Wiki as a documentation delivery system? (take II)

Subject: Wiki as a documentation delivery system? (take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2006 11:33:25 -0400

Responding to my suggestion of the need for strong access and modification control, Matt Horn noted: <<If you make it difficult to add or collaborate, then it isn't a wiki. I would guess there's an inverse relationship between the difficulty of adding content and the amount of content added.>>

This is true, but you're forgetting the context of the original message: this is not a tool for collaboration within a company, but rather a way to obtain input from users of the company's products. That's a great idea in terms of creating a dialogue with your product's users and producing documentation that meets their needs. It also lets you add content you wouldn't have thought to create on your own. So far, so good.

However, if you let any joker modify the content, then you get the same problem you get with Wikipedia: people with an agenda or who don't really know what they're talking about can modify the content. If they do a bad enough job, your company's reputation will suffer, and if someone gets hurt or suffers financial or other damage as a result of following bad advice, your company will be legally liable because the wiki ostensibly represents your company's advice.

Unlike the Wikipedia, you can bet that people won't be accessing the wiki regularly (nobody reads docs for pleasure), and that means errors may endure for quite a long time before someone catches them. That's particularly true if the errors are subtle, which many of them will be. And if you think it's hard to get technical reviewers to do their reviews with documentation that you control and that they only have to review once (see the current thread on this topic), do you imagine they'll be happy to add a daily check of the wiki to their list of responsibilities? Not bloody likely.

So to reiterate: The concept is a good one, but there are some significant pitfalls you have to overcome if you want to keep the wiki quality high and protect your employer.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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RE: Wiki as a documentation delivery system?: From: Matt Horn

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