Someone posted on the MediaWiki mailing list regarding a book they were writing.
As of 2016-12-26 nothing seems to have come of it.
- 1 The mailing list post
- 2 My response
- 2.1 Describe the scope of your Wikis and how they are being used.
- 2.2 How many registered users, number of page changes per month, total number of pages
- 2.3 How did you discover Wikis?
- 2.4 How and when did you start using them in your organization?
- 2.5 What problems did Wikis help you solve?
- 2.6 What system was in place prior to the Wiki?
- 2.7 How did you deploy the Wiki, top-down or bottom-up grass root?
- 2.8 Which Wiki did you use and why?
- 2.9 What would you have done differently?
- 2.10 What kind of security concerns arose as a result of using Wikis and how did you overcome them?
- 2.11 How long did it take for the Wiki to gain critical mass?
- 2.12 Which departments in your organization adopted Wiki easily, which did not?
- 2.13 Do you have any statistics about how usage grew?
- 2.14 How did you get the IT department on board?
- 2.15 Were they chearleaders [sic], naysayers, or indifferent?
- 2.16 Did the Wiki start in a technical department and spread?
- 2.17 How and why did it spread?
- 2.18 Was there a difficult training process?
- 2.19 How did you overcome it?
- 2.20 How did you manage Wiki adoption?
- 2.21 What were the biggest barriers to adoption?
- 2.22 Who was opposed to using Wikis? Senior management? Users? IT Auditors?
- 2.23 What is the secret to promoting use of a wiki?
- 2.24 How did you migrate users to the Wiki and away from their old habits?
- 2.25 Who is managing your Wiki?
- 2.26 Do you have an expert who creates Wiki applications for the users?
- 2.27 Who uses Wikis most?
- 2.28 What are the different ways that Wikis are used?
- 2.29 How does each group use Wikis differently?
- 2.30 Do you use the Wiki in a structured way, e.g. Wiki applications with forms and reports?
- 2.31 How did you discover structured Wikis?
- 2.32 What are the three most popular plugins used on the Wiki?
- 2.33 Describe other popular features.
- 2.34 What new applications of Wikis are you considering?
- 2.35 For new content do people use Word and attach a document to the page or enter content directly onto the page?
- 2.36 Is there a pattern or process to how Wiki pages grow and evolve?
- 2.37 Is there a pattern or process to how Wiki pages become more structured and how application functionality gets added?
- 2.38 Do you look for patterns of use as a way to generate ideas for structure or functionality?
- 2.39 How do you keep users notified about changes?
- 2.40 Email notification or other techniques?
- 2.41 Do you prune your Wiki to keep content up to date?
- 2.42 What is your favorite Wiki tool or trick?
- 2.43 What was the biggest value Wikis provided to your organization?
- 2.44 Why do you think Wikis work?
- 2.45 What advice do you have for someone who wants to use Wikis?
- 2.46 What are the sorts of problems that Wikis can help with?
- 2.47 How do Wikis save you time and money?
- 2.48 What is the missing killer feature needed for a broader adoption?
- 3 Twiki sucks
The mailing list post ∞
Dear Mediawiki user,
Co-author Dan Woods and I are working on a book titled "Wikis
in the Workplace: A Practical Guide to Collaborating, Creating
Knowledge, and Sharing Information". See details on the book
(FYI, although the abstract is on twiki.org, the book is not
For this book we are interviewing people who are familiar with
the wiki technology, so that we can write about current
possibilities, limitations and future trends of wikis. We are
primarily interested in learning about larger wiki deployments
behind corporate firewalls.
If your Mediawiki falls into this category we would be delighted
to hear from you. Interviews are typically done in a one-hour
conference call. A list of questions can be supplied ahead of
time. If needed we can quote anonymously or sign an NDA.
To conserve bandwidth, please reply to me only.
My response ∞
Hey there.. I saw your note on the mediawiki list and figured I'd whip
up a response. My main corporate use was fairly short-lived, as I got
picked up by another company. The use of a wiki in that smaller
environment has been quite significant, often spurring the development
of the entire business through better planning and such.
