Run an internal Q&A forum
Forums like Stack Overflow or Quora have become global warehouses of collective wisdom. Along with Wikipedia, they answer half of the questions you ask Google. Can this model of crowd-sourcing information, that works so well for the public domain, also work for your company and help you accumulate invaluable private knowledge? At OneBar we believe that the answer is YES!
We design and build OneBar with a simple philosophy in mind: it should serve as a Single Source of Truth for your company. We’ve experimented with different approaches to what should “The Single Source of Truth” actually be: a chat?, a team wiki?, an integrated search engine?, or maybe a ticket tracker?, and ended up with the idea that at the core it should be a Q&A Forum.
- Unlike long, often poorly structured wiki articles, Q&As are concise and easy to consume
- Q&As are very search-friendly
- If you can’t find an Answer to something, you can always post a new Question which can then be assigned and tracked as an official Request For Documentation.
- Q&A system can store Answers directly, or just point to documents in other internal systems. This way it becomes an Index for the whole intranet and can partially replace an Integrated Enterprise Search.
- People already ask a lot of Questions and give a lot of Answers via different communication channels in your company. This information can be easily collected and persisted in the Q&A system.
Q&A for work is not a new idea, and there are other products on the market offering this functionality, but all of them struggle to achieve good user adoption. There is a number of factors making private intranets very different from the public Internet. Relatively low (compared to the Internet) flow of questions, along with a completely different incentive structure create a lot of challenges for implementing a traditional Q&A system internally. We’ve what works and what doesn’t for other products and designed our own. Here’s what we’ve got, and how OneBar is different from everything else.
Your Q&As are already in Slack, just add some order!
Corporate chat is already a go-to place where people seek and give help, and hundreds of Questions are being asked daily. It would be tough to redirect this flow to a Q&A system hence, a good system should deeply integrate with a communication platform. Slack is the most popular chat choice for work these days, and we’ve built OneBar specifically for Slack teams.
- @onebar bot and /onebar command can search the Question database from any channel or even DM
- You can assign or resolve unanswered Questions right in Slack
- We automatically synchronize comments in Slack and the web app for any Q&A
- You can configure the bot to auto-respond in specific channels
- You can use our specially designed interface to quickly import conversations from your existing channels and turn them into Q&As
Summarize threads as Q&As
If Slack is where work happens, threads are where most important conversations take place. Threads are full of useful information, but they drown in the channel log as quickly as everything else. You can search for them using a built-in Slack search, but you'll likely find a lot of noise because people are very verbose when talking work. What you really need is a way to search only for subjects that have been discussed and see decisions that have been made or solutions that have been found.
You can use @onebar save command to quickly summarize any thread as a Q&A and store it in the knowledge base. It's a quick and easy way to capture the essence of virtually any discussion and make it searchable by the whole team. Saving a lot of useful threads is also one of the best ways to bootstrap your fresh OneBar knowledge base and fill it up with data.
One Question — one Answer
Unlike public domain, internal Questions usually have only one correct Answer. Options create uncertainty, and popular systems typically implement a voting mechanism of some sort to help you pick the best answer. At work, however, it’s better to trust your manager than the crowd. In OneBar we purposefully removed the ability to add multiple Answers. A OneBar Question always has one correct Answer, which can be Updated or Invalidated. This Answer is the current state of Truth, and the rest should go into the Comments section.
We also have a handy version history where you can quickly find out what has been changed in a recent answer update. Click “Show history” to see all iterations over a given answer or restore one of the previous revisions.
Unlike a well-structured wiki, with a Q&A system, we’re looking at tens of thousands of tiny documents, which are extremely hard to organize using standard hierarchies (e.g., lists, indexes, tables of content, etc.). We’ve made Search a central pillar of OneBar interface. We constantly iterate and improve upon it. Most people land at a OneBar Question using some sort of Search (in Slack or from the web app) and then dig deeper by following Cross-links or clicking on Tags.
Tags are another essential way of organizing information in OneBar. You can model topics, teams, statuses or anything else using Tags. Each tag has a separate page with a fixed URL, which can be used as a F.A.Q. for a topic. Tags help OneBar better understand relations between Questions and People, provide better Suggestions and route Notifications.
Duplicates and Synonyms
Different people phrase the same Question very differently. This, however doesn’t mean that there should be ten separate records for the same thing in OneBar. From the ground up we’re modeling Questions as something that can have multiple descriptions and provide powerful tools for merging duplicates and adding synonyms.