Learning about Using a Wiki to Co-create an Article

1. Wikis are simply tools

A wiki does not write an article. People do. The wiki provided a shared focus point for article creation but multiple collaborative tools were used. Especially as the deadline approached email activity and phone activity between the authors and other wiki members increased. Each author also fell back to using Microsoft Word to write and edit as a need for productivity became more urgent. This backs up Chauhan & Bontis (2004) finding in their research about the adoption of collaborative tools, that people resist using new technology when old familiar technology is available.

2. Great storage place to expose ideas

Thinking the article would emerge through the wiki proved naïve. The process was far more complex. The wiki proved invaluable for aggregating resources and links and brainstorming with the content and ideas. For example, posting questions, bolding what seemed like key points in materials we had gathered. To produce the final piece involved each author writing documents independently with rounds of sharing, marking changes, reviewing and editing. In retrospect we could have used the wiki comment fields for our discussion and ideas rather than using the comments and track changes in our more familiar individual word processing programs. Using the collaborative wiki would have eliminated version control issues.

3. Helpful to Emerging Key Ideas from People Beyond the Lead Authors

Creating new pages on topics that might be important threads proved valuable for prodding at themes and helping evolve the article structure. The wiki served as a hub for the article and was especially helpful in seeking input from contacts. Email invitations to participate included links to the wiki and potential contributors to explain what we were striving to accomplish. Pages were named for individuals to encourage gathering their insights. One co-author observed just the process of crafting emails aided thinking and idea sythesis.

4. Using Multiple Tools Created Value:

From Ronald Burt (2000) we were aware of opportunities to create value around "structural holes" in organisational networks.
Hence we paid attention when Nancy White (White, 2007) in a conversation suggested it’s “the space between the tools where things happen." http://connectedintelligence.wikispaces.com/Social+Technologies
Here’s an example of how tools interacted to gather information.

June 29, 2007, with deadline looming. co-author Jenny Ambrozek posted an article update and invitation to participate to the 21st Century Organization blog 21st Century Blog

June 30 Knowledge Jolt blogger, Jack Vinson, blogged about our article writing experiment Jack Vinson Blog

July 2 Jenny Ambrozek in checking Technorati www.technorati.com for activity around our blog post also noted Jack Vinson’s Policies Can be Changed post and added a comment.

A Facebook www.facebook.com and email exchange followed. The Jack Vinson Wiki Page was created and we captured Jack’s insights about “policies” impacting knowledge sharing and learning in a real laboratory.

It took the wiki+blogs+Technorati+Facebook+email to gather the laboratory example.

5 Co-Creating Takes Time

It was 14 weeks from wiki creation to article deadline but the bulk of activity happened in the last month. The authors had competing commitments and it was only as the deadline approached and focused their attention that real structural activity began. What we didn’t realize was that although a collaborative product benefits from connected intelligence, the production cycle must allow for more review and reflection by the various participants.

Unknown is how many more people we could have reached, and how much richer or different, this article would be if we had started outreach earlier. As the wiki remains open so readers can contribute their reactions and tell us what we’ve missed. Please do so on the Reader Reactions page (http://connectedintelligence.wikispaces.com/Reader+Reactions).

6. Energy is Required

In “Hidden Power of Social Networks” (2003) Rob Cross and Andrew Parker devote Chapter 4, to a discussion about “Creating Energy in Organizations”. While we did not officially track our communications and “energy” commitment, our experience, (supported by email, phone, blog and wiki posting records) is that inputting positive “ENERGY” is critical to creating engaging participation and creating value through connected intelligence.

7. Structure IS Necessary

The authors approached this co-creating experiment as an organic and flexible process. It’s now clear more structure and process would have ensured less stressful, on deadline, completion. In a sense we let the format run the process. In hindsight it’s clear we needed a process and the structure of all of our previous writing, including timelines with cut offs for brainstorming, drafting, reflecting, editing and formatting. Tish Grier’s report of lessons learned from the Assignment Zero collaborative writing project (contributed to the ConnectedIntelligence wiki http://connectedintelligence.wikispaces.com/Assignment+Zero+Tish+Grier+Reports )
confirms the importance of structure in collaborative writing endeavours. It’s recommended reading.

Next.. In Conclusion
From "Learning Through Participation and Connecting Intelligences: Experimenting with a Wiki to Co-create an Article:
Submission to Knowledge Tree ejournal July 2007 by Jenny Ambrozek, Victoria Axelrod & Kiki Mulliner