Enterprise wikis and Internet wikis (of which Wikipedia and Wikitravel are examples) provide the same basic function – the ability to edit content in a web browser – but they differ in several significant ways:

1. Spaces

Internet wikis often have all content housed in one “place,” so that any user can see the entirety of the site’s content all together. Enterprise wikis allow for information to be organized in spaces (individual wikis that are part of the enterprise wiki) based on project, department, team, etc., and access to those spaces can be granted to specific users.

2. Security

Internet wikis are often open for anyone to read and edit, sometimes without even requiring one to login. Enterprise wikis are typically not open to the public or partially open, i.e. some spaces are open but others are not. To access an enterprise wiki, you have to login, and your account has to have permissions set so that you can access particular spaces. Permissions can also be set at the page level, so that a person might login, access a particular space, and have editing rights on some pages, but only viewing rights on others.

3. Integration

Enterprise wikis are designed to allow user account, group, and access information to be provisioned from authentication and authorization systems like LDAP and Active Directory, so that a person can login to the enterprise wiki with the same credentials that they use to access email, the company network, etc.

4. Typical Uses

Enterprise wikis are often used for:

  • collaboratively building documentation
  • creating and maintaining knowledge bases
  • project management
  • gathering tacit knowledge (knowledge not related to any specific project but essential to getting things done in an organization)
  • meeting management, from agenda to minutes and action items.

Generally, an enterprise wiki will be used in a much wider variety of ways than an Internet wiki, because it is intended to support the wide-ranging needs of the people within an organization. Internet wikis tend to be used primarily for one main application, as is the case with Wikipedia.

5. Contribution Level

On public wikis, we often speak of the 90-9-1 Theory, which explains that 90% of users will “lurk” or simply browse pages, 9% will contribute occasionally, and 1% will contribute frequently, and account for most of the contributions to the wiki.
On an enterprise wiki, the contribution level is much higher based on the fact that people are contributing as part of the daily course of their work, as opposed to voluntarily contributing to a public, Internet wiki. This contribution isn’t necessarily compulsory, as a top-down mandate will usually hinder more than help wiki adoption. Instead, it’s the result of well-executed wiki adoption strategies that place the wiki at the center of the core activities of a team, such as meeting management, building a support knowledge base, or collaboratively writing documentation for a product.

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