Wiki Gardening in the Enterprise

Web heads refer to the term wiki gardening. This is basically controlling the content in your wiki. Wiki gardening is easily manageable for wikis that are internal to an enterprise, but is more challenging for wikis that contain company content that is shared with partners and customers.
Sun has a large and vibrant website for partners, called Sun Partner Advantage Membership Center or Partner Portal. Partners can utilize the Partner Portal for everything from pricing information, to training, to product and program information. “The Portal” , in general, utilizes the walled garden approach. The Sun Partner  team both accepts and solicits content, massages it appropriately, formats, and publishes it. The advantages are obvious. The content is consistent, reasonably up to date, and only the appropriate content is shared.

But wait! There are occasions where more and better resources are available to employees, than partners. This is because publishing content to an internal wiki (yes, I’m referring to OneStop. This is the OneStop Secret Sauce blog after all.) is easier. It’s much faster as there is no process or approval involved, and there are no worries about confidentiality or appropriateness of content. There are no forms or mechanism, it’s basically WYSIWYG and update in place. It enables Self publishing so that the content expert is able to make the changes directly. Nothing is lost in translation, as compared to content making it’s way through the process.

With our PartnerSpace project we hope to offer the best of both worlds. The goal of PartnerSpace is to make appropriate partner ready content that is behind the Sun firewall easily available to partners. The core of PartnerSpace is an easily consumable (by content providers) set of publishing guidelines. These guidelines include:

  1. Publishing Rules, including privacy and confidentiality guidelines.
  2. Content traits, as we need to happily coexist with PartnerWeb.
  3. Style suggestions, for consistency.

Perhaps the most important part of PartnerSpace is the definition of roles. Each wiki page, or family of wiki pages, that are made available to partners has a moderator. Content creators and owners stage a page in a Sun only area, and only when it is scanned and approved by the moderator does it become available to partners.

OneStop for Partners is the first instance of the Partner Space project. We are already seeing interesting phenomenon that we didn’t expect. It turns out that some of the low hanging fruit is content that doesn’t  fit easily into the existing Partner Portal or Sun organizational model. Two examples thus far are the Partner HPC Resource Center and the Solutions area. We are moving aggressively to complete OneStop for Partners with the traditional core of product, technology, and program information.

Technocrat for Partners

The Technocrat is an internal Sun newsletter primarily targeted to customer-facing engineers. The goal is to make them feel plugged in with respect to products, technology and tools. As of June, the Technocrat is available to Sun Partners.

Aren’t newsletters so 90s?
Yes and no. Newsletters certainly don’t offer the virtues of social networking and collaboration. What they do offer is a push mechanism that enables us to highlight current news, what’s working with our tools and communities, and snapshot summaries.

The most popular regular feature in the Technocrat is Interesting Stuff You Might Have Missed. It comprises interesting bits (white papers, feature articles, etc.) from various websites including sun.com and BigAdmin. The majority of items are links to good blog postings.

People are busy and it takes a long time to scan the latest and greatest on web sites, blogs, and wikis. The world is getting there with better search, feed readers, and the Semantic Web, but as of now there really isn’t a great substitute for having a human with similar interests do this for you.

Lightweight is Good
The Technocrat offers a lightweight mechanism to share content. The editorial review is quick; the main rule is that the content be relevant and interesting to customer-facing engineers. If a contributor wants to spend (substantially more) time on a more formalized vehicle, BluePrints, White Papers, or writing a book is the way to go. You can always do a blog posting, but unless you’ve spent the time to acquire an audience, not many people will see it.

Most articles are between 500 and 2000 words. Does anyone remember Jeff Goldblum’s character, Michael Gold, in the 1983 movie  The Big Chill? Michael was a writer for People magazine. He stated that articles were never longer than you could read during the average bathroom stay.

The Brand Means Something
We’ve been publishing the Technocrat for seven years, and internally at Sun it is acknowledged as valuable. If your article is included, there is a good chance people will see it. To receive the Technocrat, you have to subscribe — we don’t spam mailing lists or aliases out of principle. The subscriber base is currently around 2000.

To Come Full Circle
My heart was warmed when I received an email from Trevor Pretty, a Partner SE in New Zealand. He was a Sun employee for years, and was regarded by many as a star. The Subject of the email was Technocrat for partners – Feels like I’ve never left :-). I’m truly excited to be able to provide a mechanism that helps our customer facing engineering community share their considerable knowledge and expertise with our partners.