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Presentation: Wiki Collaboration and Wiki Applications in the Workplace, LinuxWorld in Boston, 05 Apr 2006

This is the presentation material for the Wiki Collaboration and Wiki Applications in the Workplace conference talk in the Emerging Technologies Track at LinuxWorld in Boston, 05 Apr 2006

This presentation is outdated, see the latest presentation Social Media and Structured Wikis at Work - Enterprise Collaboration for Millennials.

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Slide 1: Wiki Collaboration and Wiki Applications for the Workplace

Writable webs empower employees to share knowledge effectively and to be more productive

  • Wiki, a writable web: Communities can organize and share content in an organic and free manner
  • If extended with the right set of functionality, a wiki can be applied to the workplace to schedule, manage, document, and support daily activities
  • A structured wiki combines the benefits of a wiki and a database application
  • This talk explains basic wikis and structured wiki, covers its deployment, and shows some sample applications using TWiki, an open source enterprise collaboration platform

Conference talk in the Emerging Technologies Track at LinuxWorld in Boston, 05 Apr 2006
-- Peter@ThoenyPLEASENOSPAM.org

Slide 2: Agenda

  • What is a Wiki?
  • Wiki for the workplace
  • Collaboration challenges at the workplace
  • How to choose a wiki
  • Structured wikis
  • What is TWiki?
  • Structured wiki examples
  • Lifecycle of a wiki at the workplace
  • Initial deployment of a wiki
  • Wiki champion
  • Overcoming barriers to adoption
  • References

Slide 3: What is a Wiki?

  • WikiWikiWeb = Writable Web
    • As quick to contribute as e-mail
    • As easy to use as a website
  • Ward Cunningham implemented the original WikiWikiWeb in 1995 to collaborate on software patterns
  • Inspired by HyperCard; some call it a Blog for groups
  • The original WikiWikiWeb has these features:
    • Read-write web, every page can be edited using just a browser
    • HTML form based editing with a simple markup
    • Pages are linked automagically with WikiWords

Slide 4: Blogs vs. Wikis

  • Blog: (weblog)
    1. Key: Easy to publish sequential posts
    2. Media to express individual voice
    3. "Post media" (like e-mail), usually with feedback and trackback
    4. Typically hosted service (e.g. Six Apart's TypePad)
  • Wiki: (WikiWikiWeb)
    1. Key: Easy to create and refactor content owned by group
    2. Media to express group voice, deemphasizing identity of individuals
    3. "Refactor media", content may change at any time
    4. Usually open source software, installed on own server
  • Some Blogs have wiki-like features, some wikis have blog capabilities

Slide 5: Wiki Offerings

Slide 6: Wikipedia

  • Wikipedia: Wiki + Encyclopedia Wikipedia
  • A free encyclopedia that is being written collaboratively by its readers
  • Project started in January 2001
  • The most active public Wiki: 1,000,000 articles and 1,000,000 registered users in the English language Wikipedia; many more in other languages
  • Anyone in the world can edit any page.
  • Doesn't that lead to chaos?
    • Domain experts contribute
    • Well defined policies for contributing and handling content
    • Graffiti gets removed quickly (many eye balls; rollback available)
  • Content can be freely distributed and reproduced under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL)

Slide 7: Wiki Basics: WikiWords for Linking

  • Easy to create hyperlinks within a Wiki, just use a WikiWord
  • WikiWords are capitalized words, run together, e.g., WebCollaboration, IntranetTools
  • To create a link to an existing page, edit a page and type:
    • For more info, see IntranetTools
  • If the 'IntranetTools' page exists, it is turned automatically into a link:

Slide 8: Wiki Basics: Creating New Pages

  • First, edit the page where you want to spin off a new page, and type in some text that includes a WikiWord for the new page:
    • For more info, see WebServices
  • After you save the page you will get:
    • For more info, see WebServices?.
  • The '?' is a link, indicating that this page does not exist, yet
  • Now, to create the WebServices page, click on this link, type in some text and save it
  • If you return to originating page and hit refresh, the link covers now the whole WikiWord:

