Hooked on Wikis

I admit it.  I'm a little obsessed with wikis right now.  I think it's because they are so easy to use and it's a very easy way for a group of people to work together on something.   I've really enjoyed using wikis on some of my team projects at Sun, and I think the teams have really benefited by them.http://www.wikispaces.com/

Since I knew I was going to start using wikis more at Sun, I wanted to start experimenting with starting and moderating a non-work wiki to help get my feet wet.  So, I set up a wiki for one of my favorite games at savagepedia.wikispaces.com.

I choose wikispaces for three main reasons: 1) it's a very simple, "no frills" wiki, 2) it has some great notification and backup features, and 3) it's free.  The simplicity of the wiki is the most important thing...lowering the barriers of participation is always good and you will have a more active community because of it.

Adam Frey, the co-founder of wikispaces, talks about using wikis in education in a podcast by Sue Walters.  Because of its simplicity, wikispaces is used by over 25,000 teachers and students in grades K-12 all around the world. 

Anyway, next time I'll provide some thoughts on what I've learned with the savagepedia web site.

Comments:

+1 to wikis. This isn't widely known, but we'll soon have an external facing wiki site online for use by employees & possibly invited guests. Email me if you have a project that you want on the beta list, Paul. :-)

Posted by skrocki on April 12, 2007 at 07:07 AM CDT #

Yep, I'm already involved. Can't wait to start using it.

Posted by Paul Kasper on April 12, 2007 at 07:31 AM CDT #

Yah but I have found wiki to be lousy way to disseminate information. I have worked at three different companies in valley in last four years where common answer to any thing is -- its all documented on wiki. Most of the wiki's I have used lack good structure and/or good table of content. Then if you are seeking information the wiki looks like jungle with no trail, no topo map, just a mess. How do people keep their wiki TOC. Most of the wiki searchs are not that great either.

Posted by Subodh on April 12, 2007 at 08:01 AM CDT #

I'm a member of the wiki haters "club". I've seen wikis used as bad excuses for not having decent documentation (see $random_oss project). Organisation of the documents is usually a nightmare - people start dropping docs in random places and moving things around breaks bookmarks for everyone. Very often finding anything in a wiki makes looking for a very small needle in a haystack preferable. Not to mention public wikis where you'll also have to battle spammers and other misfits. The list just goes on and on...

Posted by Mads on April 12, 2007 at 08:09 AM CDT #

I've seen the same thing with wikis. But, as with every team effort, a wiki needs a leader or group of leaders to keep things going in the right direction. If you don't have a wiki moderator or group of moderators who keep the site organized and consistent, you will eventually have a wiki that is chaotic and unusable. However, the big challenge for any wiki moderator is to help nurture the wiki without controlling it, to let the community thrive yet maintain some level of consistency, and to establish a sort of controlled chaos.

Posted by Paul Kasper on April 12, 2007 at 08:58 AM CDT #

Well, I agree with all these comments so far... but, I think it's important to determine the purpose of a wiki for the type of collaboration you envision. I don't find the Sun wikis to be particularly helpful when it comes to file-sharing. It's too difficult to organize files, delete them, and assign properties. I've tried to use a wiki for a project to share files, and other people on the team just couldn't deal with it. For group information, however, they are great: our team uses a wiki to post our Roadmap information, team e-mail links, and updated information relevant to the group.

Posted by Brandon on April 12, 2007 at 10:07 AM CDT #

Wikispaces ? Pay to get rid of ads. ? Yeh...it was good. Just pay your $100 and get lots of space - http://servage.net - load mediwiki.org and get crackin' boyo :-)

Posted by Alexander Hayes on April 13, 2007 at 04:06 AM CDT #

Hi Paul

Thanks for blogging about my interview with Adam Frey on your blog.

I was impressed after just uploading a podcast on the use of Social Software in the BBC by Euan Semple to come across your blog and see that your company encourages the use of social technology. While I use Web 2.0 technology to provide information to others, its use in the College I work at is minimal. I have to say Euan podcast inspired me to encourage its use in our organisation.

I think wikis are definitely a great way of getting work done; the issues probably relates to the methods people are using similar issue to us when using them in the educational context.

I was also interested to read your comments about Second Life given the fact you are into online gaming.

Posted by Sue Waters on April 13, 2007 at 02:13 PM CDT #

Hi Sue, Thanks for your comments. I really enjoyed your podcast. As for Second Life, I'm really not a big fan. I know that Sun has a presence on it (as do many other companies), but I just don't get the appeal. When you have a virtual world highly mirror the real world, it loses me completely. I guess that is why I don't like the Sim games either. I play games (or enter virtual worlds) to get away from reality. I have a running debate with one of my friends on the merits of Second Life, and I understand some of the benefits. However, it's just not for me.

Posted by Paul Kasper on April 16, 2007 at 05:38 AM CDT #

Hi Paul

Glad you enjoyed my podcast. It has been very popular. I have also set up a page on my wiki Tips of setting up wikis which has some good tips (I hope). I also just started a blog you may be interested in checking it out at Mobile Technology in TAFE blog.

Thanks for your feedback on these virtual worlds, I have been sitting back listening to some e-learning educators getting into it. I will wait and see the outcome. But I think you are right my son plays World of Warcraft, I am sure he would feel the same.

Posted by Sue Waters on April 16, 2007 at 01:20 PM CDT #

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