Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Battered Wiki anyone? Wikis and Thing 22.

Thanks to Jasper Carrott I grew up thinking that 'Wiki' was Chinese for fish!

Little did I know that wikis would be an integral part of my adult working life and that they had absolutely nothing to do with fish... unless, I guess there are wikis about fish-mongering, fresh fish, tropical fish, fish and chips...

Anyway. What is a wiki? "A type of web page designed so that its content can be edited by anyone who accesses it, using a simplified markup language" -- OED
Wikis have been around for a relatively long time in terms of the Internet. OED states that the first mention of the word wiki was in 1995. Wikipedia is probably the most famous of all wikis and I use it a lot.  I don't write content, but use it as a quick reference tool when classifying ( and doing the UL quiz!) I must admit that I would miss it if it suddenly disappeared into the ether. Even having heard rumours about it's misuse and unchecked posts, I still use it. But it was reassuring to hear from LottieMSmith , a volunteer Wikipedia editor, "that the majority of untrue and/or unreferenced material is pulled within hours if not minutes".

Wikipedia is a good wiki. It's useful, easy to use and the search facility is excellent, which it has to be with such a large database. That said, you can get bad wikis. A bad wiki is enough to put anyone off  for life. What should be a  thoroughly useful collaborative workspace can turn into a nightmare that saps your time and energy. These wikis should be battered and served in a Chinese restaurant... 

My only editing experience was using a bad wiki, so when I recently signed up for the Cambridge TeachMeet using their wiki, it was like a long cool drink on a hot day: refreshing. Well done to the people behind the wiki: pbworks.com . It was easy to sign up and then find the login, easy to edit and navigate. Well done also to the TeachMeet bods who wrote the initial content which is nicely spaced with big headings like "when & where". Practical and useful. This is how a wiki should be.

If you are thinking about using a wiki in your library work, I would seriously consider it. Think of all the too-ing and fro-ing with email that you could save? For the next collaborative project, think wiki. But do your research and avoid badly designed interfaces.

Here are some free wiki sites to start you off:

Extra reading:

7 things you should know about… Wikis

Wikipedia Explained By Common Craft

Control and Community: A Case Study of Enterprise Wiki Usage

there have been 22 mentions of the word wiki in this post.

No wikis have been harmed in the making of this post, and certainly not battered.




  1. Love the Jasper Carrott link

  2. 'Chinese Restaurant Part 1' is available on YouTube as well if you want the whole sketch!