Wiki Patterns

Patterns for successful wiki use

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I am concerned that the theory in the example is not based in reality. Maybe that is so inside a private company wiki, but my experience with public wikis is that the norm is for people to make up a name and that the community pushes for real name.

People are just as happy to contribute under psuedonyms and having the work credited to that.

Posted by MarkDilley at Feb 22, 2007 18:30

I agree with Mark - whilst having a real name in a private environment is certainly critical, public wikis only need to ensure that the user posts under the same name. I think the best article on this subject is here: <sup></sup>

In short, as long as users are required to have an identity the content added to the wiki will be generally higher quality because they have to maintain and improve the status of their identity. Also, troublemakers with an identity are easily banned and their posts easily filtered in most systems (not sure how to filter posts from a user in Confluence though?)

Posted by Guy Fraser ( at Mar 08, 2007 09:12

Mark and Guy,
How do you feel about changing the name of this pattern to IdentityMatters? I agree that a pseudonym can be just as legitimate and important to a contributor as a real name, and a person can build a strong reputation for their pseudonym.

Posted by Stewart Mader at Mar 28, 2007 00:01

In general I agree that identity is a critical part of a corporate wiki, much more for the 'accountability' component than the 'credit' component.

I have come across the following 'philosophy' and wondered if anyone could comment on it with more authority on the subject, or perhaps deal with it in this article.

  • However, even in organizations, anonymity may have a place. In 'poisoned' environments, as many 'real' environments are or partially are, anonymous comments can have a beneficial effect to counteract unintended managerial lock down and managerial or peer intimidation. It's one mechanism where people can feel safe to make a good, legitimate contribution in an area that they may fear retribution in a world of accountability. If done genuinely, constructively and subtly, anonymous contributions may actually lead to a changed, and more open, work environment. This has been common dogma in workplace employee satisfaction surveys for decades.

Posted by James Mortimer at May 02, 2007 10:35

In reply to Mr. Mortimer, managerial lock down and intimidation are anti-patterns for organizational success, not just for wiki adoption.  We should all help our organizations break this pattern.

Posted by cdeephouse at May 24, 2007 16:10

(oops, hit submit by mistake)

Posted by Charles Miller at May 28, 2007 20:50

I agree with the basic premise of the pattern that people will be more careful when their identity is known but I think that being careful or at least cautious can be an antipattern.

Companies almost have to disallow anonymity on their internal wikis but I think anonymity can be a distinct advantage for the success of wikis.  While it may seem counterintuitive, WikiPedia's “Be bold in editing, moving, and modifying articles…” maxim has been one of the main reasons for its success and most people need some, at least initially, anonymity to “Be bold”.  It's scary for most people to post something for the world to see and even more so when you perceive that it can impact your career and salary.  Email is the safer communication for most people because it allows them to 'post' to those that they know &/or trust.

Posted by Tony Branfort at Jul 05, 2007 21:34

Indeed Tony, I've been wondering much about the same. While stimulating adopting in my organization I'd sometimes come across someone who would be hesitant to post information noting “but what if I made a mistake somewhere, everyone will see it?”. Or also “but what if the information becomes outdated, do I have to keep track of all that?”

But instead of using anonymity as a way for your users to avoid accountability, I prefer a different more open approach; I'd tell the users:
* If you are unsure about the content, you can add a header noting “this page is under revision, the content needs to be evaluated for accuracy”.
* You can even ask someone specificly knowledge on that topic to review it.
* Your organization should have a group especially responsible for Wiki Gardening. (keeping the wiki structured, archiving old no longer relevant pages, see also WikiGnome )

I couldn't find a pattern for this 'fear of accountability' specifically, did I miss it? Or should we make a new one?

Note that this post is a 'quick and dirty post' just to get the message across, it may be revised for style and content later on

Posted by james kuypers at Sep 06, 2009 06:29

talk/identitymatters.txt · Last modified: 2018/11/20 19:23 by splitbrain