Making the Wiki Work

“If you build it, they will come.” We’ve all heard those words way too many times, and yet I’ll bet if you look around at your online haunts you can find more than a few ghost towns: places that some web worker built where nobody bothered to come. Part of the problem is that we tend to be the virtual vanguard: we assume that everyone else on the team will “get” the latest bit of social software as fast as we do, and jump wholeheartedly on board.

In real life, things are different, as anyone who has ever tried to set up a corporate wiki has probably discovered. Faced with the possibility of building up a vibrant company-wide user-edited online resource, most people end up scratching their heads and retreating back to more familiar modes of communication. Now Atlassian (makers of commercial wiki software Confluence) have done something about this particular problem with their new site Wikipatterns.

As you can probably guess from the name, Wikipatterns is itself a wiki. In this case, it’s about the patterns and practices that a wiki champion can use within an organization to get people started using this resource (as well as some of the antipatterns that are known to discourage wiki use – like the presence of WikiTrolls or the problem of being Overrun by Camels). On the plus side, you can read about strategies for engaging people from simple (leaving a few typos for them to fix, so they discover how easy it is to edit a wiki page) to more complex (building pages for poker tournament results to demonstrate the low cost of adding a page).

There’s a lot of knowledge distilled in this site. If you’re trying to figure out how to get people on board with a wiki – or some other distributed networking software – it’s worth your while to poke around and learn from people who’ve been down this road before you.

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