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Page history last edited by Jay Cross 13 years, 5 months ago


The Wiki Way


Before all else, treat yourself to Jon Udell's brief screen show on the evolution of an entry on Wikipedia. Not only does this tell a wiki story, it's an example of collaboration and group intelligence at work. Well, perhaps I'm stretching it a bit. Cut on your sound and take a few minutes to give this a listen. Heavy Metal Umlaut




excellent video on wikis, three minutes

Top 10 uses for a wiki in education



PB Wiki for Education


Wikipatterns is a practical way to figure out the care and feeding of wikis. 


Socialtext, wikis for business. Their site includes this case study, which describes the different ways the wiki is being used.

Wikis at work

Customer Vision creates smart wikis for business

Q2 Communities of Practice

7 Things You Should Know about Wikis

Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space

An Adoption Strategy for Social Software in the Enterprise

Library best practices wiki

Wikipedia definition of wikis.

    Key characteristics: A wiki enables documents to be written collectively in a simple markup using a web browser. A single page in a wiki is referred to as a "wiki page", while the entire body of pages, which are usually highly interconnected via hyperlinks, is "the wiki"; in effect, a very simple, easier-to-use database. A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted. Most wikis are open to the general public without the need to register any user account. Sometimes session log-in is requested to acquire a "wiki-signature" cookie for autosigning edits. More private wiki servers require user authentication. However, many edits can be made in real-time, and appear almost instantaneously online. This can often lead to abuse of the system.

The Weirdness of Wiki


Blogs are blue, wikis are red


Business wikis

Fortune 500 wikis

Business Week






Email is So Five Minutes Ago

Mind Touch, a business wiki in a box and David Coleman's take on it. Install a $3K box on your intranet and have instant wiki, etc.



PB Wiki is free. The PB is to remind you that making a wiki should be as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich. You will use PB Wiki to set up a wiki during the Unworkshop. Other free wiki farms

    You may want to take the one-minute tour of pbwiki.

    Icons for your wiki

    Jay's conceptual Symbols


wikis and CoP

CommunityWiki site map


Best Practices

- "A wiki works best when there is an end product like an article, a collection of resources, etc." by Sam Klein, a wikipedia guru (Beth)

- there needs to be an end product, a reason to create a document (Kelly)

- "The great thing about wikis is that people adopt different roles. Some people like creating content, some people like refining and editing and others like refactoring (re-structuring)." (Euan)


- Critical mass of participation

can be really quite low in public wikis, may be higher in corporate wikis (Andy)

Enough people care about the wiki to fix mistakes and teach others

The sense of ownership which the group expresses


develop a collaborative FAQ on KM (Allison)

collecting and presenting data and informations (Kelly)

writing a white paper or article (Kelly)



  • Artisan cider CoP (Andy)

production and promotion, individuals, farms, presses, shops

strong community, not at all technical in terms of internet tools, email list

wiki launched by announcement in email list

initial value of the wiki: the cider pub guide (directory of outlets) was the page which grew fastest. Users advocate the online guide as an improvement over the equivalent printed book or static websites

starting now: new pages about know-how (technique, equipment)

Further information:

The wiki: http://ukcider.co.uk/wiki/

CoP mailing list: http://groups.google.com/group/ukcider

report on early stages: http://tinyurl.com/7ksws

attempt at a case study: http://tinyurl.com/7s5nk

BBC staff (Euan)

wiki technology used by 1700 staff people

whole range of purposes: build a website, policy creation, data collection, etc.

wiki engine: Confluence

users can manage their own access rights

Unenthusiastic IT people (Berel)

Attempt to get a wiki off the ground

one of our IT ppl responded, "What’s the point of this? Why can’t this be done on a message board?"

affected the willingness of the potential contributers to do their part

how to get ppl on board?


1. collaborative process


  • open access

when working on a wiki within a CoP is it ok to restrict access to the CoP (Dorine)?

  • rewriting
what is required between group members to be OK with rewriting each other’s content or having the own text rewritten? (Dorine)

within a CoP: when I feel someone will be personally offended, I might hold back rewriting (Dorine)

I would find it hard to see my stuff rewritten without notice or discussion (Kelly): respect for one's work is essential to me / In a CoP, I would think agreement on how to work within a wiki is needed./ Wikis seem to take immense understanding among users

in which ways is text in a wiki altered?

how relates this to emergent group norms? (Denham)

  • participation -
  • refactoring frequency and nature? / someone objects to his/her gems being destructed (Denham)
  • attribution willing to add without credit? / vexing question? (Denham)
  • control call for authentication, restrictions, access controls, attribution (Denham) / a wiki is owned and controlled by the one person who administers the domain name: contradiction with open access, etc. (Andy)

2. introductory, adoption process

how to present the wiki to a CoP when they formerly used only email (Dorine)

use a f2f meeting? (Dorine)

focus on people that you expect to be enthusiastic about it or on people that have experience with technology?

should a wiki start as a blank canvas or have something in it? (Beth)

3. transition process

experiences with transition from static website to a web 2.0 friendly space?

