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Wikipatterns and Enterprise 2.0

It's nice to see the thinking and discussions surrounding Enterprise 2.0 start to mature. This past month a number of bloggers provided tips for driving it's adoption. It all started with James Robertson's post challenging others to "publish their list of 5 tips for gaining adoption of enterprise 2.0". Looking back there are a number of good suggestions, including a post from Collaboration Loop's own Mike Gotta.But this week I came across WikiPatterns, a site for leaders who want to drive adoption of wikis in their companies. The site is hosted by Atlassian Software, the makers of Confluence, an enterprise wiki. In short, this is an incredible resource and goes a long way to bridge the gap that sits between IT departments and the business units they support.

Patterns are something many large IT departments already familiar with or are considering using. They were a very hot topic just a few years ago and are used for creating software architectures as well as common user interfaces. Patterns are a way to share practical advice about best practices and avoiding bad ideas already attempted (called anti-patterns). A good resource for learning about patterns is Patterns and Software: Essential Concepts and Terminology written by Brad Appleton. On this webpage Appleton says "Patterns help create a shared language for communicating insight and experience about these problems and their solutions".

Wikipatterns, as the name suggests, apply patterns to the adoption of wikis. Patterns are generally described in a three part rule involving a context, a problem, and a solution. Each Wikipattern contains these basic elements and are organized by: Name, Summary, Usage, Example, and Related Patterns. Although still evolving, the patterns documented in Wikipatterns look to be tremendously helpful already. For example, the Magnet pattern "involves having some content exclusively on the wiki to draw users to it". This may sound familiar to anyone who has tried to drive adoption of other types of collaborative websites, such as a workspace or a portal.

Do you get the same feeling looking at an empty wiki as you did when you first encountered an empty spreadsheet? We knew at the time this new concept called a spreadsheet was powerful. But, still, it was blank. What do we do now? Wikipatterns provides help for those who want to use a wiki but know that an empty wiki isn't the place to start, just like we know not to send someone a blank spreadsheet and have them fill in their expense report.

I just recently discovered Wikipatterns (via Web Worker Daily) and this is the first time I have looked deeply into the concept of patterns. But, what I've seen so far interests me a great deal. Here are some questions I am starting to ponder:

  • Does WikiPatterns represent a key piece to enabling companies trying to fill the gap between IT and Business and help drive adoption of new technology?
  • Can patterns be applied to other technologies like Microsoft SharePoint or eRoom? Are product-specific patterns sustainable or do patterns only apply to a capability (like wikis)?
  • Are there, or should there be, patterns for blogs, social networks, or other Web 2.0 technologies?
  • Can a company harness patterns unique to its cultural norms and behaviors that give it a competitive advantage? Is this an example of how a company might create what McKinsey calls "a formidable competitive capability"?

What do you think?

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