Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Knowledge Management System (KMS)?

The general term “Knowledge Management System” (KMS) refers to a system for supporting the creation, capture, storage and dissemination of information in organizations. A KMS enables collaboration, co-creation of content, and efficient use of information resources by systemizing activities ranging from project management to inter-office communication. A KMS also serves as a knowledge repository for the organization that is searchable and easy to access.

What is KARL?

KARL is an open source, web-based product for collaboration, organizational intranets and knowledge management. Developed by the Open Society Foundations (OSF), it was first introduced in 2008 and is now used by a broad range of international organizations including Oxfam GB and OSF.

Where does the name “KARL” come from?

Two sources. As an acronym, KARL stands for the “Knowledge And Resource Locator.” Also, Karl Popper was a primary influence on George Soros, founder of the Open Society Institute. Mr. Popper originated the ideas of an open, civil society with transparency.

Which license does KARL use?

KARL is licensed under the GPL.

Why choose KARL for your KMS?

Distributed teams need to share their critical business knowledge in order to achieve their organizations’ goals. KARL addresses this need by providing:

  • A set of intuitive and well-integrated tools
  • Accessibility and usability for everyone in a distributed organization
  • Capability to collaborate securely with individuals who are external to an organization
  • An unlimited number of communities to support organizations’ growth
  • Enterprise-level quality and fast performances through a solid architecture

How does KARL support collaboration?

KARL allows collaboration within on-line spaces called “Communities”. Any employee can create a community for any number of people and there is no limit to the number of communities an organization can create. One of the greatest benefits of KARL communities is that moderators can invite individuals from outside of the organization to join. KARL communities can include partners, vendors, subject matter experts and anyone with whom there is collaboration on a project.

The following set of simple, well-integrated tools are available within each community:

  • Fully Integrated Blog - each community has access to a shared blog, which serves as a place for users to post updates, new ideas, and other information, and where other members of the community may comment. Blogs are also integrated with email for easy content creation and alerts.
  • Layered Group Calendar - each community has its own shared calendar so that its users can easily manage events pertaining to that specific community. The KARL calendar has convenient daily, weekly, monthly and list views and can be aggregated across community spaces.
  • Collaborative Wiki - each community is given its own wiki where members can quickly and easily add and edit pages by using the rich text editor central to KARL. Wiki pages support images, embedded media objects, and links to other community content.
  • Secure File Sharing - For organizations whose processes rely on a large number of documents, KARL provides the capability to securely share and store documents, pictures, and various media in a repository inside each community.

How does KARL foster intra-organization communication?

Nowadays most organizations have distributed teams and the need to disseminate information to various offices around the globe is paramount. KARL introduces the concept of “offices”, which allows users to share and view information related to a specific office.

The KARL office landing page typically consists of office-specific navigation links in the left column, office-specific content in the right column, and organization-wide content in the center. This setup allows for organization-wide communication, as well as customized communication inside each office.

These online office spaces can have their own intranet-like landing page views, and provide a dedicated space for files, forums (a feature specific to office spaces), and events. Offices can also display content from corporate or other locations via RSS feeds.

How easy is it to organize and find content in KARL?

Whenever new content is added to KARL, the content creator has the option to send an e-mail notification to all members of a community. Each member of the community also has the ability to manage the frequency of receiving such notifications.

Additionally, KARL incorporates tagging at every level of the application. Community members can tag content, files, blog posts, and wiki pages with their own custom keywords and allow others to browse content by those keywords. A tag cloud helps to aggregate content at both the community and organizational levels.

KARL also has powerful search capabilities. The application supports full-text indexing out of the box, which means that when users search a term, all KARL content–including files–is queried. KARL automatically presents search results in the form of a “live search”, or a drop-down menu listing top relevant results organized by categories, such as people, posts or files.

Users can explore what others are doing on KARL by using the “Feeds” feature. Feeds provide a real-time list of updates on KARL that refreshes automatically every 30 seconds. As members add new content or edit existing content, the feeds provide a running view of the changes being made across an entire KARL instance.

Who is using KARL?

KARL was originally developed by the Open Society Foundation, an NGO operating in over 60 countries around the world. Since the launch of KARL, several other NGO’s, both large and small, have started using KARL to manage their global operations and to communicate and collaborate more effectively. Other NGO’s that are using KARL include Oxfam GB, the Eurasia Foundation, and others working in the areas of human rights, education, and media.

Although KARL was originally developed for the needs of NGO’s, it is increasingly gaining popularity with for-profit organizations.

How scalable is KARL?

KARL was originally developed for a large, international NGO and is capable of supporting the knowledge management needs of a large organization. OSF currently has nearly 5,000 users on their KARL system.

The simplicity of the user interface and the ease of hosting an instance of KARL also makes it an appropriate solution for a small organization . Currently, a UK-based media NGO with 25 employees is using KARL to manage their project-oriented operations, which involves staff and partners at several locations in Africa, as well as in the UK.

Is KARL secure?

As demonstrated by a recent third-party security audit, KARL’s security model is immune to classic threats. The application server and host system are designed in a sandboxed execution model that does not provide the breach opportunities of typical applications. Moreover, the granular security in KARL itself, with staff and affiliate roles tied to public and private communities and content, allows only authorized users to see privileged content. This granular security even extends to the search engine, a capability usually unavailable in competing systems.

What do I need to host my KARL site?

KARL is available as a hosted service and various options are available depending on the size and storage needs of the organization. Six Feet Up is the official hosting provider of KARL and more information can be found at

As an open source (GPL) solution, KARL can also be downloaded for free at KARL Project and can run on Linux, Unix, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris. In order to take advantage of the seamless product updates and 24/7 customer support, most organizations elect the hosted version of KARL.

Additional support and customization services are also available directly from Six Feet Up and from a growing network of developers who are continuously working to add to and improve the features available on KARL.

Can I get hosting or consulting for KARL?

Yes to both. Contact Six Feet Up for recommendations based on what you would like to do.

How does KARL compare with SharePoint and Ning?

KARL is often compared to other collaboration solutions such as Ning and SharePoint. While there are many similar features available in each platform, there are also some differences.

The primary aim of Ning is to allow users to build their own social network. KARL differs in the sense that it is an enterprise-level knowledge management system with well integrated features and robust security.

The primary strengths of SharePoint are its document management and enterprise search features. The collaboration features of SharePoint are less flexible to end users. As an open source solution, KARL offers many of the same features as SharePoint, but at a much lower overall cost.

Why no Windows version?

As of the 3.0 release, KARL is focused on the needs of organizations deploying KARL (OSI and others), plus the development team that makes and customizes KARL.

Neither of these populations are Windows users. It is feasible for a competent Python developer to get KARL running under Windows, but is not part of the funded roadmap for the core development team.

The most straightforward solution on Windows is to install a virtual machine environment for Windows, such as Sun’s VirtualBox. Inside of this environment, install a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu. You gain the advantage of using a configuration that is common to other users and developers.

How can I take a closer look at KARL?

A live demo of the KARL product is available online at Demo page or at . Actual data can be entered directly into the site to experience the user functionality and performance of KARL. Prospective KARL clients can also schedule a live web demo in order to see a fully functioning system. For any additional questions, please contact the KARL Support Team at