Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

7Jun0

Highlights of Week 22/2011

Posted by Michael Gaigg

28Aug0

Presentation: Wiki – the right tool for my organization?

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Finally I got my head around posting a presentation I gave last March. The title is "Wiki - the right tool for my organization?" and had the purpose of introducing the concept of a wiki to a group that was about to install a wiki within their department.

Background: About three years ago I went through the effort of evaluating existing wiki platforms, installing/hosting it for our department and keeping it alive for the next two years before it got sacked. I'm here to tell you why it didn't work out in the end.

Characteristics

I jump right into the characteristics (the slide "Characteristics" is duplicated in the presentation on purpose) because I found understanding them key to a successful implementation. That's why once more I want to emphasize on the issues that need to be met in order to successfully implement a wiki, for example if your company has no culture of sharing content or employees are reluctant to give up ownership of their code, a wiki is most likely not the ideal collaboration tool.

These are the characteristics of a wiki:

  • Perpetual work in progress
  • No one owns the content
  • No specific organization (hyperlinks)
  • Anyone can edit other people’s work
  • Discussion area for each page
  • Version control: list of all changes made to a page

Critical Success Factors (aka truth about a wiki)

Only implement a wiki if you feel comfortable you can meet the following critical success factors:

  • Only 10% contribute; only 1% on a regular basis.
  • Obey the characteristics of a wiki
  • Power to the people
    • Trust the user
    • Authority to change something
    • Refuse defined structures

My previous experience taught me that implementing a wiki into your organization is doomed to fail if one is not aware of their importance and therefore

  • overestimates the reach and participation,
  • neglects the characteristics of a wiki,
  • or doesn't want or cannot give power to the people.

The truth is, only 10% of users contribute to a wiki and only 1% on a regular basis. If you have 100 employees you can expect between 1 to 10 of them to contribute and the rest to consume - which in turn will lead to lesser contribution and lesser consumption over time. Wikipedia works well because there are millions of users where 1% is still significant number to keep up quality content.
The argument of mandatory (or even monitored) participation runs directly against the characteristics of a wiki, is counter-productive and will result in your wiki failing.

Choosing a wiki: What to consider

Obviously there are many criteria and features that will directly affect your choice. I recommend Comparison of wiki software as a starting point for finding the right software but I wouldn't be surprised if you ended up with MediaWiki which is the used by wikipedia for one simple reason (besides its free usage under the GPL license and its huge community): the MediaWiki syntax is widely used and makes actually sense to learn - because it is wikipedia 😉

Criteria

  • Cost (open source license)
  • Programming language (PHP, C#, Java)
  • Data backend (File system or DB)
  • Extensibility & user community

Features

  • WYSIWYG editing & Syntax
  • Version control & Discussions
  • Permissions & Security

Keys to get a wiki going

Once you've decided to go ahead and install a wiki, what can be done to make it successful?

  • Find dedicated helpers
  • Partner with groups/people related to your mission
  • Offer structural templates for new pages
  • Add some content to major categories
  • Do lots of marketing
  • If possible, offer training

Do you work with wikis?

What are your experiences? Do you use a wiki in your company? How do you use it?