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Business - Written by on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:29 - 5 Comments

Guest Blogger Stewart Mader on Wiki ROI #1: From ‘Interruptivity’ to Productivity

Editor’s note: this is the second in a multi-part series from Stewart Mader, author of Wikipatterns. You can check out some of his other work a Grow Your Wiki, and his first post on the wikinomics site is here.

In Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast, New York Times writer Matt Richtel looks at the growing problem of fractured attention in the workplace – thanks to email, instant messaging, and other interruptions that are costing employees 28% of a typical workday – and the cost isn’t just measured in time:

In the United States, more than $650 billion a year in productivity is lost because of unnecessary interruptions, predominately mundane matters, according to Basex. The firm says that a big chunk of that cost comes from the time it takes people to recover from an interruption and get back to work.

I often talk about email as a “push” medium – that is, you push messages out to recipients, and each person gets their own copy. This seems simple enough, but two problems emerge in practice. Each new email message can be an interruption, and the fact that a separate copy goes to each person means that it isolates people from each other.

Also, with email there is the perception that you have more control because you can select recipients, but in reality you have less control over the message because you can’t control where it ultimately goes. Any of the original recipients can forward it, and this can leak sensitive information, take things out of context, and give you a whole new set of problems that require a lot of time and work to deal with. That can mean even more lost productivity from more important work.

A wiki, by contrast is a “pull” medium – it pulls people in to look at content on a single, shared page that everyone can edit. That means people see all the changes that everyone else makes, and in builds a stronger connection & community instead that’s just the opposite of isolating. allows you to do two things:

Explicitly set access permissions on a page to restrict who can view and edit it. Others can’t change this so information the needs to be protected really is secure.

For information that isn’t restricted, the awareness that it can be widely read requires you to think about what you include and how you present it so that it will be clear and useful.

Here’s an example of this from Nate Nash:

Frankly, I sort of like the idea that if some moron in my company drops an F bomb on a blog post, that slickness is immediately exposed to the entire company. I hope he gets fired. And HR keeps the post up as an example of “what not to do with the enterprise Wiki.” If you are that dense I am 1) glad other people know, 2) convinced you don’t deserve a job here, and 3) now aware that we might need more stringent hiring practices. All good things in my book. This staffing action can happen in our Wiki.


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Jul 2, 2008 13:16

I don’t really agree that email should get blamed for the attention problem. It is being blamed unfairly. I have posted my reasoning at http://sgenterprise20.blogspot.com/2008/06/is-email-root-cause-of-attention.html

But I do agree that wikis helps in building a stronger community and centralizing the knowledge and there are many other benefits.

Collaboration and Confidentiality | The Workstreamer Blog
Jul 8, 2008 15:29

[...] The Wikinomics Blog raised interesting questions regarding collaborative tools. They describe email as a “push” medium where you distribute the information and wikis as a “pull” medium where you can take from it and add on. However, they raise one very interesting point: liability. [...]

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » Guest blogger Stewart Mader on Wiki ROI #2: Collect and Refine Tacit Knowledge to Improve Efficiency
Jul 11, 2008 10:43

[...] July 11th, 2008, 10:37am Editor’s note: this is the third post in a multi-part series from Stewart Mader, author of Wikipatterns. You can check out some of his other work at Grow Your WIki, and the first two parts of the series can be found here and here. [...]

Wiki ROI #1: Do You Suffer From “Interruptivity”?
Jul 11, 2008 17:28

[...] second article in my multi-part guest series on the Wikinomics Blog is up, and it shows how a wiki can help you [...]

Library clips :: Seven ways enterprise 2.0 differs from web 2.0 :: July :: 2008
Jul 17, 2008 19:46

[...] more on the myth of interrupting, especially related to IM…Luis Suarez in his email detox diet [...]

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