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wikipatterns: a practical guide to improving productivity and collaboration in your organization by Stewart Mader

Contents

The Wikipatterns that help create a successful wiki are:

  • WikiChampions - help people see the whole process and benefit of the wiki.
  • Invitation - Good at inviting people to try the wiki.
  • StartingPoint - helps first-time users get familiar with the wiki and generate their own ideas for contributing.
  • Personal Spaces - Enhances the value of the social networking and creating social ties by adding information to their own space and also provides the practice area for new authors.
  • Welcoming - comments left on the personal space where a new user has just added their first content to the wiki. The new user immediately feels like a part of the group, a part of the wiki community.
  • BarnRaising - An event where a group of people get together to "begin construction of their virtual space on the wiki." The BarnRaising itself helps the group get used to the collaborative working and editing environment.
  • SingleProblem - Using the wiki to solve small problems, usually with the purpose of having a successful experience before taking on a larger project.
  • Seed It with Content - Investing time and effort to move content into the wiki. Typically the BarnRaising facilitates this activity.
  • Intentional error - Help others get used to editing content on the wiki by adding intentional errors that they can find and fix.
  • ContentAlert - Leaving a message on a page that needs some type of editing.
  • NewStarter - A space created specifically for new employees that contains orientations, forms, checklists, etc. specific to new employees.
  • See the website for the most current list of known wikipatterns.

Quotes from the book

  • "Instead of giving people a job, and trying to control how they work, it's better to let go: give them the job, and let them figure out the best way to do it." (Chapter 1: Grassroots is Best, p 2)
  • "The first wiki, WikiWikiweb (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WelcomeVisitors), was created in 1995 by Ward Cunningham to document and collaboratively update information on software design patterns. Since then, wiki has grown steadily into one of the most important tools in today's enterprise, and has become a fixture in popular culture thanks to the rapid rise and increasing influence of Wikipedia. It's commonly thought of today as a so-called Web 2.0 tool because of its proximity to blogs and social networks, but this is primarily because its popularity and name recognition has taken off in tandem with the Web 2.0 phenomenon." (Ibid. p 4)
  • "So the lesson here is that if companies in an industry traditionally viewed as conservative are embracing wikis, you should too." (Chapter 4: 11 Steps to a Successful Wiki Pilot, p 71)

Learnings

  • There are lots of wikis out there on the web. Some have succeeded and others have failed. Why? The answer as stated in this book is due to the balancing of trust and control. "Wikis shift the social balance away from control and closer to trust. This is a fundamental difference because it democratizes information and collaboration on the principle that greater participation is ultimately better than control, and a fundamentally open system with provisions for control when necessary is better than a fundamentally closed system. There are two reasons for this:The first has to do with technology and the second has to do with people." (Ibid., p 49) Technology can be a closed system where there are lots of controls, processes, procedures, etc. People are not trusted, so the closed system forces controlled access. Technology can also be developed as a fundamentally open system, where there are less controls and more trust. The design of the wiki "assumes that people can be trusted with the information they have access to, and will use it responsibly to further shared goals. This encourages a culture where people do trust each other, and involve others in their work to build the best possible end product in less time and with less unnecessary back and forth effort. This also reduces redundancy because people can build and collectively maintain shared information sources."
  • "It also does away with that antiquated idea that a person has to hoard information to protect their position and be perceived as an expert. In a wiki-based organizational culture, people are rewarded by how much they actively contribute to the community. Those who share more generally become the thought leaders because their expertise can be tangibly measured by their contributions and their approachability. These people become truly indispensable to an organization because not only do they have a wealth of information, but more importantly they're willing to share it."
  • Developing a set of "house rules" including basic guidelines for content, conduct, and community is an important task not to be overlooked. The rules should be posted prominently on the wiki. (Chapter 4: 11 Steps to a Successful Wiki Pilot, p 66). The Sony Ericsson Developer World Wiki has "an excellent set of house rules that are concise, informative, and posted prominently on the homepage http://developer.sonyericsson.com/wiki
  • The value of using the Wiki is not apparent to everyone. "In fact, some people will be skeptical of this new told and question whether it's just another addition to their already busy lives." When people begin to see that the wiki will not " add complexity to their day" but instead, the wiki will "simplify communication, speed up projects, reduce redundancy, and keep information more secure." (Chapter 5: Drive Large-Scale Adoption, p 90-91)

