26 Sep Joining the wiki wacki world
How quick are you? How about your firm? Slow? Fast? Lightning Speed? Not sure?
If you doubt you’re fast, it might be because you have yet to adopt a wiki. A wiki, you ask, what’s that? The term stems from the Hawaiian word for quick or fast. Today, it has come to mean a collaborative and group editable website. Wikis are yet another tool in the armamentarium of Web 2.0 that encourage conversations and draw on the power of social computing.
And wikis have really been taking off. From Wikipedia, the people’s encyclopedia, with definitions contributed by 30,000 active volunteers – to quirky personal interest sites – to business or mission-critical internal applications, wikis are gaining credibility and increasing utility. They’ve come a long way since their 1994 creation by computer scientist Ward Cunningham with his WikiWikiWeb seminal wiki site.
They’re projected to go even further, according to Gartner Group. Gartner estimates that half of all companies will use them internally by 2009. They’ll be replacing or supplementing Intranet sites according to multiple sources.
A wiki allows for participatory contributions without the costly duplication and version control challenges that occur with e-mail or other online document exchange methodologies. The wiki also becomes a collaborative work space where contributors build upon the knowledge of other contributors through an effective capturing and reporting mechanism not often available in traditional brainstorming.
They work especially well for “repeated editing of a set of documents, making them more suitable if the document is expected to have a longer life,” according to The Gilbane Report, a newsletter covering content technologies. Gilbane also reports that the trend is toward “combined systems that have features from blogging systems and wikis as well as full audit trails and version controls.”
To be successful, a wiki – much like an effective website – still needs a well structured information architecture that is monitored and guided. It also needs editors that monitor and keep the content in line with the desired objectives of the wiki.
Wiki creation tools
Now that you know what a wiki is, how do you create one? Much like blogging platforms, there are a number of wiki development tools for individuals, small businesses, and enterprises that offer varying feature sets, usability attributes, and pricing models. Among the tools for creating wikis are the following:
• Little Wiki
• Wikia (for profit, from the founders of Wikipedia)
Given the large number of wiki platforms, you might wonder how to evaluate them. Never fear, Berlin-based Web 2.0 denizen and Internet platform developer CosmoCode has created Wikimatrix , the Wiki Comparison Tool, where visitors can compare almost 70 different wiki platforms. As the wiki indicates, registered users can “choose, compare, talk and enhance” activities at the heart of most wikis.
Wikis, A to W (where’s the Z?)
Wikis run the gamut from “what were they thinking,” to whimsical, to “why didn’t I think of that,” to important business applications. Among the latter are an external wiki created by Meebo, a new instant messaging/chat company seeking consumer feedback on language translations, recently reviewed in Business Week’s Blogspotting. Heather Green at Business Week states that Meebo started the wiki after asking users what languages they wanted and receiving 150 e-mails of different language requests within 24 hours.
They have over 50 language translations on their wiki. An example of an internal wiki is one IBM created to develop their blogging policy according to iUpload. The wiki was closed once agreement had been reached and the policy was established.
Other wikis include:
• Air Power Wiki – Locating power outlets in an airport terminal.
• Business BlogWire Wiki – All about business blogging.
• Campaigns Wiki – Political wiki all about campaigns.
• COLAB – A wiki for GSA “communities of practice.”
• Congresspedia – Citizens encyclopedia on Congress.
• Encylopedia Dramatica – Your one-stop for Internet LULZ” (plural of LOL – Laugh Out Loud) or funny Internet content.
• MetaCollab – A collaboration all about collaboration.
• Muppet Wiki – All about Jim Henson and the world famous Muppets.
• ShopWiki – Collaborative shopping guides.
• Simile – An IT-related wiki, powered by MediaWiki.
• Tax Almanac – All about taxes.
• WikiHow – How-to manual with over 12,000 articles.
• WikiTravel & Wikia World – Collaborative travel tips.
• Wiki Cars – All about cars.
• Wikipedia – The people’s encyclopedia, the number one wiki with over 28 million unique visitors in July 2006, according to comScore Media Metrix.
• Wiktionary – Collaborative dictionary, the number two wiki with 254,000 unique visitors in July 2006, according to comScore Media Metrix.
• Wookiepedia – A collaborative site for Star Wars fans.
How about Wisconsin wikis?
Public and private wikis are gaining some traction in Wisconsin, with a public wiki being used to develop the agenda for the forthcoming BarCamp technology “un-conference” in Milwaukee. According to Jonathan Capcick, a programmer analyst, and Al Florence, a web designer at American TV & Appliance, they are using an internal project team wiki to help manage and track the project documentation for a web site redesign.
Still want more?
Are you interested in finding out more about wikis? If so, you might enjoy Business Week’s November 5th Podcast “Getting wikis right,” an interview with SocialText’s Ross Mayfield; or you can visit the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization seeking to encourage the development and dissemination of “free-content, wiki-based sites.” If you become a real wiki fanatic, go to the third annual Wikimania in 2007.
Do you have a wiki? Let me know and I’d be happy to evaluate it for inclusion in future articles on wikis.
Articles by Paul Gibler
• Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?
• Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog
• Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You’re fired!
• Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed here.