Sharepoint 2007 has five templates for building sites on your organization’s intranet: team site, blank site, document workspace, wiki site, and a blog.  Each template has obvious uses.  A team site is useful for organizing, authoring, and sharing content.  A blank site is completely empty and highly customizable.  Document workspaces are used for teams that need to co-author a document, and the site supports various project management functions native in MOSS, such as task assignments and issues tracking.  A wiki site is for brainstorming and sharing ideas.  Finally, the blog site is utilized for sharing observations and allowing for others to comment.

While each template presents advantages for workflow, I want to take a few minutes and share how the blog site in Sharepoint can be harnessed for more creative purposes.  When I think about corporate blogs, I think of them as online journals in which the blog’s author is typically ranting to the ether.  We all know that corporate blogs often suffer from low use, even though they are implemented to open up dialog.  Many employees could care less about someone’s musings from a conference.  We duly note their indifference when we look at site usage statistics, or more obviously by the lack of comments under each post:)

So, how can we encourage better participation with blogs on Sharepoint?

1.  Aesthetic appeal: The Site Designer permission group in MOSS allows you to change the look and feel of your site.  Change the Theme of your site to something befitting your content.

2.  Get dynamic: Web parts are your friend.  Use the Content Editor Webpart to add images, tables, and embeddable content like video.  Remember that most videos on Youtube, or popular podcast sites like PodBean contain embeddable source code. 

3.  Redux: Remove from the template any webparts your users won’t need and DO NOT add unneccesary webparts because they look cool. 

4.  Stop playing “Mother May I”: Sharepoint is intended to share content and ideas.  Don’t construct your blog permission sets in such a way that discourages participation.  Ideally, the blog’s administrators should at least have Design permissions, and everyone else should have Contributor permissions.  The Contributor permission set will allow all staff members to start new posts (with publication pending approval from the site’s admin) and also freely comment on existing posts.  Making your blog Read-Only isn’t cool!

5.  Experiment: Your internal blog can be so much more than an online journal.  Build a blog as an organizational FAQ and allow staff members to post new questions.  Build a blog as a virtual book discussion.  Build a blog for sharing best practices with your organization’s new technology.  Your users will appreciate your creativity.

Below are images of two Sharepoint blogs I’ve constructed based on these simple, yet effective design principles.