Structure a knowledge base

Part III – Structuring heterogeneous content

2. December 2022

Anyone faced with the task of getting structure into their data has to harmonize content and its organization with the technical circumstances.

In the process, very heterogeneous content types meet equally heterogeneous structuring functions. We also characterize content types by different topics, document types, access permissions, necessary assistance systems and language. Subpages, categories, namespaces or even several separate wikis are available as structuring functions – BlueSpice even provides books and the Semantic MediaWiki.

Content types

To have a better understanding of this, let’s take a closer look at the content types. We are faced with a whole range of challenges:

  • Topic groups: Not every content is relevant for everyone. There are teams, departments or projects with content individually important for them.
  • Document types: Content is usually stored in very different formats. There are descriptive articles, minutes, checklists, planning documents, and more. Some content is very structured, others not at all. Sometimes, it is intended for different phases of a work process.
  • Access permissions: Not every document should be read, edited, or even deleted by everyone. The contents are therefore also grouped according to who is permitted to do a certain task with them.
  • Assistance systems: Content often requires different technical functions in order to be processed according to the company’s requirements. For example, some documents must first be viewed and approved, and some content requires supporting workflow functions and reminders. At the same time, there is a lot of content that does not require any additional functions for its management.
  • Language: Content almost always has to be made available in different languages – for example, whenever a company makes a company manual accessible to colleagues in subsidiaries in other countries.

Structuring functions

Now the task is to reconcile this heterogeneous content with the software’s features. MediaWiki has four structuring functions on board by default, which can be used to get to grips with topic groups, document types, access permissions, assistance systems and language variants. With ascending complexity, these are:

  • Subpages: Subpages can be assigned hierarchically (in descending order) to each wiki page.
  • Namespaces: Wiki pages can also be placed in their own “rooms”. Individual permissions can be defined for these rooms and assistance systems can be activated.
  • Categories represent a keywording. MediaWiki provides a unique category system that can be structured hierarchically.
  • Multiple wikis: In many cases, it makes sense to distribute content across several separate wikis and then link them together.

Advanced functions in BlueSpice

The commercial versions of BlueSpice also provide two additional features that have proven to be very helpful – not only in complex scenarios:

  • Semantic: “Semantic” extensions allow users to enrich (wiki) pages with any additional metadata. Metadata includes dates, locations, responsibilities, numbering, and much more. This stored metadata enriches the entries in the knowledge base, helps to structure the knowledge, and makes it analyzable.
  • The bookmaker puts pages into a strict, hierarchical structure. In books, for example, the order of the chapters plays an important role. In addition, the knowledge recorded in “books” always receives a higher value.

Hallo Welt! GmbH is the company behind the open-source enterprise wiki software BlueSpice, which is distributed in more than 160 countries with over 1 million downloads. The Regensburg-based company builds collaborative software for knowledge management and online documentation since 2007.

Authors: RH/MF

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