by David Prior
A primary reason why I’ve started an external blog is to share and elicit insights about how organizations are using social software to improve the way they work. I do that by telling stories with morals.
I was talking the other day with the head of a Research department in a Fortune 100 company. His group had created a wiki which had gotten a little usage early on, but quickly turned into a dumping ground for a lot of traditional, published reports which were already being written. Somewhat useful, but not user-friendly, not collaborative, and not generating new insights or connections between people.
The wiki became a duping ground, where people just shoveled material off of their desk, with little or no structure to it. There was no rhyme nor reason for how it was put together, so everyone had a hard time finding anything.
The extreme use of hyperlinking that really makes a wiki useful (i.e. putting in links to pages that do not exist) was not really seen. But, here is a nice idea to get around that problem:
- Get a small group of core community members to whiteboard a high-level information architecture in the form of a few categories (not more than 4-8) and subcategories (not more than 1-2 levels deep)
- Create a series of blank pages or “stubs” hyperlinked to reflect the category structure
- Assign each category to an individual member of the group to flesh out
- Reconvene in 1-2 weeks to review what everyone has done, share learnings, and revise the category structure
Once those steps have been followed, you’ll have a structured wiki which people will want to read. You’ll have a core group of champions personally committed to the wiki’s success. And you’ll have a structure that encourages organized, thoughtful participation in line with the wiki’s strategic business objectives.
Wikis without any structure become extremely difficult to navigate. People become lost and confused.
By having a ready team of people who get it because they helped put it together then becomes critical. We did a similar thing when we started the Immunex intranet almost 10 years ago.
A group of about eight of us sat down and figured out what was going to be on the intranet and who was responsible for each part. It all went up on a sheet of paper that I still have.
That structure lasted for over 3 years as the number of pages went from about 20 that I made over a Christmas holiday to over 3000 a few years later.
That core group became very important.