Wikis are becoming more and more important in enterprise environments. They revolutionize how information is aggregated and organized. Wikis enable companies to unlock the personal knowledge of their employees and provide them with the means of sharing this knowledge with their co-workers. This of course requires large scale user participation.
Transferring the means of knowledge management from the hands of a few dedicated editors to a much broader range of users is the main challenge when introducing a Wiki in the work place. Motivating users, changing mindsets to a „sharing mentality“ and dissolving users fear of new technologies and work practices are obstacles that need to be overcome in order to make an enterprise Wiki successful.
However, new problems arise once the Wiki is established. In traditional knowledge management systems, data is either entered by specially trained editors or populated through highly structured expert systems. Wikis, on the other hand, leave a lot of freedom to the editors – after all, this is what makes them such a powerful and flexible tool. As said earlier, editing tasks are no longer restricted to trained editors but are instead required by a broad range of users inside the company.
The creation of content by non-experts can affect the Wiki's quality in two important areas – correctness and structure.
The second problem arises from the fact that many of the new users are not experienced in writing and structuring texts. The use of Wiki syntax should make this easier as it moves the focus from text formatting (as done in common word processors) to structuring texts and focusing on contents. Nonetheless, novice users often introduce bad practices learned in word processing to wiki editing, e.g. the use of forced line breaks or using bold formats instead of headlines.
We tried to find a way to solve this problem in the ICKE 2.0 project. To help users and Wiki gardeners, we created a plugin to automatically detect possible structural quality problems. Providing direct feedback and assistance should educate users, encourage participation and help to improve the overall quality of information stored in the wiki.
The resulting plugin was presented on WikiCamp last weekend.
The Quality Check plugin automatically analyzes the current page and tries to identify possible problems by running various checks on the page's syntax. It doesn't analyze the page content but instead focuses on general good practices in formatting and structuring wiki pages.
The result of the analysis is shown as a quality score. The higher the score, the more problems where found. Additionally the number of FIXMEs is shown next to the quality score.
By clicking on the quality info, more detailed infos about the identified problems can be displayed, along with a few general statistics about the page. Problem descriptions are accompanied by tips on how to fix them.
The idea here is to educate users about how to improve their texts without getting into their way. Showing the quality score to all readers, not only the one who's editing a page, should encourage others to participate in improving documents.
To give Wiki gardeners a way to have an overview of the quality of several pages, Quality Scores and FIXME counts are also shown next to each document in DokuWiki's index.
The plugin is available for download now.
We'd love to get some feedback from you. Is it helpful to you? Did quality improve? Do you have any suggestions on how to improve it? Please let us know in the comments or by mail.