Welcome! This is from my book Wikipatterns: A Practical Guide to Improving Productivity and Collaboration in Your Organization.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but those most adaptive to change. –Charles Darwin
This book is about change. It is as much a how-to guide for using a wiki as it is a how-to guide for making change happen. Status quo often becomes the norm when the tools available to people are difficult to use, highly structured and only meet a narrow set of needs, and don’t elicit a positive emotional connection from the people that use them. The wiki is a product of the idea that change can replace status quo as the norm if people have tools that do respond to their needs, emphasize the importance of people in building and managing knowledge, and maximize the feeling that they’re in charge of their own success.
In this book, we’ll explore the value of collaborative approaches that emphasize equal responsibility over hierarchy, look at the key differences between Wikipedia and the wikis used by organizations, and explore what makes a wiki different from other tools used for communication and collaboration. Based on my work running large-scale wiki projects and advising organizations on their wiki adoption, I’ve laid out a plan that shows you how to make the case for a wiki in your organization, run a wiki pilot that builds real, highly relevant examples you can use later on to grow wiki use, drive adoption throughout your organization, and minimize obstacles along the way.
In several chapters, I reference patterns and anti-patterns from Wikipatterns.com, the companion wiki and inspiration for this book. In each case, the pattern reference includes a direct link to the website for more information, and a list of people who have contributed to the pattern page on the wiki. Each of these people has played an important role in building the information about each pattern, and this is my way of acknowledging both their individual contributions, and the larger role Wikipatterns.com plays in this book.
Interspersed with the chapters are case studies. These are intended to give you a look at a variety of wiki uses, from collaboration and knowledge management in large and small businesses and higher education, to a non-profit using a wiki as the platform for a public website, a group building a wiki dedicated to its favorite sports team, and conference organizers using a wiki to manage and host the website for their event.
All of this was written entirely on a wiki, so it’s an example of the change it espouses. My first book, Using Wiki in Education (Wikiineducation.com) was also written and published entirely on a wiki, and I believe it’s important to “walk the walk” to inform your own use of a tool so that you understand its value from firsthand experience. Wikipatterns is being published in print to provide a guided approach to wiki adoption based around some of the patterns I see most often, and an introduction to the growing directory of patterns on Wikipatterns.com. The book is a fixed set of information designed to help people get started, and the wiki picks up where the book leaves off, providing a growing source of ideas and strategies that come directly from the experiences of its community. The versatility of the wiki is present in the fact that it can be used to power a public site like Wikipatterns.com, and provide the private space an author needs to put together a book that will ultimately be published in print. Figure 0-1 shows the homepage of the wiki used to put this book together:
Figure 0-1. Homepage of the wiki used to write this book.
Because the book contents were housed together on the wiki instead of in separate text files, I was able to treat the book as a single, coherent product instead of just a set of chapters, which meant that I could develop certain chapters together where it made sense. For instance, chapters 4 and 5 explain how to run a wiki pilot and drive large scale adoption, and have a close relationship to each other since the probability of successful large-scale adoption can be helped by a running a wiki pilot, and a wiki pilot is more likely to be successful when you plan and run it with the idea that it will help excite and inform future users about the wiki. So it made sense to develop them together and make sure they communicated this relationship. Working on the wiki also allowed me to go back and make adjustments to different chapters as I thought of new information, details, or relevant examples to add.
The wiki also allowed my editors at Wiley to access the book anytime, subscribe to receive updates via email or RSS so that they could keep up with the latest progress, and leave me in-context feedback in any chapter as they reviewed it.
So the book is not only a strong advocate for wiki use, but is directly connected to and inspired by a wiki (Wikipatterns.com), and is a product of wiki use itself. It demonstrates how the wiki can be embedded into our work in such a way that change becomes a smooth transition, and our work is better for the effort.
No book is ever really written by one person. I’d like to thank the following people for listening to me talk incessantly about wikis, encouraging me to go one step further and write down everything I’ve been saying for the past several years, and contributing some of the best case studies and examples of wiki use I’ve seen yet.
I had the great fortune of making a connection with Jon Silvers, Atlassian’s Director of Online Marketing, and it turned out to be one of the most important milestones in both my previous book, Using Wiki in Education (wikiineducation.com), and this project. Jon is a selfless, willing, and valuable collaborator and I can truly say that without his involvement this book would not be what it is today.
