Stop Repeating Yourself: Set Up A Workplace Wiki

Feel like you're sending the same instructions, procedure checklists or other basic communications around the office time and again? Save yourself time and trouble by setting up a workplace wiki.

This is one of those timesavers that everyone at Team Lifehacker uses nearly every day. We've got people working all across the country, and our internal wiki is one of the few absolutely indispensable tools that we use regularly.

Think of a workplace wiki like this: Any time you're writing a piece of communication that's not just applicable to the person you're emailing, but to everyone on your email list — hell, even everyone who may end up working with you in the future — it belongs in your workplace wiki.

At Lifehacker, that information includes style guides, editor tools, comment moderation guidelines, common workflows, shared logins and even long state-of-the-union type conversations. At your workplace, it could be procedures for escalating support tickets, instructions for setting up your company email account, and so on. Whatever your job, chances are good that you could use a wiki.

Sure, a wiki isn't your only option. A lot of companies create regular old Microsoft Word documents and store them on a server or something along those lines, too. But wikis come with all kinds of benefits, including revision control, multi-user editing and anywhere web accessibility.

If you think you might benefit from a wiki at your workplace, you're in luck. MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia, is a free, open-source web app that's easy to install on any server. You can follow MediaWiki's installation instructions if you've got a server you'd like to install it on. Even easier, many web hosts offer one-click MediaWiki installations. (I know, for example, that Dreamhost has one-click installs.)

Share how you save time and streamline this sort of repetitive communication — whether or not you're using a wiki — in the comments.


Comments

    I prefer Confluence, and although it is a commercial product it is only $10 for a 10 user license with all proceeds going to the Room To Read charity.

    http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence/

    MediaWiki is overrated the best i can tell, if your going to implement a wiki in an office situation of non technical people, wiki markup is not useful, i cant even be bothered with it.

    After reading Ryans comment i looked at Confluence, looks a lot better than MW, their speil about virtualized environments concerns me as i would put it on a VPS, in which we host a number of client sites.

    I've tried this at a number of companies and it either works or it doesn't. Interesting timing given the following article:

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/enterprise/not-every-blog-has-its-day-20100913-159bf.html

    Yeah, have tried that at my workplace, but the only person who uses it is the person who set it up.
    Its easier (and quicker) to just ask rather than read through everything.
    Its hardly time saving.

      "Just asking" does not scale well with an increase in the number of employees.

      It may be easier for the person doing the asking, but not for the person whose work is continually interrupted by a never-ending flow of inane basic questions.

      Having said that, wikis have their own problems.
      Too many people use them as a write-only tool.
      When staff move on, nobody takes ownership of the pages and they are left to rot.

      Without maintenance, eventually you have a massive wiki full of out-dated information and everyone falls back to "just asking".

    We have just started using Confluence as the central repository for design documents. The programmers are able to look at the changes made with ease and keep up to date with any design reworks without having to scroll through a 60 page document every time.

    First time I've used a wiki for such a purpose, certainly won't be the last.

    we used mediawiki and it was great though quickly became disorganised and a graveyard for a lot of things... Now we moved onto Confluence and while it can be better in some respects in some ways it can be frustrating especially when trying to get other non tech users to use it. I'm getting sick of battling on two fronts with it, one with the bugs, flaws and lack of certain features and one with the lack of user willingness to try it and adapt to it.

    The concept is great but in practice it's tough going.

    Great post, Adam.

    As a some of the comments refer to difficulties with user adoption I thought I would share a recent webiner which we held with one of our customers whom uses Confluence for knowledge management.

    In the webinar, Brad Rosenberg, Charles River Senior Scientist and wiki evangelist, shares 1) how his company uses Confluence for knowledge management and team project collaboration, and 2) how a small group fosters wiki adoption, engagement and support.

    You can find a full write-up and recording of the webinar here:

    http://blogs.atlassian.com/news/2010/08/video_confluence_for_knowledge_management_great_wiki_adoptio.html

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