Why use a wiki?

June 18, 2008

I’ve been working on a wiki for one of my clients this week. It’s the first time I’ve created one and so far, it’s been relatively easy to do.

The client is responsible for leading a large working group. The members are scattered across Canada and recently, productivity within the group has slowed. There have been missed deadlines and members are unclear about what’s happening with some of the agreed upon activities. There’s been a communication breakdown.

Although not the whole answer to the above woes, I suggested creating a wiki to re-energize the group and get things back on track. A wiki is server software that allows multiple users to create and edit a simple webpage. It’s great for collaborative projects. The best way to get a handle on wikis is to watch this excellent video by the creative folks at Common Craft. It’s focus is on wiki’s for personal use but it will give you the idea.

The wiki I’m creating has a project management focus. I’ve set it to “private” so only working group members can access it. It will allow members to track progress on tasks and create working documents that everyone can edit (with a recorded history so you can revisit earlier versions). Members can use the wiki while they are on conference calls to discuss progress. During these meetings, everyone can view the same pages at the same time and live edit.

There is also a calendar feature. This allows for notification on deadlines, meeting dates etc. Wikis allow you to link pages and insert videos making their engagement potential high. The templates I’ve seen are easy to use and visually appealing.

Depending on the number of users with writing and editing privileges you need, you might be able to use a wiki platform for free. Most providers offer a 30 day trial to get you started and to see if the platform meets your needs. Monthly subscriptions are affordable as well.

There are oodles of wiki providers out there and it can be tough to decide which one to go with. I found the Wikimatrix helpful. It lists virtually all the wiki platforms out there and then itemizes their features—allowing you to compare them with each other.

If you have a large project to manage, staff in satellite offices or simply need an easy way to track documents you’re collaborating on with others, a wiki might be the communications/management tool to keep you moving forward.

Any of this blog’s readers using a wiki? Share your experience in a comment.

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2 Responses to “Why use a wiki?”

  1. messagecom Says:

    Thanks for your comment Mike. I guess the key to effective wiki use is the collaboration aspect. If people aren’t willing to collaborate in a respectful way, I can see how a wiki would fail. As you point out, the failure of this project had more to do with process than the tool.

  2. Mike Buckley Says:

    I was working as an in-house consultant on a project with one of our marketing divisions. We were rewriting a product manual and a wiki seemed like the perfect tool. As it turned out, it was a perfect tool up to a point.

    After many hours of work on the project, the head of marketing decided to get involved. (She had been among the original invitees, but never bothered to join in.)

    She basically trashed the work that had been done which was a blow to the morale of the contributors and the project came to a screeching halt.

    I guess the moral of the story is that you absolutely must get the buy-in of all parties. The failure of the project was certainly not the fault of the tool.


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