context around the information. I like this in the same way I think the Mosaic concept adds value. You get the context surrounding information and you can share this context. This concept of providing context is pervasive in Knowledge Plaza and I think that is one of its greatest strengths. It takes knowledge management nicely into enterprise 2.0.

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