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Business - Written by on Saturday, March 29, 2008 9:59 - 19 Comments

Wiki collaboration leads to happiness (updated and revisited!)

wiki_collaboration_updatedEarlier in the week I posted Manny Wilson’s creative depiction of the merits of wiki collaboration. I noted then how a participant at a recent talk I gave at Nokia had pointed out that the happy faces on the left of Manny’s diagram probably ought to be frowning. Chris then alerted me to an updated version of the diagram that reflects the personal and organizational pain that email so often inflicts (click on the thumbnail!)

True to form, the post generated an interesting debate about whether the emailers on the left side of Manny’s diagram should be frowning, or whether they are, in reality, quite content with the status quo:

 Steve Gutenberg says:

“It’s a matter of perspective. We’re the ones that frown at e-mail compared to wikis. The e-mailerers ARE happy to be e-mailing – their reality is completely different than ours.”

Euan Semple replies:

“Really Steve? I hear people moan about e-mail more than any other aspect of corporate life.”

Chris Rasmussen jumps in a little later to say (among other things):

“Email is not bad, it’s simply over-used. It’s a “when you only know how to use a hammer, all problems are nail” type thing.”

Which I thought pretty much nailed it (pardon the pun).

But you be the judge. Are occupational spammers blissfully overflowing your email inbox with overweight word documents and seemingly ignorant of the rising tide of wiki enlightenment that is bestowing happiness on a growing legion of devout followers? Or, are emailers painfully self-aware of the tragic cycle of email misery that obscures their path to wiki salvation? ;-)

BTW, if you care to help out our sad, downtrodden brethren on the left, please weigh-in with your tips for entrenching a wiki culture!


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Mar 29, 2008 7:33

To show that the Wiki is a more natural tool for a certain style of collaboration I would point to my own experience in newswires pre-email, where to coordinate international oil market coverage 24/7 a group of us used formstore files on a mainframe which we updated wiki-style. The practice spread from coverage group to coverage group. That form of communication also survived various other platforms from email to mIRC for the reasons outlined in the graphic.

But there was a similar kind of resistance to new tools when I introduced mIRC in the late ’90s. Functionally, it was not a replacement, but allowed a different form of interaction, obviously more real-time, without negating the need and value of more considered and permanent communication. But those rooted in their existing habits were slow to see the benefits.

The tough job for managers is indeed how to encourage adoption quickly rather than wait for organic take-up. Sometimes managers themselves are not the best agencies to achieve that, and you will need to find proxies. But having said that, I did on occasions insist that usage of a collaboration tool was a requirement.

Chris Rasmussen
Mar 29, 2008 11:35

It’s so great to see this graphic explode over the net. From the high number of social bookmarks in del.icio.us to Technorati’s “Authority” count. The first blog stated that the graphic was “courtesy” of me, which is true. I did bring the graphic to a recent DC workshop sponsored by New Paradigm.

The updated blog post with frowning email accredits the graphic to me. This needs clarification. The graphic is generally accredited to the “Intellipedians.” But one Intellipedian in particular needs to be noted. The original was created by US Central Command analyst Manny Wilson. I recently had a colleague in my office change the email smiles to frowns and I take this graphic to every public speaking event, but I did not create it. Just wanted to clarify and give a shout out to Manny.

feelByte // tech blog
Mar 29, 2008 13:54

[...] da un post sul blog Wikinomics Bloglife, Geek | Condividi | | Posted by: [...]

Mobile Technology and the Web « Chandra’s Couture Blog
Mar 31, 2008 16:46

[...] academic standards. This defeats the purpose of open source technology and stunts its growth. The Wikinomics blog on March 29 shows a web design with complex interactions of several Microsoft applications [...]

Eric Blair
Mar 31, 2008 23:00

Are N-gens facing this same divide between emailing and wiki-collaboration? Are there proportionally more N-gens who prefer Wiki collaboration to email-based collaboration? I’m inclined to say that they are not facing the same divide. As a university student in a discipline where group-based projects are frequent, I have definitely noticed a strong trend in the last 12 months toward using collaborative tools like Google Docs. This observation with respect to Steve Gutenberg’s comments, makes me wonder if the happy-to-be-emailing crowd can continue with their ways for much longer in the corporate environment?

Apr 4, 2008 7:36

Great post. Love the diagram!
“Tips for entrenching a wiki culture”? Keep it simple. Just start using one with a group of people that understand what a wiki can bring the organization and it will sell itself. Send links to the wiki by email, stop sending attachments around. My experience is people will start to ask for explanation and their own wiki page. Furthmore, showing colleagues good examples of internal and external wiki’s helps too.

