Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Wikis versus Content Management or Collaboration

Over on Slaw, a Canadian legal blog, Ted Tjaden, Director of Knowledge Management at McMillan Binch Mendelsohn, asks what makes wikis different from document management systems:

"I remain contrarian and cynical. Aren’t all major law firms with mature document management systems (DMSs) “wikified” to the max already? If everyone in the firm has online access to the “Smith file” or the “Jones file” and can edit documents, view calendars or other lists of information, access research memos, and post comments, isn’t this “wiki” personified?"

However, its the comments that make this post interesting and while each response (including legal KM blogger Doug Cornelius, who I read from time-to-time) attempts to explain the differences and value, none of them quite nail it for me. For example, Doug suggests in his comments that a benefit of the wiki approach is RSS and that this "dramatically changes the interaction with content and the people that care about the content." However, I would argue that you can also RSS'ify a document management system if you want.

Connie Crosby comments that:

"Please don’t forget, however, that the majority of lawyers are not in big law firms. Not all have DMSs or intranets or portals. A wiki platform for some, therefore, might be useful for projects where they don’t want to implement a full document management, content management, or intranet system. Moreover, it could even serve as a lightweight solution for easily building a small intranet."

So, in this case a wiki is an option as a light weight content management or collaboration system? No wonder we are having problems explaining wikis, as its the old grey area problem. In a recent post I highlighted Chuck Hollis' concept of document versus social collaboration - I think this might be, in part, the explanation that Tjaden might be looking for to help him understand the form versus function differences.

UPDATE: I just remembered this post I made about about the term wiki last year and Mike Cannon-Brookes' comment, about wiki being a verb and a noun.

5 comments:

  1. James -

    I agree that my argument as not quite compelling. I admit that applying a wiki to a problem is often a knee-jerk reaction of mine.

    Of course I realize that wikis do not solve every problem and certainly would not be a replacement for a document management system.

    I think that notification of change is a big differentiator between a wiki and a conventional document. I find that the flow of changes is a very different take on dealing with content.


    I have not seen any document management system that you can rss-ify. I would like to hear more on that. I have not see that other than Google Docs.

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  2. Hi James: I refer you to the discussion over at Martin Cleaver's blog: . He is a wiki consultant here in Toronto, and he started out in knowledge management. He maintains that existing KM systems emphasize collecting documents and information after the fact, where as wikis focus on developing the ideas during the process.

    Really, it all comes down to how you use the tools at hand. One could use a shared Word document in this way as well as Ted Tjaden did say in his original message.

    I do find it interesting to explore the distinctions between all these tools.

    Cheers,
    Connie

    Connie Crosby

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  3. I like the in the flow and above the flow ways to use a wiki - collaborative ways of doing work and also a dumping ground like a DMS.
    http://michaeli.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/in-the-flow-and.html
    http://michaeli.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/01/supply-and-dema.html

    A wiki is more than a document, it's more like a website.

    Using a wiki for an event with hyperlinks to different wiki pages (and changes by rss and email) is much different than a DMS that has a folder with a PDF that links to other PDF's or scrolls to 10 pages long.

    I see DMS as a filing cabinet (folder and documents),I see a wiki as a website (homepage and pages).
    Some wikis can even have forums and chat

    I've got more here:
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2006/09/07/events-dms-and-wiki/
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2006/06/23/wiki-and-edms/
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2006/07/06/wikis-edms-and-office-20/

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  4. Interesting discussion! You say: "Doug suggests in his comments that a benefit of the wiki approach is RSS and that this "dramatically changes the interaction with content and the people that care about the content." However, I would argue that you can also RSS'ify a document management system if you want." I agree and large DM vendors are doing this. Go take a look at EMC, BEA, Opentext, etc. They are moving into the Web 2.0 world. Before supporting RSS, they used alerting (via email) as an alternative. I'm not saying they're elegant, but they are working on it. (By the way, I'm not working for one of the above.)

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  5. Samuel - Thanks for this and your other comment here http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2008/02/collaborative-patterns.html
    Your point is just one of the many reasons why I think Enterprise RSS is so important.

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