Friday 8 August 2014

The Wikithon - a great way to get wiki content up and running

We all know about the traditional lifecycle of Wikis. It starts with a blaze of publicity, attracts a dozen or so pages, then activity fades inexorably away.

It doesn't have to be like this! Here's another way.

Image from the MobileGov wikithon

The Wikithon is a piece of process that can be introduced into your Knowledge Management Framework in order to help with creation of a wiki-based knowledge resource. We know that Knowledge Management needs process as well as technology (as well as roles, as well as governance) and many wikis fail through lack of process. Without a process, they remain as empty pages waiting to be filled.

Enter the Wikithon

What is a Wikithon?

The name "Wikithon" is based on the term "hackathon" (an event in which computer programmers and others collaborate intensively on software projects). So by analogy, a Wikithon is an event in which content owners, community of practice members and others collaborate intensively on creating wiki content. Wikipedia call this an "editathon".

A Wikithon is therefore a special event for creating and editing Wiki content, which may last from a couple of hours to a day or more. The event may be co-located or it may be virtual. As a side benefit, the Wikithon often introduces many new people to the concept of the wiki.

Example Wikithons

There are many Wikithon examples in the federal sector, for example the Wikithon for creating the Making Mobile Gov Wiki, held in a coffee shop in Washington, or the annual wikithons at Colombia University to create the content for the WikiCU.

The US Army has used Wikithons to create online doctrine content (see this story)

In the icommercial sector, ConocoPhillips has had great success with Wikithons, each of which may create up to 100 pages of new content for the company Wiki.

How to run a Wikithon

  • Find a sponsor, and agree the topic and scope. Which wiki content do you want to focus on?  It works best if each Wikithon focuses on a small number of defined topics, to give business focus to the event.  The sponsor is likely to be the owner of that topic, perhaps the relevant Community of Practice leader.
  • Decide goals for the event. Do you want to complete the content for a topic? For several topics? Or do you only want to "get started"?
  • Decide a date for the wikithon.
  • Decide on venues. Even if the wikithon is global, it is good to provide large rooms in your major sites where people can gather to collaborate. Make sure there is excellent connectivity from these sites to the network.
  • Advertise the event. Advertise within the community of practice, use your local KM champions to help drum up support, and seek to involve as many people as possible who are working on the topic in question.
  • Provide a way for people to sign up to the event, so you have some idea of the number of people who will turn up physically ( as well as those who will turn up virtually).
  • On the day, try to mix new and experienced users. Have at least one - preferably several - experienced wiki users at each physical site. Make sure new users know where to go to for help
  • Provide a "sandbox" area for new people to experiment with
  • Have a chat area where online attendees can interact
  • Ask people to bring existing material on their laptops
  • Keep a list of "work that needs to be done" and cross it off as the event progresses
  • Order in some food and other refreshments
  • Make it fun - use prizes, awards, stickers
  • Take photos
  • Hand out t-shirts
  • Afterwards, thank everyone who attended, and summarise all that was achieved on the day.

Contact us if you want advice in creating a Wikithon.

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