You Might Be an Intranet Pack Rat If...

By Paul Chin

Originally published in Intranet Journal (25-Jul-2007)

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You really have no idea how much junk's lying around your house until you actually have to move. I became intimately aware of this fact when I recently helped my mother pack and move 20 years worth of accumulated possessions—things she put in the closet to be sorted out "later," things that she thought would be handy when she bought them but are still in their original packaging two decades later, things that were given to her as gifts and never used. And of course, there's the basement—the graveyard for a household's unwanted garbage.

Intranet owners can experience this same rude awakening when they go through a system migration or content audit. If they aren't diligent enough in their content management, they'll eventually discover that a lot of it needs to be dumped on the curb for the garbage collectors. The old platitude about content being king is not entirely accurate; relevant content is king. And sometimes you just need to boot the king on the backside and start hitting the key.

I admit that I used to be a content pack rat. As a writer and journalist, I squirreled away every piece of interesting information I got my hands on—from feature articles in newspapers and trade magazines to simple blog entries. You never know when an obscure little tidbit of information will form the basis of a future article. At least that was how I rationalized my pack rat behavior.

I categorized and filed all this information away in a simple searchable database for easy reference. But in all honesty, I think I referenced my database only twice within the two years I maintained it. It dawned on me, after a time, that I was simply going through the motions. I was storing content for the sake of storing content, and hardly made use of it. When I came to my senses, I went on a massive deleting spree.

So why did I save all this content to begin with? I did it for the same reasons intranet content owners do it:

Dangers of Being a Content Pack Rat

Any intranet professional should know that one piece of high quality content is worth more than five pieces of mediocre content. It's a mistake to think that storing extraneous content on an intranet is harmless. Intranets are used as content management systems, not content storage systems. All that content white noise can have a negative impact on your intranet:

Avoiding and Surviving Content Pack Rats

Most of us who have had to deal with junk around the house come up with one of two solutions: throw it away or hide it. Unfortunately, the "out of sight, out of mind" solution doesn't work. You can't simply hide things because, sooner or later, you're going to have to deal with it. And when that time comes, the more you have to clean up, the less you'll want to do it.

The effort required to deal with extraneous or expired content in the future is entirely dependent on what you do now:

Closing Thoughts

People have a tendency to fill things to capacity just because they have the space. The bigger the house, the more junk you put in it. The bigger the intranet, the more content you store. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. The true worth of an intranet is not measured by how much content it has, it's how much quality content it has.

While you might think that you're doing your users a favor by providing them with mounds of information, that superfluous content will do nothing but detract from the system and the truly valuable content. All that content is going to stay locked up in some dusty old corner of your intranet until one day you'll have deal with it. Let's just hope you don't strain something when you do.

Copyright © 2007 Paul Chin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of this article in whole or part in any form without prior written permission of Paul Chin is prohibited.