Slide 9: Wiki Basics: Text Formatting Shorthand

  • Wikis are text oriented
  • Text formatting shorthand:
    • Easy to learn
    • More compact than HTML
    • No standard on formatting shorthand
    • Example TWiki shorthand
  • Some wikis offer true WYSIWYG editing, such as MoinMoin and TWiki

Slide 10: Wiki for the Workplace

  • Perceived issues with basic wikis used at the workplace:
    • No control; chaotic
    • No security
    • No audit trail
  • A wiki system with the right extensions can be used at the workplace
  • It can address some internal challenges:
    • Maintenance of static intranets
    • Taming internal e-mail flood
    • Implementation of business processes

Slide 11: Challenges of Static Intranets

  • Challenges - Static Intranet Some content is outdated
  • Incomplete content
  • When was the page last updated?
  • Difficult to find content
  • Inconsistency across departments
  • Special tools, knowledge and permission required to maintain
  • Content is static, it has a "webmaster syndrome":
    If an employee discovers a page with incorrect or insufficient information, the employee will often ignore it because it takes too much time to find out who the webmaster is and to write an e-mail requesting an update

Slide 12: Wikis and Static Intranets

  • Wiki and Static Intranet Move some/all Intranet content into a wiki
    • No difference for readers to browse and search content
    • Employees are empowered to fix content on the spot
    • Ease of maintenance
    • No need to install client side software
    • Consistent look & feel
  • Paradigm shift
    • from: webmasters maintain content
    • to: domain experts and casual users maintain content

Slide 13: Challenges of E-mail

  • Challenges - E-mail E-mail and mailing lists are great, but:
    • Post and reply vs. post and refine/refactor
    • Great for discussion, but ... hard to find "final consensus" on a thread
    • E-mail is not hyper-linked and is not structured, content can't be grouped easily into related topics
    • E-mail and attachments are not version controlled and it is difficult to determine the history of a document
    • Not all interested people / too many people in the loop

Slide 14: Wikis and E-mail

  • Wiki and E-mail Move some e-mail traffic into a wiki
    • Ease of reference (cross-linking)
    • Flexible notification (favorites only, daily digest, RSS/ATOM feed)
    • Pockets of knowledge made available to interested parties
    • Audit trail / domain experts
  • Paradigm shift
    • from: post & reply
    • to: post & refine & cross-link
  • Send e-mail with link to content instead of content itself

Slide 15: Challenges of Business Processes

  • Challenges - Business Processes Business processes are implemented in large scale by IT department (Sarbanes-Oxley compliance etc.)
    • Rigid structure by design
  • Teams follow formal/informal workflow to accomplish tasks, which is often a paper-based process:
    • Roll out laptops to employees
    • Status board of call-center
    • Sign-off for export compliance of a software release
  • No resources allocated to implement applications to automate those processes
    • IT department has no bandwidth to implement lightweight applications for a variety of teams

Slide 16: Wikis and Business Processes

  • Wiki and Business Processes A structured wiki is a flexible tool to support evolving processes
    • in the free-form wiki way -- linked pages, collaboratively maintained
    • and with a structured wiki application -- forms, queries, reports
  • Content contributors with moderate skill sets can build web applications
  • Paradigm shift
    • from: programmers create applications
    • to: content contributors build applications
  • Similar shift happened with the introduction of spreadsheet programs

Slide 17: Requirements for a Wiki at the Workplace

  • What to look for:
    • Version control -- audit trail
    • Access control -- security
    • File attachments -- document management
    • Ease of use -- productivity
    • Ease of administration -- productivity
    • Feature set -- create web applications
    • API -- integration with existing enterprise applications
    • Scalability -- room to grow
    • Support -- get help when needed

Slide 18: How to chose a Wiki for the Workplace

  • Type of deployment:
    • Hosted service:
      • Quick deployment
      • Data sits somewhere else (backup, security, migration)
    • Wiki appliance:
      • Quick deployment
      • Control over data
    • Wiki engine:
      • Longer to setup
      • Control over engine and data
  • Questions to ask:
    • Total cost of ownership?
    • Skill set of users (WYSIWYG editor needed?)
    • Skill set of system administrators? (Windows/Linux)
    • Who is maintaining the server? (IT, Engineering?)

