I believe in wikis…. but they are very strange internet things to wrap your head around. I met today with David, one of the co-chairs of our ePortfolio Ocotillo Action Group and we had an interesting discussion on how to make wikis approachable and appreciated (and used) by people who have never ventured into them.
“Blogs are the rage, in a lot of media, and there is now some ‘shame’ pressure for people to get into blogs.. but wikis??? it’s not even on the radar”
And even when you explain the Hawaiian source of the word, it does not seem to register or connote a web-based collaborative, hyperlinked space when you say the word. It just sounds goofy.
David is a bleeding edge technology faculty (having jumped into HTML in 1994) and he struggles with how wikis might be best used (we planned for collaborative building of resource collections, brainstorming answers to ideal eportfolio features, etc). He definitely gets the purpose and uniqueness of the environment, but recognizes the wiki conundrum: the way to understand how wikis work is to have a successful wiki experience. And at first visit to a wiki, there is little that guides you.
So if you send a wiki URL by email to a colleague who has never used a wiki before, how will you set them up for success?
Beyond that there is a question that has nagged me. As a technology, wikis have been around since the 1990s, old, simple (not bad characteristics) technology. But when someone writes about what wikis are, why does it seem like there are no great wiki successes to share beyond the WikiPedia (which is excellent but on a scale, breadth, and level far beyond what mere mortals can create)? Where are all the great wikis to stand up as the shining examples? Where have the wikis gone? Why are the so few that leap to mind?
They are out there- I am sure, but if you got a lead, let me know. I’m looking for ones that are meaningful to educators. Offhand, there is the WikiBook project, open source wiki text books. I have found some useful leads via Teaching Wiki, for example the Green Museum wiki. I like how Brian uses wikis at UBC for workshops, reference materials etc. The Blogs and Wikis stuff from Bemidji State University is excellent, but at a first glance, like all wikis, it does not really explicitly exclaim, “this is what makes being a wiki great”. It just looks like a busy web page with lots of links.
I am optimistic about eventually finding the sweet spot with wikis. I have had a good wiki experiences, so I am a believer. But there may be a reason why wikis have been around so long but have not hit the hyoe curve like weblogs- in current form, they appeal the most to geeks, which is not good enough.
So if you’ve got the lead on some stellar wikis, let me know. Otherwise, I am just have to wiki up to Wikiup (an actual town in Arizona)