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The Right Tool For the Job?
July 27, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Is an intranet wiki the right solution for my organization? The primary goal is to keep our Policy and Procedure manual up-to-date and easily search-able [more inside]

Our current Policy and Procedure manual is on our internal shared drive in MS word .doc's. The problem is that the folder has gotten so disorganized with old version and different departments that its very hard to find what you want (or find the right version).

Obviously this is not intend to be very "collaborative," (only a small group would have edit privileges). The features of a wiki like system that appeal to me are tagging and search. The web-based interface would also help many of our users who are not very computer savy. Easy conversion to word .docs (or just plain text) is needed.

Based on other AskMefi posts, I am looking primarily at MoinMoin or Doku wiki, but other suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance!

(As a side not, the collaborative features would be something that could be implemented for other tasks down the line)
posted by rosswald to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm personally a huge fan of wikis for maintaining documentation - they solve a lot of the problems of passing around endless nearly-identical files and trying to track changes with Word or ad-hoc versioning. While it may not be "very" collaborative, even a handful of people trying to modify the same documents gets very frustrating very fast.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:47 AM on July 27, 2010


How savvy are your users? I'd probably steer towards Google Docs for something like this, mostly because anyone who already uses MS Word finds it pretty intuitive. (Also, while I know people who have successfully introduced wikis into work culture, my own experience suggests you have to have a pretty enthusiastic group to succeed. YMMV of course.)
posted by j-dawg at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2010


Most users are not very computer savy (much of the staff does not own computers at home).

Google docs is cool, but it would require everyone to have a Google account and log in to an external site (Google) to access it. The idea of it just being a shortcut on the desktop that loads an intranet website seems more appealing to me.
posted by rosswald at 8:13 AM on July 27, 2010


Another option is to use Google Sites, a product which is wiki-like in that you can easily link from one doc to another with a few clicks (including if they move), but is jargon-free -- everything's point and click. It has different content types like 'Announcements' (which are really like internal blogs) and it has some wizzy bits like a table of contents and sub page listings that you can embed in a page that automatically stays up to date.

A nice thing also is it has automatic notification so if someone makes a change, others are automatically notified.

You can also embed spreadsheets, calendars and the docs that j-dawg mentioned and other gadgets and of course its search is pretty good.

Any Google / Gmail account can create Sites and you can also have Sites created using 'Google Apps for your Domain' which allows you to create sites under your own domain name , e.g. sites.example.com.

Here's a quick overview http://www.google.com/sites/help/intl/en/overview.html

(disclaimer I work for Google but Sites is cool honest and this is all based on my personal experience rather than some marketing jargon read from a pamphlet :)
posted by kiwi.es at 8:18 AM on July 27, 2010


Oh btw rosswald if the policies and procedures are to be confidential, some form of account will be needed in any case. If they're not, then they can be made public and no account is required for those who just want to read them.
posted by kiwi.es at 8:20 AM on July 27, 2010


I think a wiki is a good idea for this document, but there are a couple of headaches I ran into when doing something similar:
  • Handing people ANOTHER set of credentials for logging in resulted in some push back; if you can integrate authentication that would be a plus
  • "Time out" periods for editing resulted in lost work. I was utterly surprised at how many people will open a document and edit it over MULTIPLE DAYS without ever once hitting "save."
  • Training people on how to use wiki formatting (even with GUI toolbars--"But the B for Bold doesn't look like the B in Word!") took a lot longer than I expected
  • As did training people to break sections down into separate pages (linked together), rather than thinking about the whole thing as one monolithic document
  • Printing was not so great and took a lot of stylesheet tweaking; if I were starting over I might look for a wiki system or plugin that would generate PDFs or something along those lines, especially if a printed "handbook" is your ultimate result.
The thing everyone liked the most was the automatic revision tracking, which is soooo much nicer than dealing with Word's.
posted by bcwinters at 8:31 AM on July 27, 2010


A wiki seems like a good choice. The usual problems with wikis are (1) no one uses it or (2) it becomes a sprawling, unusable mess. You're less likely to run into these problems with just a small group of editors. If you do go with a wiki, I would strongly recommend having someone who is responsible for periodically cleaning it up.

You could also use an internal Wordpress blog for this. Wordpress can be easier to use than a wiki (the WYSIWYG editor is comfortingly familiar for Word users), the results are generally cleaner, and it comes with built-in tagging, search, user account management, and version control capabilities.

I personally don't think Google Docs would be substantially better than the setup you have now.

Easy conversion to word .docs (or just plain text) is needed.

I believe Dokuwiki stores everything as plain-text flat files, so your content is pretty fungible. And there are utilities out there to convert Dokuwiki pages to PDF; I'm sure similar utilities exist for Wordpress. Not sure about conversion to .doc, though.
posted by twirlip at 8:48 AM on July 27, 2010


Thanks for all the responses people. It has all been very useful.

I will do a more thorough look at GoogleDocs/Sites and see if its relevant. The idea of an internal Wordpress blog isn't bad either. Still, for now I think Ill stick with the wiki idea and go from there.

Now I just have to convince my boss to allow my futz around with a computer here to setup a prototype. Wish me luck.
posted by rosswald at 11:29 AM on July 27, 2010


Take a look at Open Atrium

I work for an NGO and thisvery new but very open source Drupal package developed for the World Bank has been a revelation for us.

We're finding the collaboration & project management features pretty useful, and its wiki system is nice.
posted by markovitch at 12:35 AM on July 28, 2010


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