Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That Wiki Thing...

It's been roughly a year since my pet wiki has been active on the company's intranet. It's definitely been useful, but I think it hasn't completely lived up to the hopes and dreams I had for it.

Usefulness to My Good Self

As I'd planned, I've been using it as a kinda design notebook, although I still scribble on real paper as it's the quickest way to record thoughts. When I write a wiki page, I find I write for an audience other than myself. And that's no bad thing as I have to state assumptions and 'formally' defend any assertions. I'm convinced this is ok; my paper notebook is for exploration and the wiki is the crystalisation of the thought process that lead to the final design. The wiki is the definitive source of information about a topic, not a discussion. The wiki has added a sense of rigor to thinking behind the stuff I produce.

Y'know, maybe I shouldn't be setting up wiki pages willy-nilly. I shouldn't actually be doing my design in wiki pages. Wiki pages are supposed to be solid information, not cloudy half-thought-out explorations. It should not really be an extension of my paper notebook, should it?

Usefulness to My Teammates

This is harder to judge. I think it's somewhat useful to my teammates in a read-only sense, but that it's still considered as "Marty's wiki" and not "the wiki" as I'd hoped.
I have made an effort to let people know of its existence. After I complete a body of work, I check that the page in the wiki is reasonably accurate and then the link is sent around in the 'announcement' email. For example:
Hi All, I'm finished setting up the co-sim environment for our latest chip (which is the bee's knees, BTW, and going to make our company millions). See here (http://ourgroupswiki.some.address.com/) for info on the environment and instructions for launching a sim
That sort of thing. And there is evidence that people read it, but they don't edit it if something's amiss. I do get the odd query on the accuracy of instructions, but my teammates never change the information themselves. Maybe they've better things to be doing - maybe they don't feel that they're an expert in that field so need consensus. Who knows?

The Elephant in the Room - Sharepoint

The wiki's relationship with Sharepoint is still mostly undefined.

Sharepoint is our company's blessed online collaboration thingy. But it's become a dumping ground for powerpoints and word documents. And mostly Office 2007 versions of stuff I've no hope of opening on my linux workstation (vendor lock-in, much?). Rant aside, this is where the latest datasheets, latest marketing info, latest formal design documents go. And to be honest, it's probably the correct place for that info.

So...

I need to properly define the wiki's place in the grand scheme of things. I know it has one, but I haven't yet been able to articulate it. I also need to ask my teammates why it's not "the wiki" yet.

I dunno why I'm invested in this so much.

1 comment:

globalengineer said...

I stumbled onto your site from StackOverflow.

When I joined my current employer we had a nice, but disorganized, wiki. It was destroyed this past year when the resident Ruby fan-boy tried to convert it to something else with Ruby as the back-end.

We have quite a few new guys and I'm trying to get a Wiki up and going to help them adjust to our insane work environment. The biggest obstacle to growing knowledge in the wiki is the veteran engineers, however. They prefer to just do things themselves, and then are annoyed when a new guy bothers them to ask them how to do something. That is understandable sometimes for simple Bash things that one can look-up, but when it comes to production related issues there is no reference.

I think what is really needed is a drive from the team leader or project manager to share information. I know that my manager encourages my efforts, but he stops short on the team side. Still we have to rely on emails. Myself, I'd work it into part of the yearly review in the team work and collaboration area. Didn't share information on the Wiki while you were working on team projects? Well, you're not getting a superior this year.

We're a mostly UNIX shop so we don't have to worry about Microsoft office documents, but maybe you can do something with ASP.net to make it more usable for general web users on your Intranet? That is probably a big job though...