The company I work for has a bunch of information laying around; in a dropbox, on a shared network drive, basically there are documents everywhere. To make information more accessable, myself and some others are beginning a small side project of creating a Wiki.

We're currently working on a plan to integrate using the Wiki into peoples normal workflow. Right now our biggest problem to integrating a new wiki is the possibility that people won't create content on it, because it's a tedious and previously extraneous step in their normal workflow. If people don't create content, then we don't have a usable wiki, and the project has become a waste of time.

We have some idea of how people might interact with a wiki:

  • Viewing content is simple, because all you do is search for what you need, and then read (caveat is that the content is there).
  • Deleting content is trivial matter. You either have people not motivated to delete the information, and you're left with a history (which may or may not be inaccurate), or someone will be motivated enough to change it. These are both acceptable to us.
  • Updating content is a bit harder, but still simple. If something is wrong, the next person to use the information will discover the error and hopefully fix it. If they don't, that information stays wrong until the next person and the next person and so on until someone gets fed up and changes it. There is probably a better way to handle this, but it involves how creating content is handled.
  • Creating content is hard. People have to go out of their way to write documentation (which needs to be usable by other people) instead of continuing on to their next non-documentation task.

What I'm trying to do, and what I'm looking for, is a way to incentivize creating content on the wiki. I want to somehow make this step in the process a task that people WANT to do, instead of something they HAVE to do.

Typically "incentive" means money, but I don't have the ability to grant people cash, or other material things if they use the wiki. I'm hoping to make it a sort of psychological want to improve the wiki.

I'm not even sure this is the right place to be asking, but considering my problem is about the environment in which I work, I think it's the best fit. If there is a better place, I'll take my question there.

This is not quite the same as this question. To me it looks like the OP wants to get people to write documentation at some higher standard then they currently do. I'm more concerned with finding a way to give people, who might not be inclined to write documentation at all, a reason to do so.

  • This may not pertain to your department, but requiring people to work on other projects to be "cross trained" will certainly help point out the need for documentation and will identify processes that need to be documented. Using a software example, make a "back-end" developer fix and release a trivial bug in the "front-end" project. – JPhi1618 Oct 15 '15 at 20:39
  • At best, you can send out thanks to those who are going along with the new system... as combined with sending an email to the manager of those who aren't (asking for some compliance in this). Remember that this isn't something necessarily that other managers care about nor want their employees to waste time on (seeing this from their perspective not mine). They may have more work than they can accomplish now and this wiki project may be stealing from time that could be spent doing something else. Be patient. Reward good behavior. Ask otherwise. – Michael Blankenship Oct 15 '15 at 21:24
  • You may also want to check out communitybuilding.stackexchange.com Even though you're already a team, what you're proposing is really creating an online community. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 19 '15 at 19:52
  • @ColleenV that makes a lot of sense, and I already see some related questions, so I'm going to bring my question there. Thanks! – endrnc Oct 20 '15 at 13:34

I basically put together systems like this at my workplace. Something like a Wiki only works for a small dedicated (to that topic) team that is somewhat technical. I have implemented at least 30 wiki systems - after telling people they wouldn't be used - and watched them not be used.

What can be done to make people use the system? One manager gave his people bonuses based on doing a certain amount of entries per month. We also gave away ipads and whatever. This was always very short-term. Because with Wikis there are no owners. And (stealing an NFL analogy) when everyone owns something you have none.

Site's like SE work because of five premises.

  1. There is an owner for every bit of content.
  2. The content can be reviewed/edited by others (editing and voting are examples).
  3. The content bits are countable. I can count how many questions a person has answered or posted or whatever (votes - but you don't have to have voting). This also allows you to give people different statuses and perms.
  4. The content bits are categorized well.
  5. Governance and monitoring.

A Wiki only does the editing part of this and doesn't even do that well - because people aren't sure why/who made changes they are afraid to change something. Let's say lead developer just figured something out and changes a page, then minion comes along and sees something that he thinks is wrong, then changes it back, then gets yelled at by lead dev guy. Think he's making wiki edits anytime soon?

For a lot of our Knowledgebase stuff, we simply use Wordpress with front-end abilities. Not everyone can create a new page and most updates are handled by people making a comment on the page which automatically filters to page author(s). It is much like the SE model but without the voting. People will only use something if it saves them time and if it is right. We push off early incentives to put initial things in the system but if the system isn't made right you can't expect long-term usage and definitely cannot force users to do this.

