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

wikis for project management

I have no experience with wikis, but I have used collaborative software for project management. Project managers would document the progress of a project from start to finish in one area.  High level topics would collapse for the big picture, but you could also drill down into progressively detailed levels.

It was a thing of beauty. We could see the entire history of the project including creative briefs, proposals, cost estimates, final invoices as well as management approvals. All the steps in between would be documented including any glitches or revelations/innovative solutions. Client emails could be attached for reference. It was easy and quick to use…we mostly used short bullet points (very different from a blog.)

Because it captured a project’s history in full, it was a great learning tool for executing similar projects and for orienting new staff to the project. And all in one central location, accessible to everyone involved, 24/7.

If wikis could be like that, then I could see the benefit for larger team projects.

  • I have a suggestion for our next Geek field trip:

 Wikimania Conference 2009  

A conference for people working on Wikimedia Foundation projects (primarily the world-famous Wikipedia) and other people who are interested in wikis, free and open content/software, and global development/education. 

 In Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Centro Cultural General San Martín from August 26-28, 2009.


Geeky Wiki

I love wikis! (I love how the word sounds) I am fascinated by the way they operate. It surprises me how Wikipedia is being built, the idea of contribution and collaboration is truly amazing. As I said in a previous post, I’d like to get an account because I feel the need to contribute, to generate and share knowledge and I’m even curious to see what happens if I get reverted. Actually, I’d love if Student Life Professionals had a wiki!

The first time I used a wiki was through PB Wiki and I just loved it (except for the fact that I would receive an email every time something was edited). Then I attended a really good session through RCAT where I learned about Encore, a wiki that was designed by Jim Slotta -a professor at OISE. The wiki looks very interesting and I’d like to explore it more to see what it has to offer to the outside of the classroom educators.

After a while, I ended up attending the Toronto Wiki Tuesdays Meetup and had a very interesting experience: I found a lot of business people -or corporate people- sharing their experiences with wikis. The presenters from Navigator, Ltd. talked about their experience using wikis as a project management tool and the challenges of implementing a new tool that nobody new about.  This experience made me think of paradigm shifts and the way we interact with technology. I remember one of the presenters said that users used to edit a file and then post it in the wiki, instead of using the wiki to edit content.

In a meeting a couple of weeks ago, I suggested we used a wiki to collaborate and share information but I felt that the idea was not well received, some people had no experience using a wiki and it was difficult for me to explain the benefits. So I wonder how can we change the culture of our university in order to use technology in a more effective way.