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Why 6 fears, instead of 5 or 10? Well, 6 is one less than a number associated with perfection, 7. (Six is often associated with fear and imperfection.) So...

 

Here are the TOP 6 FEARS (or barriers) to adding content to TechNet Wiki:

6. Someone is going to maliciously remove my content. While technically that is possible, it's not a problem. It's happened a few times where people replaced content. Most of the time where I've seen that, it wasn't malicious. It was someone trying to write a new article, and they got confused. They saw the Edit tab, thought that meant "click here to write a new article" (for whatever reason), and then replaced the title and body text with their new article. That happens the most, but it's been happening less and less as people get used to the concept of the Wiki. The articles are valid, so we ask them to copy the content and paste it into a new article (I've done that a few times for others). And even though I say "most," that really only means about six times. =^)

But then how do you go back to the old content? With the click of one button. Yes, that's all. You just click the Revert button on the last good version. And the best part is almost every time this has happened and someone reverted it, it was another community member who did so and not even the article's author... That's right. The community sticks up for you and the problem is (more often than not) solved before you find out that it existed.

So if we subtract all the times that people accidentally removed content (which is probably only 6 or so), then we're left with all the times where people purposefully removed content and put in their own content (most likely linking to their site). Honestly I've only seen this twice. That's right: 2 times. Now 1,773 people have contributed 6,071 pages on TechNet Wiki, and there have been 35,179 total revisions. That means there have been 35,179 total opportunities for someone to maliciously remove content. But it's only happened twice. So what's 2 divided by 35,179? It's 0.000056852...

That means that this happens 0.0056852% of the time. And if it happens, you just click a button (Revert), and usually someone does it for you before you even notice. Not bad, huh? =^)

5. I'm going to invest in something that's not going to last. And you shouldn't. And no, we're not guaranteeing its existence in the future (as far as I know). But let's look at the facts. People are using it, and it's successful. So the Wiki (and thus the content) will likely exist in some form for quite awhile longer. It's just like the Forums, Blogs, and Gallery. The community is using it and proving its value. Even though the Wiki started with Microsoft technical writers (and even then, only the ones interested in social media)... since the Wiki has started (early 2010), that group of people (Microsoft technical writers) are now the minority. A much bigger variety of Microsoft folks use it, and a lot more of the community (non-MS) uses it, which is the point as to why it exists.

It's going to last as long as anything else here will last (blogs, forums, gallery, etc.)!

4. It won't matter because no one will collaborate on my Wiki page. Well that's not true. I'll collaborate on your Wiki page. All you have to do is ask. =^)

And while there may be a bit of a joke mixed in there, it's true. Leave a comment with the URL of your Wiki article on this page (or pretty much any page on this blog) and tell us what kind of help you want, and one or more Microsoft folks will go take a look and help. It's that simple.

And that's kind of the way the Wiki works... it's a social media platform. The key word there is social. I have seen a few folks drop articles on the Wiki, and nothing happens. Crickets. Other people drop an article on the Wiki, dozens of edits come in, a dozen comments come in, and all of a sudden people are having a Wiki party. I've seen the same thing happen on Forums. I've done both on forums myself... Crickets and started a Party. I've also done both myself on Blogs (crickets and party) and on Wiki. Why?

Wiki is all about social media, just like Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, the Gallery, CodePlex, Forums and other sites. If you don't tell anyone about it, no one knows. So you slowly learn how to tell people about it... literally via email, blog, and Twitter, and more figuratively by adding tags, adding links to it from other articles and portals (which are lists of articles), choosing words and content that people search for (called SEO; search engine optimization), and it happens synergetically and automagically because people start finding the content from your Microsoft Profile and from other places.

And you also start to learn to write in ways that engage people. (Notice all the questions and comment invitations on this blog post?) On the Wiki, that might include building out lists that other people might want to add to. Example. Or adding topical pages that people want to add content to... overviews on common topics. Example.

So what are all the ways people can collaborate on a Wiki article? There are so many different ways, and they are all valuable:

  • Fixing typos and formatting issues - So simple. You see a typo, you fix it. You're helping already!
  • Verifying technical accuracy.
  • Adding paragraphs or sections with info.
  • Adding helpful community resource links or links to related Wiki articles.
  • Comments that suggest changes, additions, or ideas about other articles someone can create with similar themes.
  • Questions in the comments.

Got more ways people can collaborate? Leave a comment, and I'll add it to the above list!

3. I don't want people to add lame content to my pages. Nor should you! The good thing about this is that I don't really see this happening. I start stubs or articles all the time with only a little bit of content. When someone adds more content, it's usually just as good as what I added or even better. That's right... very often people add content and I say, "Wow. Why didn't they start this topic instead of me? They are very knowledgeable about it!"

There have been a few times when people added content and the tone didn't fit, so I moved it to a new section or edited the tone a little so that it fit in the article. But even those cases the content itself was VERY valuable to round out the article.

I have seen a few times when people have added spam content (like a sentence or paragraph that links to something to advertise it) to an article. That's when that friendly Revert button comes in handy. But again, this is still only a few times out of 35K plus opportunities (very unlikely). And again the community helps out.  

