More Thoughts on Wikis

I am glad that lots of people are talking up wikis. I am a big fan of wikis and have been running my own very unscientific experiment to see how average business users (as opposed to developers or early adopters) react when presented with a wiki. Just some quick thoughts…

Many business users are not comfortable with a read/write web experience – Many of the business users who I have exposed to blogs seem bound in the “track changes” paradigm and hence find the idea of a medium that anyone can alter (assuming a relatively flat permissions structure) to be a bit unnerving. There is a certain comfort in the ability to easily rollback unintended changes and to do version tracking and attribution.

Standing up a wiki does not remove the need to have an individual or group of individuals responsible for gathering content and managing the web presence
– Social software is great in that everyone has the ability (within bounds) to contribute content. However, as in most groupware contexts, lots of users can get value out of a system even if they don’t contribute. I have found that there is a 90/10 rule for the trial wikis that I have used — 90% of the content creation, management, and input is done by 10% of the user base. This is not such a big deal in the beginning — someone has to bootstrap the darned thing and get some valuable content in there. Over time, there needs to be a way to move toward more broad contribution and responsibility for maintenance.

Many business users live in email, not on the web.
Probably the hardest change of behavior I have encountered is the propensity for business users to want to live in email and not on the web. I am glad to see that some of the wiki tools are beginning to think more seriously about what it means to really integrate with email, but I see this as a “must have” to get broader use for wikis.

For the time being, wikis are being used by those who find them useful. With some effort, I think the scope of users can be expanded.