Community Win–Wiki Accelerates Quality Content Distribution

The wiki was just beginning when I joined Microsoft back in December of 2009. When I first heard about the wiki, when of my first thoughts was “in all the years that I ran no one ever mentioned that we should have a wiki. Indeed, I never thought about a wiki for site – and the site was very successful. So, when I was confronted with the idea of a wiki on the Microsoft TechNet site, I was a big naysayer and came up with a number of arguments for why the TechNet wiki would not be a success.

Well, I am here to say that most of the arguments and positions I took at the time are wrong – or at least not as right as I thought they were. Some of my concerns at the time included:

  • Quality writers won’t contribute to the wiki because they cannot lock the content. Boy, was I wrong about that! My idea at the time was that only professional writers could provide high quality, useful content on the wiki. I’ve learned since then that you don’t need to be a professional writer to contribute useful content on the wiki, and that by not locking content, the wiki articles are getting better and better because readers can then edit the articles to increase the quality.
  • Writers won’t contribute to the wiki because they will lose their brand equity. My concern here was that people would prefer to write on their own blogs so that their names would be well-known and they could build their brand as experts in a particular product or technology through their unique blogs or web sites. That turned out to not be a problem! For example, my reputation had been associated with ISA Server, Threat Management Gateway (TMG), Unified Access Gateway (UAG) and DirectAccess. I was then moved to a new team and my new focus was private cloud and private cloud architecture. Huh? What’s up with that? Then I learned about private cloud and architecture and together with other members of my team, started publishing articles on private cloud architecture in the TechNet wiki. The result? I’ve been invited to speak all over the would about private cloud and private cloud architecture! How’s that for the power of the wiki?
  • Malicious writers will update the material and ruin the value of the content. Suppose you wrote a great article, spent hours and days working on it and making it perfect. Then somebody comes around and breaks it! Fills it up with the wrong information and ends up turning it into something you’d be embarrassed of. Can that happen? Sure. Does it happen? We haven’t seen much in terms of malicious edits. But suppose that did happen – all you need to do is revert to your “golden image” of the article using three clicks. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

So what are some examples of the high quality content you can find on the wiki and no where else?

Reference Architecture for Private Cloud

Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) 2010 Troubleshooting Survival Guide

Recommendations for Installing, Sizing, Deploying, and Maintaining a BizTalk Server Solution

and many more!

If I read the tea leaves correctly and stare at the crystal ball long enough – I begin to see visions of the future in the TechNet wiki. Instead of the walled-off approach we take here at Microsoft to creating content and placing it into the TechNet Library, in the future we will begin creating our content on the TechNet wiki in partnership with the Microsoft writers, with the Product Groups and with the Microsoft customer community as a whole. From the very beginning, Microsoft’s customers and partners will be able to evaluate the information we plan to roll out and help us decide if its what they need. This will enable Microsoft to give you what you need from the very start – and not waste cycles on creating content that doesn’t help you meet your personal, professional and business objectives.

I also see a future where the community will work together with Microsoft to maintain and update the content. There are plenty of you who are very passionate about one or more Microsoft products and technologies. Wouldn’t be great if you and fellow devotees of that product or technology cloud work together to update the content as more information comes in? The community as a whole benefits from your on-the-job insights and free up time for Microsoft writers to work with the product groups to get even more information out there for you – information that Microsoft might not have been able to share with you in the past because there just wasn’t enough time.

Bottom line: I was wrong about the wiki and the fact is that the TechNet wiki is a BIG community win! I’m looking forward to working with many of you in the future and I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way. It’s a new world of openness and collaboration over here at Microsoft and the wiki is just one of the many initiatives where that openness shines though.



Tom Shinder
Principal Knowledge Engineer, SCD iX Solutions Group
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