What is The Wiki For?

The introduction of the Oracle Wiki has been a interesting case study in the collision between the "old" Web (information publisher-driven) and the "new" one (information consumer-driven).

Most users "get it" and are already carpet-bombing the wiki with new pages and edits to existing ones. But there is a minority who don't understand what the wiki is "for" - which is an interesting indicator of their expectations. (Billy Cripe offers a good definition of Web 2.0; he characterizes it as partially a set of "expectations".)

These traditionalists expect a Web application to dictate the conditions of its use (this is what corporate Web sites are designed to do), whereas a wiki does no such thing. It does the opposite in fact; it moves this responsibility back to the user. (Obviously, the wiki is not a completely blank slate; there are Rules of Conduct that are designed to maximize its value to the community.)

One wiki contributor, girlgeek, asked me how she would know if her contributions have any value or whether other contributors want her to "stop" making them, which I found to be a charming concern. You go, girlgeek - your participation is where the value resides; the content is just icing on the cake.

This issue is one aspect of the larger existential issue of Web 2.0 - similar to business intelligence (many parallels here in my opinion), Web 2.0 is a business process/cultural issue, not a technology one. Sure, in both cases, technology is an enabler, but it's not the "point" - the slickest technology in the universe won't get you to nirvana in either case.

Comments:

I find the Oracle Wiki an annoying bit of clutter; there's a de facto way a Wiki normally works (and looks), and Oracle's version of it merely obfuscates what should be an easy-to-use interface. This has been done countless times, and yet Oracle feels the need to reinvent the wheel? From the front page on problems are evident. For example, the Navigation frame on the left-hand side is misleading. It took me a moment to realize this wasn't merely Oracle's web site navigation and that, indeed, it linked to other Wiki pages. Further, the presence of threads further confuses things. These should be remove or linked to in their own area, much like the "Discussion" tab is in a standard Twiki or MediaWiki page. (And why the confusing terminology?) Where's the edit button? One must become a member to edit? That seems unnecessary. I've been targeting Oracle here, but I suspect the real problem lies with Wetpaint's application. It's unfortunate Oracle went with such a poor design given the number of useful, time-tested, reliable applications out there.

Posted by Adam Donahue on November 26, 2007 at 08:51 PM PST #

I've heard many critiques of Wetpaint, but poor user experience has not been one of them! (That being said, I agree that the forums functionality is confusing, and we would disable it if we could.)

Posted by Oracle Blogs on November 26, 2007 at 09:04 PM PST #

There are many good Oracle WIKI's around. If you don't like Oracle's, pick one you feel more comfortable with. For example, http://www.orafaq.com/wiki/Wikis has a list of Oracle related Wiki's.

Posted by Frank on November 29, 2007 at 02:08 PM PST #

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