The Wiki; Social media’s battered brother.

Everyone and their dog is getting onboard social media in a serious way (I say as a write in my blog which will auto tweet when published and appear in my facebook page…).  Innovative 2.0 technologies are raining down something new every day!

There is however, this poor older brother of the collaborative online spirit called the Wiki.  Misunderstood, mislabeled or disregarded by organizations looking to get into the social media “phenomena”, it is often cast aside in the face of others. (Blogging, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter…)

Wiki’s have some amazing application to the world of learning, are cheap and easy for organizations to put together, and can bring really huge impact, really fast if applied correctly.

In 2004 I was introduced to the Wiki.  Up until then, although the concept of collaborative work was certainly not new to me, the idea of everyone able to edit anyone’s else content flew in the face of my mild OCD.

I liked data well organized, numbered and versioned.  How else would you be able to ensure accuracy through proper reviews?  You might as well just throw it all out a window and let any Tom, Dick or Harry write whatever the hell they pleased into the repository.  It was abit insane.





The crazed visionary, who’s idea it was to put in place as a pilot, impacted my view of this technology in a way that I wish everyone could have been.   7 years later, it’s still the best way of helping folks understand.

“The Knowledge Incubator”

A ton of sites I’ve come across have leveraged wiki’s as web pages.  Information is posted there (links, images, etc) but the tool is a leveraged for it’s easy of posting features instead of the collaborative tool it is meant to be.

I learned from my experience back then that offering trust to participants, socializing the hell out of the tool so it became part of the culture to participate and guiding rather than pulling data allowed for real diamonds to pop out of the bottom when it was time to build learning programs.

The power of the wiki is the fact that content can be inputted and edited by anyone.   That’s basically it.  As soon as you constrain that capability, or when it becomes a singular voice, you should instead consider other tools (Web page, blogs, etc).

Opening access to all to add, edit and delete will allow information to grow and leverage the brilliance of many rather than the genius of one.

There are great applications for this from a learning perspective.

Collaborative Stories – Allow customer service reps to work together to create and mold customer personas.  What a great way to new hires to get introduced to the types of clients they will interact with.

Information Gathering – Charts on policies, best practices, cold call experiences/ideas or software test scenario ideas.  Providing a place for these to be entered, and live edited by others will allow teams to dynamically shift approach and provide direction of success/failure.

This is also a great tool for gathering info from SMEs.  Especially in the world of developing product, allowing them to work together to mould learning content while moderated by an ID who cleans it up and organizes flow can be a real time saver.

Drawing Tacit Knowledge – The bane of the corporate educator.  Information lives in the heads, emails, post-its and doodles of the tenured.  How do you get it out of their heads and in a durable format?  Provide them a tool, socialize it and start drawing this vital info into a repository.  Provide incentives, games and light competition to help.

My suggestion on a few elements to keep in mind when considering a wiki as a tool.

1. Start with a goal.  Make sure you clearly know the objective of the wiki, each section and the role of each individual invited to take part.  It can be hard to drive busy people to populate content.  Having a clear picture of the end result goes a long way to intriguing participants to jump on board

2. Develop loose standards.  I say loose, because the more rules you put in place, either the less folks will participate, or the less value in the end result.  Elements like who has access and acceptable language will lend to the credibility of the end result.

3. Moderating.  Really give this one thought.  The less you moderate, the more you need to trust in those who are participating (see element 2).  Even a 24 hour turnaround in reviewing edits will frustrate participants away from being involved.  It’s also a huge job.  Let thoughts flow and stay involved as a participant.  If it’s abused, deal with those individually.

4. Start with Artifacts.  Describing a great idea and providing blank canvas is not motivating.  Posting a video demo of the newest software, list of curricula/topics/learning objectives, images of competitor products, or pictures of an org chart are great ways to kickstart thinking and ideas.  Spend your time organizing pages and artifacts for new sections (instead of moderating!)

Wiki technology is super cheap and accessible, allows for tracking of who edits what and when (you’ll find natural champions), and you can go back to previous versions in any edits put in place.  The risks are very low!  As long as you hold to the idea of collaborative spirit and the knowledge incubator, the end results can be astounding and reduce your efforts.


About Andrew Ambrose
I am passionate about the learning longtail for formal and informal learning solutions, leveraging social media and networking technology for learning projects, innovation through mLearning, collaborative learning and applying solutions that fit within the learners personal learning environment.

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