Wiki Patterns

Patterns for successful wiki use

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Masters and Scribes


If it's rare to find a subject area expert, and it's rare to find someone skilled at expressing and organising the expert knowledge in a recorded form, it's doubly rare to find someone who can do both. This creates an opportunity for collaborative knowledge sharing.

In any organization, many have something to teach and many have something to learn. It is important to identify subject experts and to enable them disseminate their knowledge; it is important to record that knowledge and make it available as needed; and it's important to permit others to capture that information, in context.  As Dave Snowden has written, even if an expert wants to write a book it will take them a year. If they want to write an article it will take a couple of months. But when they tell the story of how they acquired or use their tacit knowledge in the context of specific questions, volumes of key information can be exchanged in as little as fifteen minutes. Masters and Scribes allows you to capitalize on this and achieve all three stated goals, simultaneously.


Identify a problem or “painpoint” that is common accross the organisation. Then identify an expert, or “Master”, who has addressed this “painpoint” in their part of the organisation. Engage the expert to share their tacit knowledge in a virtual or live question and answer session for 5 to 6 people who share this painpoint. Request all listeners to act as “Scribes”, and after the session to work together to collaboratively document their new knowledge from the “Master”, perhaps in a wiki. Ask the “Master” to put the finishing touches on the record, and invite them, in the process, to learn more about their own area of expertise.  Every time the social network of an organisation identifies a domain Master, invite them to participate in this same process of “storytelling” followed up by reviewing the synthesized product of their imparted knowledge.


Olivier Beau is the managing director of Labo-Services, a company in France that manages Hazardous Chemical Waste and which has recently implemented a Wiki.  A short workshop was held in which the participants were asked to list, on separate note pads, all the best practices they knew of in the company, either documented or undocumented. Each of these best practices then became a subject for a wiki page and part of a questionnnaire used on each of the company's 31 locations throughout France. Peers (not managers) were asked to identify the best exponents of these best practices, which also helped the questionaire managers benchmark individuals with a good network of best practicitioners.  The people thus identified were then the people invited to share their knowledge via Webex and have it written up by the “scribes” on the wiki. If you are also able to record the masters teachings visually or make a podcast this can be attached to the page.

  • Recognition - Knowledge workers get their satisfaction from having their expertise recognized by their peers.
  • Acknowledge Goodness - By showing where the expertise lies in a company
masters_and_scribes.txt · Last modified: 2018/11/28 14:01 by splitbrain