A humorous presentation of Blogs vs. Wikis

Beyond the cleverness of this video, it is interesting to note that the creator decided to focus on the control aspect as the key difference between wikis and blogs. I’d like to suggest that control is not simply a technical issue, but one of culture and practice as well. Openness or tight control can exist in either tool.

The real question is, how do we get real about the role of control and/or openess is our work! Enjoy the video.

Knowledge Sharing in the CGIAR – Tools and Methods for Sharing Knowledge: The CGIAR’s Wiki Approach

The ICT-KM Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has an article out about a project that is near and dear to my heart and which I have been working on, the Knowledge Sharing Toolkit Wiki. Here is a snippet from the article, ending with a provocative question. Click in to read the rest!

Knowledge Sharing in the CGIAR – Tools and Methods for Sharing Knowledge: The CGIAR’s Wiki Approach
The Institutional Knowledge Sharing (KS) Project of this Program together with its CGIAR Center partners has been experimenting with a range of KS tools and methods over the past five years and has recently been assembling these and many others into a toolkit (http://www.kstoolkit.org/). This evolving resource – continually updated, edited, expanded, and critiqued in wiki fashion – is targeted mainly on scientists, research support teams, and administrators in the 15 international centers of the CGIAR. But it also serves their partner organizations, as well as development organizations working in areas other than agriculture. And it benefits from their diverse feedback too.Science has traditionally relied on a few key vehicles for sharing and validating new knowledge. The most important are experiment replication, the publication of research results in peer reviewed journals, literature searches, and formal and informal communications at conferences, workshops, and other meetings. In addition, the patent system serves as a complementary knowledge broker in instances where research spawns technical innovation. With such longstanding institutions already in place, why is there a need for new avenues to share knowledge? The answer to that question is surprisingly complex; but a few key reasons stand out.

Noticing some nice non-profit wiki work

CCN Wiki HomepageA while ago Beth Kanter put out to her network a request to know about useful nonprofit wiki practices. I meant to reply, but, as usual, got distracted. Today I received an email update about a local coalition here in Washington State (USA) that reminded me about their great wiki work. Check out the Communities Connect Network Wiki . Early on, I had the pleasure of working with Peg Giffels who was their main wiki gardener (among many other roles.) Peg “got” that there was both an information architecture and a set of social processes associated with their use of a wiki as both a project communication tool and as a knowledge sharing tool.

Intially the blog was going to be a general place for coalition members to share stuff. But we all know how general stuff goes — slowly if at all. Then Peg hit on using the wiki to be the central point for the coalitions training programs. Now, at the completion of this last round, Peg has a site that is rich in materials (print, audio, video), has an integrated wiki orientation and training component, reflects specific member areas and contributions (for example here and here) and is well organized and “gardened.” The left navigation links to major areas of the wiki.

One of the things that came out of the early “Wiki Wednesday” hour long telephone based orientations was that people came to get trained, but left with new connections to other coalition members. When asked what was best about the calls — it was always the people they connected with. Peg lives that in the way she works with the coalition. While she stewarded the technology and the content, her attention to the people came across to me, as I observed the wiki development over the months and now years.

Like most wikis, there is a relatively small proportion of editors to page views. For example, in April, there was a rough average of 220 unique visitors per day, 2-3 editors and intermittent spikes of editing across the month. This makes sense given the ‘wind down’ phase as well. There was a huge jump in traffic between February and March. I should ask Peg what was going on!

Interestingly, while this wiki is very focused on Washington state, there are viewers from around the world. I really wish I knew what they thought, in what ways, if any, they benefited from visiting the wiki. I appreciate that the Communities Connect project worked with such openness. They have made a contribution that is bigger than their own project work. I like that about public wikis.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this cool wiki with you. Do you have any great wikis you’d like to share with the rest of us?

P.S. Beth, when I went to find the link on your blog, I noticed two things. Your search box is now waaaay down on the left nav bar of your blog – I almost gave up looking for it. And it is a Technorati search, so I have to go to Technorati and THEN link back to your blog. Maybe consider putting in a Google or other direct search option? I want to find your great stuff FAST! And yes, I’m finally becoming a searcher!

Harvesting knowledge from text conversations

Km4Dev wiki screenshotThis is the second in my latest series of online facilitation method tips and mini-podcasts. John Smith asked me to write up the practice some of us have been nurturing on the KM4DevWiki to encourage summarizing and harvesting of learnings from key community conversations in our email list on to a wiki. The podcast can be found here.

