So I just loaded up Jive Software's Knowledge Base software onto my server for a new site called MobKnowledge.com. I have a personal "not invented here" syndrome when it comes to my web server, so this is a big thing for me to decide to use someone else's software. But I don't have any free time to develop something on my own now and Jive's software is exactly what I would've wanted to create in the first place (and after using it, is very well done) that I decided to go that route. It took me all of 30 minutes to get it up and running on my server, from db creation to launch.
Don't I have enough sites to maintain already? Well that's the nice thing about using Jive's software is all I have to do now is add content rather than mess with the code. That's very liberating. I may have lost my PNIH syndrome forever (though I immediately am thinking of ways to tweak the site - but that's fine as the software came with source code!).
So what's the plan with this site? Simply put, I envision a "knowledge base for mobile phones." I wrote about my ideas for MobKnowledge in detail months ago and since then I've just seen the need increase. The idea is not for "Yet Another Mobile Weblog" or a tips site, but a repository for hard info. The stuff that most people spend time scrounging the web with Google to find out right now. Access points, links to manufacturers, help on setup, device capabilities, etc.
The first question in my mind is whether a knowlege base is the right place to put this info. Maybe a Wiki or a Weblog would be better and less constrained than a KB, which is structured and controlled - usually meant for single entity to enter responses to commonly asked questions about a single product. But weblogs are too linear and rely on Google for most of their backwards searching (though maybe if I ever added categories to my weblogs it would help the matter, but I don't think so) and Wikis can quickly become chaos with their inter-linking pages and free-form data entry. Maybe that's a good thing... That's really the question.
Gathering data is really the most difficult part of any website. That - to me - has always been the secret to weblogs or moblogs: easy content creation. Weblogs make it incredibly simple to continue adding info to a site over time, until soon you have this massive amount of data to work with. Starting with a blank Knowledge Base is particularly intimidating. Where do I start? If it was a weblog, I'd just go write a few posts for the day and feel good about it. If it was a wiki, I'd go through and spec out all the page links I'd *like* to see and hope others help me out filling them in (that doesn't work by the way, I've tried it before with SimpleFace). With a KB, I feel the need to "fill it up".
So what I've done - though I'm really not expecting much input - is made the site open. Anyone can create an info page. The idea being that "mob" will mean both "mobile" and "lots of people". If you'd like to help out, please feel free to register for a new log in and start creating info pages. Know the GPRS settings for your operator? Pop them in there. Did you just go hunting for a .pdf version of your phone's manual? Go in an create a page with the link. Just walk your Mom through sending SMS for first time? Go in and write it up.
All that said, I highly doubt anyone will be into this. That's *work*, not fun. Which is fine. An open website is like an open source project. One guy has to do a lot of the work at first and make headway, then later when people start seeing the value, then you might have some others start contributing. But just "building it" doesn't mean they will come, I know that. Being a KB and not something simpler like a Wiki makes the barrier to entry that much higher. It's not as simple as just clicking on the "edit this page" button at the bottom and you're done, is it?
I guess this all boils down to fundamental designs of websites meant to gather data. Too much structure up front is bad for the people gathering data. If you've got some sort of open site where people aren't compelled to enter data any other way, than that spells disaster. Wikis are so useful because they lower the amount of work you have to do to edit a site down to almost nothing. Weblogs are second best because they make the process simple as well, and very linear, the fact that it's a new day compells you to post. Filling up a KB? Well, that means logging in, pre-determining categories, navigating to the right place, entering data and then being "in charge" of that data (others can't edit your pages) in case it needs to be changed. It's a lot of work. But the pay off later in terms of finding that info, I think, makes it worth it.
So I'm exploring all this because that's the first decision I've taken about the site and why. Now the second decision is where to cut off info that's put into the site. There's more info about mobile phones out there than I could possibly try to gather and organize in one place, even if I spent all day every day trying. If you think about all the phones that exist today, and the new phones that appear daily, it's nuts to think I can organize all that myself, and keep the data current.
One way is a "auto-FAQ" type of site. But I hate those usually. The Questions are never exactly what I'm looking for, and the answers are usually pretty lame as well. But I could have a spot where people ask questions, to be filled out later. Sort of like a BBS + data repository. I think that might be a good place to start to guage the demand for certain types of info.
But there's a ton of info out there that's already ripe for the gathering. Carrier info is one: Each country has a handful of carriers, how much do they cost, what are their pros/cons, what services are provided, what phones work with which, and what are the GPRS settings for each. Then manufacturers: which phones do they have, when were phones launched, where are the support sites, etc. Then the phones themselves: where can you find them, what are their capabilities, size/weight, where are the manuals. And for developers there's a ton more info: Which phones have J2ME, which version, what are their memory and storage limitations, which phones have Symbian and which version, etc.
That ton of info out there that usually cause people to Google for most of it, but *most* of the time the info is pretty static so there's no reason not to then copy/paste it into MobKnowledge so others can find it more easily. And that's just the beginning. The *real* goal of MobKnowledge is to provide a level of support that commercial call centers could use to solve the problems of consumers with new cellphones.
As mobile phones get more features, they are getting substantially more complicated and the carriers aren't prepared to support these features. Try it right now. Call up your carrier and say "Hi, I just installed Opera on my Nokia 3650, but now I can't receive messages because it says 'memory full', what do I do?" They'd go, "uhm. Uh. Don't know, not supported." That's where I see MobKnowlege heading - as a tool that carriers can use to support their smart phone customers. These are the customers that the carriers want: They use more expensive data services than their "base model" customers use and that's what the carriers - whether they know it or not - want and need. But these higher ARPUs come with a price, which is the support involved keeping their shiny new handsets working optimally. If you can't use your phone, you can't use the data services and that means lost money for carriers.
Maybe that's what I should do - focus on smart phones? That might be a real option as all I ever use is those types of handsets now and that's what I'd have on hand to test. However, even regular MMS Camera phones need support as well. They have GPRS settings and memory and syncing problems and can install Java and BREW apps as well. All those features need to be supported as well - maybe even more so right now as the people with the more advanced phones probably are more advanced users (though with the Nokia 3650's focus on younger crowds - think P. Hilton - this may not be the case anymore).
Okay, so that's the stream of thought for today. There's definitely a need out there, and I think this is the first step to filling it, but from that point there devil is in the details. Any thoughts?