Monday, 9 February 2009

Using MediaWiki

For most of last week I was using MediWiki to structure the output from two recent Knowledge Retention exercises. These exercises, on behalf of an engineering client, contained some pretty technical knowledge, covering plant design, operations and maintenance, health and safety etc.

I have to say - I was impressed by MediaWiki! Its a relatively simple way to develop a relatively well-structured knowledge reference site (or "knowledge asset" as it is sometimes called). Thanks go to Peter Kemper of Shell, who talked me through some of the principles of the structure and organisation of the site.

Here's what I learned.
  • Each individual wiki (i.e. each page in the site) should be a single discrete topic. Within that topic, I structured the knowledge as an FAQ with each question as a second-level headline, and the MediaWiki index therefore automatically created an index of questions.
  • It really helps when text and pictures can be interwoven - photographs, video, diagrams.
  • In this case, the answers to the questions needed to be attributed (personally I am a great fan of attributed quotes as an aid to transfer of knowledge). The quotes should be attributed at the top, rather than at the bottom, so as you read the answer, you know from the start who is speaking.
  • Get all the formatting right before you begin. In my case, I cut and pasted from a word document, and it would have been helfpul to have had all the wiki markup in the word document, right from the start. Changing the formatting would then have been simpler (a matter of Find/Replace) rather than spending 2 hours, halfway through the process, redoing the formatting.
  • There needed to be the facility to link documents into MediaWiki. In this case I had to load them separately to a SharePoint site and link them in. This worked fine, but before you start, make sure you have your document store identified and accessable.

I know wait with interest to see whether the wiki will grow, Even if it doesn't, it's still a fine and easily accessable knowledge asset.

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