Intranet managers, editors and admins must be strong curators

Too many intranet pages for no real reason. Valueless squawks. We need to have the confidence to say “that’s not gonna help anyone, let’s not dump it online”.

As the intranet manager, I’m looking for ways to devolve control, power, permissions (however you think of them) to more and more people. Communications isn’t the sole remit of the Internal Communications team – communication is everyone’s responsibility; it’s necessary for everyday work and the intranet can be part of that.

The thing about intranets, or any larger website, is that they can organically grow out of control, and the more people involved the less overview one has and the more exponential the growth risk. Growth is good; a stagnating intranet is a dead intranet, but along with organic growth comes a lack of quality, duplication, contradiction and ugliness.

I feel there’s some kind of inverse correlation between quantity of pages / documents published and quality of information. I could cite Wikipedia as an example of massive quantity and good quality, but I fear it’s an example of my inverse relationship!

Perhaps it’s a curve like the yellow, or perhaps it’s a more complex curve like the blue line that shows a ‘breaking point’ and rapid degradation after certain number of pages.

I define ‘quality’ as information that is accurate, relevant, timely, concise, contextual and rich.

It’s not just what you add, it’s what you don’t

“Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unemcumbered but don’t sterilize.” Leonard Koren

Site Administrators and those involved with publishing need to have the authority and confidence to say ‘no’. Not everything is worthy of attention, worth communicating. Some news should be communicated directly, or targeted to specific groups / people.

A great museum or gallery is created by how things are arranged and how they relate to each other. Curation means arranging material to create the best experience; curation means excluding that which does not add value to the end viewer. Museums and galleries have vast archives that are never open to the public. Artefacts are brought out for display around appropriate themes – the whole hodgepodge is not shown without structure – no one could ever make sense of the whole archive.

Site Administrators need to be great curators; they need to have an eye on what fits and what doesn’t; they need to stick to what’s essential to get the job done. An intranet that is made up of a majority of great pages will be great (so long as the structure works well, of course). An intranet where ‘good’ pages outnumber the ‘great’ pages will only be good. A good intranet that has a lot of good pages and a fair number of poor pages… well, it’s on the slopes of oblivion isn’t it? Going down.

A great intranet is a useful intranet, of course; I’m not talking about style over substance here.

A sharp curator cuts out even the ‘good’ to ensure that the great remains great. Naturally, not all pages need to be of incredibly high quality – we don’t have time to pour exactly 3 hours into every web page we create, but if the majority of pages get whacked up in 6 minutes, then I’m pretty sure then on average the intranet will be below average; it won’t be good and it won’t be anything near great.

Curators don’t create individual items – they are neither experts or generalists – they respect the work of others and the value of the end result; they want to create a worthy experience for the audience at large. Be a curator – know when to say ‘no’ and when to pare down, cut back and prune.

Site Admins respect the ‘content experts’ who create and publish pages, but while passionate experts might not always remember the audience, the Site Admin must consider the purpose of every web page. We must be User Focussed and Task Focussed when we come to the intranet; we’ve got real work to do, real people to support and real customers to satisfy – let’s make sure the intranet is light, shallow and useful.

Bonus link for you; “The content strategist as digital curator” from A List Apart.


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