Moving Wikis Behind the Firewall: Intrapedias and Work-Wikis

Moving Wikis Behind the Firewall: Intrapedias and Work-Wikis

Lynne P. Cooper (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA) and Mark B. Rober (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-195-5.ch003
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The use of wikis behind the firewall in corporations presents significant opportunities as well as challenges for improving knowledge capture and work processes. This chapter identifies fundamental characteristics of wikis and how these change between public and corporate wikis, and between wikis intended for knowledge capture (intrapedias) and those supporting work processes. A case study describing two organizational wikis illustrates the power of the individual in instigating knowledge capture and the ability of wiki technology to rapidly and easily support individuals in their work efforts. The case study also exposes how adopting wikis can challenge deeply engrained cultural beliefs. As wikis become more prevalent behind the firewall, organizations may need to shift to new ways of thinking about knowledge sharing, the role of the individual versus the collective, and governance. Conversely, characteristics of wikis may need to be adjusted to deal with the realities of knowledge use within organizations.
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Corporations have started using wikis, defined as “sets of dynamically created web pages with content contributed directly by users in a web browser” (Yates, Wagner & Majchrzak, 2010), to support both internal and customer-centric business processes (Wagner & Majchrzak, 2006ab). Behind the firewalls (BTF) that protect corporate intranets, wikis are used in purposeful environments, in a significantly different manner than that faced by public systems such as Wikipedia. While there is a large body of research examining the Wikipedia phenomenon, wiki research BTF is in an early stage (c.f., Holtblatt, Damianos & Weiss, 2009; Wagner & Majchrzak, 2006ab).

As corporations continue to invest in wikis – both in the technology platforms and in content development, there are open questions as to what factors contribute to successful use and how what is known about public wikis informs BTF use. Early research indicates that organizations are seeing many advantages, but also that defining features of public wikis (e.g., community authorship, open access) change in response to corporate needs (Wagner & Majchrzak, 2006b).

The goal of this chapter is to examine in-depth specific corporate wikis: to understand the characteristics that define them, the processes that shape them, and how adoption of wikis may in turn affect changes in the organization. The chapter starts with a review of relevant literature on wikis. It then presents a case study of the implementation and use of BTF wikis developed in a U.S. national research laboratory. By contrasting these wikis with each other and with public wikis, we identify key characteristics and how they differ based on public versus private access and intended use. This is followed by a discussion of cultural and governance implications in the transition to wiki-based systems and ends with a presentation of research and practical implications for BTF wiki use.

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