How we’re using wikis to power knowledge-sharing communities

Okay, everyone knows about Wikipedia, the user-edited encyclopedia (actually, ecyclopedias as there are different versions around the world) with information on just about everything.

However, Wikipedia is not the only website — nor was it the first — to utilize the approach of allowing users to both read and edit the content of a web page. That style of website, nicknamed “wiki” after the Hawaiian word for fast (wikiwiki), was developed (and named) by Ward Cunningham in 1994. According to Wikipedia (we thought it only appropriate to cite the source), Cunningham was inspired by software we at Hammock loved back then, as well: Apple’s HyperCard.

At Hammock, we love wikis. That’s not surprising as we’ve been creating and managing wiki-like, online sharing communities for clients since the early 1990s. We were even forum sysops on CompuServe, for any of you who can recall that far back.

In 1999, we began the development of what turned into a massive knowledge-sharing user community called The site was way ahead of its time in what folks now call “social media.” While was extremely popular with its nearly 100,000 registered users, the dot-com bust of 2001 nonetheless put our plans for on hold. The overhead necessary to continue developing the proprietary platform on which the site ran proved too challenging during the early 2000s.

However, in 2005, we began to take note of what was happening at Wikipedia and determined that it employed the main principle on which we developed the first iteration of sharing knowledge at the grassroots level. Better yet, we observed that the site was running on open-source software using the kind of scrappy, low-overhead approach we were looking for to revive the popular service.

And so, in late 2005, we began work on launching a new wiki-powered We discovered that many of the lessons learned in our earlier experiences with online communities — or, as we like to call it, “conversational media” — worked well in the context of a wiki. The dynamics of community-building (motivations, identity, networking) seemed to translate well. — in addition to once more becoming the leading online sharing community of content contributed by small business owners and managers — is an incredible laboratory for the Hammock Team to experiment with ways that wikis can be used in the marketing, customer-care and membership-building efforts of our clients.

For example, in 2007, we created a wiki for the American Watercraft Association that serves as the hub of a wide range of information sharing among their members, owners of personal watercrafts. There’s even a part of that wiki that allows their members to share maps of their favorite places to use their PWCs.

While we still love publishing magazines and helping clients build traditional websites, our experience in creating and growing wikis and in helping clients develop engaging, valuable conversational media programs and platforms are also a part of our legacy — and future.

Coming soon to Hammopedia: The Hammock Wiki.

Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends today posted an interview with Rex about, a giant wiki-model project the conversational media folks at Hammock have built and host. If you are interested in the creation of collaborative, wiki-model media, you may find some helpful things in Anita’s interview. Or, if you just want to know what the heck is, it will be insightful. Thanks, Anita.

A wiki a day
Posted in Wikis, by Rex Hammock
April 18, 2006

The ever-insightful eastwikkers are 25-days into a roundup of the 33 best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Look through the entire list if you want to get a sense of some of the amazing things being done with wiki tools and approaches that aren’t the best-known example. Around here, we’re especially proud of yesterday’s #24 review on the count-down,

“Great name, great look (dead simple), and a great number of resources (volume is sometimes important). There are a number of commercial sites that target the huge and amorphous small-business market, but this is the only site doing this in a truly collaborative fashion. The value to this approach? As a partner at an independent PR agency, I can tell you: there’s no substitute for knowledge that comes from people who have actually “been there, done that.” This site taps the collective wisdom of an expert group and serves up useful, practical information in areas such as law, management, finance, marketing, HR, state-by-state resources, and much more.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.