Monday, October 29, 2007

#16 So what’s in a wiki?

A wiki would be a useful tool for creating a website as a group project. There are a number of Internet sites allowing the use of wiki software and space for hosting a group wiki. A site providing the opportunity to compare features in wikis is WikiMatrix. A number of these sites provide this service free of charge though charges may apply once the site reaches a certain size. The features provided in these wikis varies so it is useful to be able to search and compare what is available before undertaking a wiki project. Some wikis include the requirement that contributors must have a password which helps reduce the likelihood of spam being added to the wiki.

A major advantage of a wiki over a conventional website is that information can be added easily whether an addition to a topic already online or a new topic. Being dynamic and collaborative a wiki could be a good way of collecting information. If the ability to edit and add information to the wiki is limited to those with a password the reliability of the information should be able to be checked.

However having the provision for anyone to edit a wiki could be a good way of collecting and sharing information and also of empowering users. Adding information to the Learning 2.0 SandBox wiki was a useful and fun exercise to experience first hand how easy it is to add information to a wiki.

Last week I attended the History Teachers Association of Victoria conference where one of the papers discussed using wikis in schools both for collaborative projects as well as showing the students that as it is easy to add information to a wiki they should always check other sources and not necessarily take the information that they find at face value. This of course applies to all information sources on the Internet and in print, however the ease of anyone being able to add material online via a wiki emphasises the need for care.

As an easy way of publishing information online wikis provide the potential for groups with a common interest to collect and publish information not necessarily available in other sources.

I have started a wiki - Family Connect - for collecting information on the history of my family using PBwiki. Some years ago I made a website with some basic information and regualrly receive emails from extended family members who have located the site. This will hopefully be a way for some of them to add their information to the site. At present I am transferring some content to the wicki and becoming used how it works - at times the formatting seems to have a mind of its own but it should be a useful resource for collecting and sharing family history information - when time permits. I will then contact other family members interested in family history and invite them to participate.

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