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Book on Wikis in the Workplace

DanWoods and PeterThoeny are working on a book titled "Wikis in the Workplace: A Practical Guide to Collaborating, Creating Knowledge, and Sharing Information".

Introduction

This book will show how to implement Wikis as a productivity-enhancing tool in the enterprise. While Wikis are becoming extraordinarily popular on open Internet sites and are seeing increased acceptance in corporate niches, their use in day-to-day work in the enterprise raises special issues that differ from the open systems such as Wikipedia. It turns out that in a corporate context, Wikis fill a huge gap between the free form chaos of email, documents, presentations and spreadsheets, and the locked down structure of transactional applications. By adding just a little bit of structure to the original concept of the Wiki, many problems related to collaboration, content creation, knowledge dissemination, and knowledge management can be effectively solved.

Wikis in the Workplace will provide both theory and practice. The theory is based on Peter Thoeny's eight years of experience building TWiki and working with major companies who are using Wikis to solve urgent problems, such as outdated Intranet content caused by webmaster bottleneck, taming internal e-mail flood, creating a shared corporate memory, and how to support and automate evolving business processes. This book also provides a handbook to help the practitioner design and implement solutions using Wikis.

The book is aimed at educating IT executives, managers, and engineers about what Wikis are and how they can be used to solve practical problems. While the high level theme of the book will be an exploration of the phenonmenon of Wikis in the workplace, the text and message of the book will be rooted in IT. The larger theme will be explained through hands on examples. The book will show how to use Wikis to create a highly collaborative knowledge management, content creation, and publishing environment. Potential benefits to the reader include:

  • higher productivity
  • more efficient information gathering and dissemination
  • the creation of a corporate memory
  • support for loosely structured decision-making processes.

Although this book is about Wikis in general, we will cover extensively the possibilities of StructuredWikis. That is, this book will be a good promotional vehicle for TWiki in the enterprise. smile

About the Authors

Dan Woods is the author of six books on Information Technology and computer related topics. Dan is CTO and editor of the Evolved Media Network, a company he founded that offers Technology Communications services to clients including SAP. Dan is pioneering a team approach to content creation called Communication by DesignTM that he has used to create books of 200 to 400 pages in just three to four months. Dan will apply this methodology to create Wikis in the Workplace.

Peter Thoeny: Not much to say about me here on TWiki.org; you should know the person who is sticking his nose around the TWiki.org content smile

Call for Interviews

We are interviewing people familiar with the technology to provide an accurate view into the current possibilities, limitations and future trends. These interviews will be extracted and used in the book, and we would love to hear from you.

We are especially interested in talking to experts (people intimately familiar with TWiki and other Wiki engines) and key users (people who are T?Wiki advocates, manage a Wiki at their workplace, or use a Wiki extensively). We are primarily interested in learning about larger Wiki deployments, especially StructuredWiki deployments with successful TWikiApplications.

If you feel you can help out, or if you know someone who could, please send an e-mail to peter.thoeny@attglobalPLEASENOSPAM.net. An interview is typically done in a one-hour conference call. A list of questions can be supplied ahead of time if desired. If required we can quote anonymously or sign an NDA (some companies have strict guidelines.) NoahRobischon, an editor of Evolved Media Network, is coordinating the interviews.

Related Books and Publishing

There are already two books on Wikis: Ward's original WikiWay book, and the WikiToolsBook. Both target geeks who typically deploy a Wiki in a grass-roots effort. The WikiTools book is currently available in German only, but will be published in English this fall.

Our book on Wikis in the Workplace is targeting CIOs, CTOs and managers in IT and Engineering. The book explains how to roll out a Wiki in a managed top-down deployment.

The initial issue of the book will be self-published on Dan Woods' web site. It will have a higher price tag compared to typical books and is positioned between a book and a large white paper for the previously mentioned target audience. We anticipate that a later issue will be published by one of the major publishers.