There are often amazing threads on email lists and web based discussions. Often they get lost due to the tyranny of recency over relevancy. We remember what we last read. How many times have you heard people say “hey, we discussed that before… where IS that conversation?” Some tools make it easy to search within message, but then you have to reconstruct a thread. There may have had subject line changes, interruptions, etc. It is hard work. That’s why it is useful think about practices to pull out useful stuff so it can provide wider and easier benefit.

One practice of harvesting learnings from text based discussions (in email or web forums) started as a small FAQ (frequently asked questions) project a small group of use did a couple of years ago as part of the KM4Dev community. KM4Dev is a global community of practice interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing in international development.

We initially intended to create FAQ’s out of key discussions to answer what we thought were some of the “big questions” that often came up in the community. You can read about the project at the following links.

What we discovered was that often something wasn’t simply a response to a question, so the FAQ format started to limit us. We moved into harvesting what we called “Community Knowledge.” This is the basis of the technique I know use regularly.

Now, on the the technique. (Did I say these were going to be short? I guess I goofed on that!)

  1. Role model the harvesting behavior. Our initial FAQs gave people the chance to experience discussion summaries. But the next step was to role model it around current discussions. At first we would notice a “hot thread,” summarize it then post the wiki url back to the email list.
    • Templates can make it easier/more comfortable for people new to summarization and/or wikis.
    • Cross promote the wiki on the list to keep it in the community “line of sight.”
  2. Ask others to try the behavior. Next we started asking people to create and post their own summaries of discussion threads that they started.
    • asking in a private email is friendlier, but sometimes the public request can add some useful “pressure.”
  3. Time the request well. Usually we made the request for summarization after we saw a thread really get going — and hopefully near the end of the thread.
    • I have made the mistake of suggesting that the thread be summarized too soon and people took that as a “stop talking” signal.
  4. Expect resistance. (And I’m tempted to say “resistance is futile, but that’s not really true!) Initially people did not summarize. So I would set up a wiki page for them, send them the url and another small request. (I think I started signing my emails from “wikipest.”) Some people would then summarize and post to the wiki, and some would send me the summary to post. That was fine.
    • Reminders are often useful. I do wonder if I annoyed some times…
  5. Encourage those who adopt the practice. After about a year, others started recommending a summaries to starters of hot threads. So the initial part of the practice was being picked up by others. More people were creating pages, but it was still a very limited group.
    • Don’t expect miracles
    • Do thank those wonderful souls who will do this important community work.
  6. Make the value visible. Last year we had the need to review our technical platforms and lo and behold, the wiki was getting more page views that the community’s older, established content management based site. This validated that people were finding and in some way, interested in what we had harvested. I believe this external validation helped motivate and maintain the practice.
    • Share stories of use
    • Make pageview data available
    • If the wiki has been useful beyond the community, get the other users to send a thank you as well.
  7. Reduce barriers and support from the side. Some of us still have to go in and link pages to the index page.
    • We have had to require registration for the wiki due to wiki-spam, which creates some friction and overhead – it is not as easy as I wish it were.
    • The wiki still needs a lot of overall attention to make things easier to find. (That is on my to do list – and has been for a long time. )

All in all, the practice is valued. We are making our knowledge visible and available to the wider world and inviting them to help improve it. There are 76 entries. The entries on knowledge sharing tools and methods have been spread and reused by members’ parent organizations. Value has been amplified. I think it was worth it!

For more on harvesting:

Knowledge Sharing Toolkit – your feedback?

kstoolkitAre you interested in knowledge sharing tools and methods? Particularly if you work in non profits, NGOs or in international development? If so, I’d appreciate it if you took a look at a project some of us are putting together, The Knowledge Sharing Toolkit. From the draft “about” information:

This toolkit is a living knowledge repository about knowledge sharing. We created it to be a resource both for KS workshops and as an ongoing place to learn about, improve upon and generally share our knowledge sharing practices. There are other KS toolkits out in the world – many of them listed in our acknowledgments. Most of them, however, are static – not updated. We wanted to provide a place where we can share our practices in an on-going manner. So we invite you to improve upon any of the entries, leave your name and contact information if you can be a resource on a tool or method, and share stories (both success and “uh-oh – failure” types) of these methods and tools in use. Let’s help each other.

Edit in the wiki, comment in the wiki discussion tabs or leave your comments here. Thanks in advance!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Choconancy1