external image 231632346_259cbb2826_m.jpgWikis

Brief Description

A wiki is a web site that allows users to add, remove, and otherwise edit and change content. At its core, a wiki is a simple online database in which each page is easily edited by any user with a Web browser; no special software or third party webmaster is needed to post content. It also allows for linking among any number of pages. Each article contains a discussion page where editors and readers can talk about the document. By looking at the history of a page, users can track changes and compare the versions of a document. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing. A wiki's versioning capability can show the evolution of thought processes as contributors interact with content, helping us to focus more on content and less on who is contributing what. This can be a big culture change. It takes a while to get used to the idea that someone else can change what you wrote. But that also means they can IMPROVE it! So it is a bit like thinking together.

The word ‘wiki’ is derived from the Hawaiian phrase “wiki wiki”, meaning ‘fast’ and is also a backronym for What I Know Is to stress the concept of collaborative co-authoring.

Here is a brief video explaining Wikis.

Social bookmarking in plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english

History:

Ward Cunningham, created the first wiki and named after the Hawaiian word for ‘quick’. He was looking for the simplest possible tool to help a group of people share information they were using in a collaborative project.

When to Use

People often have only one model of wiki practices from the most globally visible wiki, Wikipedia an encyclopedia built and used by many people. You can edit the Wikipedia. Anyone can. But an encyclopedia is just one use for a wiki.

  • For collaborative writing- When you have to write a report with others, especially people who don’t work in the same location as you? Wikis allow a team to write together and see their shared work all along the way.
  • As a collaboration tool - Instantly collaborate without emailing documents, keeping the group in sync.
    • Action plan or monthly updates
    • Shared “to do” list
    • Checklists
    • Capture notes, snippets and resources for a project or report
  • As a meeting tool - collaboratively prepare agendas, take notes and share additional resources. Can also help those not at a F2F meeting have access to some meeting materials.
    • Shared agenda creation
    • Shared note taking
    • Distribution of minutes/action items
  • Translate materials (see http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/afrophonewikis/)
  • Learning and training (see http://www.un-instraw.org/wiki/training/index.php/Main_Page)
  • For content creation and management
    • Wiki as index for a file library
    • Create a process manual
    • Create FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Wiki weaknesses

  • Must be online to edit or read a page. You can copy the page to read offline. So it is not a good tool for people who have to write together but aren’t often online. Then it is better to send documents which can be worked on offline.
  • Not a replacement for libraries. If you use a wiki instead of a document library, you have to copy all the document text into a page and manually link it to the appropriate pages. It is harder for people to download information and read offline. So if you have a lot of documents and not a lot of people online, consider a document library. However, you can use a wiki to make a nice front page for your library.
  • Can get messy if you don’t have a practice of “wiki gardening.” If you make a lot of pages, for example, and don’t link them to other pages, they become hard to find or “orphaned.” If people don’t delete out of date text, a page becomes useless.
  • Does not emphasize who wrote what and when, so if that is important, a wiki may not be a good choice. In a wiki, the focus is on the content, rather than who wrote it or when they wrote it.
  • The information added to the wiki is not easily re-useable in other applications and often needs lot of copying and pasting!

How to use

  • Three key principles
    • The group or organization has to have a collaborative, open culture. Wikis are hard to control tightly.
    • People have to care about the topic of the wiki – compelling and relevant to their work. If no one cares, no one will write, edit or read the page. This is true of all tools!
    • Someone has to initiate and champion the work. This is true of all tools.
  • What’s New and a Wiki’s history
    • The power of “recent changes”
    • Restoring previous versions
  • Wiki “gardening” – the practice of keeping a wiki just tidy and organized enough. Wikis can also grow into messy spaces, so it is important to keep tending or "gardening" your wiki by cleaning up pages, creating indexes and using tools like the left navigation bar to make it easier for readers to find things.
    • Cleaning up old material
    • Organizing existing material
  • When to create a new page
  • How to create a new page
  • Linking between pages
  • Links to external web pages
  • Dealing with vandalism. Wiki pages are by default open; however, they can be set up to provide selective access, or to be entirely closed. For this reason, some organizations require a login in order to add or change a page.

Here is a quick video about wikis: http://dotsub.com/films/index.php?filmid=710 (You can choose many language subtitles)

Click To Play

And other languages here: http://dotsub.com/films/wikisinplainenglish/index.php?autostart=true&language_setting=es_712

Here are 21 short ideas on wiki adoption

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)


Examples&Stories

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Who can tell me more?

  • Nancy White (nancyw [at] fullcirc.com)
  • Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger [at] cgiar.org)
  • Gerard Sylvester (gerard.sylvester [at] fao.org)
  • Stephanie Zwier (info[at]createconsultancy.org)

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