Wikis at work

November 28, 2007 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

As opposed to a previous post on the successful corporate wiki….  here are a few real examples, and some suggestions for making a wiki work within a corporate environment:

The November 26, 2007 eWeek cover story, entitled Wikis at Work, describes the implementation of wikis in a corporate environment and offers comments and tips for better wiki deployment.

  • User participation is difficult to gauge
  • Users may view wikis as yet another application that IT is pushing them to learn— that’s going to interfere with e-mail, voice mail, meetings, and to-do lists
  • A wiki succeeds when enough individuals are involved with the wiki that other users want to contribute and be involved
  • Define how users might want to use the wiki before allowing live content to be published
  • Just building a wiki won’t necessarily attract participation. A core group of active users needs to be pulled together to form the community supporting the wiki.
  • Soliciting contributions will work only if users find the wiki environment easy to work in…use a wiki that incorporates a WYSIWYG editor
  • Directory integration is important so users don’t need additional credentials for wiki access

I couldn’t find the list online, but here are a few of the 25 tips for a better wiki deployment:

  • Only 10 percent of wiki contributions might be valuable
  • Find at least one wiki champion
  • Just do it.  Wikis are cheap; failure is a cheap option
  • Keep the information organization simple; overstructuring makes it hard and intimidating to add new content. 
  • Invite users to start participating through commenting on the content
  • Create navigational pages to guide browsing across the wiki – support for a dynamic approach is suggested
  • Remind users to use the wiki search
  • Single all-encompassing wikis seldom work in the enterprise, concepts of spaces or projects are almost always required
  • Start a wiki with those who have a need for it; forcing use is a bad idea

About a year ago, eWeek had another article called Wikis are Alive and Kicking in the Enterprise which discussed Motorola’s use of wikis…. 

  • “Motorola’s collaboration infrastructure contains 17TB of searchable data.”
  • 250 part-time volunteer “knowledge champions” who take responsibility for different subject areas in the Open Text collaboration infrastructure. The group meets biweekly to set governing processes.
  • “Part of the culture is to look up documents. People say, ‘Go look in the wikis.'”
  • some people feel comfortable with the idea that their work is edited by others. Others feel reluctant to add or make changes.
  • An obstacle to wiki adoption is a corporate culture that doesn’t encourage people to change other people’s work.
  • Wikis are not well-suited to some uses.  e-mail might be appropriate for communication with a broad group of employees.  Real-time communication is best done by instant messaging or by telephone.  Direct person-to-person interaction should never be abandoned.

Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) from the American Chemical Society has frequently mentioned “web 2.0 tools” like wikis, blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking over the past year. In some cases, the context is academic labs and educational uses, but there have been articles about companies using some of these technologies. For example, “Seeing the Forest at Pfizer,” September 3, 2007, is an article about “knowledge engineering,” the development of shared research tools: a wiki (MediaWiki) internally dubbed Pfizerpedia.  The approach:  ‘…post some internal Pfizer content, “turn it on, and see what happens.”‘  Other points:

  • Wiki “curators” minimally administer the site and remove inappropriate entries
  • The  wiki approach affords a much more comprehensive view than blogs or discussion groups… it can…serve as a guide to relevant blogs or discussion groups within Pfizer
  • The wiki provides a way to get information [as well] as a means of promoting personal or team projects
  • The wiki has shown that there is… interest among researchers in sharing information, “a pent-up need to share information.”

A podcast, “How to Start a Wiki” at Buzz Marketing for Technologyhad some good points….  One I can remember suggested starting the wiki with a core group of content editors and let them work for a while.  Then allow these folks to invite another group of content editors, for example, give them five invitations to hand out.  This way you can sort of force-feed the wiki with active users before you roll it out to a community at large.  The goal is to avoid a wiki ghost town as described in Why It’s Not a Wiki World (Yet):  “an individual may want to start a wiki, but if that wiki has no contributors, it may not be very useful.”



Entry filed under: KM.

Stuff from Wired, March 2007 Notes from The Cuckoo’s Egg, Clifford Stoll

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