Why don’t we wiki well?

Raise your hand if you have a wiki with a list of Web 2.0 sites. Ok, put your hands down. Now raise your hand if you have a wiki with a list of internet safety links. Ok, put your hands back down. Now raise your hand if you have a wiki with a list of good blogs to read.

Get what I’m saying? The best part of a wiki is that ANYONE can edit it (barring a password issue). So why do so many people create the same wiki’s instead of finding one that’s close to what you want and adding on to it?

I think part of it is an ownership issue. If it’s someone else’s wiki, maybe they’ll take it down or put up something you don’t like. Maybe you just want all the credit and want to take advantage of that catchy URL you just thought of. It’s a strange phenomenon though. If we wiki’d well, we’d all be contributing together and building them out, instead of building more of them.

Is it just a matter of immediacy? When you have a new idea for a wiki, it’s SO much quicker and easier to just go to wikispaces and create one than it is to actually hunt to see if a similar one already exists. That would take time and effort that could be spent typing and hyperlinking! Of course, finding one that’s close to what you want already could save you hours, but that’s a different story.

I think part of the issue is thinking too narrow. For example, how many wikis do you need? For the vast majority of people, I’d say the answer is one. For example, do I need one wiki for Web2.0 sites, another for presentations and another for that collaborative project I’m working on? Well, not really. That’s what navigation is for. A single wiki will work well for all of them, and will also help promote interconnectiveness (which I don’t think is a word).

I’m starting to think that’s the problem with the proliferation of Web2.0 tools and free resources. Makes it too easy to just jump in without thinking ahead.

I know, I know, I’m a total hypocrite. I do that all the time. But just because I do something doesn’t mean it’s the RIGHT thing to do!

So think about the wiki’s that you have or have worked on. Could they be combined with someone else’s? Consolidated? Eliminated? Merged with some of your own? And the next time you get the urge to create a wiki, perhaps consider looking for one that you can add on to instead. No reason we can’t all just share is there?

By | 2007-11-01T14:54:15+00:00 November 1st, 2007|Musings|27 Comments

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  1. John Pederson 11/1/2007 at Nov 01, 07 | 3:47 pm

    You scare me bro.

    I broke down this morning and bought hosting space for http://shiftedlearning.org/wiki.

    I wanted to provide a robust wiki platform for edtech folks to build. After my recent revelation with MediaWiki (i.e. the platform that Wikipedia is built on) I saw a light.

    a) I wanted “neutral” ground.
    b) I wanted robust.
    c) I wanted open.

    It looks a lot like “me” right now, but I’d love for that to change.

    Check it out.

  2. Jane 11/1/2007 at Nov 01, 07 | 3:52 pm

    There is only one wiki I have managed to get going collaboratively and that is http://nzedublogs.wikispaces.com, a place where we encourage all NZ teachers to list their blogs. That worked. But I hang my head in shame as I reveal I have a web 2 wiki plus about four more, when I know of a colleagues web 2 wiki that is a million times better than mine!

    I think the reason here is ownership like you said. People like to own their stuff, that’s why people still by CDs and not only download music. They like to own the CD case etc.

    Oh well…

  3. Steve 11/1/2007 at Nov 01, 07 | 7:28 pm

    Nothing to be ashamed of! I’m as guilty as anyone else. I think part of it is we’re still not good at collaborating online yet. We’ve only taken the very first few steps along this path and while WikiPedia is massively successful, it’s the exception not the rule.

    When anyone can click edit, how do we all play nicely together? If web pages can be built like sandcastles, how do 100’s or 1000’s of educators build together, without it all falling apart.

    You would think that with so many architects, we could make something amazing. The question is just, how do we harness the collective energy and efforts of the group?

  4. Brian 11/1/2007 at Nov 01, 07 | 7:37 pm

    I’m glad you are writing about this. My colleague and I have been wrestling with this for sometime with our Model Schools Wiki (Model Schools being the program in NYS for ed tech, I’ll spare you the details here).

    I’ve always thought that the Internet is, in a sense, one really big wiki. As ijohn tweeted moments ago though Wikipedia might be the Internet’s daddy.

