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TWiki Success Story of Lost Boys

Lost Boys is an internet design agency located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We are part of the global LBi group.

Almost four weeks ago we have officially introduced TWiki as our intranet.


Today I have been interviewed by Hill & Knowlton for their masterclass New media and internal communication on 18 of April 2007 in Amsterdam. I want to share my homework to their questions.

Who has been initiator of the wiki and how did you convince others?

Our wiki has been installed by a couple of people in the typical bottom-up manner. Actually, our first wiki was MediaWiki, but after two weeks we have replaced it by TWiki (because we wanted to be able to create custom applications, and TWiki is the tool for that).

One of our creative strategists has experience with an open intranet - at his former organization he had worked with Plone. He had a number of useful tips for must-have functionalities and layout of the homepage.

After a period of finetuning our strategist went to our management and convinced them to take the step to use the wiki as central intranet.

Our situation was not that complicated: our intranet at that time only had a small number of pages. Maintainance was organized by department, and someone who needed to change a page has to write HTML. So the possibilities for improvements were obvious.

Why did Lost Boys choose a wiki over the existing intranet?

Lost Boys is a knowledge organization: we live from what we do with our brains. But as we move through time projects are wrapped, employees leave, and the expertise is gone. Instead we need to keep that knowledge and to build a collective memory. Top-level knowledge is scarse - for example a view spanning multiple clients or projects, or views on developments in the field.

Building a collective memory only works when it supports the employees: they must do the effort, out of their own motivation.

So how do we motivate employees? First by giving them something they own and control themselves. DIY instead of asking permission. Foster the wants.

A wiki is a great solution for this. Wiki-ness is:

  • No control by a webmaster or communication department, but by domain experts and everyone else
  • Let employees organize and restructure information in the ways they think fit (but support tools and give ideas for structuring)
  • No walls or hierarchies: everyone can support (we have called our main web "Everyone")
  • Egality: anyone can change information of anyone - but always traceable and thus discussable

Information we collect:

  • About yourself: your picture, your interests
  • About others: telephone numbers, new employees
  • About subjects: for example: desktop widgets, search engine optimization, interactive television
  • About projects: who is working on it, concepts, links to benchmark sites, designs
  • About clients: developments, possibilities, current projects, contact persons
  • Information to support daily work: FAQs
  • Demos, proof of concepts

How many employees are using the wiki? Can you give us an impression of their reactions?

We have almost 200 employees. We all get them to use the wiki daily because of one killer application: the telephone quick search. Type the first letters of someone's name and a small list of matching employees with telephone number is shown.

People that use the telephone search come across our second killer application on the homepage: the internal weblog. They see new postings and new reactions. Anyone can start a new post or add comments. This functions as a gentle introduction to wiki-ness: to add and to change contents.

It also helps that employees can change the information on their personal page, including the user picture. People do want to change that over time.

Third application on the homepage is the display of new employees, one at a time and selected randomly.

Some successes from the first weeks:

  • Someone added a 'focus' script to the telephone search so you can start typing when the page has loaded. This was easy to add himself.
  • Entry of new employees was done by a html maintainer. Because we added a very simple data entry application (a TWiki App as well) this is now done by a trainee.

The tools we are using:

Reactions of employees are positive on appearance and possibilities. But people need training to work on the wiki. We are setting up a quick introduction training for small groups.

What has surprised you positively or negatively? What are the learnings?

Positive: people more open-minded at the change than I had expected.

Negative: it is hard to break the habit the way people work. They still send primary information through e-mail and hide other files on the fileserver. So a further change in mentality is needed.

Learnings: management buy-in is crucial for success. Further you need a Wiki Champion: someone with knowledge of wikis and knowledge of the organization, processes and the domain. The wiki champion should also have an active role in structuring information to make things findable.

Do you have tips for companies that want to install a wiki (or TWiki)?

First define your measurement of success: what do you want to achieve? What should the wiki do better than the current situation? Better communication? Better findability? Collecting top-level information?

All these things can be achieved by creating a successful community. Convincing Your Boss lists the properties of successful communities:

  • They have vitality
  • Their discussions are genuine
  • They talk about what the members need
  • They feel a sense of urgency to develop their domain
  • They strengthen the social fabric of their organization
    • by creating ties that bind people across teams, departments, business units, etc.
  • They deliver value to members and the organization
  • They are (often) initially built around existing networks

Management should set the example and foster an open culture. Preferably participate.

Do not strive for 100% perfection, but use the wiki to continually work at improvements. Things will break and they will be fixed again.

Look for killer apps to attract employees. It might be something functional what the employees need on a daily basis, or something fun like a internal auction.

You are not alone: the majority of the Fortune Top 500 companies already have a wiki installed.

More information:


Click the thumbnails to see the complete images.

Intranet homepage with telephone list, tag cloud, random new employee and blog posts
Intranet homepage with telephone list, tag cloud, random new employee and blog posts
New employees listing
New employees listing
New employees data entry
New employees data entry
Subject: Desktop widgets
Subject: Desktop widgets

Subject: Amsterdam Calling event
Subject: Amsterdam Calling event
Blog post
Blog post
FAQ page
FAQ page
FAQ creation page
FAQ creation page

Tag cloud
Tag cloud
User page
User page
User page: select picture
User page: select picture

-- ArthurClemens - 16 Apr 2007

Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
PNGpng AmsterdamCalling.png r1 manage 384.0 K 2007-04-16 - 21:22 ArthurClemens Screenshot: Subject: Amsterdam Calling event
PNGpng BlogPost.png r1 manage 426.9 K 2007-04-16 - 21:24 ArthurClemens Screenshot: Blog post
PNGpng DesktopWidgets.png r1 manage 517.8 K 2007-04-16 - 21:25 ArthurClemens Screenshot: Subject: Desktop widgets
PNGpng FAQ.png r1 manage 184.7 K 2007-04-16 - 21:37 ArthurClemens Screenshot: FAQ
PNGpng FAQPageCreator.png r1 manage 134.2 K 2007-04-16 - 21:39 ArthurClemens Screenshot: FAQ creation page
PNGpng NewEmployees.png r1 manage 428.2 K 2007-04-16 - 21:42 ArthurClemens Screenshot: New employees listing
PNGpng NewEmployeesData.png r1 manage 285.9 K 2007-04-16 - 21:43 ArthurClemens Screenshot: New employees data entry
PNGpng TagCloud.png r1 manage 225.0 K 2007-04-16 - 21:44 ArthurClemens Screenshot: Tag cloud
PNGpng UserPage.png r1 manage 156.1 K 2007-04-16 - 21:48 ArthurClemens Screenshot: User page
PNGpng UserPage_SelectPicture.png r1 manage 99.6 K 2007-04-16 - 21:45 ArthurClemens Screenshot: User page: select picture
PNGpng WebHome.png r1 manage 584.2 K 2007-04-16 - 21:49 ArthurClemens Screenshot: Intranet homepage with telephone list, tag cloud, random new employee and blog posts
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Topic revision: r5 - 2010-07-04 - PeterThoeny
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