Case Studies

Each of the case studies in the book answer the following five questions:

  1. 1. Why did you choose a wiki?
  2. 2. What type of wiki are you using?
  3. 3. How are you using the wiki?
  4. 4. Looking at Wikipatterns.com, what patterns are in use on your wiki? (The lists of patterns used will either be ones that contribute to the success of the wiki, or ones that will hamper the success.)
  5. 5. What changes have you seen as a result of using a wiki?

John Hopkins University http://www.jhu.edu

  • About 500 wiki users
  • Created the wiki to keep track of the knowledge they were gaining during the implementation of a new student information system. Their wiki is not open to the general public.
  • The Wikipatterns used include: Champion, Invitation, Maintainer, MySpace, StartingPoint, Viral, WikiGnome, WikiZenMaster, Agenda, ContentAlert, Magnet, Scaffold, Wiki Not Email.
  • Changes they saw were that people were more informed; trust was strengthened; transparent stakeholders; reduced email volume; more collaboration.

Sun Microsystems - http://wikis.sun.com

Red Ant - http://www.redant.com.au

  • Wikipatterns being used are Maintainer; WikiGnome; and WikiZenMaster.
  • They use the wiki as a OneWikiSpacePerGroup pattern.

A Conversation with a WikiChampion: Jude Higdon http://www.mwazaji.com

  • This wiki was created to facilitate better learning environments between professors and students.
  • Wikipatterns that emerged throughout the pilot and official use of the wiki include: One Wiki Space Per Group, Scaffolding, Overview Pages, Selective Rollback, Barn Raising, Lunch Menu, Thread Mode, Wiki Gardener, and WikiZenmasters.

Wikipatterns Used Most Often

The wikipatterns most often used result in the following benefits:

  • Help wiki spaces get started
  • Encourage colleagues to use the wiki
  • Social networking by creating user profiles
  • Seed spaces with content
  • Alert others about content needed

Wikipatterns that will help create a successful wiki

  • WikiChampions - help people see the whole process and benefit of the wiki. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/Champion
  • Invitation - Good at inviting people to try the wiki. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/Invitation
  • StartingPoint - helps first-time users get familiar with the wiki and generate their own ideas for contributing. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/StartingPoint
  • Personal Spaces - Enhances the value of the social networking and creating social ties by adding information to their own space and also provides the practice area for new authors. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/MySpace
  • Welcoming - comments left on the personal space where a new user has just added their first content to the wiki. The new user immediately feels like a part of the group, a part of the wiki community. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/Welcoming
  • BarnRaising - An event where a group of people get together to "begin construction of their virtual space on the wiki." The BarnRaising itself helps the group get used to the collaborative working and editing environment. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/BarnRaising
  • SingleProblem - Using the wiki to solve small problems, usually with the purpose of having a successful experience before taking on a larger project. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/SingleProblem
  • Seed It with Content - Investing time and effort to move content into the wiki. Typically the BarnRaising facilitates this activity. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/SeedItWithContent
  • Intentional error - Help others get used to editing content on the wiki by adding intentional errors that they can find and fix. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/IntentionalError
  • ContentAlert - Leaving a message on a page that needs some type of editing. See http://www.wikipatterns.com/ContentAlert
  • New Employee Wiki - A space created specifically for new employees that contains orientations, forms, checklists, etc. specific to new employees. See http://www.wikipatterns/NewStarter
  • Document Business Processes - Documenting process in the wiki, about the wiki, strengethen the wiki as a magnet. People can easily document the processes they use and that readily reside in their own heads. The message, "It's on the Wiki," quickly becomes the response to questions about using the wiki.

Reference articles mentioned in the book

Other Reading

  • Wikipedia The Missing Manual
  • Social Networking for Genealogists
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