Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Week 13, Thing 22: Wikis

The end is nigh - hang on in there!!

We're all familiar with Wikipedia and the notion of a wiki as a website written and edited by a community.
But aren't wikis a bit 'old-hat' now? All very 2005/2006. Take a look at all the articles and talks about wikis listed on the professional development library wiki Library Success; they all date from 2005-2007. Facet Publishing have even got around to publishing a dead-tree book about library wikis.
We've got Twitter and blogs now. Aren't they the Web 2.0 tools of choice?

I think that in many ways, blogging software has replaced wikis - it's more intuitive, easier to set up and customise. But wikis can still be a useful way of storing documents that are linked in linear and non-linear ways and in enabling collaboration.

  • Wikis are really great for managing project documentation. I worked on a 4-year digitisation project which generated a lot of reports, minutes of meetings, plans and timetables. The project wiki was a great repository for all that information, enabling all members of the team, on both sides of the Atlantic, to read, edit and upload all this material at a glance. Documents could easily be shuffled around and archived. A wiki discussion was much more easily retrieved and organised than an email thread.
  • Staff Intranet Several university libraries use wiki software to manage their staff intranet. Take a look at the University of Minnesota or the University of Connecticut. The wiki operates as a content management system, combining both publicly available and restricted access documents.
  • Staff Manual If you want to produce a document with multiple sections that you'd like staff to be able to edit or comment on, with those changes being tracked, a wiki might be the answer.
  • Subject guides Have a look at this example from Ohio University. It's fine but a basic list of links like this is probably easier to put together with blogging software. Chad Boeninger from Ohio University set up a popular BizWiki guide to business-related info in 2006 and has now replaced it with a Business Blog. Take a look at both and see for yourself which is the most user-friendly.
Wikis used to be touted as interactive spaces for collaboration between library staff and users but they're pretty unsatisfactory for that. As Chad notes, he had high hopes that users would get involved and contribute content to his wiki but nobody ever did - he only had to deal with spam. There are of course issues involved in allowing open editing of a wiki. In general, users are much more likely to add a comment to a blogpost or perhaps offer a guest post than they are to edit a wiki page. It's perhaps easier to see how teachers might use wikis collaboratively, where students are obliged to contribute.

Wikis are still a great medium for archiving and publishing large quantities of documents, no matter how you obtained them.

But for the final word in deciding between blogs and wikis, what better than a presidential debate??

No comments:

Post a Comment