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This is a post that I have been meaning to write for about 6 months now, but never quite got round to writing, and I think it is about time that I just get on and get it out there! So many times I hear people ask what in earth is a wiki? Why would i want to have one? Where would I use it? I am hoping to give just a little insight into why I like wiki's so much and where I can see some very valid uses for them. Just remember though that these are my personal reasons for liking & using wiki's and where I see them being used now and in the future, this is not to say that they are already being used in this way somewhere.

OK so to start with... what is a wiki. The way i describe them is a series of editable web pages, a bit like a virtual extensible website. If you want to know the official wikipedia definition which is probably the most appropriate place to find this out I guess you need to go and visit wikipedia, which just happens to be one of the biggest wiki's in the world and is like a massive dictionary. I like to think of it a little like the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy... ;)

So now that you know what a wiki is I guess now you want to know how they work... again just go and look at wikipedia to find out the technical details for it... but in short it has an editable area where you type in your text, pictures and links (you can link to other editable webpages, which is useful, or even files on a server... or any digital content that has a url). It is collaborative so more than one person can edit it. It has a history log of who did what when and you can go back to previous versions of the page. Very useful in case you need to look back at something that you wrote and then deleted! Think version control or document control.

Where would you use a wiki... anywhere really that you would want to get a number of people sharing and altering information. For example, I use one when organising the London Girl Geek Dinners to get everyone to sign themselves up. It creates your very own attendees list for you, they can give links to their websites. I also use it to plan out what I still need to do for some of these sort of events. To do lists... where people can allocate themselves tasks... v. good if you can't do all the work yourself and you are trying to get something arranged because everyone can see what everyone else is doing. OK now think of that in a different context... Project management... where docs are, who's doing what by when, who's on what projects. Automated test results to the wiki... i could go on... there are an infinate number of possibilities. The question really is why wouldn't you use a wiki to share information?!

Many companies struggle to keep a centralised location for document and project management for everyone to see what is going on and who is doing what by when. This sort of collaborative tool could be very effective in these sort of scenario's. The other way to extend this even further would be to use it in conjunction with blogs for each employee (and either publish them internally only or for customer facing employees, externally as well). The sort of information that could be posted here could be areas where people are struggling, publish what they are working on at the moment, some of the things they are enjoying doing and some of the things that they are getting frustrated with. Imagine an office where everyone knows what everyone else is doing and what would happen if team members RSS'd each others blogs and the Wiki... my goodness we would have a really streamlined team... So why don't companies do this? Well some do, others unfortunately don't seem to have got to grips yet with this new technology and the idea of such a radical change can scare people and organisations. When implementing such a system you need to manage the change and ensure that the employees buy into the system. I would love to see more companies adopt this approach.

OK those are just a few thoughts on wiki's at the moment. No doubt wednesday will bring about a whole host of discussions on this subject. I look forward to seeing some of you there!

Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 7:37 PM New Media | Back to top

Comments on this post: Potential of Wiki

# re: Potential of Wiki
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> So why don't companies do this?

We do.

Our current project has a wiki for all project documentation, management info, release schedules, status meetings as well as initial documentation of functionality. (Full documentation is then produced by technical writers based on wiki docs plus test cases etc.)

Some users took a while to accept this way of working, but most love it now.

Change lists are essential to this way of working.
Left by Sam on Jan 30, 2006 11:41 AM

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