Slide 19: Open Source Wikis for the Workplace

  • PhpWiki: A feature-rich implementation with support for various databases (PHP)
  • TikiWiki: A CMS and wiki, Slashdot-style forums, blogs, image galleries, chat, etc. (PHP)
  • TWiki: Structured wiki and collaboration platform for the enterprise, many Plugins (Perl)
  • XWiki: Feature rich Wiki implementation, compatible with some TWiki Plugins (Java)
  • ZWiki: A Wiki implementation that runs on the Zope application platform (Python)
  • Many more, compare them at WikiMatrix

Slide 20: What is a Structured Wiki?

  • Goal of a structured wiki:
    • Combine the benefits of a wiki and a database application
  • Wiki:
    • Organic content: The structure and text content of the site is open to editing and evolution
    • Open content: Readers can refactor incomplete or poorly organized content at any time
    • Hyper-linked: Many links to related content due to WikiWord nature
    • Trust: Open for anyone to edit, "soft security" with audit trail
  • Database application:
    • Highly structured data
    • Easy reporting
    • Workflow (e.g. purchase requisition)
    • Access control

Slide 21: Usage Pattern in a Structured Wiki

  1. Users typically start with unstructured wiki content
    • Example: Call-center status board
  2. User discovers patterns in content
    • Example: Call-center status board has fixed list of users and fixed list of time slots
  3. User or administrator builds an application, typically in iterations
    • Goal: Automate tasks based on discovered patterns

  • In other words: A structured wiki enables users to build lightweight applications

Slide 22: Example: Call-Center Status Board, v1

  • Requirement for status board:
    • Easily see who is on call at what time
    • Easily change the status board
  • Start with a simple bullet list for status board v1:
    • 07:00am - 11:00am: Richard
    • 11:00am - 03:00pm: Peter
    • 03:00pm - 07:00pm: Sam

Slide 23: Example: Call-Center Status Board, v2

  • Status board v1 does the job, but lets make it more presentable and useful:
    • Convert the bullets into a table
    • Use WikiWord links to team member's home pages for easy reference
    • Add Backup person
  • Improved status board v2:
    Start End Primary Backup
    07:00am 11:00am RichardDonkin  
    11:00am 03:00pm PeterThoeny  
    03:00pm 07:00pm SamHasler  

Slide 24: Example: Call-Center Status Board, v3

  • Status board v2 is presentable, now lets make it more user friendly:
  • Improved status board v3, view and edit:

Slide 25: What is TWiki?

  • TWiki started as a Wiki engine, and quickly evolved into a structured wiki for the enterprise
  • Mission: TWiki is a leading-edge, web-based collaboration platform targeting the corporate intranet world. TWiki
    • fosters information flow within an organization
    • lets distributed teams work together seamlessly and productively
    • eliminates the webmaster syndrome of outdated intranet content
  • Large number of TWiki Extensions: Add-Ons, Plugins, Skins
  • Open Source software (GPL) with active community, hosted at http://TWiki.org/

Slide 26: What is TWiki used for?

  • The structured wiki is used at different levels:

  • Shared notebook for teams: Projects, repository, scheduling, meetings
  • Departmental collaboration tool: Processes, project reviews, QA tracking
  • Intranet publishing tool: IT, HR, ISO standards
  • CMS with focus on free-form collaboration: Requirements capture
  • Knowledge base: Problem/solution pairs with attached patches
  • Platform to create wiki applications, such as news portals, inventory systems, issues tracking systems

Slide 27: Who is using TWiki?

Slide 28: Who is developing TWiki?