    I like Mr. Pederson’s idea of neutral ground. We built “our” wiki site on our servers at our work because it was directly related to what we do and the support was there. Neutral is good. Robust is good. Open is good.

    BTW – is this part of your ploy for world domination (now with a sidekick in ijohn)?

  5. rorowe 11/1/2007 at Nov 01, 07 | 8:20 pm

    Alright. I’m giving away my multi-million dollar .com idea.
    What if part of the wikispaces back-end suggested similar, existing wikis to the one you’re creating? Then somehow contact each wiki “owner” (Should we use the word “initiator” maybe?) to merge them?

  6. Jenny 11/2/2007 at Nov 02, 07 | 3:37 am

    Your comment about web2.0 tools making it so easy that we don’t have to think ahead seems quite profound to me. It explains a lot of my frustration with what is out there and with some of my own personal struggles.

  7. Steve 11/2/2007 at Nov 02, 07 | 4:23 am

    rorowe: Interesting, so it uses a search algorithm to find common words/links and tries to pair them up? LOVE the idea! Of course, we’ll still run into the wikispaces vs. pbwiki vs other hosted issue, but I think that’s a great step in the right direction. Have you mentioned it to Adam or Ramit?

  8. Paul 11/2/2007 at Nov 02, 07 | 6:26 am

    Thanks for your thought-provoking post, Steve. I’d been reflecting on the same issue as I recently realized just how many wikis I’d created over the past few months.

    I think the specific purpose of a wiki is key to whether or not it is necessary. If one purpose is to build community, expand a network, and/or to share widely, then it is sometimes a good idea to find an existing wiki where I can contribute.

    On the other hand, there are numerous situations with a narrower focus where a new wiki meets a need. A wiki is such a powerful collaboration tool for any size of group or project. Yesterday, I created a wiki for the purpose of posting workshop handouts for later download by workshop participants. That’s not really what wikis are for, but they sure work well for that.

    I think it’s wonderful that we can be as creative as we wish in the ways that we use wikis.

  9. Sylvia Martinez 11/2/2007 at Nov 02, 07 | 10:25 am

    I found a lot of interesting stuff on this website – Wikipatterns

    “Wikipatterns.com is a toolbox of patterns & anti-patterns, and a guide to the stages of wiki adoption. It’s also a wiki, which means you can help build the information based on your experiences!”

  10. Alecia 11/2/2007 at Nov 02, 07 | 1:29 pm

    As other folks have kind of hinted, I have a difficult time even finding other wikis on topic. They don’t seem to be picked up by google as quickly/efficiently as other Web sites. I know there are blogsearches. What about wikisearches for all the diff. wikis?

  11. Alec Couros 11/3/2007 at Nov 03, 07 | 9:17 pm

    We talked about this phenomenon last May with the Edtech Posse. I think it began when I looked around to web 2.0-like wikis, found a few, but didn’t simply add on to an existing wiki because:
    1) I wanted more control, and some ownership of the wiki,
    2) I felt like I would have to reshape other wikis significantly before they would work for me … and thus, felt like I was treading on someone’s “stuff”.

    I know that both of these “feelings” are contrary to the whole wiki-way, but these are certainly remnants of traditional ways of using/owning/controlling knowledge … it’s really something that’s hard to shake is some ways.

    Thanks for your post, interesting stuff as always.

  12. Jeanie 11/4/2007 at Nov 04, 07 | 2:18 am

    The point is: people just want to feel a sense of ownership, I guess.

    It’s just like owning a home. It probably makes more economic sense to co-own a home with a friend, but most times, people would rather have their own places, wouldn’t they?

    If we refer to edublogging, it also probably makes more sense to let students (who may be inexperienced writers) first experiment on sample wikis that they create, rather than to add on to someone else’s work instantly.

  13. Evan Scherr 11/5/2007 at Nov 05, 07 | 6:50 am

    I had a class Wiki going with our global partner school in Hawksdale, Australia. We used Wikispaces. My district has now since added Wikispaces to their block list. We were using it as a tool where our students could share what they were creating and collaborate my effectively.

    If anyone knows of Wiki software that is kid friend that I can purchase and add to my website, then I am open to suggestions.