Interview Questions

  1. 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
  2. How did you discover Wikis?
  3. How and when did you start using them in your organization?
  4. Did you deploy one Wiki across the organization or several Wikis based around teams or projects?
    • Which is better and why?
  5. What problems did Wikis help you solve?
    • What system was in place prior to the Wiki?
  6. 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?
  7. What kind of security concerns arose as a result of using Wikis and how did you overcome them?
  8. How long did it take for the Wiki to gain critical mass?
  9. Which departments in your organization adopted Wiki easily, which did not?
  10. Do you have any statistics about how usage grew?
  11. How did you get the IT department on board?
    • Were they chearleaders, naysayers, or indifferent?
  12. Did the Wiki start in a technical department and spread?
    • How and why did it spread?
  13. Was there a difficult training process?
    • How did you overcome it?
  14. 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?
  15. Who is managing your Wiki?
    • Do you have an expert who creates Wiki applications for the users?
  16. Who uses Wikis most?
    • What are the different ways that Wikis are used?
    • How does each group use Wikis differently?
  17. Do you use the Wiki in a structured way, e.g. Wiki applications with forms and reports?
    • How did you discover structured Wikis?
  18. What are the three most popular plugins used on the Wiki?
    • Describe other popular features.
  19. What new applications of Wikis are you considering?
  20. For new content do people use Word and attach a document to the page or enter content directly onto the page?
  21. Is there a pattern or process to how Wiki pages grow and evolve?
  22. 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?
  23. How do you keep users notified about changes?
    • Email notification or other techniques?
  24. Do you prune your Wiki to keep content up to date?
  25. What is your favorite Wiki tool or trick?
  26. What was the biggest value Wikis provided to your organization?
  27. Why do you think Wikis work?
  28. What advice do you have for someone who wants to use Wikis?
  29. What are the sorts of problems that Wikis can help with?
  30. How do Wikis save you time and money?
  31. What is the missing killer feature needed for a broader adoption?

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Jul 2005

Update on Book Writing - 19 Sep 2005

Here is a quick update on the book-writing process. We are making good progress on the interviews process, over 20 are completed so far. We are discovering some interesting patterns. In short:

  • Wikis are getting popular behind corporate firewall
    • Some companies standardize on wikis and have their mission critical data in a wiki
  • TWiki seems to be the most popular Wiki behind corporate firewall, MediaWiki is getting used most on public sites
  • Wikis typically start as a grass-root movement
    • Viral growth after an initial phase that is relatively flat and long
  • Many large companies have a number of decentralized wikis (one major computer manufacturer has at least 24)
  • Some large corporations are consolidating decentalized wikis into one central wiki, maintained by IT
  • KISS is a key principle why managers like wikis ("please keep it simple, don't make it complicated to use," and "I would be leery of anything that bloated it too much.")
  • A successful Wiki has always a Wiki champion who has (a) domain knowledge, (b) knowledge of how wikis work best
    • Interestingly, the champion can be at any level, from individual contributor to founder
  • Wikis in corporations are used more as whiteboards than StructuredWikis, but structured wikis with wiki applications are catching on
    • Some companies make extensive use of structured wiki features

We are looking for more feedback, we are primarily interested in learning about larger Wiki deployments, especially StructuredWiki deployments with successful TWikiApplications. We would greatly appreciate if you can help out, or if you could introduce us to someone who can. Please contact peter.thoeny@attglobalPLEASENOSPAM.net. See interview questions above to get an idea on the type of questions we ask during the interviews.

-- PeterThoeny - 19 Sep 2005

Discussions

Have read both existing books, they are too technocratic. Hope this one will focus on process and methodology. - Don't forget the fun! wink

-- FranzJosefSilli - 18 Jul 2005

I'd be happy to help you if you need a french translation ?

-- BenoitFauvel - 19 Jul 2005

I am back from a few days, a trip with my family to Northern California, driving along the Pacific coast on Highway 1, visiting a farm, hot spa, and riding a historic train. No computer, and no internet.

