I’ve gotten a review copy of WikiPatterns (the book) in the mail and I want to review it here and make sure everyone who reads my blog knows about this book and the WikiPatterns website. It’s a guide to getting the most out of your wiki and the most from collaboration with the people you work with via a wiki. Combined they offer such a great resource.
I admit, I read the Questions and Answers first, even though it’s near the end of the book. I guess I wanted to see how Stewart would answer the questions I hear from others. I enjoyed his answers and comparing them to how I’d answer. I think I’m in agreement with him 100%.
Next I went through choice Case Studies, starting with Leap Frog. There are loads of case studies and they involve internal and external wikis. One thing I noticed while reading the case studies is that the case studies refer to the patterns and anti-patterns by name, so you must refer to the wikipatterns.com website to study up on ’em to get the most out of the book. You should refer to it regardless of your use of this book, it’s just that good.
Lots of fascinating tidbits in the case studies, though. I didn’t know that Leap Frog was an Agile development environment. Their internal wiki is named “Emma” which is cute to me, and apparently was better than naming it a wiki project. Good pointer.
Next I read about the author. Turns out, Stewart Mader and I both have Chemistry degrees.
Which led me to the foreward. Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the wiki, wrote an excellent foreward that will inspire you to become an activist, wiki-based or otherwise. And he reminds us that we humans crave collaboration.
Then, I boggled at an entire chapter dedicated to proving that Wikipedia’s perceived “problems” will not transfer directly to your wiki implementation. Thank you! Thank you! I’m not alone in trying to go against the anti-Wikipedia sentiment applied to other wikis especially for technical documentation such as end-user manuals.
Next, I moved on to the examples of wikis in use. Wow, wiki as peer directory. This is an excellent use that I wouldn’t have thought of until it was spelled out for me in this book. Collaboration works best when you know the person. And knowing the person in a global company often means only finding out about them through their profile page. At BMC, we used editable Sharepoint pages to upload pictures for remote stateside team members and writers based in India, which helped us get to know each other better on a personal level. It makes it all the easier to ask about the weather or a certain family vacation before diving headlong into some technical topic or project hurdle with a team mate.
Also, wiki as meeting agenda opener-upper. I loved adding agenda items to a Sharepoint site when I thought of them, rather than trying to remember them and send them in an email to the right person before a meeting started. That’s exactly what goes on a wiki. Things that you don’t want to trap inside of an email, nor do you have to wait until an email is sent out requesting agenda items.
So there you have it – my review of an excellent book that is a carry-around edition of the wiki with the same name. While it works well with the wiki, it offers more than the wiki alone contains.