Web Development

Wiki technology appearing all over the place

Wiki, a technology for online encyclopedias and other documentation, is beginning to find itself in some interesting places. A Stanford professor has proposed that wiki technology be used in Congress to help make the process more transparent. In addition, he wants his "wiki-army" to help stamp out cronyism and reform the good ol' boy network that is still alive and well in our nation's capital.

Wiki, a technology for online encyclopedias and other documentation, is beginning to find itself in some interesting places. A Stanford professor has proposed that wiki technology be used in Congress to help make the process more transparent. In addition, he wants his "wiki-army" to help stamp out cronyism and reform the good ol' boy network that is still alive and well in our nation's capital.

Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress (Wired)

Wikis are now being used for a number of purposes, one example is a site called WikiLeaks, a place for whistleblowers to post their material anonymously. Wikis are also making their way into the business world as a place for online documentation, a role for which the technology is particularly well suited.

Scientology, The China Syndrome, and my wiki ways (Infoworld)

Work Smarter (Entrepreneur)

Discussing the role of enterprise wikis (CIO Asia)

Wiki technology is one of those things that I believe should be used in every single business. Wikis can be used to document everything from manufacturing processes to internal human resources procedures, and they have the power to help transform businesses into much more dynamic entities. The biggest problems I see are the lack of training on wiki technology and the reluctance of people to document procedures and processes that they believe make them valuable to the company. Does your workplace use wikis for documentation, collaboration, or in other ways?

15 comments
TheGooch1
TheGooch1

The last 2 companies that I worked for had short-lived Wiki initiatives. Personally, I prefer to create a document folder on Sharepoint and put my application documentation there( installation, configuration, operation,etc topics ).

Andy J. Moon
Andy J. Moon

Wikis are a fantastic way to document all kinds of things. The biggest power the technology has is its ability to help a business continue moving if someone is out sick or taking leave. If they have documented their procedures properly, someone else should be able to do much of their work while they are gone. Of course, this strength is also a downside for many people who feel that the security of their jobs lie in the information that exists solely in their heads. Many will feel reluctant to document procedures that could make it easier for a company to get someone else to do the job. Does your company use wikis?

WTRTHS
WTRTHS

Have to agree with TheGooch1 here. A network share (or sharepoint folder) is all that is needed. Just create a folder with the right permissions and make people post their documents there. Added bonus is that multiple document formats can be used. Need to search? Windows XP has it built in! Vista's search is even better at it. The only benefit I see is for documenting straight to an on-line wiki, sort of fulfilling the role of a content management system.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Particulary on projects. Can get a bit messy, but way better than batting emails about, and far more flexible than one rigid documention framework.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

Actually, Wikis can be great tools for internal use: 1). Help drive user self-service for functional business users (How-To's on setting up voice mail, submitting Flex Spending payment requests with link to form, crib sheet on Excel functionalities, etc). 2). Help ease the on-boarding of new employees (list of position expectations, links to HR-related docs, social space for employees, CBT modules, etc). 3). Help drive product innovations from unlikely sources (person at end of assembly line that puts spokes in Wonder Widget submits 'Product Enhancement Idea' to change primer from Primer A to Primer B to reduce smearing...which reduces defect rate for units). Those examples are based off of what I've seen work. Mind you, those are end-state success stories, and it takes quite a bit of planning and change-management to get to that point. Executive buy-in and being mindful of the culture of the organization are key to getting something like this implemented properly.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That may or may not have something useful in them, no version history, no real way of imposing a structure. No wonder you need a better search tool. The only benefit..., that IS the benefit without that you might as well just create a share in a folder and give everyone read write on it... I'll be the first to admit a wiki can become as much of a tip as a folder, but that it has, especially if you do say a project dashboard or some such on it, is sort of in peoples faces. The fact that your design is arse will go right over their heads, but if that sad face is still there next week you'll get lots of phone calls.

jcpeterman
jcpeterman

We have 1700 docs on SharePoint and searches take 10 minutes using 64-bit. Alas thumbscrews never work - their avatars reappear

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

the guy who I responded to. You were asking, he was telling. My biggest recomendation, is to get some visibility on it. The home page as a dashboard for the project. Kick the link round the interested parties, while you've got the inital investment/interest Current project we kept it pretty much in the team, and as soon as resource got tight, documentation got dropped again. My high hopes and good deal of effort at the start dashed against the rocks again. Can't rescue this one, but next time I'm going to make it much harder to disguise the get out of jail free card that is the time allocated to doing the job properly.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...to hold up a folder as better than a wiki, ... is well missing the point a bit." I'm sorry if I gave the impression I thought a folder was a superior solution. As I noted, I know little about wikis and certainly don't feel qualified to rate them against other solutions. I'm just trying to gather more info. Regardless of the solution to knowledge management, the same two problems remain: inspiring the knowledgeable to insert content, and motivating the ignorant to access it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You can link the files explicitly. Finding can be a problem if there's no framework to post entries into (same as it would be if there were no sub directories say). A wiki would be more declarative. You might have a naming convention and put all top level project scopes in folder projscope obviously youcan be a bit friendler than that. They do require a bit more effort but done well and fairly religiously maintained you can get far more out of them than a bucket to store files in. Given thumbscrews have been discounted as an option, maybe getting their name up on the wiki out there in public might make some of them be a bit more forthcoming. If not, sack the fookers, it's all they deserve.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Content, as he said is access or policing. I suppose you could do the same job in a folder but you'd have to open the files. We got a structure by using a template, which again, you could precreate some folders I suppose. I just feel that a wiki's purpose is far clearer than a folder called docs, and you get some nice stuff like cross referencing, layouts etc. There will be times where it isn't the best aproach but to hold up a folder as better than a wiki, because the file search tools let you get away with being disorganised, is well missing the point a bit. Which was the gist of my response to WTRT. Knowledge sequesterers, thumbscrews work well.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But much of this can also be done with other document management software - controlling access, searching content. I can already control access to a folder without any tools external to the OS. Most desktop OS have content serach tools built in. Whether you search a file or read a wiki entry, you've got to find the right file / entry before you begin. Proper naming conventions strike me as the best tool for this, but they're a requirement for either method. What makes a wiki preferable? Is my lack of understanding due to not having seen a corporate wiki in action? Will that employee who views his exclusive knowledge as a key to keeping his job be any more likely to share it via wiki as opposed to any other source?

Jaqui
Jaqui

the wiki database keeps edit history in it, so you have a full version control over your documents. You know what was changed, by whom and exactly when it was changed. This is in every decent wiki script already. british tip is us/canada dump / landfill There are problems with wikis, in that they are not set up for making the content print ready. To stop garbage content showing up in them, you only have to remove the option for people to post without being members, and do not allow just anyone to join. a wiki script is something like a community script also. edit to add: Since you can read the content of the wiki, it is far easier to find relevant content, or to remove garbage content than it is to wade through 1500 files in a folder.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"That may or may not have something useful in them, no version history, no real way of imposing a structure." Being ignorant of wikis, I'm with the "shared folder" guys. Perhaps you can enlighten me. How does using a wiki prevent useless content, provide a version history, or impose structure? What are the advantages over other document management tools that accomplish those objectives? "...a wiki can become as much of a tip as a folder,..." For those of us who learned the wrong version of English, what's a 'tip'? Isn't it more important for procedures to get documented than the method? Those knowledge-misers are going to be reluctant to share their experience regardless of the method used to share it.