I have been an advocate for MediaWiki for some time now, trying to
convert any project I come in contact with to using it. I've written
a bit on wikis and MediaWiki and also got the chance to present to
a local Linux user group.
Describe the scope of your Wikis and how they are being used. ∞
How many registered users, number of page changes per month, total number of pages ∞
- (here) Personal knowledgebase. 2000+ pages, with more on a private installation. Used daily for research, notes, writing, caching interesting reading, etc. One regular active user: me, with probably 100-500 changes a month.
- (here) A past private wiki for my old work, used for meeting notes, resources and company history.
- A private wiki for my current business, used for howtos and tutorials, research notes, business planning, website mockups, etc.
- (a local linux user group) -- group resources, meeting notes and discussion. Low-activity.. under 100 changes a month. Probably 40ish users.
- (another local programming user group) -- group resources and meeting notes. Very low activity, with under 50 changes a month. 20 or so users.
(another project which I never started) -- The number of users won't be knowable.. it'll be the entire userbase.
How did you discover Wikis? ∞
I bumped into one and became a regular participant, and was essential to its elevation.
How and when did you start using them in your organization? ∞
I had been pushing it for some time when in 2004 I finally broke down and just did it and presented a complete and functioning knowledgebase to the boss as my way of saying "here, it works.. it's ready.. let's use it".
Later, when I was picked up by a new business, I insisted upon MediaWiki straight off, and was flatly told that they had been using it for some time.. and I would be expected to use it. =)
Its use took off when I helped develop a system of making template-able and easily modifyable website mockups through the wiki system. With that done, we could whip up a completely functional and many-sectioned text-only mockup site within within hours.
One note for my own site, is the development of calendar templating and a weblogging concept:
- MediaWiki as a weblog
MediaWiki calendar templating -- Not an original idea, and borrowed from Wikipedia's concept, but redeveloped cleanly.
- Did you deploy one Wiki across the organization or several Wikis based around teams or projects?
Which is better and why?
My wiki use now insists upon one installation for all projects. This requires manpower in the sense of keeping things distinct with good naming schemes and such, but it's much easier to have everything in one place than to have multiple installations.
It's also easier to "keep an eye on things".. as the manager-types love to do.
My early use fragmented three projects into three distinct sections, and although it was all on one "installation", the different namespaces made it an extraordinarily annoying task to make links between the projects. Even though it's easier with MediaWiki, I would never fragment things into different namespaces, instead preferring to choose more descriptive page titles.
What problems did Wikis help you solve? ∞
What system was in place prior to the Wiki? ∞
- Putting knowledge online
- One consistant interface nomatter what computer is used (i.e. using a web browser)
- Easily updating text
- Making updates immediately evailable.
- Tracking the massive change history for multiple documents, and providing them in an easily used "recent changes" overview.
- Bunching all that knowledge up in one place, for easy backups and such.
Easily inter-linking documents.
Previous to all of this, it was a matter of having hand-edited HTML.. this was before decent free content management systems were out.. so it was often a nightmare of directories and html-ized text documents. Updating was a matter of ftp synchronizing with a local directory tree.. thankfully made easier through an intelligent update feature of an early version of Arachnophilia.
How did you deploy the Wiki, top-down or bottom-up grass root? ∞
Which Wiki did you use and why? ∞
What would you have done differently? ∞
Bottom-up in my original workplace, then top-down in my present one.
MediaWiki in both cases. Originally I wanted to use another wiki but decided against it because of the development environment and userbase. MediaWiki really grew on me because it filled all the needs I felt were lacking with the early coWiki. I could drone on and on at the ease of use and featureset in MediaWiki.
Now I insist upon it not for technical reasons but for userbase reasons.. it is so broadly used, and since I already use it everywhere I insist upon it.
What I would do differently is to be much more bold about wiki advocacy. Most management types could not grasp the value in a company knowledgebase.. with all the knowledge in one place and not locked into the heads of various staff members. I would insist upon conveying the use in having company documentation, planning, meeting notes, action items and all the rest all in one place. The very idea that there could be pdfs and paper documentation is appauling to me now.. a wiki so obsoletes those concepts.