  • 5 Core Team members
  • 19 developers with SVN write access to DEVELOP branch
  • Over 100 contributors donating ideas, spec, code, patches
  • Many TWikiExtension developers
  • Main communication vehicle: TWiki at TWiki.org for brainstorming, feature and bug tracking, doc authoring, and support
  • Lots of ideas waiting to be implemented
    • Get involved if you are interested in helping build the future smile

Slide 29: TWiki Basics: Version Control

  • Pages are under revision control:
    • See previous page revisions
    • See differences between revisions
    • See who changed what and when
    • Roll back unwanted changes
  • "Soft Security" - anyone can change anything, but changes are logged
  • Complete audit trail, even for meta data, such as access control

Slide 30: TWiki Basics: Access Control

  • Default - use Soft Security
    • Avoid roadblocks to knowledge sharing
  • Special applications - use access control
    • Avoid write access restrictions - "If you can see you can play"
  • Fine grained access control:
    • Define groups in Main.TWikiGroups
    • Set read/write/rename access restrictions to site, webs and pages based on these groups
  • Complete audit trail of access control settings

Slide 31: TWiki Basics: Skins

  • TWiki Skins change the look of a TWiki topic, for example the style of the text and the layout of the header and footer
  • Separation of program logic, look and content
  • Corporations typically create their own skin to match the corporate branding standard
  • Many SkinPackages available for download at TWiki.org
  • The PatternSkin and NatSkin are highly customizable
    Skin samples

Slide 32: Adding Structure: Context of Content - Database Table

Flat, no hierarchy:
Database table -- flat
Context: Mainly next/previous; search

Slide 33: Adding Structure: Context of Content - File System

                Tree hierarchy:
File system -- tree hierarchy
Context: Down/up; search

Slide 34: Adding Structure: Context of Content - HTML Pages & Wikis

                                Hyperlink structure:
HTML pages -- hyperlinks
Context: "What is related" browsing; search

Slide 35: Adding Structure: Context of Content - TWiki Structure

                                                Tree + hyperlink structure:
TWiki -- tree + hyperlinks
Context: Down/up browsing; "what is related" browsing; search

Slide 36: Adding Structure: Context of Content - TWiki Breadcrumb

                                                Where am I?
TWiki breadcrumb -- path to home
Breadcrumb example: Home > Plugins > PluginPackage > PluginDevelopment

Slide 37: Adding Structure: TWiki Variables

  • TWiki Variables are what environment variables are to an OS, or macros are to a programming language
  • TWiki Variables are text strings that get rendered at page view time, such as %SCRIPTURL%, %URLPARAM{"city"}%, %INCLUDE{"OtherPage"}%
  • Types of variables: Predefined variables; preferences variables; user defined variables
  • Useful when creating wiki applications

Slide 38: Adding Structure: TWiki Forms

  • Use TWiki Forms to add form-based input to free-form content, e.g., you can structure topics with unlimited, easily searchable categories
  • A form is defined in a topic - (DB table definition)
  • Forms can be attached to topics - (DB table row)
  • The form appears in edit mode, and its content gets rendered as a table when viewing the page

Slide 39: Adding Structure: Formatted Search

Slide 40: Adding Structure: TWiki Plugins

  • TWikiPlugins enhance the functionality of TWiki and add structure to content
  • Growing Plugins repository at TWiki.org - over 200 Plugins available for download
  • A great resource for administrators and web developers to tailor TWiki to their needs, like for example with:

Slide 41: Adding Structure: Spreadsheet Plugin

  • SpreadSheetPlugin: Add spreadsheet formulae to TWiki tables
  • Over 70 formulae available such as $AVERAGE(), $IF(), $REPLACE(), $TIME(), $SET(), $GET()
  • You type:
    | *Region:* | *Sales:* |
    | East    |  320 |
    | Central |  580 |
    | West    |  240 |
    | Total: |  %CALC{"$SUM($ABOVE())"}% |
  • You get:
    Region: Sales:
    East 320
    Central 580
    West 240
    Total: 1140

