Wikipatterns, the wiki, the book, teh awesome

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.

8 Comments

  • Maria
    January 11, 2008 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know a lot about wikis; only used one once at a small software company long ago and very “litely” at that. Sounds like wikis have come a long way. But the last few companies I’ve contracted at, no one uses a wiki…Everyone uses SharePoint. What’s the greatest advantage would you say to using both? Or what does one do that the other doesn’t? You (or the book) make it sound like the two were made for each other. I love wikis but they are a hard sell for people that use SharePoint and think it delivers everything they need.

    Nice review by the way. Do you know when the book will be available?

  • M. Hunsberger
    January 11, 2008 - 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I visited the Web site and got a good laugh out of the following solution for curing “Wikiphobia.”

    “Wikiphobic people typically are ignorant. Just create the wiki secretly on a server and don’t tell them it’s a wiki. Tell them it’s an informational web site and only trusted editors can modify it. Then add everybody as an editor except the Wikiphobic people. They’ll think that the site is static and can’t be modified, which will suit them very well. You will pass as the owner of the contents, and thus they will ask you to modify the site via emails. Just cut and paste the emails into the wiki. By the time they figure out it’s a wiki, your wiki will likely be very large and they won’t have the guts to delete all that information. They may ask you to disable editing. Answer “yes, I’ll do it” but then just ignore the order. Repeat as necessary, typically every six months.”

    Thanks for the link and the review.

  • January 12, 2008 - 7:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Maria – the book is available on Amazon now, and you can click that first link to find it in Amazon. I think that the newest version of Sharepoint has wiki features built in, but you’re right, Sharepoint is not a wiki itself. Sharepoint has so many integration points with Outlook, though, that it becomes a “sticky” integration. In other words, once it’s in, people like for it to stay. And that’s not a bad thing. I believe you could use the Wiki Patterns for some of the business goals you accomplish with Sharepoint, like the open, editable meeting agendas for example.

    I too got a kick out of the Wikiphobic description! There’s a great collective voice and style on that wiki and it’s often a fun read.

    And one other note – thanks to the reader who sent me an email saying “there’s a typo in the title.” Well, not really. The “teh” in the title is something “teh kids” do, Internet slang. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teh for more detail. I mean for it to be translated as “the awesomest.” :)

  • January 12, 2008 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info about “teh”…. I’ve seen it used, but wasn’t 100% sure of intentionality or meaning. BTW, you accidentally included the “.” at the end of the link.

  • January 12, 2008 - 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Ah, thanks Michele. WordPress was adding that extra period at the end somehow so I just added words to the sentence, ha ha. We writers know all the workarounds! Glad it was helpful and know you’re not the only one!

  • January 16, 2008 - 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the pointer to the book. Very interesting. I’m going to go through the site more thoroughly.

    Also of interest is the site by Peter Thoeny (I am sure you already know it):
    http://www.structuredwikis.com/

  • January 18, 2008 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    The Tech. Pubs. managers who we help find a good Tech Writer have told me about your blog. I think it’s terrific.

    I’d like to add a link to http://justwriteclick.com to the links page on our site, http://www.TECHwriters.com.

    I wonder if you’d consider adding a link to our site on your links page.

    Let me know.

    Thank you.

    Dorothy Webster

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