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In actual fact I wanted to entitle this Grumpy article “RTFW”, where the W stands for Wiki. I had fondly imagined that this acronym would appear a lot in the forums. Nothing could be further from the truth though. Perhaps I’ve been looking at the wrong forums, but I have not as yet seen any reference to the Wiki. People are still busy posting the same answers to the same old questions. Some must be really fast typists, since they manage to post one page answers to questions within the minute that the question has been posted.

Why is this happening? Let’s break things down in the familiar Grumpy manner

  • The wiki is only a couple of weeks old and not everybody knows about it yet. That might be the case, but when I see how people in general jump on the bandwagon when it comes to new things within SDN, and see how the wiki was welcomed at its launch, I find this rather strange. Having said this, I would expect some references to it.
  • “The Wiki doesn’t contain enough information yet”, you might say. This might be the consequence of its recentness, but instead of complaining about this, you would be better off adding the information that you yourself find to be lacking.
  • Wiki and forums aren’t integrated, and people find it hard to find. That might be a good point, but, as we say in Belgium, some people never look any further than their noses anyway. I suppose I should count myself lucky in that I have a shapely one – I’m referring to my nose – but some have smaller specimens and even then they can’t seem to see either the Rules of engagement or the Grumpies on good behaviour in the forums. So the chance that they will ever look at the wiki is rather minimal.
    It has already been suggested a couple of times that a system like the Service Market Place messages system could be a solution. The first step is the obligatory search in order to prevent the submission of topics that have already been covered. I would like to tweak it further though, since it sometimes works in a rather annoying manner and can easily be bypassed. Without trying to put any commercial message in here, I want to refer to how the guys from Cloudmark solve things. Over there they have both a knowledge base and a Community forum, but they know that everybody finds their own problems so special and specific that they want to have dedicated support via e-mail. Their contact page lets you (in contrast with SMP) fill everything in and will search automatically for solutions with high accuracy.
    Something similar with a search in the SDN Wiki would be nice.
    That needs some discipline from the end user too. Subjects like “Hi (friends)”, “Help” and “ABAP” within an ABAP forum are not very descriptive. A filter preventing such meaningless subject titles would be nice.
  • Wiki scares some people off since they think that they will screw up things when using it. It is indeed a fact that things can easily be changed. I stupidly clicked on the wrong button the other day resulting in the deletion of a tag. Luckily I knew the subject and I could add it again. Strangely enough, my mistake wasn’t recorded at all. Despite the FAQ on Wiki – funny to see a FAQ on a FAQ – the learning curve might be steeper than one might desire. Maybe a distinction between read and edit mode would make a difference. Or maybe we could use the same system as with the web logs where one needs to apply to edit and the first scribblings are guided. I know that one would prevent people from adding things to it easily, but surely it would also prevent the Wikipedia pitfall/discussion to a certain extent.
  • People want to score their own points and aren’t interested in referring to the Wiki for an answer. I see this kind of selfish behaviour happen in the forums when people add exactly the same answer with (sometimes) different wording in the hope of grabbing some points. That has been the subject of earlier Grumpies, so you probably already know my feelings about this by now.

Having said this, I sincerely hope that you will prove me wrong and that Wiki will be an unmitigated success, both in its use by forum posters to find solutions and in the addition of information in order for it to become an extensive knowledge base. Ideally it should mean that we will have to wait a very long while before we hit another 1000000 forum 1,000,000+ Forum Posts

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  1. Mark Finnern
    Hi Eddy,
    Great observations as always. One thing we did to make it easier for you all to find the Wiki pages we added a link in every forum description to the Wiki section that is covering the topic of the forum.
    The solution to your questions may only be a click away and an addition to the wiki also two copy and paste away: Copy question, copy answer adjust some formatting done.
    Hope that helps, Mark.
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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Hi Mark,

      That’s indeed a cool feature. I hope that people – both via the browser and the RSS reader – observe and will follow that link.

      Eddy

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  2. Mario Herger
    Eddy, your observations are right to the point.
    One of the question is of how we can make the WIKI more attractive and what content beside FAQ that is WIKI-typical we can add there.
    Another one what functionality is missing in the WIKI that you would like to see?

    Mario

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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Hi Mario,

      It’s not necessary additional functionality, but I would make it more “fool proof” (referring to myself as the fool). An example is the fact that I can remove tags by mistake without leaving any trace.
      Not everybody is used with the way wiki works for editing and thus maybe scares people off.
      As mentioned earlier, some guidance like done with web logs might be needed.

      Alternatively you can approach the wiki as a CMS in order to leave out the (few) technicalities within the current wiki. This might interesting if you thing in terms of PBX. I’ve seen some examples like tikiwiki, but I don’t know if it’s any good or applicable to the S(D)N situation.

      Eddy

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  3. Michael Nicholls
    Hi Eddy

    I am a fairly regular contributor to some of the portal forums (fora? – my Latin is rusty) and I have had the moderator make a sticky entry at the top of the forums which basically says “First of all, look in the portal wiki”.

    I also make a point of asking people who post useful material in the forum to put the same content into the portal wiki. We get quite a few “please email me the useful document you have created” posts. It must be easier for the content provider to create a wiki than to respond to these posts.

    My hope, similar to yours, was that the number of repetitive questions would diminish. The reality is that every day when I look at the recent postings, people are still asking basic questions.

    My thoughts, also similar to yours, are that the reasons for this are one or more of the following:

    – people can’t be bothered looking for answers themselves – it’s quicker to post without thinking.

    – the searching mechanism is not getting useful results. This is compounded and self defeating by lots of very similar questions appearing in the search results.

    – the wikis don’t contain the answers that people want.

    A possible solution is to have a “request for wiki” area. It’s often difficult to know what’s worth wikiing (wikificating?), and this might encourage some creativity from the community. It’s always easier to answer an existing question instead of having to invent your own!

    At the same time, we should change the posting mechanism in the forums. The check box to say that the post is a question should be changed to say “this is a question and I have taken some time to check if the question has been asked before and I have not cross posted this question in another forum”.

    Any other forum member should be able to hide the question if they feel that it is repetitive by use of a new option alongside the “reply” etc links. These hidden posts would still be visible for those who wanted to see them, but they wouldn’t appear in searches or listings by default.

    If the search results gave a higher ranking to wiki entries, then this might also help.

    Cheers

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    1. Eddy De Clercq Post author
      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Will people actually read and most important do/have done what’s said in “this is a question and I have taken some time to check if the question has been asked before and I have not cross posted this question in another forum”?
      It is mentioned everywhere that people need to reward points to useful answers. As mentioned endlessly in earlier Grumpies, (some/most, depending on the forum) people still don’t seem to bother.

      Eddy

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      1. Michael Nicholls
        My view is that rewards drive behaviour. If we make users agree that they have tried searching etc, then we can instigate a mechanism where we recognise other forum members who catch those people out. For example, if we had the ability the lock a forum post because the answer was in a wiki, and we gave people points for locking the offending post, then it would encourage people to create wiki entries which covered faqs. Any points given by the person who posted a locked question would be cancelled, which once again would encourage a behaviour where people didn’t answer those questions.

        There are probably a few holes in my logic, which I’m sure someone will point out!

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          1. Michael Nicholls
            My plan would require minimal moderation. There would be a “lock due to answer in wiki faq” button alongside the “reply” button, which would give the locker 2(?) points. The original poster would still see their entry. The only time a moderator would get involved would be if the lock was put on inappropriately.

            Maybe the locker needs to have accumulated a certain number of points in that forum (20?) before they can lock…

            Cheers

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