Book Review: Wikipatterns by Stewart Mader

by Louellen Coker on April 12, 2009

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Image courtesy of

Stewart Mader’s [amazon-product text=”Wikipatterns” type=”text”]0470223626[/amazon-product] provides a fresh, simple approach to building a successful business case for building a wiki in any organization, large or small. Mader, a dedicated Wiki evangelist for Atlassian Software Systems, focuses on growing vibrant collaborative communities within business, academic, and nonprofit organizations.

Wikipatterns began as a wiki and, as such, the language is easy to read, and you’ll make your way through the book in a short time. Case studies included at the end of each chapter build excitement and you’ll discover many ways to utilize the collaborative power of a wiki. Undoubtedly, you’ll want to jump right in to using a wiki for your collaborative endeavors.

Mader promises that the book “is as much a how-to guide for using a wiki as it is a how-to guide for making change happen” (xxxiii). Wikipatterns does indeed guide you through defining what a wiki is, the high points of creating a wiki, and achieving buy-in from all parts of an organization. He misses the mark, however, in the “how-to use a wiki” arena by providing fewer than 20 pages of how to actually use a wiki. This is an unfortunate omission, because novice adopters have no choice but to go elsewhere to learn the basics to guide their organization in adopting the use of a wiki.

Beyond giving a definition of a wiki, Mader gives us an in-depth look at the psychological interaction you can expect within your organization by defining the personas—WikiChampion, OverOrganizer, WikiTroll, and Wikiphobia, along with others—of your potential users that can provide obstacles to or facilitate your organization’s adoption of a wiki. More importantly, he provides a step-by-step approach to driving large-scale adoption in your organization. He cautions you to venture forth with a pilot adoption that is composed of select people, those who “will benefit most from early wiki use . . . that are motivated to use new tools, and make excellent, representative examples of wiki use” (87).

In the appendix, Mader answers the most frequently asked questions by those who are new to using wikis. For readers who will be leading the change in their organization, the appendix is required reading as it is a laundry list of questions management will ask prior to supporting adoption.

Since the book’s publication, its founding wiki,, has continued growing and provides users a much more in-depth exploration of uses and personas than the book gives. What you won’t find on the Web site are the case studies which make up just under one-third of the book. And while there is no doubt that you’ll want to start using a wiki after reading Wikipatterns, the Web site provides the key information you’ll need without the expense of purchasing the book.

Note: This review was previously published in Technical Communication, a journal of the Society for Technical Communication.

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