27 October 2008

Wiki or Email?

One of the keys to implementing Enterprise 2.0 tools is to select the correct solution to each problem. From a strategic perspective this means reviewing a knowledge or process audit and searching for the appropriate tools to fill each niche.

In the real world though, its a lot more messy and one organic way to migrate people from the old trusted tools like email is to identify new opportunities as they pop up and encourage people to try using a different tool to do the job. These little pilots can grow and start to touch each other in the same way that outlying towns become suburbs in urban growth.

Stewart Mader recently reported on John Tropea's blog post about using a wiki instead of email for a small project. The original post is here and describes the use of a wiki for a small project that started as an email to all stakeholders.

Of note is that John tried to use comments as a way to get conversation (not just information gathering) happening in context on each wiki page. I agree comments are important and so are the page watches that ensure you get emailed whenever somebody else updates a page you are watching.

At Daniels we have taken this one step further. Not only do we still look for these opportunities to move things onto the wiki (we are doing this in both the Finance and Compliance departments right now) but in the IT department - where the wiki started -I worked hard to encourage a culture where people went to the wiki first to create new content or spaces where content could be gathered. This has taken some time, but 12 months down the track, new pages are being created all the time and even the new guys on the team are saying "I'll put it on the wiki and email you the link" just weeks after starting with us.

Email is still a very important tool for the company and the executive team still never touch the wiki, preferring phone calls and emails, but the culture is spreading. People all over are starting to see the benefits of public documentation that a wiki provides and this is being reflected by users now approaching any person in the IT team with their problems because they know the background info is equally available to any of us. Even people like me who haven't been involved in IT support for years. "Man! Are you psychic? I only spoke to James yesterday!"

Not psychic. Just collaborating with a wiki.

14 October 2008

Quantitative Wiki Study

A few years ago I came across Tim Bartel from the University of Cologne who was also conducting a study on Wikis.

Unlike my qualitative study, Tim's was survey based and looking for big numbers to build a general picture of wiki use, similar to Penny Edward's work.

I was excited to know I wasn't alone, and made a note back then to reference Tim's study when he made it available online, but until I was reminded today I had forgotten. So here is the link (Sorry Tim!)

The study looks at several factors of wiki use including company size and location, wiki age, objective and success as well as what problems were encountered alone the way.

  • Bartel, T 2006, Wikis in Enterprises: Collaborative Working in Enterprise Environments using Wikis, Department of Personnel Economics and Human Resource Management, University of Cologne, Germany, Cologne, Germany, viewed 22-May-2007, .
  • Edwards, P 2007, 'Managing Wikis in Business', Technology Management, MBA thesis, Open University Business School.

13 October 2008

Ever wondered where money comes from?

Thanks to Euan Semple who blogged this excellent video about the history of the banking system yesterday called Money as Debt.

I know it's a little bit off topic, but I enjoyed this so much I wanted to do more than just tag it in Delicious, so here it is for posterity. I think often we get ourselves into pickles like this because the end results are emergent from the millions of individual decisions made by investors and businessmen over time. I liked the part about Usury, explaining that several thousand years ago, charging people interest on loaned money was banned by every major religion. As we threw off these "unjustified" constraints, it has now become apparent that there are more than moral reasons that am upwardly spiralling financial system will not work long term in on a finite planet. I'll file this under "Other stuff we thought the ancients were too primitive to really understand, but we knew better".

I don't share this video to shock people or inspire fear. In fact I listened to an ASX Investor Education podcast this morning by Colin Nicholson that talked about preparing for the next bull market and I hope you will use the information in this video to make more informed, sound decisions moving forward.

12 October 2008

SocialText 3.0

Jon Husband today blogged about the new SocialText 3.0 on the FastForward blog. A few good links here to update yourself on where the new version of SocialText is heading and some nice notes by Jon about where he sees Social Software heading in the Enterprise space.

