Wiki as the new FAQ
I discovered and have been meaning to write about Wiki is the new FAQ, an excellent blog post talking about SAP’s use of a wiki featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal. I especially like the play on words in the title. Reminds me of “brown is the new black” or “pink is the new blog,” hee hee.
A wiki can be a Frequently Asked Questions repository, much like the knowledge bases in their heyday in the late 80s. My favorite line from the blog entry has to be its closer: “It’s about a different way of thinking around how to interact with the community.” And that is what I have explored with my wiki presentation, about how to build community with a wiki and be an active member of that community. But what are other uses of the wiki?
Wiki as the next-generation customer forum
For many information seekers, wikis are better than forums because they are more easily searched and once you get a hit, the articles are meant to be scannable. Compare and contrast this to a long thread on a support forum where the answer to your question might be buried in the middle of a discussion about the mysterious beep in someone’s house. In my beep example, there are literally 78 pages of forum discussion, and if you read through the threads, you discover that a group of people took it upon themselves to go to the person’s house to find the beep. It has probably two years of forum discussion around the possibilities. Quite a fun and entertaining read, though, but not that efficient. Still, consider the community that built up around beep troubleshooting. Great stuff there.
But consider that your software users might not have the time to read through even a few pages of a forum discussion about a solution to their problem. That is where a wiki could be more useful than a forum. While forums are a fun online community for many, wikis might be the new generation of forum and many wiki engines offer comments on each article which are the next evolution of a forum – you can discuss the article itself. Another blogger, Leigh Blackall of Learn Online, discovered “The gold in a wiki is often in the discussion pages.”
Wiki as an easy HTML editor
Wikis originated as the quickest way to create a website without having to know HTML code. Really, wikitext is all about quickly doing headings, paragraphs, and lists.
Unfortunately each wiki has different rules for how to indicate a heading or list item or type of list. For some, it might be easier to just learn HTML code. And in the case of the Drupal CMS, there’s the ability to either use a rich-text editor or hand-code the HTML. It’s easy to troubleshoot when you can just view the HTML code, but what’s odd is that sometimes the resulting <div> tags generated out of your webform entries in Drupal seem to overlap.
But most wiki engines offer the fastest and easiest way to make a web page with a URL that you can consistently refer to.
Wiki as the new book
Some folks are pre-populating their wikis with book content, which is always an interesting test of what parts of a book are considered essential for “bookness” or “wikiness” – do you keep a table of contents? Is there any index? What page metaphors do you subscribe to in the wiki? These questions can be answered by looking for examples and analyzing their success. I especially like using wikis for the wiki aspects that go above and beyond books. For example, I’ve been exploring the Meatball Wiki site (Thanks Janet!) – and they have an excellent page with all sorts of Indexing Schemes categorized, such as Readership and Authorship which are fascinating for use in wikis as opposed to books. The Ontology category seems the most book-like to me, and I really like how that page offers ideas for all the possibilities that wiki offers.
Wiki as the new website
Does any company use only a wiki as its public-facing website?
Wiki as the new Content Management System
Eventually, the wiki can be the source files for important content, and I would guess there are people moving towards this wiki-as-cms system already. With my work with the OLPC project, I am learning more about wikis as source files, and found that the compare is actually quite powerful visually. Take a look at two versions of the demo or release notes from a release done in September. There is color coding and side-by-side comparison of text that is easily scanned for what changed, was added, or deleted. I’m learning so much about wikis for localization and translation efforts as well with the OLPC project. For example, this past week, I added links to translated content, such as the Spanish translation of the Simplified User Guide. The wiki engine itself (in this case, WikiMedia), lets me list the additional language pages in a blue bar on the original page, and then each language page automatically links back to the main language page (in this case, the English page.) Automatic is nearly always useful.
Do you see wikis being the next generation of other documentation outlets? Do tell.