How does the Knowledge Base work?
The Indiana University Knowledge Base (KB) is a custom-built content management and workflow system managed by the IU Knowledge Management (KM) team to collect, maintain, and publish online answers to information technology questions at IU.
To support the IU community, Knowledge Management staff work with information technology providers throughout the IU enterprise to publish both internal and external information in the KB.
The Knowledge Management Systems team maintains the infrastructure of the KB and ensures its availability as a mission-critical system. Team members also design and implement improvements to the KB to take advantage of new technology.
Note: The legacy Knowledge Base code will be replaced by a community-source solution available through the Kuali Foundation. See Kuali Knowledge Management System (KMS).
In terms of resources and infrastructure, the KB is currently made up of the following elements:
- More than 17,000 files (each one a KB component; less than half
are active), most consisting of a question and an answer, formatted in
Knowledge Base Markup Language (KBML), a proprietary text markup
language described using SGML. KBML is similar to HTML, but with some
customizations and special features for the needs of the KB.
- A proprietary full-text search engine written in Perl 5
- A cluster of load-balanced servers leveraging IU's Intelligent Infrastructure environment broken into a backend tier handling the data and logic, and a presentation tier handling the web interface, all running Ubuntu Linux
- Several Apache web servers
- Several MySQL databases containing content metadata
- GNU Revision Control System (RCS) maintaining the revision and
editing history on all files
- Apache Subversion (SVN) for version control of all source code
- Tools and utilities for KB usage reports and text maintenance. The KM team uses Emacs with proprietary Lisp extensions to edit files. The KB also has web and command-line tools for intensive searches, and a web-based collaborative workflow system. Additional utilities include a tool to study the search strings actually submitted by users, and tools for adding and removing links to other KB content and for changing metadata. KB files are written in KBML but translated into XML before being stored in the database and delivered to the presentation system.
Thousands of KB files have been written by consultants who work for the University Information Technology Services (UITS) Support Centers in Bloomington and Indianapolis. Much originates from questions asked of consultants by the computing community. Also, as technologies change and new computing tools are introduced at IU, UITS system and service administrators and others from departments across the entire IU system revise and contribute information to help prepare for changing support requirements.
As KM staff add content, they supply metadata to help with maintenance. Text can also contain hidden information. Some of this information, such as background or maintenance information for staff, does not affect the way the content is used. Other hidden words, however, can be embedded in the file to affect searches. For example, in components that contain the text "email", KM staff create a hidden area in which they also include the term "mail". Including common alternate spellings of such terms increases the chance of a search returning all relevant content.
KB content regarding technologies no longer used at IU (such as
Pegasus Mail) or services no longer provided at IU can be
archived. By default, archived texts are not returned in
searches, but you can access them by checking
documents when you submit your search.
When staff make changes to files, words that were once contained may be removed, and new words added. These changes may not be reflected when searching the KB until the index is rebuilt each night. Likewise, new content is not searchable until the day after being added to the KB.
Last modified on May 16, 2013.