27 June 2008

Are your documents behaving?

Today while reading one of James Dellow's blog posts about deciding what content goes where in an organisation, I followed a comment link from Doug Cornelius about wikis and DMS in the legal world and found the following paragraph.
A wiki and DMS are both focused on producing, storing and sharing content. A wiki page is just another type of document. When producing content, I have noted five types of behaviors: collaborative, accretive, iterative, competitive and adversarial. In a collaborative scenario, there are multiple authors each with free reign to add content and edit existing content in a document, and they do so. With accretive behavior, authors add content, but rarely edit or update the existing content. With iterative, there is single author controlling changes to the document. The document may have originated from another source, but stands on its own as a separate instance of content. With competitive content creation, there is a single author who seeks comments and edits to the document as a way to improve the content. However, interim drafts and thoughts are kept from the commenters. Adversarial behavior is where the authors are actually competing for changes to the content for their own benefit. Although there may be a common goal, the parties may be seeking different paths to that goal or even have different definitions of the goal.

Collaborative, accretive and iterative content production are largely internal behaviors. Competitive and adversarial are largely external document behaviors. Of course, a document may end up with any or all of these behaviors during its lifecycle.

I'm not sure I agree totally with wikis and document management systems having the same goal. My research seems to show that the interactive nature of wikis makes them more of a collaboration tool than a storage one, which seems to be almost secondary once the team culture adopts them this way.

However the document behaviours are certainly a nice little model, and the document does go on to describe the wiki as a good tool for use by teams with frequent and multiple edits, and also for large documents or manuals in draft that everyone can instantly refer to for the latest version.

Not everyone works with wikis in a legal environment, however many financial teams would appreciate guidelines that took these behaviours into account. I am rollout out a wiki into a finance team later this year so definitely something I will investigate.

You can read the entire document here.

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