The book is aimed at CIOs and managers, so it will be less technical. It will cover methodologies and best practices on collaboration, including many case studies and extracts from the interviews. This is the reason why I am looking for input from you experts here on TWiki.org smile

Needless to say, we will make the book available to regular TWiki.org contributors. Details need to be fleshed out.

Translations: Thanks Benoit for the offer. Way to early at this time, we will look into this later.

-- PeterThoeny - 21 Jul 2005

Do you have an ETA yet for publication?

-- AmandaSmith - 06 Dec 2005

We plan for Q2 2006.

-- PeterThoeny - 07 Dec 2005

Looking forward to the book -- any further news about the schedule? Thanks.

-- HenryNewsom - 13 Apr 2006

Hm, we are in Q2 2006, where's the book? wink

-- FranzJosefSilli - 14 Jun 2006

It is the end of Q2, where is the book? We have some delay, caused by bootstrapping StructuredWikis LLC, and by another writing project: DanWoods and I are working also on a different book, also in the wiki space. At this time I cannot give more details on the second book, but I will do so as soon as I can.

-- PeterThoeny - 01 Jul 2006

Any news about the book? When it will be available?

-- HemangiBhavsar - 04 Aug 2006

Here is some news on the other writing project I mentioned last month: In addition to the Wikis for the Workplace book, DanWoods and I have also made a deal to write Wikis for Dummies.

Our research findings and the challenge of working on two books at once has changed the schedule somewhat.

Our research started by examining two things: How wikis were used in the workplace and how structured wikis were playing an increasingly larger role. What we have found is that even when an organization was a heavy user of structured wikis, core wiki functionality still provided much of the value. The largest challenge most organizations faced was propagating use of basic wiki functionality.

That finding lead us to the realization that even though we started work on the Wikis for the Workplace book, first, we should probably finish Wikis for Dummies as soon as possible to satisfy the need for basic wiki education. Then we should complete Wikis for the Workplace.

That's exactly what we are going to do. By the end of the year, we will complete Wikis for Dummies. Then in 2007 we will finish Wikis for the Workplace, probably after publishing section of the book as a wiki and soliciting comments from the community.

If you have an example of how you use wikis or ideas you would like to share for either book, please drop me a line.

-- PeterThoeny - 19 Aug 2006

Okay, I'll say it -- I'm disappointed. One of the primary reasons I chose to use Twiki rather than some other variant was the pending availability of printed, structured, ordered documentation.

Having said that, though, I have to say that the new approach appears to be very logical. :-(

-- HenryNewsom - 28 Aug 2006

Also disappointed. I was really looking forward to the book as a way to make a "leap forward". So carry on, and we're waiting !!

-- KeithHelfrich - 07 Oct 2006

We are working on it. Please see TopThreeFeatures.

-- PeterThoeny - 06 Nov 2006

I pre-ordered Wikis for Dummies, which now shows a July 2007 delivery date (on Amazon.) Given that the Dummies book is prerequisite to the Wikis in the Workplace book, do you have a new ETA for us? Thanks.

-- HenryNewsom - 07 Dec 2006

Is there a new update on this Peter?

-- AmandaSmith - 28 Apr 2007

I just finished my part of the Wikis for Dummies book, and we are wrapping it up. The chapter on StructuredWikis took longer time than expected, it is not so easy to describe this concept in easy to understand steps. The book will be published in the beginning of July.

We will soon resume the work on the Wikis in the Workplace book. Since I am not the only one working on it I will no longer commit to a date. My personal goal is in 2007-Q4.

-- PeterThoeny - 29 Apr 2007

The WikisForDummiesBook was published in July 2007, with good results. It contains some of the research we did for the Wikis in the Workplace Book. The latter is a bit on the back-burner unfortunately due to schedule constraints. Personally I think there is a need for a hands-on book on how to apply a wiki effectively in the workplace.

-- PeterThoeny - 31 Oct 2007

How will this book differ from the book (and web site) WikiPatterns?

-- FranzJosefGigler - 22 Apr 2008

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