Early Sunday morning we launched phase 2.0 of the Local Store Pages project that allows all 1000+ Best Buy stores to blog/post content using Wordpress MU (“multi-user”), with templates that have a mix of hCard microformat and RDFa (dublin core, FOAF, and GEO), and support for hCalendar event markup. You can find these pages by clicking through to the store locator page, typing in your city or zip, and clicking on the “hours, directions, and events” link of the result store in the right column. While it may not be amazing news to many, to me it represents a visible shift in acceptance of open standards and tools in the enterprise.
A Significant Upgrade
With a difficult to use vendor-supplied phase 1 tool based off of SharePoint, the shift to using WordPress MU will be significant. For the internal admin team, the WordPress tool is already a much easier tool to create new store sites and administer existing sites and users. The old tool limited publication to once every 24 hours — now stores will be able to publish to their local tool and have their content be live within a two hour window, in partnership with our CDN, Akamai. The out-of-the-box toolset, flexibility through plugins and custom code, and intuitive interface, WordPress MU rivals any other enterprise-grade software.
Foray into Semantic Web
If you’re versioning the web and stuck on “Web 2.0″, please say hello to “Web 3.0″, commonly referred to as the Semantic Web. This project discreetly provides solid metadata about our local stores using a combination of RDFa and Microformats. In the past, we haven’t done a great job of highlighting the very basic information of our stores — often it gets covered up with hacks or confusing code, both for human users, and for machines (search engines, data gathering applications, etc.). I am confident that adopting these open data standards will enable our customers to better find and use the products and services we offer at our stores, wherever they’re at.
Iterating into the Future
One of the best parts of WordPress MU is that it provides a solid base platform to iterate from. The team already has some great ideas on new features and functionality that are easily attainable in short, iterative projects. This represents a shift from the old tool, and from how we do our work in general. Typical bestbuy.com web projects are large, lumbering and complex (overly complex if you ask me), and typically don’t fully achieve their desired goals due to a “big bang” approach. Hopefully this project will provide additional proof that starting with a simple but solid foundation and building off of that makes more sense for the enterprise.
Finally, Just Let them Blog!
There is a power in the voices of our employees that can be tapped using this WordPress platform, provided we let them use it. Each store has a sub culture of it’s own, and it would be a shame to not let them express it based on a worry that someone would post something damaging to the company. There is an inherent trust we place in all of our employees when they are out on the floor, face-to-face with customers that should to be applied in the online space. Problems can arise and company reputation can be put to the test faster with an unpleasant face-to-face encounter than it can with an errant blog post. This new platform provides the means to go beyond posting simple data, and enables our employees to find, explore and share their voice.