KM Component 40 – Wikis

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

January 13, 2022

Wikis are sites that allow users to easily add, remove, edit, and change most available content. Wikis are effective for collaborative writing, self-service web page creation, and shared maintenance of information.

A wiki is a web page that can be edited by anyone, thus making it easy to collaborate on writing a document, creating a website, or collecting information on a topic. It has been most successfully used in Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia that has achieved dramatic levels of contribution and use.

Within organizations, wikis have been used to create internal equivalents of Wikipedia for knowledge about the organization and its activities. They are very well-suited for the production of documentation by teams of writers and editors, as the shared editing capability is ideal for this task. Wikis are also useful for collecting diverse inputs, links to other sites, and multiple points of view.

Attempts to use wikis for knowledge repositories have been less successful. Whereas the alphabet provides the standard taxonomy for Wikipedia, other taxonomies are more difficult to impose and maintain using wikis. Since anyone can add a new wiki page, it is difficult to control the proliferation of such pages. Text entry in a new wiki page is generally unstructured, which is less desirable than form entry for repositories.

Participation in wikis is another challenge. They are often created by a committed individual who hopes that others will share a similar passion for the topic and add to the content. When these others fail to materialize, the wiki ends up being maintained primarily by the original creator, and thus is more similar to a blog or website.

Wikis can be victimized by vandalism or contentious arguments between opposing factions. In Wikipedia, talk pages are used to discuss an article and to attempt to reach agreement on a neutral end result. Inside an organization, if disagreement about a topic exists, it could result in content thrashing as the differing viewpoints are alternately restored to prominence.

If you are interested in using wikis as part of a KM program, pick an application where they fit well, and use a pilot implementation to see how they work. If the application performs acceptably, user participation is good, and the desired results are achieved, it can be expanded to additional users and applications. If not, you can capture the lessons learned and move on to the next pilot.

Functionality

  • Article – main text
  • Talk – discussion about the article
  • Edit – anyone can edit the article
  • Revision History – list of all versions, with the ability to undo changes and revert to a prior version
  • Search – find content within any wiki page
  • Automatic generation of links and new pages – done by the wiki software

Use Cases

  1. Collaborate on planning the agenda for a meeting.
  2. Compile the minutes from a meeting.
  3. Provide a list of resources that can be updated, added to, and corrected by anyone.
  4. Capture and maintain a body of knowledge that will evolve through iterative definitions from multiple contributors, compiling diverse inputs to create a thorough content collection.
  5. Collect, enhance, and maintain reference information for a community.
  6. Create an outline that will be fleshed out over time by a variety of subject matter experts.
  7. Enable employees to create and collaboratively edit their own content pages.
  8. Encourage customers to collaboratively edit user community support pages.
  9. Brainstorm to come up with new ideas.
  10. Achieve consensus on a topic, e.g., drafting and developing a policy or procedure.

Platforms

WikiMatrix allows selecting several wikis to compare and contrast features and functionality.

Here are five popular platforms that support wikis:

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy Stan’s additional blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a copy of his book, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program, from Lucidea Press.  And learn about Lucidea’s  Inmagic Presto and SydneyEnterprise with KM capabilities to support successful knowledge curation and sharing. 

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