Welcome to WikiBC

This Blog

I am now blogging at www.guillaumelerouge.com

Wikis are everywhere. Now that global media institutions have started embracing the phenomenon, wikis have become more than a buzzword. Wikis are at the leading edge of what tomorrow's internet will look like.
Want to start working with the future? This is the place.


Wikis & Project Management

Successfully managing a project is often a difficult task. Mixing deadlines, a limited amount of time, money & people to achieve loosely defined stuff make a good recipe for disaster. Here is how a wiki might help you minimize the bill.

Centralizing Helps

One of the recurrent problems of having a project spanning various corporate boundaries (between teams & deparments for instance) is that stuff happens in many different places (mailboxes, Enterprise IM, phone, shared drives...). With a wiki, you can have everybody adding their stuff to a central place where it can be organized through links & tags and be made available to all the people involved.

Keep Track of What's Happening

Every business wiki has a built-in notification feature, be it through RSS, email, dedicated pages or many of them at once. You can use this feature to stay up-to-date on who's contributing what & when they're doing it. Thanks to this, you won't have people arguing on whether or not the mail they were supposed to send ever arrived on time: if it's not on the wiki, it isn't there. Productivity seldom accommodates nitpickyness.

Share & Organize

Wiki pages are a great place to jot down every kind of information, ranging from a PDF or a MS Word file to a plain old scanned paper-note. Most search tools nowadays will be able to search into the content of pages & text attachments and rank the results to provide you with an effective way to access information. Even when loosely classified, the data you need will remain available on your wiki.

So mastering project management sounds good to you... what are you waiting to try and go wiki

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


A Semantic Wiki?

It looks like "Semantic Web" is well on its way to become Web 3.0 most serious contender. But what is it all about?

To make a long story short, semantic web is a revolution currently going through its early stages. An example will make it easier to grasp: imagine you're looking into Wikipedia, willing to search only for XVIIth century French Poets. If nobody took the time to write a list of them, you're in for a long and strenuous time searching through heavy loadsof abstruse web pages.

This is where semantics get in. Imagine that, every time one adds a Poet name, he could "label" it with such informations as his birth and death dates, his nationality and the fact that he is a Poet. Or, to put it another way: that on the Poet's Wikipedia page the Poet's birth date was labelled as such and his death date, nationality and status as well. Now you could launch a search saying "I want to search Poets, and their nationality attribute has to be French, and either their birth or death year date must start by 17"

Instead of strict categories, you now have a loose yet effective way to enrich information all around the place in your wiki. Combine this with the power of people freely allowed to add the bits of information they know about, and you end up with a naturally organized body of knowledge - yet nobody had to decide how to organize it beforehand.

This is what Semantic Web is all about, and I must admit it sounds pretty exciting to me.

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


What's Your Wiki Bringing?

There is too much information around for anyone to read all of it. This is why numerous tools have emerged to help people manage, organize, classify, filter and sort information. RSS has been a great step towards personal information independance, allowing individuals greater freedom as to what heir informations sources could be and how often new data was made available.

Breathing Through

Even the best RSS reader will not prevent one from feeling overwhelmed by bits of information. Social news rating websites have stepped in to help people go a bit further and order and give meaning to information together. Digg, Wikio, Newsvine are as many examples of ways to sort information. Wikipedia has done a great job to bring the right information to the right place for the people who are looking after it, or at least it does so most of the time.

Going Further

However, even with the help of those tools irrelevant information keeps popping out most of the time. Could this be avoided? Probably not. Could this be reduced a bit more? Certainly. Interactions between people about blog articles could be centralized for a group in one place to let them discuss and share it more easily. This is exactly what a product like XWiki Watch is aiming at doing, providing a team with a place where it will be able to share information and enrich it collaboratively.

Staying Ahead

The right question however is, why are all those information flows so important? Because, in today's world, information provides you with an advantage over your competitors. It has amways done so, but something changed recentlty: the speed at which relevant data can be exploited. A factory can be built quicker than ever before. Companies have to remain reactive not to get out of touch with their customer bases. A wiki provides a tool to let you communicate with the people who buy your products. Somehow, in their collective knowledge lies the products you will be offering them tomorrow. Isn't that worth a try?

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


A wiki for your sports team?

Back after some busy times... This afternoon I had the displeasure to find that my hockey team back home had lost a decisive game and was going down next season. This led me to think about how we could improve our performance, and I ended up thinking a wiki could fit the bill. Now I'm surprised I did not start thinking about it before...

The Problem

As a sports team made of people with day jobs, we can only meet for training so many times a week (usually twice for skills and tactic and once to run) notwithstanding a game on Sundays. Since a training session usually lasts about 2 hours, we hardly ever have enough time to study fancy diagrams about our positioning. This also means that we are not spending enough time reflecting about our past performances and how they could be improved. There is a communication problem here, and wiki are really good at solving that kind of problems.

The Needs

If I were to write a requirements specification, I'd say that I would need the following:
  • A place where our coach could put diagrams showing how we played during our game compared with how we ought to have played + a page to explain his choices and talk about them.
  • Personal pages for every player where they could write about their own game and get feedback from others through comments
  • The ability to embed video shot during games or coming from the internet showing specific skills and situations
Generally speaking, we would need a place where to add all kinds of relevant information and organize it. This place would also need to be available to every player easily (through internet).

