Knowledge Assets – the "Knowledge First" format

The way we write reports, especially scientific reports, is not the way we should write Knowledge Assets in a Wiki.

Image from MaxPixel

I am consulting with a firm which is moving much of its current knowledge into wiki format, on order to take it out of the document library and to turn it into a resource that is in the public domain, searchable, hyperlinked, and constantly updated.

The problem is that many of the knowledge owners are scientists, and their default knowledge format is very much based on scientific reports. Many of their first-attempt wiki pages are composed as follows:
  • List of projects:
    • Project title
    • Project outline
    • Project objectives
    • Project results
    • Project conclusions
The conclusions are where the knowledge is found, and presenting it in this way means that the reader must scroll to the bottom of the page every time to find the knowledge, and that the reader must read every project to get a full picture. Also the knowledge is not updateable, as it is linkedin every case to a project.
We are now moving the content into a “Knowledge First” structure, as follows:
  • Here is what we currently know about this topic (knowledge summary or conclusions);
  • This knowledge is based on the following projects:
    • Link to first project, with full details;
    • Link to second project, with full details etc;
  • Here are the things we still don’t know, abut are trying to find out.
The links to projects could be hyperlinks to sections further down the page, to separate project summary pages, or even to the project reports in the document management system.

This less like the way knowledge is presented in scientific reports, and more like the way it is presented in newspapers; starting with the headline, then the introductory paragraph which summarises the whole story, and then “read on for more detail”. It is a reader-driven format, aiming to give the reader what they need to know in the most efficient way.

By presenting the material in this way, the reader can find the knowledge quickly, and then zoom in to the level of knowledge they need.  Also any update to the knowledge happens at the top of the page, in clear view, and any old, invalid conclusions can be overwritten.

Format your knowledge assets and wiki pages with the user in mind, and think “Newspaper format” rather then “Scientific Report”.

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