I've just started work on a project to build a first-ever intranet for a small UK government entity. I've been waiting for ages for an opportunity to put BuddyPress, the semi-official WordPress add-on which promises a 'social network in a box' experience, to the test... and this is it.
It's still early days in the thought process - but the plan is to make heavy use of BuddyPress 'groups', to generate a personalised real-time view of activity in the areas in which you have a specific personal interest. Each team or department would be a group. Each cross-departmental project would be a group. There might also be groups based on physical location, social activity, union membership and so on. Some would be mandatory (eg 'all staff'); some would be open for anyone to join; some would be invite-only, or totally hidden.
The BuddyPress 'activity stream' filters itself automatically according to each signed-in user's group memberships; so your homepage (tbc) view would consist only of updates - news, forum discussions, events, document uploads, new members etc - from the groups you belong to. No two users' views would be identical. It's easy to see how powerful this could be; and in a post-Facebook world, it shouldn't be an unfamiliar concept.
Anyway... I started preparing wireframes yesterday, and hit an immediate question. What should go in the 'logo' space, reserved by convention in the top left corner?
Most intranets I've had the misfortune to use in the past have had names. But I wondered, did people actually use those names when referring to them? When asked 'where can I find that document?', would people generally answer: 'On the intranet.' or 'On [insert name here].'? Personally, I'd instinctively say the former myself; but after 17 years in this business, I'm used to the fact that I'm not 'normal'.
So I asked Twitter. And to be honest, I was surprised by the response.
Almost without exception, people responded that yes, their intranet did have a name... ranging from the fairly dull ('Cabweb' at the Cabinet Office) to the fantastic ('Narnia' at the National Archives!) to the quite unfathomable (one digital agency chose, er, 'Agnes'). And yes, people used the name in common parlance.
One or two people reported failed attempts to name their intranet: but the names they mentioned - '[organisation name] Online', or 'The Hub' - seemed very generic. It's almost as if people will make an effort to use the name, if you've clearly made an effort to make one up. If the name seems half-heartedly conceived, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the staff don't buy into it.
I'm not claiming any scientific validity for these results; but I'm left in no doubt that I'm going to have to think up a name.