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WIKI: Grow Your Own for Fun and Profit

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Posted 5th December 2010 at 04:02 PM by Pancho

I've just finished reading Alan Porter's new book: WIKI: Grow Your Own for Fun and Profit, and it does a great job of introducing this most powerful collaboration and knowledge management tool, wikis.

The book starts explaining wiki technology and how to plan a collaboration project. Porter lists wiki uses by individuals and organizations of different types and sizes. He offers several questions will help define the scope of the reader's project. He presents "the good" and "the bad" of the technology, and how a proper plan and setup can overcome perceived disadvantages of using a wiki.

Next, Porter deals with initial growth of the wiki. Before there is any content there is no incentive to use the tool. Porter recommends seeding the wiki with content that every member of the community uses and that is updated on a regular basis, such as a company directory, project to-do lists, company procedures and style-books. Once there is a small but critical body of documents, the benefits of the wiki become compelling. Editing and new writing become much, much easier, and the content becomes useful. Porter also advises against establishing a complex hierarchy at first, instead letting the users organize the initial content through cross-links.

An area where collaboration projects often fall short is in dealing with continuing growth. With it comes necessary maintenance. As is common among wiki enthusiasts, Porter calls maintenance "gardening". Porter explains the pitfalls, and why it is necessary to appoint a manager ("gardener"). Then he gives suggestions on what the gardener should do periodically to insure a clean and healthy wiki. He also recommends assigning owners to individual pages, similarly to what is good practice for any documentation system.

And beyond gardening, "landscaping" consists of redesigning the organization of the content to provide or improve navigation and to balance the weight of wiki areas. This is done with indexes, hierarchies and categories. Porter warns readers that this redesign will be inevitable, but rightly suggests that it should be embraced and gives tips on how to do so. Some of these are creating a sandbox or separate test-wikis, making improvements in small steps, and superimposing new organization pages on the existing wiki structure. All good practices.

The book also provides advice on many other issues that come up during the deployment of a wiki, like motivating users, page versioning, content accuracy, barriers to adoption, and publishing to a wider audience. Five separate case studies of actual organizational collaboration with wikis give a taste of what is possible with a successful implementation (one of them is Geometrica's QMS on wiki).

The book is short, but packed with sensible advice. I wish I had had it when starting on wikis. It will certainly help make its readers' wiki projects successful.
Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    Marc's Avatar
    I'd be impressed if more people used the Wiki here which is 'wedded' to vBulletin so registered members can make changes by just being logged into the forum. Unfortunately it is an older version and I can not upgrade it (unless I want to make it a 'stand alone' Wiki which people would have to log into separately from the forum) because it is a now abandoned vBulletin 'mod' which doesn't support newer versions of the Wiki software.

    At one time a lot of people here asked for a Wiki. I bought a 'mod' to integrate it into vBulletin. I even got a fellow to help set it up and populate it. But it simply wasn't (and isn't) used. I believe that is in part because most people who come here are not familiar with Wiki 'code' and in part because most people are asking questions (which a Wiki isn't much good for). Now, I don't know - Maybe these days there is a WYSIWYG editing interface, but I'm not aware of one.

    I really like the idea of a Wiki. I would *love* to have one here that people would use. We could have a significant Body of Knowledge here in a Wiki.

    The Definitions, Acronyms, Abbreviations and Interpretations would be much better in a Wiki than as a forum. But, that's what people use.
    Posted 5th December 2010 at 05:40 PM by Marc Marc is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Dear Pancho,
    though expressed quite often through clicks from fellow members, I also like to thank you and Geometrica for your openness and willingness to share about the experience and structure of the Wiki system you use to run the company and maintain its QMS.

    Since I am responsible for one company entity (of two in Germany) using Confluence & Jira, I will buy the recommended book to understand some more of the "gardening" needed to improve the wiki.

    The reason I searched out Geometrica and your publications and even Elsmar Cove, was the document/page approval process. - Without going into all the details, I proposed the same way of operation and as fallback alternative also a page approval plugin. Until now no decision is taken by the COO. The upcoming audit will bring the pressure to sort it out.
    Posted 18th July 2014 at 05:02 AM by Matthias S. Matthias S. is offline
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