Yet another 5 uses for a wiki at work

I just can’t stop.

1. Induction materials

We’ve got one wiki page called “NewDeveloperInduction”, and on the day a new hire starts, they quickly learn that that page contains — or links to — all the basic information they’re going to need to know in their first week or two. We also have a policy that it’s the responsibility of any new person still on their probation (i.e first 3 months) to keep the induction pages up to date.

2. Orientation

I mean this in quite a literal, physical sense. Years ago I left Australia to work in Canada, and though we didn’t have a wiki in the workplace there, we did have a shared webpage where all the expats maintained a list of information for new immigrants, including where to find the local public transit timetables, weather forecasts, tax information, and so forth. At my current job, we have a similar page for immigrants (with information on everything from radio stations to recommended banks), as well as one more focussed on the immediate geographical area around our office: car parking, places to get lunch, and so on.

3. Polls

Many wikis have plugins for polls/votes among users, but even if yours doesn’t, you can do it informally by saying “I think X. Who agrees/disagrees?” and letting people add their names to either list. We do it the informal way, and it works pretty well for us.

4. Soliciting help

Traditionally, if you didn’t know how to use something you’d either interrupt someone to ask them, or send round an email asking whether anyone could help you out. At my current work, we have a series of wiki pages called “FooTips” for various values of Foo, eg. “Linux”, “Perl”, etc. If you’re wondering how to achieve some particular thing and don’t really want to interrupt anyone, just add your question to the “Tips wanted” at the bottom of the page, and someone will probably pick it up via RecentChanges and answer it.

5. Professional development

Seems that companies never really send you on useful training courses, but at least if people add useful resources to your work wiki, you can go peruse them whenever you’ve got some downtime and take control of your own learning. On my work wiki, the “Javascript” page is full of links to resources like this series of videos, and on another page, one of my team members has shared links to his favourite tech-related podcasts.

6 thoughts on “Yet another 5 uses for a wiki at work

  1. After sending Steven the original article I have to say I like a lot of your 10 extra reasons better Kirriy. I’m trying to drag my organisation into the 21st Century and am going to use some of your ideas to help me.

    Reflecting on your examples I have to wonder if intranets will disappear one day soon as most of what you’ve suggested for a wiki is now done by an intranet in my organisation. A slow-to-be-updated, full of silly approval steps and impossible to search intranet. I can’t wait for a future without that.

  2. Thanks, Bernadette!

    Interestingly, my workplace is in the process of rolling out a heavyweight, proprietary, hierarchically-organised intranet application across the business right now. Management tell us that it will exist in parallel with the wiki. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the two of them are used, and by whom.

  3. @Skud: heavy duty intranet and wiki could work out well, in parallel, but getting an organization to adopt a wiki and really use it can be a big hurdle in many organizations — it just doesn’t “come naturally” to many. It appears to duplicate the existing functionality of email (appears to, but doesn’t); if there’s a new intranet that the organization is formally implementing, the wiki will appear to duplicate the existing functionality of that, as well. Please consider posting about how it goes!

    Here are some other uses that I don’t think were mentioned in any of the other posts (although maybe they’re just instances of listed uses): Office procedures (how to open up in the morning; whom to call in an emergency; where the coffee filters are), and Corporate or Departmental Policies (maybe *both* a draft version and an “official” one).

    So much depends on the culture of an organization. Tools and practices used by leaders (whether those are officially leaders, as reflected by their positions in the hierarchy, or simply leader-types) are crucial to the fate of a collaborative initiative. Have you seen http://www.wikipatterns.com? It’s a wiki set up by the folks at Atlassian to capture and share wisdom about how “enterprise wikis” are implemented.

  4. Tegan: re: “not alone”, yeah, I’ll definitely be spreading wikipatterns around at work among those who are interested in such things… I love these meta-conversations, and I know a couple of people at work who would be totally into it too.

    Don’t worry about the other thing, happens to all of us ;)

    I’m tempted to write “five wiki frustrations at work” sometime. Though #1 would be, “having to install suboptimal wiki software and inability to administer it well because we don’t own the servers.” *grumblemutter*

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