We’ve been kicking around using wikis as ad-hoc KM/collaboration tools for the firm. My boss and I discussed it at a bit of depth on a fine sunny day this last summer as we drove to one of our other offices. We both concluded that, as they stand, wikis are not ready for the sort of use we want out of them.
He made two points. One, current wiki UI is not lawyer-friendly. WikiWords are stupid, especially to a profession who trades in fine wordings. HTML-like markup and syntax are usable for only those who are already geeky enough to know the real deal. Once you can get the UI of a wiki to the level of Word, then we can talk. Hmmm, I smell open source project idea. Two, wikis are knowledge sinkholes. Getting data into them is kinda easy (see One), but getting data out of them is hard. I know Jotspot is working on that, for one, but when you are trading in PDFs and Word docs, XML export doesn’t cut it (at least not currently).
I made a single point that sort of gets at both of his. Wikis are great for ad-hoc arrangement and re-arrangement of data, but they don’t respect existing data. And with 2-million-plus documents in dozens of formats sitting in our document management system, we need to respect existing data. Wikis will be useful to the extent they enable us to re-use, remix, reorganize, review, and extend those documents. What is needed is a wiki that is created, edited, and saved in Word.