In Wiki is the new FAQ Dennis Howlett looks at the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of wiki use at SAP and Intuit. At SAP, the Developer Network and Business Process Expert communities group found that online forums were inefficient because the same questions were being asked over and over, sometimes with people waiting a long time for answers. “It got to be a little much,” says Mark Yolton, vice president of the SAP Developer Network and Business Process Expert communities at SAP. So the group introduced a wiki and encouraged the community to contribute.
This is a smart idea because with forums, people might not think to search and see if their question has been answered before, or they might search with slightly different terms and not find the existing answers. With a wiki, all the answers to a question can be organized on a page, and people can easily edit, add to, or correct an answer.
At Intuit, the technology innovation group introduced a wiki for employees outside the group to contribute information on technologies the company might want to use in products. The problem is, contributions to the wiki haven’t taken off, so the director of the group is trying to stimulate activity by inviting product managers and designers to temporarily join the group and contribute to the wiki. Howlett argues this isn’t a good wiki use because Intuit isn’t giving people a reason to actively participate in the wiki community.
My take on it is that the Intuit group’s effort should be focused on the people inside the company first. If the people in the technology innovation group aren’t contributing to their own wiki, it’s not likely that those outside will contribute either, because there’s no core community. Having people temporarily join the group to contribute to the wiki might get content into the wiki for a brief period of time, but what happens when those people leave the group? They might continue to contribute, but then again thy might go back to their usual work and just not have time for the wiki anymore.
Furthermore, having temporary contributors build the wiki is risky because they don’t fully belong to the community like those in the technology innovation group, and it’s the full time “residents” who should set the tone and guidelines of the community so that it has a clear purpose. Intuit’s wiki might work, but I think SAP’s has the strong foundation that I’ve seen in other successful wikis.

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