4. human factors




5b . technological factors



a) wikis do not need to go in the direction of more control (Denham)

b) real power of wikis: open access, many minor edits, major refactoring, anonymous annotation

c) most powerful feature of a wiki: 2-layered principle, with an article and its related discussion (Kerstin)

d) theoretical foundation for the 2-layered principle: the article is where 'reification' takes place and the discussion gives opportunities for 'participation'.

e) emergent sense making is wonderful (Euan, Denham)

f) the magic of a wiki: ways of rewriting (alter, append, annotate, correct syntax and spellings, redesign, reformulate, reformat) and related emergent group norms (Denham)

Wiki kick-off

Wikis are asynchronous media. Authors will work on the same web pages, but at different times. Popular pages might be changed several times during a day, but this is rather unintentional.


However, for a wiki kickoff synchronous communication means seem OK.

Instant Messaging (e.g. Internet Relay Chat IRC)

Phone conference



Jerry mention the barn-raising analogy (for non-Americans: A barn raising is a one- or two-day event during which a community comes together to assemble a barn for one of its households.). In the wiki context a community comes together to build a wiki. You’d have the same stages:

At the start (material is just assembled = the wiki itself has been asked for)

Very beginning (draft of the barn is laid out = a rough wiki structure is created)

In mature stages (one can see what the barn shall look like = readers will stumble across useful content) Every stage has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is advisable to have at least a rough structure.


It is important to note that if a core group invites guests (future contributors) to their launch to keep in mind that “insiders” and “outsiders” might have completely different focus points. In the NVC wiki case the insiders talked about a giraffe as a log and outsiders were just puzzled at how detailed you’d discuss this topic.

Tips and Tricks

Have a place on the wiki where newbies can go and play in order to get familiar with the technique, the writing style and the community behavior.


A topic which sprang immediately and persistently up through the call was collision. As everybody can freely create pages and edit their own pages but also pages of others it will invariably happen sooner or later that different opinions will emerge and not always they might be solved easily. Reasons for collision In a case described by Susanne Nyrop. In Wikipedia there are actually 2 different wiki entries (bokmål & nynorsk). However, in other communication there might be only one version and defenders of one language will act against the writers of the other language. Resolving collisions Collisions should be seen not only as a threat but also as an opportunity. In most cases the community will come up with a set of group behavior rules.

??? mentioned WikiFish http://www.seedwiki.com/wiki/WikiFish/WikiFish.htm where all university communication between students and administration is done on this page. Once it happened that a student publicized upsetting remarks about one teacher. The owner (sponsor) of the wiki got asked to remove this, but refused and emphasized instead that the community will take care of this. And it did!

Kerstin Lambert mentioned that within the past 5-years a problem has been created as a new version of German spelling and grammar was introduced. Wikipedia has solved the problem that within a page the language should be consistent. Additions should follow the started style

Wikis are a reflection of the organization using it

Businesses often make the cardinal mistake when setting up a wiki it follows the departmental structure of the company. Rather than following a set, but volatile structure, it makes much more sense to create wikis based on a joint working project.

Jerry Michalski mentioned as an analogy “PowerPoint is evil”. Technology is only as good as what it is used for. If only mediocre ideas are put on PPT – well… The same is true for wikis. As long as they are used correctly and filled with meaningful information, then it is a wonderful medium for knowledge sharing.

Wikis should hence reflect solid business models

One crucial point mentioned was “the tools is shaping us “ vs. “we are shaping the tool”

When setting up wikis both the top down approach and the total openness (bottom up approach) are possible.

Wiki first vs. community first

John Smith mentioned that most often you will have a formed community, which is considering different type of media for their collaboration. At one point they might also discuss and decide on a wiki.

Kerstin Lambert mentioned a case form her company where a wiki was created for sharing travel experiences (where is the branch office, how much will a taxi cost to take me there, what’s the closest airport etc.). In this case you won’t have a community per se but employees who are only sporadically interested in the information kept here. Most likely they will only visit the relevant pages before they leave and hopefully update the same pages with information they have gathered.

Meritocracy of ideas <-> the media today

Jerry Michalski talked about the meritocracy of ideas. The media today very much reflects a one-sided standpoint. In wikis such as Wikipedia you will have an abundance of authors with different view points. Due to the NPOV (neutral point of view) which was agreed as one behavioral set a multitude of viewpoints will stand next to each other, defining one another and creating a comprehensive multifaceted entry.

Why wiki?

By Jay Cross


“A wiki is a group-editable website. Wikis are composed of web pages you can write on, enabling fast and easy collaboration.” So says Social Text, a company that supplies enterprise wiki software to 2,000+ organizations, among them Nokia, Kodak, Ziff Davis Media, and investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort.

Why should a CLO care about wikis? Because learning is social. People learn through working with one another. Wikis encourage collaboration, and collaboration is the secret sauce of innovation and effectiveness.

