Wiki The Intranet

By Toby Ward — Has anyone not heard of a wiki? No, not the exotic New Zealand bird...
A wiki is a server program that allows users to collaboratively contribute content to a website. Editing is done in your web browser using a user-friendly editing tool not too dissimilar to a stripped-down version of MS-Word. But a wiki is more collaborative than your average page authored by one person. A wiki may contain the writing, edits and additions of many, many users. Any user can edit any other users’ contributions.

Additional tools available to wik-heads include author tracking, and locking and even version control and rollback.

The most famous wiki is which is an online encyclopedia authored by whomever wants to author. Yes, you can make your own edits and additions. Wikipedia now features over 600,000 files with thousands of contributors though they do disclose that “Nonsense and vandalism are usually removed quickly.”

The biggest wiki profile story just hit the pages of mainstream media when the LA Times experimented with a ‘wikitorial’ that allowed readers to rewrite an editorial on the paper’s website. However, the experiment was sabotaged by morons who sabotaged the effort by posting pornographic images.
Not to be outdone, Wikis are beginning to hit corporate intranets too.’s corporate wiki has helped save $1 million per 50 person project team – and dramatically reduced email.

Michael Reiter, managing editor for IBM’s global intranet, tells me the IBM intranet now has several wikis including one for company jargon and acronyms. IBM also encourages employees to blog. With thousands of employee blogs the IBM team set-up a wiki to establish corporate blogging guidelines that were completed in 30 days.

Unlike blogs, wikis are most appropriate for improving upon or adding to an existing ‘document(s)’ by multiple authors. Whereas a blog would have multiple entries on a given subject a wiki might have a single entry that has been edited multiple times. As an example, some corporations are using wikis as a place to gather ‘tips’ on a given subject. Microsoft uses wikis to store and reuse customer input and ideas.

More than a couple of vendors are now selling wikis just for the intranet space including TWiki and Socialtext.

Ziff Davis, one of the largest publishers of technology magazines in the World, uses a wiki to speed-up software development producing huge savings., the gaming division of Ziff Davis, uses a wiki product made by Socialtext. According to the customer testimonial on the Socialtext website, the development wiki has created a far more efficient environment for working together which has greatly reduced the reliance on email, as well as the associated lag time.

“This customer case study shows how use rapidly evolved from strategic planning to day-to-day coordination and communications, supported the brainstorming and launch of a new product and has led to promising experiments in group writing,” says the Socialtext website case study. “Workspace for group communications has reduced email volume dramatically to result in soft cost savings in excess of $1 million per year for a 50 person team. Project communication accelerated the project cycle of a four-month project by a month.”

The Ziff Davis example shows that wikis can in fact be that next killer enterprise collaboration platform that eases the burden shouldered (often inappropriately) by email and instant messaging.

Toby Ward is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media. For help in establishing an intranet wiki or blog, please contact us directly about our Intranet 2.0 service. To learn more about delivering and measuring intranet ROI, see our free white paper Finding ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments.