Monday, February 16, 2009

Working with wikis in Development Organisations

Friday the 13th, ICCO invited all interested to an afternoon in Utrecht, the Netherlands, about working with wikis in development organisations. Some interesting and honest stories from ICCO, Euforic and IICD were shared, and David Weekly, the founder of pbwiki was around to share tips for power users of pbwiki and get input from his customers so that the service of pbwiki can be improved. David seemed really committed to doing that and kept on asking everyone what their wishes were. Unfortunately for David, but funnily enough for us the following happened: while trying to convince everyone that he was not only focused on the USA, he called Dutch Danish or rather Dutch coffee Danish coffee. Well, Europe remains hard for Americans :).

Maarten Boers already shared the ideas behind the compart flowers adopted by ICCO in an earlier blogpost. Compart flowers have their basis in the compart wikis, that work as a kind of starting page for themes and teams. It was interesting to hear current experiences. 180 staff has been trained so far, and 80 staff of partners in the south have been trained. 58 wikis have been created, with more than 8000 views/month. There are only 40 editors, which shows that not many people are co-editing on the wikis so far. However, the wikis work as a referenct point and moved part of ICCO's harddisk online, so that this information is now accessible. Challenges are to make the wikis digestable and manage scale. Examples were shared of the Educafroc wiki, a private wiki to support a conference in West Africa. The wiki was used for participant introductions, upload 'blips'= videos, and have a Question and Answer sessie. Hence, it became a multi-medial report for the conference. Henk Gilhuis shared another example of a wiki about landrights in Brasil, also a private wiki. Lessons are that you focus on a concrete need, use a simple structure, manage access levels, provide timely support and make sure there is some fun too.

Euforic, the network for European NGOs is basically doing everything in a wiki. From intranet, via making presentations, to making project proposals, annual reports and archiving. I guess this only works if everyone is raving about wikis. Euforic created a great wiki as introductory to their web2.0 training called web2share. You can go their to find introductions into all kind of web2.0 tools.

For IICD, pbwiki worked as an easy entry tool, people experimented with it, and now wikis are part of their intranet. (zwicki wiki part of plone), replacing slowly the hard disk. A realistic example was the inetwork wiki from Uganda. It was a success at the time, but hasn't been updated for a year. This shows how hard it is to make wikis into living documents, if they are centered around a one-off event. An example is the web2fordevelopment wiki, which worked well around the conference, and is a repository, but not a dynamic, continuously updated resource.

Finally David Weekly talked about how he started pbwiki and that it enables easy online collaboration across departments or companies. Within companies, there may be easy solutions, or wiki functions, but across companies it was always difficult. PBwiki wanted to solve that problem by making a wiki as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich. But this is also a great service to organisations that are too small to have their IT-department.

A great power user tip that David shared was page translations. By adding this to your wiki you offer can page translation to your wiki visitors with one click:
1. go to language tools
2. select website, source and destination language
3. paste the url by clicking on add link to your wiki page
4. you have automatic translations with one click

If you want to hear David Weekly talk about pbwiki, and how he likes to interact and improve pbwiki to meet customer needs watch the video below.