“In 2007, 2.2 million people took part in the world’s first Earth Hour in Sydney Australia. Just one year later, 50 million people in 370 cities and towns, in more than 35 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour.

Earth Hour 2009 aims to reach more than one billion people in 1000 cities around the world, inviting communities, business and governments to switch off lights for one hour at 8:30pm on Saturday March 28 and sending a powerful global message that we care enough about climate change to take action.”

One of the Atlassian Foundation initiatives this year has been to assist the Earth Hour project. The Earth Hour team use Atlassian’s Confluence as a collaboration tool for the campaign teams across the world. For example, the Earth Hour global team in Sydney post notices about regional phone link ups on the wiki. Different countries and cities may share news about big wins or challenges that they are facing. The wiki is not intended for use by the general public (the Earth Hour website is the communication tool for the general public).

The Earth Hour team approached Atlassian in late October this year for help with their wiki. They had used Confluence for their 2008 campaign, but were running into a number of technical and usability problems as they scaled up for 2009. An Atlassian team of volunteers assembled to help tackle these problems (thanks to Dave O’Flynn for managing the Atlassian volunteers). As a technical writer, I happily took on the content redesign of the wiki.

What did we start with?

I met up with the Earth Hour global team late last year to discuss their existing wiki and plans for overhauling it. You can see an early screenshot of the wiki below.
Earth Hour original wiki.png

In our discussions, the Earth Hour team outlined the difficulties that they were having with their wiki. The wiki had evolved into a jungle as information proliferated. The majority of users were described as “not very technical” and had not used a wiki before. Hence, many users were struggling to find and update information. In addition, the Earth Hour team themselves had limited resources to dedicate to the wiki and were finding it increasingly cumbersome to maintain.

Taking away the feedback from our discussions, I sat down with their wiki and walked through it myself. My initial review uncovered a number of issues that were contributing to user frustrations with the wiki. The wiki homepage was in need of a redesign, many of the features that make wikis such awesome collaborative tools (e.g. news, notifications) were not used effectively, and there was little help available to users if they got stuck.

What did we do?

While I was rummaging through the wiki content, the more technically-oriented Atlassian volunteers were hard at work upgrading and migrating the application from Confluence 2.6 to a brand new Confluence 2.9 hosted instance (thanks to George Barnett). Not only did this improve the performance and reliability of the wiki, it also enabled me to take advantage of a number of Confluence features that are only available in later releases. These included page ordering (every technical writer’s best friend!), page tree and improved screen designs and menus. I would have loved to have had the Office Connector and enhanced rich text editor as well, but unfortunately the Earth Hour Confluence instance was only recently upgraded to version 2.10.

With a new hosted instance in place, I compiled a list of proposed content changes, sought the Earth Hour team’s blessings for them and started updating the new wiki. Starting with the wiki homepage, I redesigned and restructured almost the entire site over five days. I also wrote a number of new pages for their site, including an administrator’s and user’s guide, a News page to encourage users to collaborate and a FAQ section to help users help themselves. The screenshot of the updated wiki homepage below shows how dramatically the wiki has changed. Thanks to Jens Schumacher for the cool CSS changes.

How did we go?

The Earth Hour campaign launched internally (i.e. for all campaign organisers) on the 17th of December with the new wiki. The feedback we’ve received back from the Earth Hour global team has been all positive.

Many thanks to Mike and Scott for their commitment to Atlassian Foundation. I thoroughly enjoyed spending my Foundation leave on this worthy cause and look forward to the big lights out on March the 28th!

Atlassian software is free for use by official not for profit organisations and charities. Learn more about Community Licenses.

Video: Atlassian and Earth Hour

Atlassian and Earth Hour