Re: Knowledge Base information

Subject: Re: Knowledge Base information
From: Ruth Glaser <rglaser -at- DATAWORKSMPLS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 10:03:01 -0600

DESCRIPTION OF OUR KNOWLEDGE BASE:
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.)
TOOLS USED TO DESIGN THE KB:
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
option.

WHAT PREFERENCES THE INTERFACE SHOULD ADDRESS:

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?

ANY WEB SITES PERTAINING TO KNOWLEDGE BASES:

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
topic.

You might find these sites interesting:
http://www.ssce.com/ KB/Support Conference
http://www.montague.com/ KB articles
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/ai/samples/ke KB & Knowledge Engineering
definitions
http://www.pacific.net.id/english/content/Ti/shanti/people.html KB white
paper
http://m5.inference.com/welcome/knowledge.html Knowledge management
resources

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

Company: PLATINUM Technology
Product: Apriori
Contact: 800-833-PLAT
Web: www.platinum.com

Company: Inference Corporation
Product: Inference
Contact: 847-619-7109
web: www.inference.com

Company: Software Artistry
Product:
Contact: 314-984-6819

Company: Quintus
Product: AutoAnswer
web: www.quintus.com

Company: DK Systems
Product: many
web: www.dksystems.com

For more information check the archives at
http://www.documentation.com/. Search for "knowledge near base" and
you'll find several relevant posts.




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