Best practices for getting others to contribute to your wiki

12 Sep

When it comes to building a collaborative wiki, there are certain elements that significantly increase your chances for getting others to contribute to your wiki. Here are the PBwiki best practices for getting participants to be fully engaged in your wiki.

Avoid Blank-Page Syndrome: Pre-fill your wiki with content.
Most people get scared by blank pages. We call this “blank-page syndrome,” which causes users to flee and never return. There’s a way around this: Just add some content to your wiki before inviting users. Consider adding an “About Me” page, a “What’s this wiki about?” page, and a few more welcoming pages. Not only will this help new users get situated, it will help you get experience editing your new wiki. We find the learning curve of successful wiki editors to be about 12-15 minutes.

Make the front page a landing page for navigation.
Your front page should have a short explanation of the purpose of the wiki and links to appropriate pages, not one long scrolling page. This helps in two ways: First, users tend to get overwhelmed when they first come to a wiki, so this approach lightens up the content on the page and directs them to the next step. Second, if you get large amounts of users on one page, they won’t be able to edit it at once. With multiple pages, the chances of two people trying to edit a page at the same time is lower. So keep a short front page with links to other pages.

Give users something concrete to do.
One user, “Michelle,” had trouble getting co-workers to participate in her wiki for over a year. Then she changed her approach: She asked users to change one line of the Frontpage. Participation skyrocketed and continues to be strong a year later. Consider creating a soft request, like asking users to add their name or to fix a single spelling error on the wiki page. They’ll be much more likely to try editing if they have a small nugget to accomplish first.

Making logging in as easy as possible.
The problem is not access controls – it’s creating something compelling enough to get people to contribute to your community in the first place. Make your wiki easy to access and worry about access controls after getting a few regular participants. (If you absolutely need ironclad business security, we do offer the PBwiki Small Business Edition.)

Get everyone to participate.
When you start a new wiki, you’ll find that some people will cling to old methods of communication. For example, some of our users report that their co-workers continued emailing them or asking others to “please put this on the wiki.” When people email you, point them to the wiki. The beauty of PBwiki is that the most current information is always on the wiki, so direct them to your PBwiki URL and encourage them to add it themselves. After 2-3 reminders — and seeing their co-workers actively using it — they’ll be much more likely to contribute to your wiki.

Remind your users that it’s ok to play.
Your wiki users will be nervous the first time they come to PBwiki, wondering if they’re going to mess something up or cause an irreversible change. Assure them that it’s ok to edit pages — PBwiki automatically tracks changes and allows you to reverse changes, so they should feel free to edit an existing page or create a new page. In fact, one of your goals might be for each user to create their own page!

Make PBwiki part of your day.
One of our most successful wiki editors added “It’s on the wiki!” to his email signature, instant-message window, and on his website. When users messaged him, it was the first thing they saw. Consider putting your daily schedule or important notices on your wiki. When others see it used regularly, they’ll buy in, too.

47 Responses to “Best practices for getting others to contribute to your wiki”

  1. Flo McGee September 15, 2007 at 1:36 am #

    This is very helpful.. As I have tried many ways to get my teachers to use our school wiki.. so perhaps I will try a few of your suggestions..

  2. Maureen Beck September 25, 2007 at 6:54 am #

    This is helpful and I hope to try a couple of suggestions! Thanks.

  3. Hans Poschmaier October 31, 2007 at 4:07 am #

    It’s the content, which rules the world (not longer the application – see Google, Youtube etc.), therefore I passionately support the first recommendation – DO AVOID BLANK PAGES !

    The wiki must meet the infotainment-attitude to create a co-working and contributing mindset.

    Play with (interasctive) widgets, gadgets, that link fun with infotainment, a good source is:

  4. David Stone December 2, 2007 at 12:19 am #

    The simple recommendations of this page turned my first wiki from confusing and virtually useless to clear and productive.


  5. Teresa Bayer December 11, 2007 at 5:06 am #

    I’m just starting, so I’ll try the suggestions. Thanks for the assistance.

  6. Billy Grenham November 12, 2008 at 9:49 pm #

    Can you tell me if I can “enable script” for my page or add javascript?

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  1. Project Play » Blog Archive » Week 9 - November 12, 2007

    [...] applications to find the best one for your situation. You might also want to read pbwiki’s Best Practices for Creating a Collaborative Wiki to ensure the success of your wiki as you get [...]

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