Using WordPress P2 theme as a communication tool in our organization

This week we had a soft launch for our new internal WordPress blog, running on the P2 theme.  I’m hoping it will be a better way to get our local knowledge out of our inboxes and on the web so that all public service workers, even students, will have access to the same information.

An internal blog is nothing new to us, having used for a while in 2005.  We moved from a WordPress blog a year later to a MediaWiki wiki because at the time, the wiki offered better organization of content.  Our departmental wiki later merged with an organization-wide wiki, and now it’s incredibly hard to find the content that is relevant for our department.  The wiki has grown too big for our department to use effectively, resulting in our searches returning false drops of someone else’s content.

Another problem with the wiki is that there isn’t a good way to view the most recent content.  In a public service environment, we need to let communicate among our staff about printing outages, tough research assignments (with links to resources), workarounds for tech/computer issues, etc.  In our big organizational wiki, the current issues get lost in the mix of archives of staff meeting minutes, cataloging procedures, and internal policy documents.

Therefore, we’ve started to blog again like it’s 2005.  We’re using WordPress again, but any blogger knows that the platform has come a long way in  decade.  To make it easier for our staff and students to post, read, and comment, we are using the P2 Theme, which allows you to post and comment directly on the home page.  Users don’t have to visit the admin page within the blog to add content, which will hopefully make it a lot easier for all staff to participate in the conversation.

Our blog is just in it’s infancy, so I can’t really report about its use right now.  However, I found WPUniversity’s articles on using WordPress for project management (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) very useful. Also, WPCandy has a nice list of plugins to use to enhance your P2 installation.

Matt Mullenweg discusses how P2 Changed Automattic.

A quick overview of the P2 theme is shown in the video below.

Also, Beau Lebens of WordPress.com explains the evolution of P2 and the future of O2.  It’s really neat to hear how the folks at Automattic use P2 for 80% of their communication.  Email is almost forbidden and highly frowned upon within the organization.

Twitter for tech support and customer service

So I was teaching a class this morning at another building on campus. Unfortunately the provided computer I was using was having network issues.  While we waited on the IT guys for the building to come in, I took the following picture with my phone and sent it to twitpic, which then sent the tweet to twitter.

Here’s what I posted on twitter with my phone:

Click to go to twitter page

Click to go to twitter page

Within 1 minute of sending that text to TwitPic, I got a text message from one of our system administrators at the library.  He asked me what room I was in, and if I needed help.  I replied that I was outside his territory, as I was in another campus building, not the library.  Although he could not help me, it was amazing that he could respond so quickly.

There are a few things here that made this work.  First, we have IT folks who get it.  Seriously, our library IT department is top notch in a lot of ways.  They’re willing to try new things such as twitter,  if only simply to see how they work and how they might be used.  Secondly, my colleague happened to be following me on twitter, and I also follow him.  If he had not been following me, he would not have seen the text at all.  Third, he happened to refresh the twitter page, and there I was.  Finally, he knew my cell number, so he was able to send me a text message.  He could have also sent me a direct message in twitter, but he had no way of knowing that I get direct messages via text messages on my phone, so a text message was the guaranteed way of asking me if I needed help.

While there are definitely some hoops to jump through, I can definitely see how an organization could use this for technical support or other kinds of immediate assistance.  (This also assumes we don’t see the twitter fail whale).  All of my colleagues in my department are on twitter, although some use it a lot more frequently (@cguder, @lolebek, @hagman) than others.  With the ability to extend twitter with pictures via TwitPic, with video via 12Seconds, and with SMS, twitter has the potential for being a very robust communication tool.