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Wiki based Help Desk? February 22, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Management, Technology.

At a recent lunch, I witnessed an interesting conversation (maybe a more accurate description would be a heated debate) between two colleagues I highly respect. Their discussion was about computer support and whether or not a corporate help desk should allow end users to post and edit online documentation, like a wiki based system.

I find the idea of providing a way for end-users to share their discoveries of how technology works and encouraging them to post instructions for others to read a really fascinating idea. On one hand, it could really be helpful to allow end-users who take the time to figure things out and create documentation for all to read. But (and this is the main point where the debate hinges), if the documentation is wrong, even if it’s slightly wrong, it will increase the number of support calls to the help desk instead of reducing them. And, that was the argument of one colleague. You will end up creating more work for the Help Desk staff trying to undo the damage or misinformation published by end users (which would seem to be endorsed by the support group since they allowed people to post instructions).

Of course, the opposite argument is that the documentation would be self-correcting just like open source initiatives. If there were mistakes in the end-user posted documentation then others (anybody) could correct it. And, since more errors will be corrected in time, the Help Desk staff will have useful and correct information online without having to create it, themselves. They (Help Desk staff) may even end up directing people to the best posts.

So, the question left to answer is whether it would be do more good than harm to allow any user in a corporation to contribute to an online documentation posting system. I don’t know, but I would sure love to give it a try just to see what would happen.

Check back in a few months. I just might have an update for you all.



1. Pedro Pinheiro - February 22, 2006

I think it might be positive, provided users are required to login, so contributors who are disruptive to the system can be moderated. Many times with complex systems, the users themselves acquire new insights on how to achieve certain objectives with their day to day interaction with the system.

2. matsu - February 24, 2006

Pedro – good point.

3. Rick Cobb - March 1, 2006

Looking at the number of wikis available for download, how would I locate those most appropriate for creating a help desk that could be edited by our in-house staff for documenting support of outside client issues? While I’m sure there are many similarities between all wikis, are there any that might be better suited for help desks? I’m curious if your research in this area has found any wikis that stand above the rest in this area? Thanks.

4. matsu - March 1, 2006

Rick – while I am still quite new to wiki software (having only started using it a year ago) I think that one of the easier wiki servers to set up is the MediaWiki server. And, it turns out that one of the largest wiki web sites in the world, Wikipedia, runs on a Mediawiki server.

The real question is which wiki server software best fits your needs or expectations. Do you want Linux based wiki software, or does your wiki software need to run on another operating system?

One example of a Help Desk web site running exclusively on a wiki server is the School of Computer Science at McGill University. They not only run the Help Desk pages on the wiki server, but the entire IT function seems to be maintained on that wiki server.

To review the all of the wiki server that you can choose from, check out the wiki entry at Wikipedia. I think you will find that some may fit your needs better than others.

5. Alexwebmaster - March 3, 2009

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