Doug Cornelius
Apr 4, 2008 14:11

The bigger piece I see missing from the diagram and from the discussion is where does the object of collaboration end up living.

On the email side it is scattered across the participants’ email system.

With the wiki, that wiki page, where all the collaborating had been taken place, is where the object is born, is raised and lives.

I lost too many hours of my life scrambling to find an email with correct version of the document with the comments and information needed to make a decision. With a wiki it is in one easy to find spot.

Jon Mell
Apr 30, 2008 9:03

This is a great graphic. Chris, are you ok with it being reproduced (along with credit to yourself and Manny Wilson). I’d like to use it in an in-house magazine article I am helping to write on wikis.


e-Mail 보다는 Wiki나 social network가 더 생산 이다 « Creativity, Innovation, and Tech - 변지석
Jun 18, 2008 17:34

[...] 대 에 wiki나 social network를 이용한 collaboration을 권하 있다. 그 이 는 아래 그림에서와 같이 email 보다 collaboarion을 위한 interaction이 더 단순하기 때문이다. [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Is Law 2.0 possible?
Jul 29, 2008 0:23

[...] obvious. Not only are they more efficient in many ways (see Anthony William’s previous post of Wiki collaboration leads to happiness) they also help reduce [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Measuring Government 2.0
Aug 11, 2008 9:17

[...] Productivity and Efficiency: If using a Wiki can, as Anthony’s previous posts noted, decrease the time employees spend emailing each other, do away with versioning issues and [...]

Moti Weisbrot
Aug 15, 2008 2:06

Moti Weisbrot – Lessons on Lifetime Happiness

Happiness is a religion .

First thing in order to be happy is to live the present .

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now !

The main problem with looking too frequently into the past is that we may turn around one day and find out the future has run out on us .

Don’t let the past or the ” future” steal your present .

Remember happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely upon what you think.

Just try your best in order to be happy. Unhappiness starts with wanting to be happier.

Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you make for the present .

Happiness is not a destination or a ” target” to reach . It is a method of life , to live daily .

Happiness is a religion, and should never be rationalized. Remeber it !

It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first.

The happiness desire is never extinguished in the heart of man.

Happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.

Real deep happiness comes from your own inside. Nobody can give it to you.

Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the mind.

To fill and live the minute and the hour and the day , that is happiness.

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales … The state of your Happiness is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind .

Enjoy the little things.

One day you will look back and realize they were the big things.

Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you already have .

Sincerely ,

Moti Weisbrot

Mike Baker
Sep 7, 2008 0:35

OK – I am leading a team of individuals working on editing a document. Can anyone give me a good, simple, reference where I can learn to set up a wiki environment so that we can all collaborate on our editing?


Daniel J. Pritchett
Sep 7, 2008 21:11


I wrote up a quick overview of popular free wiki choices on my blog recently: http://www.sharingatwork.com/2008/07/collaboration-technologies-investigated.html

If you would like more information feel free to email me at daniel AT sharingatwork DOT com.

Good luck, and be sure to let us know how it works out for you!

Sep 8, 2008 15:03

Thanks! I’ll check it out!

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » The Problem with Knowledge Work Part I: It’s not e-mail
Oct 27, 2008 12:45

[...] mass collaborationists that the real problem with knowledge work is e-mail (e.g. see our own blog here and here). I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and the more I think about it, the more I’m [...]

Jan 22, 2009 12:00

My wiki utopia is slowly but surely being realized. I use OpenOffice.org for many of my office suite needs. One tool I recently stumbled across was the wiki publisher tool. For the most part, it works great! I’ve been able to start a document on my desktop, then upload it to my wiki for further use. What I wish is that the extension allowed it to go both ways. It’d be nice to pull a document off of my wiki, edit it on my desktop, then upload it again. Maybe someday.

Wikis In The Workplace « Your Mileage May Vary
Mar 16, 2009 23:53

[...] now, but is preparing them for knowledge work later in life. Also check out this graphic from a blog post on Wikinomics, which illustrates the benefits of using a wiki rather than email for [...]

Measuring Government 2.0 « Dan Herman Research & Consulting
Jan 18, 2010 20:40

[...] Productivity and Efficiency: If using a Wiki can, as Anthony’s previous posts noted, decrease the time employees spend emailing each other, do away with versioning issues and [...]

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Don Tapscott and Anthony D. William's latest collaboration, Macrowikinomics: New Solutions for a Connected Planet. Learn more.

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