10 October 2008

Finally, a Knowledge Cafe in Melbourne!!!

David Gurteen is coming down next week after the actKM conference in Canberra and KMLF, in conjunction with the VPSCIN are running a knowledge cafe. It will be 6pm on the 16th of October at the Mercure Hotel in Spring St.

Click here to read more and register, but do it quick as seats are limited.

I blogged about David a few months ago if you want to know more about him.

See you there!

The curse of document management in SMEs

Managing documents in Small to Medium Enterprises has always been problematic.

In the old days filing cabinets would overflow with the things, customer quotes were scribbled on the back of napkins and then fax machines came along. Non-face to face collaboration strated to spread, but everybody bought two more filing cabinets for the multiple versions and copies that followed any negotiation or agreement.

Email came along and before long every Small business owner had an account with their local ISP and soon after that their workers did too. Before long it was easy to fire a document around the office and have several people be involved in either creating or reviewing it. Easy...but not efficient. Different versions got out of date. Version paths split when two people edited the same document and emailed it on to others. Shared drives helped a little, but remote access issues and single-editor restrictions saw most ignore that path. So email remained king for document collaboration.

Of course at the top end of town anybody with a spare $300k could just install a Document Management System and all their problems were solved (funnily enough many of these guys still email documents, but that's another story).

Wiki's help to overcome all these issues and allow a team to truly collaborate on document creation, distribution and management. If this sounds like a problem you would like to fix, check out Stewart Mader's excellent post and give it a try!

08 October 2008

More Technology and Culture from Clay Shirky

David Cushman has been posting an interview on his blog with Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody.

The connection between organisational culture and Enterprise 2.0 tools is a central point of my Master thesis and recently on actKM I have run into several different views and concerns about linking these two things together. Each has some good points and I particularly would like to know more about Graham Durant-Law's work (I am cursing not being able to attend the actKM conference this year where he is speaking!)

The video below seems to address this somewhat be explaining that Clay is not a technical determinist, but that the scalable nature of these tools does tend to lead to fairly novel kinds of social interactions not seen before. I tend to agree with him. It isn't the technology that changes people. However, it seems that the impact of these many-facted, multi-participant communication streams is to reveal new possibilities in the way relationships are expressed and therefore the culture of the organisation shifts to make use of these if they are beneficial to each individual in some way (not neccessarily beneficial to the organisation, I admit).

Obviously management is required to align the individual and organisation benefits, but Clay seem to provide good reasoning to why these tools and the communities that grow around them are more than just a change of scale in human interaction.

Click here to watch the video on David's Blog. Well worth the four minutes to listen in.

06 October 2008

Wikis in Education

Stewart Mader talks often about wikis being used in Education. I used one myself in the coursework phase of my Masters degree and they are brilliant for helping students work and learn collaboratively.

Today I got my Wikispaces update which mentioned a milestone of 100,000 free wikis in the K-12 education program, and they plan to give away 250,000 more.

Basically, if you are a teacher in K-12 and would like a private and ad free wiki for use with your class, yourself, your library or even to organise PTA meetings, etc, then go to this page and check it out!

02 October 2008

Wiki Study Mines for Gold

Recently Laurence Lock Lee from Optimice, James Matheson from CustomWare and Wiki guru Stewart Mader from Grow Your Wiki got together and published the findings of a study they have done into the value of wiki participation. As the real powe of a wiki is in the community it engenders rather than the database itself, using network analysis techniques is appropriate, and several other methods aimed to provide a level of validity through triangulation.

The study is available here on the Optimice website and outlines the details of the project and some quite positive results for enterprise use of wiki technologies.

The target of the research was the well known Wikispaces.com website and Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques show that new leaders are emerging in the community. The study summarises other results of the project this way:
The combination of wiki mining and direct surveying has shown that members who are active participants i.e. collaborators, editors, commentators or page creators are gaining the most value from their membership. (p.8)
Well worth the read.