The Wiki Way

All of the components I talked about are common features of most wikis (though I did not talk about the search engine, the tags or RSS notification feeds, all of which are quite useful too). The main advantages would be to make lots of useful resources contributed by the coach and the players available to the rest of their team easily. No need to take a 45 minutes strategy talk in the cold on a Thursday night when you can discuss it at length on a wiki page (during a break at work for instance). What's more, most people can't be bothered to listen to tactical points when they are not involved in the situation described. The wiki would remove this inconvenient too.

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


The WikiDroit Case-Study

WikiDroit is a website that was launched by a few French law students. Its aim was to create a database (in French) of law-related resources. However, created in October 2006 the website did not take off. Its example shows how and why a wiki may fail - and what to do to prevent this from happening.

Poor Wiki Integration

The first problem that can be identified is that the wiki does not make one with the rest of the website. Though an important effort has been given to design of the website, the wiki customization (based on MediaWiki) does not go further than a logo. Combined with the fact that the link to the wiki from the website opens in a new window, this means that the 2 entities are poorly held together. If you take the example of Curriki, the website and the wiki are closely integrated together so as to create a strong identity.

Lack of Original Content

The wiki could have survived this first mistake. However, the wiki itself was designed without an aim. Its stated mission is far too wide: "generalization and vulgarization of Law topics aiming at everyone". Wikipedia already exists! A wiki cannot work if it does not reach a breaking point in terms of contributors. In this case, the content added by the first contributors was not sufficient to bring in new ones. The general public already have enough Law-related information available on Wikipedia (Law Article) and Law students have a huge number of relevant textbooks available in any library. Thus there was no incentive for new members to come in and add content.

The Lessons From WikiDroit

How could have WikiDroit been successful? If the website had brought something original and relevant to its target audience. Think about this: every year, Law students go through exam papers and new questions. Would one not like a place where, on top of previous exam papers they would find their fellow students works, made available with the mark they received and tutors corrections? This would bring value to them and give them an incentive to contribute content. What's more, the content they could contribute would be readily available to each of them - but at the same time different for every of them, therefore increasing the interest of every single contribution. This could be linked to the Magnet Pattern: make the wiki a place for exclusive and attracting content.

To be successful, a wiki must bring something to its target audience. It must be an ease rather than a pain. Find a lack of data or ineffective communication: here a wiki might fit the bill.

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


A Wiki For Desktop Tower Defense?

A few weeks ago I discovered the Tower Desktop Defense through a link I got from a post I received in my XWiki Watch feed reader. I tried it and quickly became an addict, experimenting with new strategies and playing styles. The next step was to try and take advantage of the resources available on the website to improve my gameplay.

The Current Situation

To do so, I have access to different kind of resources: the quick start guide, which spells the basic rules and behaviour of the game; players top scores (I'll let you guess what that page does); players ' mazes which shows what other players mazes look like and which score they achieved using it; and lastly a forum broken down in categories such as general chit-chat and tips and tricks.

What's Good And What's Less Good With This

There is a lot of info available to improve the way you play, which is cool. But the point is, going through all of it is somewhat painful. For instance, along with basic rules I'd like a page showing me examples of good and poor mazes with an explanation of why they are so. I'd like the knowledgeable calculus explaining why this kind of tower is better than that one clearly spelled out on a page rather than on 3 different forum threads. And so on...

A Wiki Solution?

A wiki would bring some underlying structure to all this available data while in the same time tapping into and reinforcing the involvment of the players' community. It would be easir for fans of the game to improve the overall documentation and discuss about various potential strategic moves. An user could record its own progression and its best mazes on its user page. The stories behind great scores could be told by those who achieved them.

In short, a wiki would give an expression space to members of the community which would be both more effective and more rewarding than the current system.
Flexible structure, community power, effectiveness through collaboration... DesktopTD, will you embrace the Wiki Way?

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC


Wikis and Strategic Mindmapping

What if your company's top management started throwing its ideas on how your company stands compared with its competitors, how well it performs with its clients and what are its potential strategic choices on a mindmap? I started playing with the idea after giving a try to MindMeister, a collaborative, online, shared mindmapping tool. What could it look like?

Collaborative Mindmapping

The idea of a mindmap is somehow as old as human brains themselves. Mindmaps offer a great way to throw ideas around, keep track and organize them in a flexible yet powerful way. Mindmapping software has been around for some time now, with good Open-Source solutions available amongst others. These softwares have traditionally been thought to be used by one single user who could then share his thoughts with other. The possibility of real-time collaborative mindmapping brings in a whole new area of potential in the way people collaborate together.

The Wiki Connection

Take this example: imagine your top management board sharing ideas about how your company is run, what are the main issues facing it, which strategic path it should adopt and so on. Now imagine the resulting mindmap being turned into a wiki, with one page for every node on the map. Last stage, open this wiki to all of your company's employees and see what could happen.

The Effects Of Collaborative Intelligence

I already argued that there is a strong chance that the people who have the best insights about your competitors and your field of activity are the people working on the front-line, those who are in touch on a daily basis with your suppliers and customers. Retrieving their ideas thanks to a wiki built along the lines of your company top strategic thinking and making an analysis of them could prove an invaluable communication and information gathering for the people who run your business.

Wikis and Mindmaps share a lot of properties. Using them in coordination could create amazing collaboration tools. What if?

Want more ? Stay tuned.

© Guillaume Lerouge for WikiBC