If a tree falls in the middle of the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If your work is on an Intranet only accessible by your department, are your efforts being heard and recognized throughout the university?
I believe we should put more of our internal knowledge out in the open, taking our Intranets public. For those of you arguing it can’t be done, I ask, “Why?”
Are you worried about secure information? You could set up a granular structure where the topmost-level is public and you use group permissions to determine which pages and folders of your Intranet really do need to be secured.
Are you worried about airing your dirty laundry or showing work that’s not ready for prime-time? When you work in isolation, you miss the opportunity to identify parts of your problems that have already been solved by other departments or institutions. We fail to collaborate, and our universities pay the price in a myriad of little redundancies.
Are you worried about ceding control to other authors in your Intranet? Do you feel that if you lock your content in an ivory tower and keep it as canon, it is safe from contamination? If you restrict authorship to your Intranet content and I want access to your information, I may just make my own site. Now we have redundant copies, versioning issues, and users who don’t know which source to use. We should be working together to crowdsource our institutional knowledge base in a model where you can review the content I author and benefit from my contributions.
I bet there are some really good Intranets out there and some great work being done on them, but since the rest of the world—or at least the rest of the academic institution—can’t see them, we may never know. If you enjoy being an unsung hero in a thankless job and keeping your information to yourself, just hide it all on your local machine and be done with it. But if you’d rather get recognition for your work, break down barriers, share resources, and work efficiently in tough economic times when we’re being told to do so, then fight the status quo like hell to join the ranks of the Intranets and internal knowledge bases that I do know and go public!