Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More wikipatterns goodness

I mentioned this wikipatterns site in my last post but wanted to return to it for some discussion. If you have a wiki in your organization this is a must read site.
A few items caught my immediate attention. The empty pages problem:
Talk to the person who first created the page, and see if s/he knows that it's sitting empty. If the person has forgotten about it, this will probably be enough to jog their memory and get them to add some content. You might suggest posting a scaffold at minimum, so that others know what to add to the page.
I'm happy to see that most of the solutions suggested at wikipatterns involve having a conversation with the contributors. I'm convinced that this conversation piece is the most important aspect to creating wiki magic. When people know that others are watching and that they are there to help, it can make all the difference in building a thriving community. You just can't let people struggle. You need to be there to coach them every step of the way. You really know you are starting to succeed when the people you've coached begin to coach others.

There there's this thing about sandboxes:
The sandbox pattern involves creating a page, often called a sandbox, and encouraging others to practice wiki editing on this page. The problem with this is:
  • It distracts people from editing pages containing real content
  • It makes people afraid to edit the 'real' content.
  • it gives the impression that a wiki is complicated and has a steep learning curve.
Now that's interesting. I'm thinking they may be right. People mostly want a sandbox so they don't expose their learning in the history of a real article. So what difference does that make? Who cares if the history is cluttered? What's wrong with showing others in a public place that you are trying to advance your skills? What do you think - does having a sandbox hurt more than help?

Finally, there's this concept of a BarnRaising:
A wiki BarnRaising is a planned event in which a community meets at a designated time to build content on the wiki together. One person alone can't build all the content in a wiki, and a community of people needs to understand how to use the wiki, and feel a sense of buy-in for it to become successful. A BarnRaising achieves this because people come expecting to learn how to use the wiki, and they are able to interact with each other as they work, thus strengthening community bonds and creating a support network that keeps people using the wiki.
When we started our wiki we talked a lot about having something like a hackfest. Of course, we knew we couldn't call it a hackfest, and we spent a lot of time trying to come up with something better. BarnRaising is perfect. Now we need to follow through.


Unknown said...

I too don't use the sandbox when I am demonstrating/teaching wikis because users should not be scared of making mistakes, because mistakes can always be fixed either by themselves or by others.

Interesting idea with the BarnRaising--WikiRaising. A WikiRaising among new wiki users would shoot them straight into the early stages of adoption--demonstration, trial, and early use.

People in our organization don't want to show their mistakes or lack of knowledge or lack of skill. They also are very comfortable with structure and assigned duties. A WikiRaising where we are "all" new at the process and are at the same "party" in a nonstructural environment will relax their fears and demonstrate equal opportunity to change or shape content.

Anonymous said...


Nice to meet you at BB! I was really taken with this site too. The nonprofit community is doing a wiki carinval and trying to see where that fits into the pattern.

Kevin Gamble said...

I like WikiRaising. That's nice. WikiCarnival is nice as well. I like both of those names better than a BarnRaising.

It was nice to meet you as well Beth. Looking forward to working together some more. We definitely have similar interests.

Stewart Mader said...

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for mentioning Wikipatterns, and getting conversation started about it on your blog. I especially like your thoughts on sandbox - it's an idea that people first think of b/c of the steep learning curve of everything else they're used to, but something that's just not needed with something as simple and easy to use a s wiki!
Stewart Mader
Wiki Evangelist, Atlassian