March 12, 2009

Wiki wiki!

First of all, I love the fact that wiki means "quick!". Leave it to the laid back state of Hawaii to come up with such a great word for such an annoying activity. If someone told me to "quick, hurry up!" I would get annoyed. If someone told me to "wiki wiki!" I would crack up laughing, then get on with what needed to be done. But it really does represent what user generated and edited content is all about. If anyone has ever opened up the history tab of a really popular Wikipedia article, you can practically watch it change as you're looking at it.

For this blog I browsed through several of the Learning 2.0 links on wikis and here are some thoughts:

I looked at the St. Joseph County Public Library subject guides and my first thought was, "Huh. It kind of looks like Wikipedia." After that I clicked on a few subjects to see what I could see. It wasn't really clear to me that users were able to, or even had, contributed to the pages. Maybe I missed it. Entirely possible. There wasn't too much content there either except for the cooking section which was pretty nice. Next I looked at the Library Success wiki and it was a completely different story. It looked a lot like Wikipedia-the uber-wiki. Right away there was an invite to add content in whichever category was appropriate. I also liked that there was some sort of handle attached to user-added content. It was well organized too with an "edit" link right next to each section. I think I'll let my local library (I'm a volunteer) know about it. Maybe they can find some good ideas...

I also checked out "Wiki's: A Beginner's Look". What really stood out to me here was a slide on the 2006 ALA conference where they had developed a wiki-guide to getting around the conference, the host city and ALA in general. There was a clear invite to edit and links to ground rules and editing tips. That seemed like a great idea to me. I think all user generated/edited sites should have some sort of statement about editorial control, if any. I think there should also be a warning label stating that you are looking at user generated content. Not to scare people away or necessarily discredit any of the info, but just a friendly FYI.

One of my all time favorite examples of how wikis can go bad is when Stephen Colbert edited the Wikipedia entry on elephants to state that they were no longer in danger of going extinct because he was sick of hearing about their sad situation (I think that was his reason...!). The entry ended up being corrected fairly quickly so he changed it back again. After that he was barred from editing any more articles! So, actually, this isn't really an example of wikis-gone-bad; it illustrates the positive power of many multiple editors keeping track of content and correcting false information. Just the same, I still like the idea of a clearly written and obvious statement educating viewers on what kind of information they are looking at-ya know, 'cause there might actually be some people out there who aren't really sure what the heck a wiki is! Even if they've heard of and used Wikipedia, do they really understand the dynamics of what's going on? How many people have noticed the little subtitle "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" on its home page? I know I didn't until I actually went looking for it.

So, bottom line? Wikis good. Educating and informing people about how to use and contribute to them, even better!

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