4 myths of the Enterprise wiki
An article from 2009 gives us 3 reasons why wikis are not the easy route to KM that many believe. I have added a fourth
This comes from an article in pcworld based on a interview with Danish Analyst Dorthe Jespersen. Dorthe’s believes that the organisational culture can be a real barrier to the adoption of wikis, and the idea that wikis will allow knowledge to spontaneoulsy emerge, as on Wikipedia, is unfounded.
Her three myths are as follows
Myth One: Wikis will motivate employees to contribute content.
Jespersen describes the “Empty wiki syndrome,” or when a wiki is deployed without a clear purpose or is too general in its focus, resulting in a site with almost no activity. It helps, said Jespersen, to appoint someone to manage the wiki, ensure there is structure like guidelines and a basic information architecture, and that it is launched with content already posted because “it’s very hard to just react to this empty space for the user.”
Myth Two: Employees know how to contribute.
The concept of a wiki may be simple, but contributing content is not necessarily logical for casual users. Jespersen said some organizations prefer to refer to existing written policies around content creation that say, for instance, employees are responsible for the content they produce. But policies can be tricky considering the goal is to strike a balance between governance and structure and flexibility. Some wiki-specific policies might include guidelines around creating pages that are easy to read by having a table of contents if the page is long, or having a naming system for links to ensure consistency.
Myth Three: Wikis will always provide the information employees need.
Although searchability is often a selling point of wikis, Jespersen said the reality is wikis are difficult to search through, unlike a content management system. Given there is little structure built into wikis, “it is difficult to structure this information to make it findable the next day even.” Content on a wiki can grow faster than the organization can keep up, she said, therefore the wiki managers must perform regular searches and quality checks of the content. Overall, Jespersen suggested starting with a pilot so that the true purpose and scope of the wiki can be first ascertained before an enterprise-wide launch.
Underlying all of this is a fourth myth, which is still prevalent, and which I feel should be added to the list:
Myth Four: Wikipedia is a good model for in-house Wikis
Wikipedia is the archetypal bottom-up Wiki, drawing on the wisdom of the crowds, and is often taken as a model of bottom-up voluntary free-form knowledge sharing. However it is a poor model, for several reasons:
- Wikipedia is successful because it draws on a huge crowd – the population of the globe. even though the percetnage of Wiki contributors compared to teh global population is tiny, that doesnt matter because the global population is so large. A similat tiny percentage in an organisation would mean that a very small number of contributors provided the bulk of the content.
- That tiny percentage of Wikipedia contributors is a skewed population. Wikipedia contributors are 80-90% male, more than 65 percent single, more than 85 percent without children, around 70 percent under the age of 30. This is the wisdomn of a subset of the crowd. You do not want this skewed viewpoint in an organisation.
- Editing wikipedia is not a case of “everyone writes what they like”. There is usually editorial overview or moderation of most pages other then the fairly niche ones. A similar form of editorial oversight is needed in organisations as well.
- If you want more advice, see NASA’s 6 wiki rules
- This video….