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This is the presentation material for the PlugandPlay Open Source Forum at Plug and Play Tech Center, in Sunnyvale, CA, 15 Mar 2007

This presentation is outdated, see the latest presentation Social Media and Structured Wikis at Work - Enterprise Collaboration for Millennials.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

15 minutes keynote talk at PlugandPlay Open Source Forum, in Sunnyvale, CA, 15 Mar 2007
-- Peter@ThoenyPLEASENOSPAM.org - http://twiki.org/ - http://www.structuredwikis.com/

Slide 2: Agenda

  • What is a Wiki?
  • Collaboration challenges at the workplace
  • How to choose a wiki
  • Structured wikis
  • What is TWiki?
  • Initial deployment of a wiki
  • 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: 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: 1,600,000 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 6: 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 7: 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 8: 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 9: 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 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: 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 15: 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 16: 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 17: 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 18: 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: Who is using TWiki?

Slide 22: 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 23: 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 24: Demo of some Wiki Applications

  • Wiki Intranet
  • Employee Portal
  • CRM Application
  • Voice Enabled Wiki

Slide 25: 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 26: 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 27: Questions & Answers

Slide 28: References

Slide 29: References, cont.

Slide 30: About Peter

  • Peter Thoeny - Peter@ThoenyPLEASENOSPAM.org
  • 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.


  • Copyright © 2007 by Peter Thoeny. This presentation may be reproduced as long as you retain the copyright notice and provide a link back to the URL of this presentation on TWiki.org
  • This presentation is based on the SlideShowPlugin and uses the TWiki:Main/PeterThoenySlideShowTemplate

-- PeterThoeny - 15 Mar 2007


I refactored out the NumberOfTWikiInstallations discussion.

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Mar 2007

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