Discover Your Inner Geek!

Belated Thoughts, Volume 4: Wikis

My apologies folks, but I seem to have fallen into old habits again.  However, I have resolved to get back on track and bring myself back up-to-date (again).  That said, let us recall the topic of wikis (yea, nostalgia)…

If you had asked me a few months ago for my thoughts on wikis, I would have said that Wikipedia is great and that’d be about the sum of it.  I didn’t think of wikis as a collaborative tool beyond the limited role I had assigned them.  Sorry wikis, I didn’t mean to put you in such a small box.

Of course, now I have a better appreciation for the oddly-named development tool.  I see their potential for online collaboration (and group story-telling).  What I find most interesting is that they have this informal feeling about them – they often have limited design, most look unpolished, anyone can use them – they kind of remind me of a workshop with scraps on the floor.  Perhaps this is what makes them an even better collaborative tool – they are unassuming, welcoming, and require little orientation besides a quick video introduction.  Well, that, and they have a cool name…


I am a fan of wikis, and I absolutely see the value of them for project management and for developing bases of knowledge.

Two points:

1. In spite of my first sentence, I don’t feel I’ve ever successfully participated in a wiki. I think it’s really important that we be sure to use this tool appropriately. Often we add a tool to the mix because we can see what it could do, but then when we actually try to use it, it doesn’t work out. It either doesn’t get used or gets used reluctantly. The tool should be central to the job at hand, and not some extra piece of work that makes people feel as if it’s an added chore.

2. Wikipedia is awesome. I love reading about all the Chicken Littles who think that it’s the end of the world that students are reading Wikipedia, because of its “unreliable” information. This usually comes from academia, which throughout history has always been such a reliable source of knowledge. Wikipedia challenges the very nature of what knowledge is, by suggesting that people as a whole can develop shared knowledge without the mediation of so-called “expertise”. This week, I came across this article in which a composition professor actually requires his students to contribute to Wikipedia. What a great idea! An opportunity to both participate in and critically analyze what it means to be participating in social media.

– Chris G