This page is intended to collect thoughts on creating a "sales pitch" for introducing a wiki system.



A wiki is a dynamic hypertext system for distributed collaboration. It is essentially a website which allows every user to actively contribute by adding or modifying content. Therefore, wikis encourage readers to also become editors.


Originally termed WikiWikiWeb as an alliterative substitute for quick ("wiki wiki" is Hawaiian for "quick"), and in reference to the World Wide Web, the wiki principle was founded by Ward Cunningham in 1995[1]. He called his creation "the simplest online database that could possibly work."

Cunningham's original implementation has spawned a great number of imitations (so-called "clones"), and there are now a large number of software engines and communities inspired by the wiki principle, each refining the concept and adapting it to their own needs.

The most prominent wiki community is now Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia created and maintained by a large number of volunteers. Despite a certain degree of skepticism and criticism, Wikipedia has helped raise awareness and acceptance of the wiki principle. This has also lead to increased adoption of wikis in the corporate environment.

Selling and Promoting Wikis in a corporate environment

"Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Focus the sales message to corporate executives and users on business solutions, not technology features. Wikis have been around for some time, the purview of the tech-savvy. How do you get non-technical folks excited about using a new technology or application? Clearly explain the WIFFM - "What's in it for me?" Answer that question in your sales pitch and you will sell the use of wikis in corporations.

Fields of Application

  • whiteboard for brainstorming
  • documentation (including notes of tasks and events; e.g. workflows, minutes for meetings, user manuals, procedures etc.)
  • knowledge management / centralizing information
  • project collaboration and team work
  • contact database / shared address book
  • status- or bug-tracking
  • lists of terms (e.g. common abbreviations)
  • anything involving the collaborative creation or archiving of text-based documents
  • Company Talent Management
    • Skills bank, i.e., employee-managed skills bank of technical and professional skills; an opportunity for staff members to "show'n'tell" their talents and abilities; helps companies broaden and expose their internal talent pool across the company.
    • New Employee Orientation, i.e., everything you need to know in your first 90 days on the job
    • Virtual "water cooler" for virtual teams
    • Coaching new leaders, a "just-in-time" resource for new leaders faced with new or unexpected situations

Pros & Cons

Pro Con
easy to set up and use initial obstacles (syntax[2], site structure)
inexpensive to set up and maintain
promotes communication and cooperation
quick creation of content
increased efficiency by avoiding redundancy
flexibility possibly lacking consistency (e.g. style, structure)
standardization through templates
motivation (users become stakeholders)
direct feedback reliability issues (due to the lack of a clearly identifyable author)[3]
transparency and traceability (e.g. regarding the creation of pages and modifications of content) potential vandalism[3]
increased comfort and time saving in comparison with traditional tools (e.g. e-mail) requires additional effort[4]
individual benefits not always immediately recognizable for the employees
highly inter-linked network structure
associative link structure sometimes confusing navigational structure
organic and dynamic growth limited planability
decentralized organization

Syntax Examples

The following is an list of syntax examples for formatting text. (N.B.: Wiki syntax is sometimes also called WikiText.)

These are specific to the MediaWiki engine - however, the basic principle applies to almost all wiki implementations.

Option Syntax Output
A blank line starts a new paragraph.

Paragraphs are created using a blank line.
A regular line break is usually ignored.
A blank line starts a new paragraph.

Paragraphs are created using a blank line. A regular line break is usually ignored.

line breaks
Line breaks can be created using the <br/> tag.
Line breaks can be created using the
external: [ MediaWiki]
internal: [[page title]]
external: MediaWiki

internal: page title

section headings
= heading 1 =
== heading 2 ==
=== heading 3 ===
==== heading 4 ====
===== heading 5 ====
Headings cannot be displayed inline.
N.B.: Level 1 headings should not be used inside wiki pages.
* unordered list, level 1
** unordered list, level 2
*** unordered list, level 3
# ordered list, level 1
## ordered list, level 2
### ordered list, level 3
; term
: definition
  • unordered list, level 1
    • unordered list, level 2
      • unordered list, level 3
  1. ordered list, level 1
    1. ordered list, level 2
      1. ordered list, level 3
{| border="1" cellpadding="2"
! heading column 1
! heading column 2
| row 1, column 1
| row 1, column 2
| row 2, column 1
| row 2, column 2
heading column 1 heading column 2
row 1, column 1 row 1, column 2
row 2, column 1 row 2, column 2
references / footnotes
term or phrase<ref name="footnote1">footnote text</ref>,
another term or phrase with the same footnote<ref name="footnote1" />
N.B.: In order to display the actual footnotes, insert
at the desired position.
term or phrase[5],

another term or phrase with the same footnote[5]


  1. The idea of collaborative editing of documents is not entirely new; there have been several concepts of this kind in the past - e.g. Memex, Project Xanadu, HyperCard, and even the original concept of the World Wide Web - with Vannevar Bush publishing his article on Memex as early as 1945.
  2. The problem with wiki syntax will likely be solved as more elaborate solutions for WYSIWYG (or WYSIWYM) editing become available.
  3. 3.0 3.1 The issue of questionable reliability - as well as vandalism - usually is more important for public wikis than in a controlled environment, where anonymity and destructive behavior are less common.
  4. The need for additional effort is especially significant in the context of knowledge management - which, however, is not a directly wiki-related issue.
  5. 5.0 5.1 footnote text

See also