Wikis are a new tool in the learning executive’s toolkit. They facilitate self-service learning. Training departments of yore focused most of their energy on events and processes to push information, much of it pre-packaged. Wikis pull people to learnwhen they feel the need. The information they find is largely created by the users themselves.

Wikis are just now crossing the chasm from arcane to mainstream. Your new hires know how to use them. Companies are discovering that wikis are a way to share knowledge, store the rules of thumb of work communities, keep documentation current, cut email bottlenecks, and eliminate duplicate effort. They are also lightweight technology. And they’re cheap.

The downside is that wikis are weird. Invented by programmer Ward Cunningham ten years ago to help coordinate a group of programmers. Courier font. Oddball formatting. Unstructured. Please set these five words in Courier

Wikis have become attractive. They are still weird the first few times you’re exposed to them. It’s not really the wiki that is weird; it’s that we are unaccustomed to collaborative work.

I’m leading online events that explore the application of web technology to corporate learning. A wiki holds information about assignments, web technology, informal learning, our blogs, our mail list, and more.

Everyone is encouraged to add to the wiki, to correct mistakes, and to document new discoveries. That’s fine in principle, but when it comes time to correct one of my sentences, participants shy away. People respect the sanctity of the work of others. They aren’t comfortable changing someone’s sentences even if it is for the greater good.

Perhaps that is the most important reason for CLOs to understand wikis. Knowledge work is inherently collaborative. Information hoarding is counterproductive. Wikis are a great way to learn to collaborate.

Wikipedia, the poster child of wikis, is a free, online encyclopedia. It contains 5,000,000 articles in more than two hundred languages which are created and maintained by an army of volunteers. (Encyclopædia Britanica contains about 100,000 articles.)

Anyone can add an article to Wikipedia. (I’ve done it.) How reliable can this be? It turns out that Wikipedia is very accurate, comparing favorably with respected printed encyclopedias. You see, when a new article is submitted to Wikipedia, a team of enthusiasts checks it for accuracy, bias, redundancy, and links to other topics. Vandalism is usually reversed in less than five minutes. Wikipedia embodies the wisdom of crowds.

But how does it compare to Encyclopædia Britanica? Encyclopædia Britanica was first published before the American Revolution and gained a special place in English literature as the foremost authority on the subjects it covered. Britanica embodies the wisdom of experts. Yesterday’s experts.

Last month I was with a group of friends the night Joe Lieberman lost the primary election in Connecticut. Someone looked up Lieberman on Wikipedia. The article told us Lieberman was a senator from Connecticut and the first Jewish American to run for the Vice Presidency with a major political party. The next paragraph told us, “On August 8, 2006, Lieberman conceded the Democratic primary election to Lamont and announced he would run in the 2006 November election as a candidate on the Connecticut for Lieberman ticket.” Britanica, of course, has no entry for Lieberman, much less the results of an election sixty minutes after they are announced.

Writely (http://www.writely.com) is a collaborative, online word processor owned by Google. It’s a great way to get a feel for collaborative writing. Next time you are working on a memo or announcement with someone, post it on Writely. Take turns tweaking the words. Don’t worry; only people you invite can see it. In short order, you’ll discover how much more effective this is that emailing drafts of the document back and forth. You’ll pinpoint misunderstandings. And you’ll discover the inherent power in close collaboration.

And by the way, Writely is nothing more than a page-at-a-time wiki.




ProWiki http://www.prowiki.com by Helmut Leitner is a fractal wiki

which means that you can have as many nested subwikis as you wish as

at http://www.dorfwiki.org It's a leader in the German speaking

world and perhaps one of the most sophisticated wikis. It can get too

complicated and I wish it had a simpler login. We're using it at our

lab where I appreciate its metadata capabilities such as to create

reports like: http://www.ourculture.info/wiki.cgi?PersonalOutlooks

I'm also using it as an engine for rendering the articles and dealing

with metadata at http://www.myfoodstory.info It's coded in Perl.


TiddlyWiki http://www.tiddlywiki.com is a JavaScript wiki that sits in

a single html page (code and content) and so can be easily emailed to

others and used offline. Inventor Jeremy Ruston is visiting Greg

Wolff, we all met yesterday. An enormous community has developed

around it.


PmWiki http://www.pmwiki.com is written in PHP and also has a lively

community. We used it earlier and I liked its simplicity combined

with a lot of extra functionality that you can add on. It allows for

subwikis one layer deep which is I think enough. It lets you build a

word blacklist which helped us keep spam under control.


PBWiki is used at http://barcamp.org and I like that it has a very

simple log-in that seems to be enough to thwart spambots.


TransLucid http://www.pantha.net organizes pages in the way that

TheBrain does (parent, child, jump). It is good for sites where you

want control over templates so things look nice.


TheBrain http://www.thebrain.com is developing new versions and there

is or will be a SiteBrain available for wiki-like applications.


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