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(Archived) How best to avoid duplicates in shared business notebooks?

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Hi Andreas

It's difficult to answer your question properly without knowing a lot of context - specifically what's going to be in your business libraries and who contributes; but I can give you some comments from a former life running an internal wiki for around 200 colleagues, pretty much any of whom could add or change the content.

The main purpose of the wiki was a technical reference database for hardware, software and connection issues connected with broadband services offered by a big national ISP. As you can imagine, new bits of hardware, new OS's and new modems/ routers were being rolled out almost daily. Any of the techs might encounter a problem with the latest kit at any time. While products were tested as quickly as possible, it was about 50/50 whether we actually knew how to fix an issue. If there was an 'official' fix, the tech needed access as quickly as possible. S/he would search the wiki. If there was no known fix, he'd fall back on basic teching (starting with "switch it off, then switch it on again...") which in 70-80% of cases would do the job. Then it was the tech's responsibility to get that fix on the wiki so the next call of the same type could be sorted out more quickly - and we could keep some stats on how often router X needed a swift kick to keep it online.

So we had 200 people with more or less ability with searching and techical writing looking for, and adding to the wiki content. If they didn't search properly, they might not find an answer that already existed and waste 1) time teching from scratch, and 2) more time writing up their probably duplicated content.

If there was no 'official' content, these guys would write their own - with very variable results - and would file it in the wiki hierarchy in whatever seemed to them to be a suitable place. They had to have some ability at logical thinking, to be able to tech properly; but you wouldn't know it from the way some of these pages were added.

So. We had a set of 'super users' - people who actually understood the database and where new content would fit, and who could re-write or edit submitted pages. They were also an internal help and training resource for anyone who was stuck, and for new staff. Wikis (luckily) have an easy check for new or changed material, so all new posts went through a vetting process and were amended (or replaced, if necessary) appropriately. Anyone who was clearly not getting a grasp on the culture would get additional support as necessary.

I'm not saying your use case is even slightly parallel with that long example, but I think you will need to sit down and plan an agreed structure for your libraries and carry out some - maybe a lot of - training and monitoring to try and keep tabs on the structure in which you keep your information.

Evernote has a very good search syntax, so you have some backup if you simply enforce a 'search before save' policy - but as with the wiki, you may have to provide some help to make sure everyone understands the correct ways to search.

One thing we did with the wiki was to set up a recognised stack of categories - think tags in this case - so people could 1) find basic stuff easily and 2) wouldn't go off adding random new entries to confuse others. You may want to spend a few hours thinking about the ideal set of tags for your libraries, and enforce a tagging policy.

Hope that came close to helping - feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

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