Knowledge base

This article gives an introduction to knowledge management. The target readers are technical writers as I prepared this summary for a technical writing conference. However, others may hopefully also find it useful.

Wikis are old, and old are the problems that wiki authors and readers struggle with. Collaborative authoring in wikis might tap new synergies but often the outcome is as chaotic as a humming beehive.  So how can you structure your content? How can you make it accessible? How can you organize reviews and input supply?

Anna M. is a software engineer. She has just started working for a company that develops custom add-ons for an out-of-the-box financial software solution. For developing the add-ons, Anna is supposed to use the API of the software. Little does Anna know about the API's structure, its interfaces, and its functionality. She looks up the documentation of the API and realizes that she's got a problem.

Recently I read a wiki article about Malta. My friend Sarah wrote it. I knew Malta was a small island. I knew it was in the Mediterranean. What I did not know was that Malta was one of the smallest states in the world. I also learned that the capital of Malta is Valletta. Naturally I concluded that Valletta was located in Malta. Most of us would. Computers would not. Because the wiki article was not machine-interpretable. It had no semantic capabilities.

Inconsistent use of terminology makes it more difficult to communicate in an organization. It also leads to misunderstandings. A terminology management system can solve this problem. The software manages all your company-specific terms and improves communication. Employees have access to an always up-to-date corporate terminology and can even participate in defining new terms.

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