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Marshall's Web Tool Blog

Training and Consulting in New Tools for Effective Web Use

This site is an archive of posts that I hope you will find useful. Please visit my new site at Marshallk.com.

Wiki Implementation

Ok, so I need to finish my wiki (definition) comparisons today and get them to the technical half of my team for this project. I've been spending a little too much time doing technical comparisons of the various options and need to switch over to usability requirements in order to complete the write up.

I believe that wiki implementation is primarily a cognitive or creative process; implementation needs to be planned and carried out in a way that will maximize user comfort and excitement. Fortunately for this presentation next week, the group is already excited about setting up a wiki. My last presentation was to a group wherein the upper management was not supportive enough to help overcome some technical obstacles. (That's my perception of what happened anyway.) One way or the other, it was a good learning experience. I realized that working with groups on the margins of economic power will often include out of date technology.

So, here's a few highlights from a wonderful article I just read about a successful case of wiki implementation. It was written by Michael Angeles, an information specialist at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies. It can be found on his website at urlgreyhot.com or archived here (via my account at Furl.net).

Using a Wiki for Documentation and Collaborative Authoring

  • even though it seems simple, still has a learning curve
  • getting people comfortable with "edit page" is first hump...Getting people to publish new pages, however, has required a bit more help and instruction.
  • After our initial outline was in place on the home page, I then ported our static pages from the old site to the Wiki. Giving the staff something to react to rather than providing them with a blank slate for them to fill was necessary to encourage them to start using it.
  • the number of active authors remains small, with perhaps 1/4 of the staff regularly updating wiki pages. Some people prefer to channel changes through a few selected gatekeepers. I read this to mean that there are a variety of ways to relate to wikis, many of which do not include personally writing in them.
  • One of the roles of your Wiki administrator may be to have someone watch the "Recently updated pages" to find the new pages that appear and link to them on a category page or the home page.
  • While it may be easy to get a Wiki up and running, the real test of a Wiki's value will be its ability to be continuously utilized. Below are some best practices that may help ensure the sustainability of your Wiki.

  1. Train your users -- Hold informal training sessions at the beginning of your project and make yourself available to help users on an ongoing basis Marshall and Justin
  2. Keep it organized -- Invest time in creating and maintaining category pages, and when you see uncategorized pages, talk to the author about putting them in a category Justin
  3. Understand use -- Watch the recent changes page to understand how people are using the Wiki Marshall? and Justin
  4. Lead by example - Use the wiki in all of your project work and to document commonly used staff resources, processes and procedures Justin
  5. Protect -- Public Wikis may be open to edit-spam, so protect yours and back it up often Justin if necessary

Wikis can be an open, flexible platform for collaborative web page authoring. They reduce steps in workflow and work very well in small, controlled groups. But as with most projects that will depend on user contribution, its success depends on ensuring that you make the system bend to meet the processes and needs of your users and that you are able to invest time in training and in continually managing it.

Well, this has been another long blog post, but I hope that it was interesting and useful. I'm going to get back to work comparing wiki options and will post my findings here.

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