Monday, March 24, 2008

Wikis and Household Knowledge Management

I have often proclaimed the virtues of using a wiki for knowledge management. But does it have place in household knowledge management? Today I have two stories. One is a great success and the other a failure in using a wiki for household knowledge management.

Wiki Success Story for Household Knowledge Management

One of the goals of my current paternity leave was to try to get The Daughter into a schedule for sleeping and eating. As any parent knows the more regular the schedule, the happier the child.

So I needed a way to track The Daughter's activities during the day. By tracking the information, hopefully I could find a common pattern. Also, The Wife wants to see how The Daughter's day went. So I would need a way to deliver the information to The Wife. If I could use a web-based tool, I could deliver a live feed of information to The Wife.

I had the content and a process for generating the content. The process is relatively straight forward because it is just a running diary. So the focus was finding the right technology tool to deliver the information.

A blog would work, because it matchs up with the diary of The Daughter's Day. Twitter would also work because the information would be fairly sparse [The Daughter does not give me a lot of time to provide a robust stream of information] . The key for me was to publish the information in a way that I could analyze some of the information. A spreadsheet or a table would be a great fit. I could plot a daily timeline along one axis and the days of the month along the other access. This would expose any trends.

Most wikis support tables so I had a broad choice. I decided to use a Google Spreadsheet from my Google Apps account. Feel free to take a look at The Daughter's Schedule.

This is a low level of the use of wiki functionality. It is really just a simple web publisher. But that is often enough for a wiki to be useful. I am able to push out a lot of very useful information that I can use and The Wife can use. The RSS feed is not necessary because it is easy to find the stream of information in the spreadsheet. I did not need collaboration because the information flow is very one way.

Wiki Failure Story for Household Knowledge Management

The Wife loves the The Daughter's Schedule wiki. So much so that she thinks we should have a household wiki.

It just so happens that Google launched their new Sites application as part of Google Apps. Although it is a wiki, Google does not use the term wiki. [You can read my prior post on Google Sites.]

Since I had not yet use a Google Site I was all fired up to set one up and give it a try.

Then I stepped into one of the classic failure points for wikis and social media in general. I had a blank page. I was so fired up to have a household wiki that I failed to gather a single piece of content. I failed to even ask The Wife what she thought should be in the household wiki.

It has only been a few days, but the household wiki sits empty and unused. How many times have I mentioned the empty wiki syndrome? But I still walked right into the same failure point.

The Wife and I need to sit down and figure out what information to put in the household wiki. There is hope yet. But I have learned my lesson. Never publish an empty wiki.

In case you missed them, here are my prior posts on Household Knowledge Management:

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