I’ve been working for about a month now on a project to improve communication in the organisation. It came about because I was pretty badly offended at a new ‘idea’ that had been thrust upon us during some messy politics that were going on. I won’t go into that just now but the idea was to have an IT Newsletter distributed around the organisation to tell staff what’s going on. It was to be pure propaganda, with a complete absence of useful information, and I hated it.

Instead I did some very quick thinking and came up with a plan. I used some of the theories about Organisational Learning (OL) I’ve been reading about in my OU work this semester. These told me I should try to consider how best to a) facilitate the ability to impart explicit knowledge to other staff members, and b) create an environment where free discourse is understood and encouraged. High minded ideals indeed!

Initially I got interested in WordPress Mu. Once set up, it’s pretty much as good as regular WP (although a few versions behind) and highly scalable. Unfortunately I had serious issues with implementing it on a Windows server, and of course WordPress’s MySQL heritage makes things awkward.

Then all of a sudden phpbb3 RC1 was released. Regardless of the WordPress situation, the forums have been in desperate need of upgrades for years now. What’s more, phpbb3 has built in LDAP support, so users can log in with their Windows passwords. So the final project has grown out of that more than anything.

The current situation is very rosy. I’ve got the new forums mirroring the functionality and content of the old ones, but by adding an RSS mod I’ve opened the way up for much freer flow of information. phpbbportal is installed as a front page Portal, which uses RSS feeds from departmental forums to publish news in a tabbed layout. Next on my list I need a photo wall type thing. I might just use the standard member list for this, and upload each user’s photo as their avatar (and limit maximum display size).

Finally wp-united gets released this month, a plugin which integrates WordPress and phpbb completely, allowing multiple blogs. I intend to trial this out with an IT Services blog, and depending on how it goes, there could be justification for using it more widely.

I feel that although I’ve done a lot of work here, I’ve become more conservative with the project as it’s gone on. There’s a lot of sense in this – the users can barely grasp the concept of a forum, never mind a blog, so the more I can allow them to do within their current means the better.

I’ll come back to this with some updates and more general comments later, I just wanted to get this written down for now.