The Philosophy of StructuredWikis LLC
The philosophy of StructuredWikis is based on decades of experience that Peter Thoeny and Dan Woods have gained by leading the development of technology, providing and purchasing consulting services, and analyzing requirements.
We combined efforts to form StructuredWikis because we see a huge opportunity to put wikis to work in companies and other organizations large and small.
Our philosophy is simple and practical. We don't promise the moon. Instead, we accelerate the journey to harvesting the real-life benefits wikis.
Change the Culture of Collaboration through Basic Wikis
Organizations accustomed to a wiki typically change how they operate: Communication gradually changes from top-down structure to a democratized one that empowers people with domain knowledge. Eric Baldeschwieler, Director of Software Development at Yahoo Inc. describes this nicely: "TWiki has changed the way we run meetings, plan releases, document our product and generally communicate with each other."
Basic wikis have these essential characteristics:
- Wikis allow people to collaboratively create and maintain content in an organic, natural manner.
- Wikis let people share unfinished content early, which leads to better content because more brains are involved sooner.
- Wikis empower people to make a difference in the organization based on what they know instead of explicit authority.
- Wikis make pockets of knowledge available to the whole organization, providing the foundation for a smarter company which should lead to a competitive advantage.
- Wikis increase the accountability and sense of responsibility among staff members.
Build Wiki Skills and Propagate Wiki-powered Processes
Simply throwing a wiki at a community usually does not work well. Implementation of a wiki is an educational journey for an organization in which staff members gradually shift some e-mail traffic into a wiki, and move the maintenance of Intranet content from the webmaster to its members. A successful wiki is typically nurtured by a wiki champion who gets the wiki engine in place, monitors the contributions, gives advice in best practices, and provides training and tutorials.
Recognize Patterns of Collaboration
Content in a basic wiki is self-organizing by nature. Wikis allow users to model content to match how they operate. Often, people do repetitive tasks in a wiki without realizing it. A wiki champion can help recognize patterns of collaboration, and help members to use the wiki more effectively. These patterns can be turned into simple applications that automate tasks, reduce errors, and improve communication and productivity.
Fill White Space and Extend Automation With Structured Wikis
A structured wiki combines the benefits of a basic wiki and a database application. A basic wiki has (1) organic content where the structure and content is open to editing, evolution, and refactoring, (2) is hyper-linked with many links to related content due to the easy of use of WikiWords, and (3) is built on trust rooted in common ownership, and kept in order due "soft security" with audit trail. A database application has (1) highly structured data, (2) offers easy reporting, (3) workflow and (4) access control. If you combine the benefits you get something powerful, a collaborative environment that is sufficiently structured.
It is important to add structure only where it pays off in terms of efficiency, and to add only as much structure as needed. This is because too much structure may hinder collaboration. Frequently, suitable structures cannot be designed in a top down manner. Rather, it is discovered by observing content changes and recognizing patterns, requirements are truly understood and then applications are implemented in iterations.
Many formal and informal business processes remain on paper or e-mail, such as rolling out laptops to employees, or signing-off a software release for export compliance. The IT department cannot allocate enough resources to automate them. A structured wiki lends itself to support for capturing evolving processes in the free-form wiki way, and with structured wiki applications. These wiki applications use queries and reports that can be created by content contributors with moderate skill sets. Once structured wikis are understood in an organization, a paradigm shift occurs in which end-users create lightweight applications in addition to developers.
Learn More about our philosophy in Peter's Wiki Corner and in Dan Woods The Wiki Advocate.