Wikis for Business

NYTimes writes about how Wikis could be used for business:

A wiki the Hawaiian word for fast is similar to a Web log in that the software makes it extremely easy for anyone to publish on the Internet. But unlike a Web log, which is typically the work of a single author making diary-style entries in chronological order, a wiki is the collective work of many authors.

At first glance, a wiki looks like a bare-bones Web page, with simple text and no fancy graphics. But its streamlined simplicity is the main appeal. There’s no cryptic HTML programming or complicated software. To create a new wiki page, a user needs only to click on the “create a new page” link and then start typing.

The most distinctive characteristic of a wiki is that anyone in the group (or for public wiki sites on the Internet, anyone who visits) can edit, modify or even delete material on the pages. Such a free-form collaborative process can be messy and chaotic, and it requires a commitment to the group that may not sit well with some egos. But over time, wiki advocates say, a group voice or consensus emerges into what some enthusiasts call “emergent intelligence.”

The creative anarchy of the wiki is the philosophical inverse of conventional corporate groupware software. Groupware’s highly structured rules and processes do not always reflect the way people really work. Employees often ignore costly corporate-sanctioned software and revert to informal social networks whether simply e-mail or impromptu water-cooler discussions.

Given that wikis are easy to use, inexpensive and can be set up without a company’s information technology department, it is no surprise that the software is making its way into business organizations through the back door much as instant messaging and other stealth innovations have done. While wikis can be helpful for project managers and employees in charge of small teams, corporate managers who favor greater control are more likely to be wary.

An example of a Wiki set-up by Joi Ito for a discussion on LinkedIn.

What is interesting is that something which has been on the fringe (Wikis have been around since 1995) has suddenly started becoming popular, perhaps partially driven by the new-found interest in social software.


Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.