What kind of security concerns arose as a result of using Wikis and how did you overcome them? ∞
Per-page group and user permissions structures are absent from MediaWiki where they existed in other wikis. The wiki openness concept scares the hell out of most people, and in a business sense it would require the significant overhead of patrolling edits.
On a more public setup, automated wiki spamming is not just a nuisance but makes people very bitter at the openness. The MediaWiki "SpamBlacklist" extension as well as a simple banning of
<div> tags seems to have resolved most problems. Everyday graffity still can happen, but it seems to be quite rare for more specialized places.
In a workplace wiki, graffiti would be unheard of.. but "sensitive documents" couldn't go on such a wiki, and so often this is the case for a second wiki which is kept private (via http auth or the like). I know of some who are considering this, and the one workplace wiki was intranet and the current one is private -- registered access only, and anonymous users can't self-register.
How long did it take for the Wiki to gain critical mass? ∞
Critical mass being three regular editors, playing off of one another. It takes maybe a week, once the intimidation wears off and people get the basic skills of clicking edit, adding text and saving. This requires a devoted advocate or two to take any little change and put it in the right place and re-word it as necessary.. to do the "housework".
Which departments in your organization adopted Wiki easily, which did not? ∞
High management would not, because of their paranoia. Often their knowledgebases would be something they'd like to take to their graves, and always something kept private from other employees.. since often they had specific confidential information to keep track of.
Techs and such love the idea.. just being able to drop knowledge in and walk away.. sometimes even letting someone else do the dirty work of spellchecking and such.
I noted that the computer illiterate types were intimidated but ended up getting into it if they had basic typing skills.
Salespeople and the like tended to not care, since their knowledge was all social, and procedures would get learned and then used.. and never referred to again.
That's from the limited exposure my early wiki had. My present company wiki is used by all employees every day. Developers use it to refer to original specs and various changes. Management uses it for business planning and development. Everyone has procedures and policies and the like. All tools have howtos and such.
Do you have any statistics about how usage grew? ∞
How did you get the IT department on board? ∞
Were they chearleaders [sic], naysayers, or indifferent? ∞
It was always a matter of my being willing to do it all myself. As long as that's the case, nobody had any issue. As soon as it became more complicated, where it would impact on some other sysadmin task, then it would be resisted. Still, MediaWiki being so easy to set up made any annoyance melt away.. it lived nicely in the common setups.
Did the Wiki start in a technical department and spread? ∞
How and why did it spread? ∞
Yes, through me. Through my frustration of the lack of management communication, policies, meeting notes, collective company history and culture, etc.
Was there a difficult training process? ∞
How did you overcome it? ∞
Yes. I ended up making a flash animation to show people the basic tasks, as well as writing up some howto documentation. There were still people who didn't care about it because they weren't forced into dealing with it.
How did you manage Wiki adoption? ∞
What were the biggest barriers to adoption? ∞
Who was opposed to using Wikis? Senior management? Users? IT Auditors? ∞
What is the secret to promoting use of a wiki? ∞
How did you migrate users to the Wiki and away from their old habits? ∞
I whipped it all up privately and then sprung it on the boss, got the nod and announced it at the next meeting. The biggest barriers were that it hadn't been integrated with everyone's everyday experience of working.. and so they'd put off dealing with it because they didn't have to care. In the end, nobody was opposed because the wiki wasn't really forced strongly, it was just a knowledgebase tool.
The secret to promoting its use? Putting essential information there is the start.. meeting notes, meeting action items, company news items and announcements and the like.
Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to work with good migration into the wiki, but it would have been a matter of having individual action items and communication done through the wiki.
Who is managing your Wiki? ∞
Do you have an expert who creates Wiki applications for the users? ∞
No custom work, although my present company is serious about donating to have functionality made, once we start hitting walls with present functionality.
Who uses Wikis most? ∞
What are the different ways that Wikis are used? ∞
How does each group use Wikis differently? ∞
The customer support tech (me) used it the most, for their technical notes.. i.e. for customer support, technical documentation notes and the like.
Used primarily for knowledgebase-style documentation, official tool howtos, company culture and history, meeting notes and general research brainstorming.
Do you use the Wiki in a structured way, e.g. Wiki applications with forms and reports? ∞
How did you discover structured Wikis? ∞
No, everything is "unstructured" with manual breadcrumb link creation.. i.e. a hand-made sitemap with everything hand-linked. Structured wikis are awful because people aren't structured in their needs or uses so everything always gets hairy.
What are the three most popular plugins used on the Wiki? ∞
Describe other popular features. ∞
No plugins are used, as such, although functionality like recent changes is #1 on some peoples lists.. just to see change overviews.
What new applications of Wikis are you considering? ∞
Website mockups, weblogging, semi-structured knowledgebases. I've tried pouring communication through it, but it tends to be slow and cumbersome because of the nature of the participants.
For new content do people use Word and attach a document to the page or enter content directly onto the page? ∞
Enter it directly. Frankly, people need to spend less time on formatting a word document and more time on the textual content. A wiki helps force the fast and loose approach, to just dump the information and leave to do something more important.
Is there a pattern or process to how Wiki pages grow and evolve? ∞
Yes, a wiki requires a strong advocate to shape the sometimes randomly-dumped content, make manual sectioning and linking and generally keep the cruft away.
Then for its success, it requires two other regular editors who will regularly review one another's content, and help adjust things.
Thereafter, a wiki requires strong regular user for everyday and unintimidating things like reading the company update, referring to a checklist or the like.
Is there a pattern or process to how Wiki pages become more structured and how application functionality gets added? ∞
Do you look for patterns of use as a way to generate ideas for structure or functionality? ∞
Structure has to be kept in mind from the getgo, otherwise someone has to be very willing to spend hours and hours restructuring things once they begin to learn from their earlier organizational mistakes.
As a wiki blooms, it becomes very tangled, and real dedication is needed to keep things managable, and to make the experience of using and contributing to the wiki, by regular users, less intimidating.
How do you keep users notified about changes? ∞
Email notification or other techniques? ∞
Just update the page that they regularly check in on.. or a user can use recent changes and their watchlist. Private notes have them notified on their next visit (or via email if that's configured).
RSS is possible, but not enabled.
Do you prune your Wiki to keep content up to date? ∞
Yes, always. Whenever I visit a page which has something minor which could be tweaked, the effort is put in. Those little drops of effort make small wikis into very large and very easily navigated knowledgebases.
What is your favorite Wiki tool or trick? ∞
Templates can be really awesome. That and re-discovering a bit of artistic talent for presenting information cleanly and simply. Sidebars, subtle tables, a bit of colour.. etc.
What was the biggest value Wikis provided to your organization? ∞
Meeting notes meeting notes meeting notes. I can't stand the idea of having a meeting that has amounted to nothing.. the next one comes along, and the same old issues are brought up again.. with no action in between. A wiki allows for easily added notes which can be referred to and turned into action items for follow-up before the next meeting.
Why do you think Wikis work? ∞
A short question that requires a long answer. I'll just say that it's because it fills a necessary void for easy content management.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to use Wikis? ∞
PickTheRightOneAndNotOneWhichPutsYouThroughCamelCaseHell. Fundamental technology choices will lock a wiki into a sub-standard system which is very difficult to migrate from. Choose a wiki with a decent markup language. Choose one which is not just good but wildly popular. Start all of this off by participating with an existing wiki for a while to get used to things.
What are the sorts of problems that Wikis can help with? ∞
Knowledgebase management. Writing documentation and instructions. Keeping historical documents in one place. Depositing research notes.
How do Wikis save you time and money? ∞
It's an already-developed and supported solution. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.
What is the missing killer feature needed for a broader adoption? ∞
MediaWiki needs a per-document permissions structure and integrated anti-spamming measures. These peace of mind features would elevate it significantly.
Wikis need to be kept simple and unstructured so as to be able to be as broadly usable as possible. Tacking on extra features isn't necessary, but having a lot of interesting (and maintained!) plugins is very important.
Twiki sucks ∞
I tried posting a comment, which was difficult with that tiny comment editbox. I was annoyed that there was no preview functionality. When submitting it I was only then told that I had to log in. What a waste of time!
Well it's posted here now.