The 21st-Century Intranet

Book review by Deane Barker
tags: tech, intranets
1998
Jennifer Stone Gonzalez
350
10/10

This book was recommended by a friend as “the greatest book ever on intranet governance.” I was a little skeptical, seeing as it was 18 years old, but I did internet history so I took a chance on it.

Great book. There is barely anything technical in it – the book is basically 400-some-odd pages about how to manage people, manage leadership, and manage the organization. It’s barely even a book about technology. It’s more a book about organizational communication, learning, and psychology.

What’s sad, is that I don’t think the state of the organization has changed much in almost two decades. We’re still fighting the same battles that Gonzalez writes about.

There’s so much here that resonated with me. If there’s one complaint, it’s that her chapter and section headings are pretty ambiguous. It’s tough to follow in that respect – I couldn’t quite figure out the larger points that she was trying to build on.

This is a great book to gain context and bearings. I wonder, however, if anyone starts an intranet from scratch anymore? I suspect that many intranet projects are rebuilds of something that existed, or a formalization of a diaspora of communication technologies that already exist in an enterprise.

(Also, there’s a really weird anti-Microsoft rant in chapter 12. At the time this was written, there was a massive battle for the browser, which maybe where it came from, but it still seemed a little out of place.)

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