Jeffrey Walker, President at Atlassian, for offering sage advice and a sounding board for my ideas.
Brittany Walker, Customer Advocate at Atlassian, for helping type my handwritten pages when I took breaks from typing myself, and for being able to decipher my handwriting, which is an especially difficult task!
Eugene Katz, Atlassian, for his helpful guidance along the way.
David Goldstein and Sarah S. Cox, LeapFrog, for contributing a case study on LeapFrog’s wiki use and examples from their wiki tour designed to help new users see how others are using the wiki and get ideas and inspiration for their own use.
Geoffrey Corb, PMP, Johns Hopkins University, for an excellent case study on how JHU has used a wiki to improve communication on large IT projects, store and organize a fast growing body of knowledge, and reduce the flow of documents over email.
Ben Still, Red Ant, for contributing a case study on wiki use in a web design and development firm in Sydney, Australia. Ben shows you how Red Ant uses their wiki to manage the design process, make sure clients are actively involved, and keep projects on track and running smoothly.
Linda Skrocki, Sun Microsystems, for contributing a case study on Sun’s wiki use and wiki guidelines. Sun is clearly a thought leader when it comes to social media use in the enterprise. Jonathan’s Blog (written by Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz) is a great example of forward thinking leadership and transparency. I can’t wait to see what they do with wikis!
Stephan Janssen, JavaPolis, for telling us about his use of a wiki to organize and serve as the public website for the JavaPolis conference. Enterprising people like Stephan demonstrate that the wiki’s uses are limited only by your imagination!
Kevin Flaherty and Ben Elowitz, Wetpaint, for an excellent case study on how fans of a professional soccer team in the UK have created a wiki all about their team, and built a thriving online community in the process.
Jude Higdon, University of Minnesota, for contributing “Conversation with a WikiChampion.” Jude was a contributor to my first book, Using Wiki in Education, and I knew he’d be an excellent contributor to this one too.
Mark Dilley, AboutUs.org, for contributing an excellent example of how unions can use wikis to collaboratively work on contracts. This is yet another example of the reach and impact of the wiki when people find creative ways to use it.
Peter Higgs, Queensland University of Technology,
Oliver Widder, Geek & Poke, for giving me permission to reprint some of his cartoons at the beginning of several chapters. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Amy Sommer, for putting up with the life of a writer these last four months.
Stewart Mader is Wiki Evangelist for Atlassian Software Systems, and a noted wiki/social software researcher, author, blogger and speaker. Before joining Atlassian, he worked with several universities and a number of other organizations to introduce wikis and grow wiki collaboration across departments, teams, and projects.
In 2007 he launched Wikipatterns.com, a community-built, wiki-based resource for people to share patterns and strategies for increasing wiki collaboration.
He also writes at stewartmader.com, which is his personal perspective on the uses, benefits, and limitations of technology adoption and collaboration.
In October 2006, he published Using Wiki in Education: Case Studies From the Classroom, a book containing 10 wide-ranging case studies from teachers using the wiki to transform teaching and engage today’s students. This is the first book to focus specifically on the wiki in education and be developed and published using a wiki, so it actively demonstrates the tool in action.
He has taught science both in the classroom and online, worked extensively with social software and wiki technology in education, and has worked with faculty to apply and assess its impact on student learning. He previously served as Senior Instructional Technologist for Life Sciences and Brown Medical School at Brown University, Educational Technologist at Emerson College, Instructional Designer and Interim Director of the Faculty Center for Learning Development at University of Hartford, and has collaborated with faculty at Long Island University on a series of teaching and learning projects.
He is co-founder of The Science of Spectroscopy, a project which rethinks how spectroscopy is taught by using a model that starts with real-world applications, gets students engaged and asking ‘how does it work?’ and then teaches techniques and theory. The web site is wiki-based, making it easy for users to quickly edit pages and contribute information using just a web browser. The project has been featured in the journals Science and Chemistry International, is a member of the National Science Digital Library and the National Grid for Learning, and was recently named a member of 33 Wikis, a showcase of the best in wiki-based collaboration.
He has produced two films in collaboration with NASA. Seeing the Scientific Light and Skysight let students hear directly from scientists who use spectroscopy in their everyday work. The films have aired on PBS stations and are currently in retail distribution. He holds a B.S. in Chemistry from University of Hartford, and is pursuing an M.S. in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology from University at Albany.