By Meredith Farkas | July 5, 2005
I don’t know how many of you have looked at the ALA Wiki since the conference, but there are a growing number of conference reports culled from other blogs. Definitely worth checking out. It’s great to have a single place to read all of the reports people have written about the conference.
All in all, I consider the ALA Chicago 2005 Wiki a success and I hope it ends up being a model for future conference wikis. I spent a lot of time putting it together and then I learned a lot about how people approach a wiki and what one needs to do to get a wiki started. Here are a few of my wiki-related observations:
1. A wiki must have a specific purpose.
2. You can’t just offer a wiki to the public as a blank slate and expect people to add to it. Even when the wiki has a specific purpose, it’s good to create some sort of structure so that people will feel comfortable posting. We’re all accustomed to websites controlled by a higher authority, so it’s good to give people a basic blueprint for adding content. They can always post whatever they want and can change the structure of the wiki later on, but it can be difficult to get people to start posting without any structure.
3. It’s good to add some content to the wiki before making it public. People get nervous if they’re the first person posting to a wiki and they don’t know if they’re posting the right sort of content. It’s good to give them some sense of what “should” be there, even when there is no “should.”
4. You need to make it very clear that people can add whatever they want to the wiki or they’ll ask you to do it instead of doing it themselves. People don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes.
5. If your name is on the wiki, some people will email you assuming that you wrote everything on it or that you are an authority on the subject. It’s good to make it clear that they should only ask you technical questions about the wiki.
6. Yes, spam is a problem, but a manageable one if you have enough loyal users. Initially, I was spending a significant amount of time getting rid of spam, but by late May, people usually had fixed the pages before I even got to them. The community really does enforce behavioral norms. But it also helped when we installed the spam filter for MediaWiki.
7. It is amazing to watch what a wiki can become. I had my own intial vision for what I wanted the wiki to be and people came up with ideas that extended the wiki beyond my wildest dreams. The list of bloggers (idea by Tangognat), the list of places in Chicago with wifi (idea by Andrea), the Calendars of Events (idea by Curmudgeony), and the Conference Reports (idea by Luke the Librarian) were some of the fantastic pieces added by others. It really blew my mind how many people put so much effort into the wiki and how many people used it as a reference. Heady stuff!
So I’ve decided to try it again. I talked to a bunch of people at ALA about my new wiki idea, and all of the positive feedback (especially from Michael!) helped give me the courage to undertake this new project. I’ve created Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki. I would like this wiki to be a one-stop-shop for inspiration. All over the country, librarians are developing successful programs and doing innovative things with technology that no one outside of their libraries knows about. There are lots of great blogs out there sharing information about the profession, but there is no one place where all of this information is collected and organized.
I originally got the idea for the wiki when I became frustrated by how large my Bloglines backlog had become as I’d bookmarked lots of posts with amazing ideas that I wanted to save for later (when they were more relevant to what I was working on). A blog is such an amazing medium for sharing information, but what do we do with the information once we’ve read it? Where do we collect it? In del.icio.us or Furl or whatever is the latest social bookmarking tool? In theory, people can find what other people bookmarked in del.icio.us, but in reality, with all the different tags we could use, it’s not quite so easy. And now there are so many social bookmarking tools that I find them more useful for bookmarking stuff for myself than in finding what other people bookmarked. I think a wiki is a fantastic place to collect all of these great ideas related to librarianship. All of those posts and websites you thought were brilliant. All of those successful initiatives you heard about. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to find it all in one place? So when you decide you want to bug your colleagues about switching to IM reference, you can easily find lots of posts and stories about other people who did the same thing.
If you’ve done something at your library that you consider a success, please write about it in the wiki or provide a link to outside coverage. If you have materials that would be helpful to other librarians, add them to the wiki. And if you know of a librarian or a library that is doing something great, feel free to include information about it or links to it. Basically, if you know of anything positive that might be useful to other librarians (including useful websites), this is the place to put it. I hope this wiki will be a venue where people can share ideas with one another and where librarians can learn to replicate the successes of other libraries/librarians.
I’ve created a bunch of topics related to the profession, which people are welcome to add to or change. Within each topic are several sections where people can post about their experiences, highlight other successful initiatives they know of, or add weblinks that offer useful information on the subject. For example, under Online Tutorials, people can post Success Stories, Links to Great Online Tutorials, Tips for Developing Online Tutorials,
Software We Like, Blogs/Websites to Watch, and Specific Blog Posts/Articles to Check Out. I’ve started populating some of the topics, but I’m hoping that people with more knowledge and experience with these topics will get involved.
Ideally, I’m hoping that people who are interested in the subjects I don’t have much expertise in (for example: public libraries, youth services, marketing, cataloging, web services, etc.) will volunteer to supervise those areas. Maybe those people could help to seed those parts of the wiki they know a lot about so that other people will feel comfortable posting. If you’re interested in being a part of this wiki experience, let me know. This wiki should end up being much bigger than the ALA Wiki, so I’m hoping to have some partners to work with on this who feel as responsible for the welfare of the wiki as I do. It could be a great experience for people who are interested in getting experience using a wiki.
So check it out and let me know what you think!