Challenges faced when using a wiki for a knowledgebase

wiki challenges knowledgebase photoWe’re over a year into using a wiki as our knowledgebase. We have over 2,400 pages in our knowledgebase now, and we’re working to finish porting over the rest of our articles from the former, forum driven, knowledgebase.

We have three teams in three different parts of the country hitting the wiki all the time. We use it as our primary distribution point for presentations and file, as well as making sure that project updates and status reports are completed. If you think about what you can do with a wiki, we’ve probably tried it all.

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Armed with this experience, I can share with you the top three challenges we’ve experienced in our quest:

Developing a cohesive information hierarchy.  Since the wiki is wide open when you install it, you’ll need to figure out the best way of classifying your data. Most people call this a taxonomy. We went through three iterations until we decided on taking a location driven concept. On our wiki’s main menu we feature each site and then drill down from there.

No WYSIWYG. This was probably the biggest issue facing wide spread adoption of the wiki. Sure, people would search, but they wouldn’t add pages. They felt intimidated. Unfortunately, the wiki we chose, mediawiki, doesn’t have an easy way to add WYSIWYG to the interface. To get around this we held one on one training sessions, created templates and encouraged people to get in and mess around.

Search issues. We’re still learning how to tweak the search functions. We have a number of application acronyms that are three letters, so when our wiki searches it sometimes turns a blind eye to them.

Those three issues have caused the most consternation and delay in adoption. Our strategy has been to input through the pain, which means we’ve continued to add data as we’ve learned. This is the reason we were able to get value out of our knowledgebase long before things were finalized.

Using a wiki for a knowledgebase takes discipline and forward thinking. You should plan your taxonomy ahead, but do not be afraid to change it as you see your information come alive.