2. There is no advantage for me to publish to the Wiki. (I already blog and work on whitepapers, so I don't need a new platform to publish content on.) Ah, but maybe you do! Check out my list of the Top 7 Reasons Why TechNet Wiki Will Change Your Life. A few examples of the advantages are that Microsoft employees and the customers get to collaborate together (as well as the community collaborating with each other), you get credit for your work that you probably won't find on most non-Blog platforms, you'll leave selfish authoring behind (selfish authoring is less fun and lower quality), you become multi-lingual (you'll have to read my list for more on that one), you kiss typos goodbye (it's so simple yet so valuable), the content plugs into a living organism (read the list for more on that too), and the synergetic opportunities abound! So again, read my blog post of the reasons why the Wiki will change your world... in order to understand what all those points mean.

1. I have nothing worthy to add / I might look foolish. So this was the #1 concern when we talked to folks at TechEd events and other Microsoft technology events. People thought they aren't worthy to be adding content on a Microsoft platform, or they thought they might look foolish doing so.

Really? Because last time I checked, you use Microsoft products. That makes you qualified to write about them! That means you know something about them that someone else is trying to learn!

Start small. It's as simple as 1-2-3:

1. Fix a typo (formatting issue, dead link, technical accuracy issue, etc.) or add a link to a resource... on any Wiki article you're reading!

2. Fill out a stub article (even a paragraph or list of resources helps). (A stub is a Wiki article with little or no content. It exists to encourage anyone, including the author, to add content whenever possible.) If it's a stub article that I wrote, then you can also leave a comment on it with any questions or notes, and I'll get back to you. Here are my stub article successes (where I started a stub and someone else added the first pass of content).

3. Then try adding your own article. Start basic. It could only be a few paragraphs, a list of steps to follow, and/or a list of other resources. Short articles can be just as valuable as 8-page whitepaper-like Wiki articles!

It's as simple as that. Take baby steps if you'd like. Some people learn to swim in a day. Others take a few dips first.

 

Do you have any other arguments against these fears? Leave them in the comments!

 

OTHER FEARS:

Here is my list of other fears that I won't go into as in-depth today (maybe a future list). Do you have more fears that I missed? Please list them in the comments! I'll add them below:

1. I don't want people to know who I am. You don't have to... Control your profile!

2. I don't want to have to fight with people in constant edit wars. This rarely happens (maybe three times or so). You can usually just talk to folks and reach an agreement. If this becomes a problem, let someone like me know, and we'll make sure it stops.

3. I already blog and work on whitepapers, so I'm too busy to learn another platform. If you blog or use Word... then you already know how the Wiki platform works! Just start writing your first article. You got the basics, and the rest will come to you naturally.

4. Someone might write something on my page that I don’t agree with. Or just isn’t me. True. I think the risk is there. First, you can control that with the type of content you're writing. For example, if you add one paragraph about an overview topic of SQL Server, than you're practically begging people to add more sections. Then yes, you might not agree with their specific words. You can justify editing it a little to get the tone to match. However, grossly different viewpoints are fairly rare, unless it's a controversial subject (like my article I wrote on whether Forum users should self-propose their own answers). The article itself included both perspectives (pros and cons), so naturally some heated opinions pop up, are distilled down to logic, and then added to the lists.

However, if you author a magnificent 30 page whitepaper about a very specific scenario... then most people will leave you alone. In fact, almost always. They are much more likely to leave comments with their opinions and to ask questions. But ultimately it is a Wiki, so you're going to have to share and let go a little. If someone adds five tags to your article, and you purposefully only wanted three, then maybe it might be good to let it go and see the perspective of how those tags might be useful. Also, see #3 in the list on the top!

And you can add your white paper to the TechNet Gallery as a PDF! And then link to it from the Wiki article! So that you can have one that's sort of a living organism (the Wiki article) and one that's frozen in time (the white paper). Then you get community recognition for both! See Wiki Life: Should I use the Gallery or TechNet Wiki?

5. But TechNet Wiki isn't authoritative, like MSDN/TechNet Library or my blog team. First, there is some truth there. TechNet Wiki won't replace the values of Help files or of an authoritative blog team. Blogging doesn't have to be exclusive. You can blog and use TechNet Wiki and greatly benefit from that synergy. See Wiki Life: Why should I use TechNet Wiki if I already blog about Microsoft technologies? 

The truth is that the reader doesn't evaluate the authority of an article based on whether or not it's in the TechNet or MSDN Library. They might be reading an MVPs blog and attribute more authority to that content than to a TechNet Library article. Readers attribute authority to the author and contributors. And TechNet Wiki leverages that existing concept...

A. You go to any TechNet Wiki article: Wiki: Technologies Portal

B. Without clicking anything, you can see who wrote the article. You might know the author, and that's enough authority.

C. Also without clicking, you can see if the author (and last contributor) is a Microsoft employee, an MVP (awarded as an authoritative source), or an MCC (Microsoft Community Contributor - in the last three months, they have had a big impact on the community).

D. By hovering your mouse over the person (still no click), you can see how many Recognition Points they've earned (from views, high ratings, and answered questions) and Achievement Medals they've earned (quantity of contributions).

E. For specific details, they can go into the History tab to see who contributed what.

And this is the system that has worked wonderfully forever on forums, blogs, Gallery items, and more! TechNet Wiki just leverages an existing authority system. In other words, if you're a Microsoft employee, an MVP, or have made a huge impact on the MSDN/TechNet social communities, then all that's already reflected as Authority on the TechNet Wiki page. This has never been an issue for readers.

 

What other lists would you like to see here (on this blog site) in the future?

Check out the Wiki (http://technet.com/wiki), and fight your fears!

   - Ninja Ed (Blog, Twitter, Wiki, Profile)