What Is a Wiki? Definition, Examples, and Use Cases

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    How fast and easy is it for your employees to collaborate and share knowledge? Whether working in-office or remotely (or a mix of both), working together is vital to problem-solving, generating better outcomes, personal growth and motivation, improved job satisfaction, and less stress. The question is how to make that work efficiently when most teams are separated by distance in some way. 

    The solution could be a wiki—but what is a wiki? Whether an external or internal wiki, the online tool is a quick and easy way for teams to work together and share information on projects without the limitations of meeting in person.

    Wikis offer many of the same benefits of a knowledge base by allowing you to take charge and nurture your organization’s collective insight and skill. However, there may be some limitations around wikis, especially when it comes to keeping information accurate and up to date. Here’s everything you need to know, including the pros and cons.

    What Is a Wiki?

    The term ‘wiki’ originated from the Hawaiian language, referring to something that is ‘fast’ or ‘quick.’ The concept behind a wiki database is similar—it helps your staff and business quickly create, add, edit, and share information on a website. This content can come in a variety of formats, including videos, files, links to other news, images, text, audio, etc.

    And thanks to its ease of use and open-editing system, wiki web pages are excellent for easy collaboration in your organization. Team members can hop into the tool and start editing anytime they want to. However they want to.

    This can be vital in business, particularly because team collaboration is so important to fostering innovation and creativity. According to recent studies, collaboration is cited as ‘very important’ by 75% of employees, with 86% reporting ‘lack of collaboration’ as the leading cause of most workplace failures.  

    Examples of Wikis

    Wikis aren’t a new concept in the industry. The very first wiki software was developed back in 1994/95 by Ward Cunningham under the name Wiki Wiki Web. According to some academic publications, the inspiration behind the name came from it being “the simplest online database that could possibly work.” Every wiki since is a descendant of this software, with some popular examples being:

    • Wikipedia — a free online encyclopedia that is open for users to add and edit online content. It is currently the largest and most-read wiki in history. 
    • Wikivoyage — as a sister site to Wikipedia, Wikivoyage is another free web-based platform. However, its content is more geared toward global traveling, including destinations, travel updates, itineraries, etc. 
    • WikiHow —for how-to topics and content, users turn to wikiHow. The platform’s goal is to encourage worldwide collaboration on every possible topic in a how-to manual. 
    • Wiktionary — the goal here is for every word in every language to be found on Wiktionary with a definition. Since its founding, however, it has gone beyond basic definitions and started including rhyme guides, phrasebooks, a thesaurus, and more. 
    • Wikispecies — whether you have a passion for learning about animals or have made a career in zoology or biology, Wikispecies offers an array of information on classifications and other unique details. 
    • Wikibooks — when you need free annotated and digital texts, Wikibooks is the platform. It’s an online collaborative book authoring site that allows anyone to edit and link to a page for resources. 

    As a side note, although many do, not all wikis have the name in their title. For instance, Fandom is a collection of wikis for entertainment-related content, and Baseball Reference is a wiki for baseball content related to current teams and players, as well as historical stats and scores. 

    How Can Wikis Benefit Your Business?

    Implementing a wiki into your business can offer your employees several benefits, especially as a platform everyone can access in one place and manage the same content. The biggest advantages for your business are the following. 

    Makes company knowledge accessible and easier to find

    Your company’s collective knowledge is its biggest strategic advantage. Your company has brought together all the creative and talented minds of its employees, and only you can ensure that those unique insights and knowledge stay with the company. With a wiki, every user can search through your database for information they need to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

    Lowers business costs over time

    As productivity increases with quick access to information and innovative ideas are added to your wiki, business costs will begin to decrease over time. This is because fewer employees are wasting time searching for information—which research suggests can account for almost 20% of their workweek—and more employees are sharing better approaches to work.

    Allows both in-office and remote employees to access the same resources

    In 2022, 26% of employees in the United States report working remotely, with 16% of companies fully remote. Another study reports that 74% of companies have already, or plan to, implement a hybrid work model into their company permanently. To ensure you’re embracing the same collaborative and knowledge-sharing environment within the organization, a wiki creates one source for everyone to come together and contribute to, no matter where they are.

    Common Use Cases for Wikis

    There are many ways businesses and organizations can use wikis. A few examples include:

    • Blogs and articles 
    • Onboarding materials
    • Handbooks and manuals
    • Answers to technical issues and questions 
    • Knowledge-sharing with FAQs, how-tos, etc. 
    • Company  news and announcements 
    • Process documents 

    Disadvantages of Wikis

    There are some notable disadvantages of a corporate wiki that are worth keeping in mind as you decide what kind of knowledge management solution is best for your business. 

    Open to all for editing

    While being open for all to edit can create a very innovative and creative space for users to collaborate, it can also cause problems if important information is deleted and/or replaced with incorrect edits. As the saying goes, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. And when too many editors dig into a piece, it can disrupt the flow of content and risk the loss of valuable information. It also threatens the spread of misinformation across teams and departments. 

    Extensive user rights management

    Another advantage of wikis that also happens to be a disadvantage is that there’s no real management of users and their content distribution. Anyone can add anything, anywhere. In the workplace, this can get dangerous if you’re not extensively managing user rights because erroneous information can be shared. If this happens in a scenario related to customers, for instance, you may see team members approaching a customer problem or question inappropriately and possibly harm your business reputation–or even lose that customer. 

    Maintaining information authenticity

    The authenticity of the information in your wiki is crucial to its success and your company’s growth. The whole point of a knowledge base is to accumulate all the knowledge coming into your organization and share it with your employees so they can make improvements and work more efficiently. If that knowledge is not authentic and accurate, it can do the opposite. After all, if the knowledge being shared isn’t correct, what’s the point of sharing it?

    Is a Wiki the Right Choice for Your Business?

    Overall, wikis are helpful and even a step in the right direction, but the challenges may outweigh the benefits. How easy it is to lose the collective knowledge you capture makes it more of a risk than a reward. 

    knowledge base like Bloomfire is a modern alternative to using wikis that has a better user experience, makes it easier to update content, has moderation tools to make sure information is approved and has better engagement analytics.

    This means you can still get the same collaborative space for team members to complete projects and share their knowledge without the risk of information being distorted or misrepresented in your database. It also means you can enjoy all the benefits wikis offer while eliminating the disadvantages that might be keeping you from implementing it into your business. It’s the best of both worlds.

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