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Archive for October, 2009

hot off the line

Krispy Kreme doughnuts are such a success that fans camp out overnight for a store opening as if it were the release of a new Star Wars movie. In Creating Customer Evangelists, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba attribute this success partly to the fact that Krispy Kreme stores feature their stainless-steel assembly line as part of the “experience.” This mystique — this feeling that the shiny Krispy Kreme machines are making something for you right now — makes Krispy Kreme special. The doughnuts are warm because they popped out of that magical machine not yesterday, not a few hours ago, but right this minute.

I think wiki evangelists can learn from this.

Wiki content, by its very nature, is fresh. Contributors add hundreds of edits and scores of new articles per day. Most wikis have special pages that link to the newest edits, but these special pages are buried. Many wiki communities run projects where multiple authors play various roles (researchers, subject matter experts, copy editors, etc.) and assemble articles in a process resembling an assembly line. On an active wiki, you can bet something was authored just minutes ago, like a doughnut Krispy Kreme dropped fresh out of the oven and handed to you while still warm. And yet most wikis don’t make this just-out-of-the-oven freshness obvious.

While a MediaWiki site’s New Pages or Recently Edited Pages section shows the latest edits, driving customers to these articles wouldn’t be effective marketing because most of the articles listed there are stubs. They’re not among the wiki’s better articles. But something I’ve noticed in FamilySearch Wiki is that when an article hits a certain number of edits — say 100 or so — it starts to become pretty engaging.

Sure, sites like Wikipedia have sections for Featured Articles and What’s New, and these are certainly worth creating on any wiki. But wikis need a feeling of every-minute freshness long before their contributor communities hit the critical mass required to maintain Featured Articles or What’s New sections. Newer wikis need a programmatic way of featuring not just new content but new, mature content. Featuring content that has not only received recent edits but that has also received enough edits to make it interesting givesĀ  customers a feeling that there’s a quality article coming off the line each hour or even each minute.

So the question is How can our wiki automagically show a conveyor belt full of well-written articles — a list of articles which are pretty engaging and which have reached that threshold within the last few hours or minutes? Should a wiki have a frame that lists the subject lines and first couple sentences of such articles? Could the frame be called something like “New Edits” or “Recent Writings?” Is there an easy or bot-driven way to include such a pane in a wiki, particularly in a MediaWiki site?

What do you think?

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