Yesterday evening I attended the second Wikipodium meeting in Gent:
The Wikipodium group is an opportunity for people working with wikis in a professional [..] context to exchange experiences.
The theme of the meeting was “Wikis and Classification, or Water and Fire?” but the discussions went far beyond this topic. It was good to hear experiences from other wiki users in a professional context, I’ll try to list a few dos and don’ts I remember.
- The 90-9-1 theory explains the percentage of a wiki’s participation. It breaks down the wiki users into groups, where 1% are the most enthusiastic users or heavy contributors, 9% are minor contributors and the largest group with their 90% are ‘lurkers’, people who don’t contribute (they browse and read but don’t write).
- The need of a content responsible, someone who follows the “recent changes” page and fixes syntax errors, wrong titles, joins articles, etc. This may not fit in the ‘pure’ unregulated wiki idea, but I can see the need for such a role in a corporate environment where the user group is too small for self-regulation.
- Single sign on is necessary, don’t go for anonymous edits. People tend to behave better when they know their name is logged and it makes it easier later to find the experts in certain domains according to their edits.
- Use the standard wiki syntax for your editors. A WYSIWYG editor may look nice and make it easier for first time users to edit pages, but it also adds layout overhead you don’t want. People will expect it to look like MS Word while the wiki syntax highlights the importance of content over layout.
- No one has found an effective way to integrate spreadsheets (or tables for that matter) in a wiki yet. Wikis are not the right tool if you depend heavily on spreadsheets.
Can a wiki work without classification? Most participants felt the need for some form of classification and explained it would be hard to go back to a wiki without this feature. Classification is needed to make it easier to retrieve information. So far so good but what kind of classification would be advised? In the end it came down to context: classification can narrow down the search scope and provide context for the search terms used. The search term ‘security’ will return different results in the ‘administration’ or ‘technical’ categories (see faceted search).
On a related topic I’ll add something I learned at BarCamp Antwerp earlier this week: the company mentality must be open to adopt web2.0 tools. It's useless to implement a wiki and ask your employees to contribute with an open mind if the company information policy is rather protective or closed.
Special thanks to Bruno Peeters and Wouter Van daele for organizing and OuterThought for hosting the meeting.