wikis it is then

See, here’s the thing… there’s a bit missing in the story being told about wikis.

First bit missing is that the story is dominated by wikipedia, because it’s so wildly successful and provides such great consumer experience (both contributor and reader) but it’s pretty ropey thinking to think that wikipedia is typical of a wiki, its been long understood that on the internet, the most successful may not be a good role model ( see: what’s good for Amazon is not good for normal sites). This is doubly true for an intranet. So the missing bit there is what is it that makes wikipedia work and does that extend and apply to other types of publishing? Its not just that its a wiki.

The next bit missing is how to get the stuff in wikis to be good, and what to do if it isn’t good or there isn’t much there at all. If you are wanting to use a wiki for a reason (such as provide information to people) then you need some techniques and measurements to see if it is delivering, there aint a free lunch and wiki’s will not by magic, osmosis or the wisdom of the crowd migrate around the optimum value… what if you threw a party and nobody came? I’ve seen tons of stuff about how to write for the web, how to blog, tips for getting people to read your blog, but nothing much about how to get this wiki started.

Like ‘Fight Club’ I suppose you could stand in a car park and beat yourself up..  but its not true that ‘if you build it they will come’.

Lastly, because wiki’s use a wysiwyg creation, the assumption is that this speed of publishing over-rides the quality of what is produced (I call this the Microsoft Front Page argument).  The best intranets I’ve seen actually have a poor or even a not-wysiwyg interface encouraging best web writing practice. Hated by the authors, loved by the users. Wikipedia has a huge amount of background tidying-up ers because a lot of its content isn’t originally very good. If you can’t depend on an army of “hobbyist pedants” your wiki isn’t going to be a good user experience.

I  hope I’m not sounding too pessimistic, I love wikis and wish there were more of them, but they aren’t free money and they can’t beat a good content management system in terms of reader experience.

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6 Responses to wikis it is then

  1. shaidorsai says:

    As usual, Sandy you’re right… 🙂

    Corporate wikis aren’t like wikipedia…
    You *can* have robust identity controls so you can trace who’s editing, and the sanctions for vandalism are rather more robust than having your IP blocked…

    I think a bigger issue is involvement; if you don’t have people involved you do end up with quiet conversation in a concert hall. I’ve been a member of a focus group someone set up as an enthusiast. They moved on, and you end up with one or two people adding no value.

    I take the point about using a strong CMS which allows authors to provide good reader experience… but if it’s hated by authors, you won’t get the willing using it to provide content.

    Why do we want more people to provide content?

    Because we want to get the information *out* of their heads *into* the organisation, so we can best utilise and manage that knowledge.

    Currently, pedants like me find typos etc in web pages. You either ignore them, or send them to the page owner. Who might be too busy, or have left… If you have the capacity to easily edit, you’d make the edit.

    If the page is “set in stone”, looking at Richard’s wishlist, at least I’d be able to provide an on page comment.

    Hopefully, our organisation is moving towards better things that we’ll both prefer…

  2. sandyblair says:

    Actually, I should have said, ‘disliked by the authors who wanted to freedom of Dreamweaver to do cool stuff’.

    We’ve evolved an erroneous way of looking at the intranet, terms like making a site ‘sticky’ are fine for external sites because you are hoping someone doesn’t leave and go an look at the competition. On an intranet you should want people to leave if there is a better place to go there is no good reason to make a site sticky (aside from silo politics).

    I thought of another severly limited interface that makes a particular thing work best. Twitter, because it forces 140 characters, the sort of things twittered about (what Merlin Mann calls ‘epigrams’ are very much defined, imagine the mess if you could force images, write more, etc. Adding more options and features to twitter would kill it.

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  4. Mikeharvey says:

    New here, from Toronto, Canada

    Just a quick hello from as I’m new to the board. I’ve seen some interesting comments so far.

    To be honest I’m new to forums and computers in general 🙂

    Mike

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