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Managing a Community Garden

I listened to Robert Fulghum‘s “What on Earth Have I Done” audiobook when he spoke about community gardens in Seattle neighborhoods where people adopt common areas such as highway medians, seeding, feeding and weeding. On area walks he noticed spots of beauty, with ranges of growth from flowers to vegetables to shrubbery. In cities and small towns are garden plots people might reserve or own in some way, but that are on what would be called public property, typically “managed” by civil servants, or perhaps “community service” workers, whether jailed, paroled, pardoned or probationed. What makes the scenic areas Reverend Fulghum found more attractive is the extra effort exerted by those who have adopted the gardens, producing something the rest of us can experience, and without requiring any formal ownership other than the kind when someone takes in a stray kitten.

When I wrote the blogs “WikiGardener WannaBe?” and “Would you like to be a gardener of wiki (part 2)?” I was looking for volunteers to manage wiki spaces, after seeing, and helping to develop, the wiki moderator page, where certain areas had identified wiki gardeners or wiki champions, and other areas had no identified overseers. I am uncertain whether any of the vacant plots have been adopted, as the wiki moderators page changes fairly slowly, not to mention the forum moderators page and the blog moderators page.  I’m also uncertain whether the self-named or tagged moderators know and accept their editor responsibilities, given that many don’t link to an SCN profile.

Before going into the main theme (gardening skill ramp-up), I will digress about a few wiki gardening tools.  At home, I have a backyard tool shed where the big stuff lives (shovels, rakes, mulching tools, hoes, etc. – the only power tool being a lawn mower and a string trimmer), while inside live the cutting tools, the loppers, the pruners, the bow saw and hand axe, and finally, a basket of hand tools: trowels, gloves, weed digger and hand cultivator.  A wiki garden has similar tool sets, as well as the levels of trained and/or authorized personnel who wield the “big stuff”: surveying the plots, breaking the original ground, and supplying seeds for the rest of us to sow. The hand tools, and the means of using them, are not primitive or rough, more like the finish work needed in many projects, the fine sanding, the polishing, the scratch removal and the custom embellishments that turn a plain earth plot into an eye-catching wonder. 

For wikis, the hand tools include the visibility of recent changes, showing us where weeds might be prosperous, or simply new pages that could use another set of eyes and hands to improve the content quality, and the search engines where one can spot wiki pages related to topics of interest.  On a simple garden walk (or hike in my case) you see the bigger pictures, patterns of growth, and the nooks and crannies where someone has perhaps planted a flowering tree that more should be able to see, or has dumped a load of refuse that needs to be incinerated, mulched, or buried.

Some specifics:

I started finding wiki pages that were questions only.  There are many “FAQs” – frequently asked question wiki pages collecting forum pain points – the same basic questions over and over – but these pages were not organized summaries, nor were they simple question and answer, just questions.  With guidance from the SAP Community Network administrators and evangelists, I began reporting these pages as “junk, please delete”.  Another alternate disposition would be to migrate the questions on to FAQ pages.

Another pattern I see is code snippets on wiki pages.  I’ve wrestled with whether these belong in the wiki code snippets space, or whether they should stay where they’ve been placed.  For now, I’m leaving them in place, with occasional refactoring to include “code”, like this:


*&  Include           Z_ITAB



*& Include             Z_ITAB

I’ve also run spell checks, reviewed and corrected grammar, and simplified wiki page formats.  The question of spell checking blogs came up in a discussion forum; Blag taught me a Firefox trick that is now a child page to the Getting Started With Blogs wiki page.

Okay, back to the gardener mentoring project. Almost no one responded, or the responses that came in were not tremendously promising. One candidate stood out, based on a simple plea “how do I become a wiki gardener?” The same question came into the blog, from the same potential gardener, though I did not immediately respond, for Zen reasons.  After a few meditations (, preparations?), and communications, I sent a few guidelines, like a Farmer’s Almanack, describing potential pathways from here to there.

Kartik Tarla is now my “apprentice wiki gardener” and like many students who surprise their teachers, he quickly developed ways of finding the weeds in the wiki.  My favorite (so far) was his trying a search for the term “Hi” (I even tweeted this as soon as I read it: “LOL – finding “Hi” in an SCN wiki page is a clue that someone is asking a question rather than posting helpful data. Awesome.”), as a key word likely to be found on wiki pages probably meant for a discussion forum.

There was a little back and forth dialogue, taking several days, as we are in different time zones, about how to judge page content, how to decide disposition, and what the system administrators needed to know in order to move or delete pages judged to be “recyclable”.  As in a real garden, not all might agree on what is a weed and what is not, so the sharing of these decisions is best done in the light.

In Conclusion

At work, I’ve been appointed a “Wiki Champion” to guide development of our in-house wiki, a position I achieved through work gardening wikis in SCN, on ASUG, and other places (like our local Camping Guide).

Kartik will soon not need my mentoring to find opportunities to improve the quality of SCN community content, as his actions so far have demonstrated his ability to spot mistakes and his willingness to communicate those findings in the proper manner.  He published his A Freshers Guide to ABAP and SDN while I was working on this.  Looking forward to seeing great things ahead!

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  • Jim,

    Unfortunately his first blog start with the word "Hi" even though it was not a question 🙂

    So,does that mean every time if you hit a page which starts with "Hi" will be a question.


    • Ayyapparaj:  If I gave the impression that every wiki page that started with the term "Hi" should be deleted, then I need to revise my blog. The point should be obvious that innovative thinking helps one be a good editor, and a community spirit of pitching in to improve common areas without thought of reward is to be emulated.