And we do use an SE clone in some areas - however, the issue we have with the SE clone is the multiple answers. Having a WP page allows user comments to set emails to the owners of the content to update. And sometimes if someone knows an area we just give them author rights for the category.

  • Yeah, this. I'd add (6) - SE also works because it is, by definition, self-selecting the "librarian" types of people who actually care about maintaining content like that. For every contributor to SE, there are hundreds or thousands that don't. With forcing a wiki at work you are trying to make librarians out of everyone and... not everyone is cut out to be one. – enderland Oct 15 '15 at 21:47
  • blankip, I believe the biggest difference between a Wiki and a site like SE is actually a mix of point 1 and 5 (because as I see it, a wiki has points 2,3, and 4). @enderland brings up a good point with the "librarian" types too. When people create content and then forget about it, they don't really have "ownership". If they stay invested in their content, they do become one of many "owners". Then I have the problem of finding an ownership model for the wiki. Hmm... – endrnc Oct 16 '15 at 13:45
  • I also like your idea of a Wordpress site, but how well does that categorize and search for content (I've never used wordpress)? The first goal of this project is to make information easier for everyone to access. – endrnc Oct 16 '15 at 13:46
  • @endrnc - for those two things - WP >>> SE or wiki. We have a heavily heavily customized implementation though but out of the box WP does a great job categorizing and tagging. Most of our customization is around making front end forms to load data, display templates, custom posts, and user fields. – blankip Oct 16 '15 at 15:09
  • 1
    Also if a system is made correctly you don't have "1" owner for everything. For instance in our WP pages there are usually multiple owners. Also our pages have tags allocated and often there are 2-5 owners of a tag. In most cases the owners of the pages on a given subject are the owner of the tags on the pages but not always. Also we have the ability to allocate all ownership that John has to Bill if John leaves the company... not sure how this happens on a Wiki. – blankip Oct 19 '15 at 17:56

Wikis and similar systems have a feedback effect. People use them if they're useful. The challenge in starting one up is to seed it with high-quality useful material that people need to refer to frequently, and to make very clear that this is the first place to go when either seeking or sharing answers to common questions. You need at least a few people posting enough valuable info, initially without the reward of feedback from peers, to set the tone and expectations ... and to wake it up if it goes into a quiet period, by posting new tricks or asking interesting questions for brainstorming.

Most Wikis -- most social media -- fail if you just toss the tools on the table and sit back. There needs to be an actual use case you're trying to address, and there need to be advocates... and you need real editors to prune and reorganize so everything is kept current

  • In my department specifically we've been asking for something like this for a while, so I know we'll have at least a handful of dedicated people initially. The problem then stems from bringing it to other departments. What you're suggesting sounds to me like we should implement something like a "wiki master", where someone (maybe multiple someones) takes on additional duties to make sure the wiki stays active, is that right? – endrnc Oct 16 '15 at 13:32

You should determine how this impacts the bottom line. Not an easy task. If you're not going to make more money and/or spend less, there's no point to it and no one will do it. Making entries into a wiki shouldn't be any different from other tasks that are required to determine if someone is doing their job. There may be some one to one relationship with working on a particular project and having a wiki entry for it. Part of everyone's evaluation would be the tracking if you're making the required amount of entries.

Other than just having information available, the wiki should be a solution to a problem that prevents people from doing their job effectively. You may need to figure-out a way to track requests for information and whether or not that request is fulfilled by the wiki. There has to be a circle of cooperation where people are making an effort to put entries in the wiki, but also, people have to look things up in the wiki before they start interrupting and taking up people's time.

Be careful with the severity of the punishments and rewards. This can encourage gaming the system. This is why it is important to have objective measures. Everyone should track how often they look for something and it is not in the wiki as well as when people are asking them for information that could have been found in the wiki. It is easy to determine for example that every time we add a new product, there needs to be a wiki entry by a specific person or a group of people that take turns.

  • There is definitely an impact on the bottom line, at least in my department, but how much of an impact I have no idea. If I'm able to get certain information quickly, I can reduce the time it takes to do several tasks. The problem with making it a part of someones "job" is that I can't force people to use it. We are trying to make a case to upper management for the integration of the wiki but only after having it used by a couple of us in my department. If it turns out that we don't need the wiki we're going to scrap the idea. For now we want to put in place a sustainable system. – endrnc Oct 16 '15 at 13:53

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