When I worked at ConocoPhillips, I was quite involved in their knowledge sharing efforts (and I still am). The most important part of the online component is a set of 100 or so open discussion forums. These are much like the ones you find all over the Internet (indeed, they're a big part of what made the Internet what it is — many of us remember Usenet, now Google Groups). But they're better because they're highly relevant, well moderated, and free of trolls. They are an important part of an 'asking' culture, which is an essential prerequisite for a learning organization.
Stack Exchange is awesome
Today, the Q&A site I use most is Stack Overflow. I read something on it almost every day. This is the place to get questions about programming answered fast. It is one of over 100 sites at Stack Exchange, all excellent — readers might especially like the GIS Stack Exchange. These are not your normal forums... Fields medallist Tim Gowers recognizes Math Overflow as an important research tool. The guy has a blog. He is awesome.
What's so great about the Stack Exchange family? A few things:
- A simple system of up- and down-voting questions and answers that ensures good ones are easy to find.
- A transparent system of user reputation that reflects engagement and expertise, and is not easy to game.
- A well defined path from proposal, to garnering support, to private testing, to public testing, to launch.
- Like good waiters, the moderators keep a very low profile. I rarely notice them.
- There are lots of people there! This always helps.
The exciting news is that, two years after being proposed in Area 51, the Earth Science site has reached the minimum commitment, spent a week in beta, and is now open to all. What happens next is up to us — the community of geoscientists that want a well-run, well-populated place to ask and answer scientific questions.
You can sign in instantly with your Google or Facebook credentials. So go and take a look... Then take a deep breath and help someone.