Slide 42: Sample Wiki Application: TWiki Installation Directory

Slide 43: Sample Wiki Application: Employee News Portal

  • Click to enlarge: News portal with aggregated news above the fold, and directory below the fold Goal for Employee News Portal:
    • Reduce e-mail flood to the corporate-wide mailing lists
    • Reach a broader audience
    • Intranet home page as a newspaper
  • Specification:
    • News channels: IT, Engineering, Sales, etc
    • Each news channel has an editor group, responsible for releasing news
    • Subscribe to news channels of interest
      • Some news channels are "always on", e.g. employees cannot unsubscribe
      • Aggregated news is shown on intranet and sent via e-mail
  • More details at TWikiNewsPortal

Slide 44: Lifecycle of a Wiki at the Workplace

  • Initial deployment:
    • Get buy-in
    • Training
  • Initial growth period:
    • Grow laterally across teams & departments
    • Achieve critical mass (to benefit from the network effect)
    • Organize and refactor content
  • Large wikis > 50K pages:
    • Navigation, taxonomy
    • Manage stale content
    • May require an official or unofficial "librarian" or "coach"
    • Consolidate wikis into a central wiki
  • End of life:
    • Migrate data and applications

Slide 45: Initial Deployment of a Wiki

  • Grassroot vs. managed deployment of a wiki
    • One central wiki more effective than many smaller wikis
  • Plan content and rollout
    • Pain killer vs. vitamins
  • Build initial structure
  • Populate initial content with help from early adopters
  • Initial rollout with smaller group
  • Train and coach users Quick growth after slow start at Wind River
  • Do not underestimate inertia and time
  • Expect quick growth after slow start

Slide 46: Wiki Champion

  • The wiki champion is an advocate, and plays an important role at the grassroots phase
  • A successful wiki typically has a wiki champion who:
    • Monitors content and sends hints to users, such as:
      • "Did you know you can automate the meeting minutes? Here is how..."
      • "You can add a %COMMENT% to your design document for an easy way to solicit feedback"
      • "You can use a spreadsheet formula to calculate the total"
    • Provides user training
    • Helps create wiki applications
  • As the wikis gets larger and grows laterally, new wiki champions emerge

Slide 47: Overcoming Barriers to Adoption

  • Users not familiar with a wiki usually have several complaints about why it won't work
  • Management perceives wikis as chaotic; any employee can update any page
    • Audit trail and "soft security" of peer pressure
  • Wikis can be intimidating; the wiki pages appear "official" and corporate
    • Overcome one's own internal resistance to edit existing content
    • Paradigm shift: Content is owned by team, not individual
  • Users want their contributions to the wiki to be "perfect"
    • It is more effective to post content early and let the entire team revise it iteratively

Slide 48: Summary

  • A structured wiki is a powerful platform for web collaboration
    • Collaborate in free form; add structure as needed
    • Use it as shared notebooks, a departmental collaboration tool, a publishing tool, a CMS and a knowledge base
    • Use it as a platform to create lightweight applications
  • Easy to share knowledge
    • Corporate brain gives a competitive advantage
  • Careful coaching is needed
  • Viral growth after people "get it"

Slide 49: Questions & Answers

Slide 50: References

Slide 51: References, cont.

Slide 52: About Peter

  • Peter Thoeny - Peter@ThoenyPLEASENOSPAM.com
  • Founder of TWiki, the leading Wiki for corporate collaboration and knowledge management, managing the open-sourced project for the last seven years
  • Invented the concept of Structured Wikis - where free form wiki content can be structured with tailored wiki applications
  • Recognized thought-leader in Wikis and social software, featured in numerous articles and technology conferences including LinuxWorld, Business Week, Wall Street Journal and more
  • Software developer with over 15 years experience, specializing in software architecture, user interface design and web technology
  • Graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich
  • Lived in Japan for 8 years working as an engineering manager for Denso Create, developing CASE tools
  • Now in the Silicon Valley for 8 years, working on a book on Wikis for the Workplace, and consulting on structured wiki deployments.


-- PeterThoeny - 24 Feb 2006

TopicClassification TWikiAdvocacy
TopicSummary Presentation for the Wiki Collaboration and Wiki Applications in the Workplace conference talk at LinuxWorld in Boston, 05 Apr 2006

RelatedTopics TWikiAdvocacy, TWikiDeployment
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