Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wikis at The Rosen Law Firm

Lee Rosen, the president of Rosen Law Firm, took a few minutes to talk with me about his firm's experience with wikis.

Rosen is replacing his Lotus Notes platform with an externally hosted wiki from PBWiki. You may have read about the cash prize contest he ran for his employees in a story on Boosting Teamwork with Wikis. He offered up the chance to win a cash prize for contributing to the wiki. The more you contributed, the better your chance of winning.

Lee was drawn to the concept of using a wiki because of its purported simplicity. He found it much easier to develop and add content. Setting up the wiki was quick. The firm started with the free version of PBWiki and had their wiki up and running in minutes. Some of his administrators worked with the wiki for a few months to see its functionality and how it might work within the firm. Then others in the firm started asking to join and it took off.

Over the last year, his firm has created three to four thousand pages in the wiki. Lee estimates that 60% of his employees make at least one change to the wiki each day.

Lee really likes the flexibility of the wiki platform. People can work in the wiki the way that they want to work. Of course, that has lead to some disagreements over the way to organize content. The upside to the disagreement is that people are working together to add content and organize it. They would not bothering disagreeing if they did not care about the content.

Lee sees a conflict between the need for rules and the freedom to contribute. There are places where the wiki is not organized in a way that works for him. But it does work for others.

There is a great deal of latitude on what people can do with the wiki at Rosen Law Firm. Many have created a personal page where they update information about themselves. This social component has been well-received and keeps people engaged in using the wiki.

Lee also likes that the wiki is externally hosted. He lets PBwiki worry about keeping the server up and all the "plumbing" headaches. He wants to be out of the IT business. That benefit was a little offset by the long term viability of wiki providers. It's great the PBwiki does not charge much for their product. But what is their long term plan? His firm's thousands of pages of content get dragged along with their long term plan.

One of his biggest issues is keeping the wiki in people's minds as a way to communicate. It takes some time for people to realize that they can communicate through the wiki. Lee still sees lots of email communication that could be better handled in the wiki. They are also still transitioning some of the content from Lotus Notes into the wiki.

Lee also drives people to the wiki by only publishing some information in the wiki. For example, monthly reports like time billed are only published on the wiki. Lee uses the wiki to host his video training. The wiki replaces weird URLs and DVDs. With PBwiki, the video can display right in the wiki page.

It looks like the PBWiki has been a tremendous success for Lee Rosen and Rosen Law Firm. That is a lot of content and a lot communication happening inside the wiki.

It gets me excited for the up-coming launch of our wiki platform. I am acting like a nine-year old on the day before Christmas waiting for the launch.

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