I always use analogies to simplified and understand the world of online. Its helps me make sense of things. At my job interview back in 2000 I used analogies for cooking and football to explain my methods.
When I first started developing websites I used the analogy of a supermarket, linking comparisons with usability, unique visitors, length of visits etc – you should have heard it, a master class if I say so myself.
The intranet world has moved on and my analogy now for intranets is a school. At a school we have formal classes, play time, assembly, registration and after school activities. The structure of an intranet is the same. We have formal document areas (class time); assembly (internal communications); registration (all the HR elements within the site); and communities (the various after school activities). Play time is where we introduce the collaborative elements of an intranet. It’s unstructured but it’s where the intranet can provide most value. Looking at our role within intranets we could see ourselves as playground assistant – monitoring what occurs in the playground, ensuring nothing dangerous is happening, and then learning, reporting and structuring around what we learn from these social collaborative gathering. By the way the intranet canteen menu is dinner time.