Re: Knowledge Base Design

Subject: Re: Knowledge Base Design
From: Ruth Lundquist <rlundquist -at- prosarcorp -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 10:11:18 -0500

IMNSHO, here is my best post to Techwr-l--I hope it leads you in the right
direction. It's appx. 3 years old, so there may be some out of date links
and there's certainly more information available now than there was then. I
found this by entering "Knowledge Base" in the Techwr-l archives (a very
hand reference tool).

Our knowledge base (kb) is a collection of documents organized in indices
(like directories or folders). It can be searched using several different
methods. It is continually updated with new information. The
kb tracks what information is used most frequently, how often it is used,
who uses it, etc.

Our phone support people and account managers use this massive kb to search
for answers to customers' questions. This information supplements the
on-line help and printed documentation that we supply with our product.

Any documents that get created are candidates for our kb: release notes,
installation instructions, installation and training schedules, FAQs, etc.
We try to discover all the pieces of information that a helpdesk person or
account manager will need to do his/her job, and then we try to deliver
that through the kb. I take note of the post-it notes attached to their
monitors, the papers hanging in their cubes, etc. (To discover the needed
documents, I worked in support for several weeks, taking calls from
customers. I became familiar with the types of questions being asked and
the information
needed to answer them. This also gave me the opportunity to form strong
working relationships with the support reps. They now feel quite
comfortable requesting particular bits of information and feel confident
that I'll create it in the kb. I highly recommend "walking a mile in their
shoes" if you have the opportunity.)

This is kind of a misleading question. There are many kb tools available
(some are listed at the end of this message) that don't really require you
to "design" a kb. We use Apriori by Platinum Technology. Most of the
documents are plain text files, but we can launch Word, Excel and .exe
files from within Apriori. We also make our kb available over the Internet
using HandsFree by Platinum Technology.

Make sure that whatever kb tool you choose has an open database. It's
likely that you'll want to include information created in another tool
(Word for example) and an open database will eliminate the need to
duplicate the information.

We've recently updated our web site to contain a lot of support-type
information, along with access to our kb. HTML and other web files open
huge possibilities when combined with a kb. You may want to explore that

I wouldn't begin to try to make a homegrown system. There are so many good
tools and companies out there who have already figured out what the
interface should do, why bother reinventing the wheel?

Remarkably, there is not much written about developing the content of a kb.
There's a lot of information available about implementing a kb, but it
focuses more on the technology of the tool. I'm a bit amazed that technical
communicators haven't taken a more leading role in the development of
knowledge bases, especially from an academic viewpoint.

You'll find kb's are usually in the domain of service and support
organizations, so most of the information will be more related to that

You might find these sites interesting: KB/Support Conference KB articles KB & Knowledge
Engineeringdefinitions KB white
paper Knowledge management

Here are a few notable KB vendors in no particular order:

Company: PLATINUM Technology
Product: Apriori
Contact: 800-833-PLAT

Company: Inference Corporation
Product: Inference
Contact: 847-619-7109

Company: Software Artistry
Contact: 314-984-6819

Company: Quintus
Product: AutoAnswer

Company: DK Systems
Product: many

For more information check the archives at
Search for "knowledge near base" and you'll find several relevant posts.


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