  14. Steve 11/5/2007 at Nov 05, 07 | 9:14 am

    There are tons of free wiki software engines that you can add to your site depending on how your site is hosted. John Pederson (iJohn) has been raving about Media Wiki lately after installing that on his sever.

    Too bad about Wikispaces though 🙁

  15. ken 11/5/2007 at Nov 05, 07 | 11:55 am

    You ask, “…why do so many people create the same wiki’s instead of finding one that’s close to what you want and adding on to it?”

    I answer, “your post about blog awards. One person, one blog. It’s all about ego, man.”

    In the meantime, check out my wiki at…

  16. november52007 11/5/2007 at Nov 05, 07 | 2:04 pm

    My class has a wiki that we use in school i haven’t done anything on it but i could see how wiki’s are useful

  17. Amy Gahran 11/6/2007 at Nov 06, 07 | 6:11 pm

    Hmmmm…. I actually try to avoid creating wikis, unless I’m using them to manage a collaboration project with a team or using them within a workshop (as a brainstorming tool)

    Regular search engines don’t generally seem to index wikis too well or keep them current. I like Quika.com for searching wikis.

    Amy Gahran

  18. contentious.com - links for 2007-11-07 11/7/2007 at Nov 07, 07 | 5:21 am

    […] Why don’t we wiki well? – Teach42 “The best part of a wiki is that ANYONE can edit it (barring a password issue). So why do so many people create the same wiki’s instead of finding one that’s close to what you want and adding on to it?” (tags: collaboration web2.0 wiki human+nature) […]

  19. L.A. 11/8/2007 at Nov 08, 07 | 11:09 am

    I don’t think the best part of a Wiki is the fact anyone can edit one. I think that may be the worst part. Some people try to be cute and edit it with irrelevant stuff.

  20. Tom Smith 11/9/2007 at Nov 09, 07 | 12:25 pm

    Of course we/you have to re-create wheels, again and again.

    That’s kind of how we learn the genre, by having a go at writing a novel ourselves… the fact that it’s been done before is just the way life is.

    Most wikis, like WikiWords are place-holders for intention (they don’t HAVE to be original or up-to-date).

  21. risa 11/11/2007 at Nov 11, 07 | 10:38 pm

    I think that wiki’s are very helpful. we use it in our school and its very helpful when the teacher puts daily plans and instructions so if you are gone you can always go to the wiki so your not behind in the class.

  22. Social Software in Libraries » links for 2007-11-08 11/12/2007 at Nov 12, 07 | 4:39 pm

    […] Why don’t we wiki well? – Teach42 (tags: chapter5) […]

  23. » Blog Archive » links for 2007-11-13 11/12/2007 at Nov 12, 07 | 8:48 pm

    […] Why don’t we wiki well? – Teach42 Why do we continue to re-create the wheel that others have already created? What does this look like inside organizations? (tags: wiki web2.0) […]

  24. […] Why don’t we wiki well? – Teach42 Why do we continue to re-create the wheel that others have already created? What does this look like inside organizations? (tags: wiki web2.0) […]

  25. Mark 7/8/2008 at Jul 08, 08 | 5:10 pm

    This is an excellent topic, one that I have thought about for many years. I started “collecting” a list of open edit wikis back in 2002-3 – when there were very few that were not software/hardware wikis. It grew to ~1100 and with the help of a few friends I met at the first wiki conference in North America – we launched http://www.WikiIndex.org to help people understand the wiki landscape and realized later that it was helping to create a self awareness of people liking this way of collaborating. We hope that people find wiki there that they can join because many wiki don’t get the synergy they need to last.

    This is also one of the reasons I started to work at http://www.AboutUs.org – to help people discover wiki and others with their same interests and collaborate together on AboutUs, maybe stay or maybe then create a wiki together.

    I am very excited for the future of wiki collaboration!

    Best, Mark

    Mark’s most recent blog post.. Thanksgiving Prayer By: William S. Burroughsnnhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7_MYrVzU-Y

  26. Mark 7/10/2008 at Jul 10, 08 | 2:48 pm

    forgot to mention this project – http://www.wikiindex.org/The_Wiki_Synergy_Project

    Mark’s most recent blog post.. A little Emma Goldman in the…

  27. 家出サイト 5/29/2009 at May 29, 09 | 3:51 am


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